Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SnoutCast #119: "A Model Growth Connector Part III"

Yet another talk with Doctor When Game Control members--this time, it's Ellen Juhlin, sound designer, and Dan Kurtz, who played the eponymous scientist!

[ Download mp3 - 28 MB ]

00:59 - "contemporary"
01:12 - introductions
04:20 - at what point did you join GC?
05:52 - Dan on acting!
07:39 - Ellen on audio engineering
10:21 - the time machine sound effect
11:31 - "Speaking of doing things over and over again..."
14:42 - "Speaking of things that went wrong..."
21:17 - this being your first GC experience
26:53 - what's next?
27:40 - Dan's day job: Self Aware Games
30:25 - The End

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Mandelbrot Set" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Ellen Dan

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

snout.org downtime

UPDATE (5/23 18.26 PT): Data center move rescheduled to "next week on some day Tuesday [5/29] onwards," and likely to be after business hours. Precise details to come later.

My primary web host is moving data centers this weekend--probably Friday, possibly Thursday--so the main snout.org web site will be offline for some time, and e-mail delivery to all addresses in the snout.org domain will be delayed.

More information and updates at rahulstatus.

For alternate contact methods, see curtiscchen.com.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SnoutCast #118: What About Bob?

In which we talk to Bob Schaffer about BANG, DASH, WHO, and also things that aren't acronyms. (NOTE: We pre-recorded this interview, so he's not actually getting married "a month from today." Tough luck, wedding crashers!)

[ Download mp3 - 27 MB ]

00:58 - "charitable"
01:15 - Elevate BANG
04:30 - re-casting WHO Game in the Bay Area
11:05 - being National Coordinator for DASH 3 and 4
19:56 - the art of the e-mail
25:55 - you heard it here first!
28:39 - The End

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "I'm Your Moon" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Bob

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Flash Fiction: "Champions Breakdown"

You know, it's been more than a year since I wrote this, and it still plays, if I do say so myself.

Read "Champions Breakdown" at 512 Words or Fewer


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SnoutCast #117: The WARTRON Syndrome


[ Download mp3 - 28 MB ]

00:58 - "honest"
01:16 - sign up for the Elevate BANG before Friday (5/18)
05:04 - speaking of sign-ups...
10:03 - setting expectations for the application (no spoilers)
13:55 - "This is real-time, Lenny!"
19:17 - adventures in remote playtesting
20:28 - setting expectations for The Game
22:55 - Friday Friday Friday
26:00 - Game Control == Fun!
28:34 - see also: PuzzleHuntCalendar.com
29:47 - The End

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Thrill of Defeat

Two, count 'em, two rejections received today! That makes sixty-four total since the end of 2008. (I'm counting.) Which is, really, not a lot. I should be writing a lot more, and I should be submitting a lot more. In the words of Middle-Aged Man, "I'm working on it!"

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't discouraging sometimes. But I knew this was going to take a while. I'm still improving as a writer, and I'm still figuring out the whole business side of the writing life. I'm hoping it won't take me ten years, but I expect it'll be at least a few more before I start selling to pro markets.

In the meantime, I won't stop believing.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

About Last Night...

This photo from last night embodies many of the things I love about Portland, Oregon.

Seated, clockwise from left: Joe, @snarke, @AubreyCello, myself, @JadeE1024, @FlameIsLove, @DeeAnnSole, @rmalena, @brittamarie, @ghalidrim, and @mariafi. Photo by Angela of @TheDoubleclicks. (Not pictured: Ana, Rob, and Matt, who arrived later.)

We had all gathered at the Funhouse Lounge to see The Unscriptables perform a Star Trek: The Next Generation improv show. I wasn't sure how crowded the place might get (being listed on GeekPortland is usually a huge nerd magnet), so I proposed we all meet at 5pm, when the venue opened, and enjoy happy hour while playing some games.

Photo by @ghalidrim.

It's not easy to find a game that can handle fifteen players, but Cards Against Humanity worked well. It was sometimes hard to hear across our four-tables-pushed-together, especially over the lounge music--but the woman working the bar asked us for requests (since we were the only people there for quite a while), so at least we were talking over songs we mostly liked.*

@JadeE1024's winning "haiku."

After we finished our supergame, our nerd party split up into smaller groups. Some of the menfolk dove into Lords of Waterdeep, DeeAnn and I introduced Aubrey to Zombie Dice and Bananagrams, and others just hung out and chatted. All enjoyed happy hour food and liquid refreshment.

That would have been a great night right there. But then the Unscriptables show started, and it did not disappoint. If you're anywhere near Portland for the next two weeks, and you have ever liked TNG, go. Closing night (May 26th, Memorial Day weekend) is the Borg episode, and if we weren't so busy with WarTron I'd totally be there.

@TheDoubleclicks with "Troi" and "Riker."

I'll be honest: When we moved to the Portland area in 2008, I was a bit apprehensive. I mean, we knew it was going to rain a lot (not to mention that first winter--yikes!), we'd been swindled out of $15 during our very first visit years ago (Thanksgiving weekend, no less--what is wrong with people?), and there were just a lot of unknowns.

But now that we've been here almost four years, I can say without a doubt that I'm very happy in our new home. We've made many new friends, started new traditions, and we don't plan on leaving any time soon. We love Portland!

Even if you do run into the occasional creepy clown room.

SRSLY, WTF? Photo by @ghalidrim.

* It turns out that a Pandora station set to "Jonathan Coulton" plays a mostly decent mix of JoCo, TMBG, Weird Al Yankovic, Barenaked Ladies, and Cake, with a few random nuggets of Da Vinci's Notebook and Garfunkel and Oates.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Flash Fiction: "This is Not a Clue"

Like it says on the tin. Although this piece was inspired by WarTron, since I didn't consult with the rest of Game Control before writing it, you should not consider it canon. You know, like most media tie-ins. But I hope you enjoy it regardless.

Read "This is Not a Clue" at 512 Words or Fewer


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Snout Games FTW (Part 4 of 4)

Last week, Mike Selinker's Wired article on "The 10 Greatest 'Games' Ever Played" mentioned 4 different Team Snout productions. Let me show you them.

Previous: Police Detectives!

8. FoBiK coffin

Here's the coffin being inspected on location, inside a self-storage space in Oakland, by GC member Jeff Allen. (Photo by Curtis C. Chen)

And here's a look at the electronics inside, built by GC member Cary Roberts. There was no actual power switch, so we had to take some reference photos to show which wires to connect to turn on the device. (Photo by Curtis C. Chen)

Two switches had to be closed to activate the audio playback: first, a spring-loaded sensor inside the coffin, requiring someone to rest their head inside the coffin (right on top of the speakers); and second, a contact in the hinge, so the lid actually had to be closed. By the time the last team went through, both switches had been broken and jammed into their "on" positions. That's okay--we heard that some teams refused to get in the coffin at all, but this way, they were still able to enjoy the puzzle.

The coffin itself was built by GC helper Todd Stansell, who took it home after The Game and used it as a coffee table until his wife got sick of it. It eventually ended up with our friend (and current GC member) Acorn Pooley, and periodically shows up as a prop in his annual Halloween haunted house.

For more information about FoBiK, check out our GC wrap-up site.

And that's it for this trip down memory lane! If you'd like to hear more about what happens behind the scenes at Game Control, tune into the SnoutCast every Tuesday morning.

Would you like to play The Game? You're in luck: Team Snout is planning another event for this August in Portland, Oregon. Go to WarTron.NET for more details!


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Snout Games FTW (Part 3 of 4)

Last week, Mike Selinker's Wired article on "The 10 Greatest 'Games' Ever Played" mentioned 4 different Team Snout productions. Let me show you them.

Previous: Superheroes!

6. Homicide: Life on the Farm Nitinol

I don't have any photos of the finished clue, but here's GC member Jeff Allen working on the "jigs" we used to hold the pieces of memory wire in place during the baking process. We used an industrial oven to get high enough temperatures to "encode" the shapes we wanted, but we also needed other materials which would stand up to that much heat. I think the final build used steel wire to secure a bundle of Nitinol to each letter-shaped length of copper tubing (shown here being bent into shape by Jeff). (Photo by Curtis C. Chen)

You didn't actually have to set the wires on fire, and they didn't actually melt (though the plastic flags attached to the wires did, for at least a few teams). One team laid out their wires on top of their van's engine block, which generated enough heat to activate the Nitinol's shape memory.

Overall, we got a lot of great feedback, including one player who thought it was "[u]nbelievable stuff--that was so beyond my comprehension, it was like X-files shit." Given that this was the first Game we ever ran, and many things didn't go quite right, it was encouraging that this clue turned out so well.

ObSnoutCast: You can hear a team phone call from HLOTF and Jeff on working with Nitinol, plus a 10-years-later retrospective with GC member Sean Gugler!

For more information about the Homicide Game, check out our GC wrap-up site.

Next: Scary stuff!


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Snout Games FTW (Part 2 of 4)

Last week, Mike Selinker's Wired article on "The 10 Greatest 'Games' Ever Played" mentioned 4 different Team Snout productions. Let me show you them.

Previous: Wizards!

2. Justice Unlimited petitions

After a purposefully chaotic icebreaker activity at the start location, teams were issued clipboards with petitions calling for the banning of "dihydrogen monoxide" and told to canvass the area collecting signatures. No further instructions were provided. Many costumed teams wandered through Ghirardelli Square. (Photos by Karl Larson)

This clue/activity is also mentioned at the very top of the Wikipedia page for The Game, and I think it was memorable because it captured many of the magical, non-puzzle aspects which make The Game so much fun. The actual solution wasn't very complex--teams just had to find the right people, planted by Game Control, who would "sign" with the name of the next location. But it was an experience you probably wouldn't ever have outside of The Game.

The wrist-mounted computers weren't used for that first clue, but teams did have to enter most of their puzzle answers into the device, which would tell them where to go next. This Game also featured the Bat-Blinker gadget, which used the same persistence-of-vision display trick as the later Hogwarts wand.

For more information about the Justice Unlimited Game, check out our GC wrap-up site and Larry Hosken's "Operation Justice Unlimited" report.

Next: Police Detectives!


SnoutCast #116: "A Model Growth Connector 2: Electric Boogaloo"

This week, we talk to two more characters from Doctor When* GC: Sean Gugler and Wei-Hwa Huang! (Also, ironically, this week's show runs long by almost ten minutes. You'll live.)

[ Download mp3 - 38 MB ]

00:58 - "timely"
06:09 - "This Game was full of C.R.A.P.!"
09:55 - how did you get involved with Doctor When?
17:06 - differences between first and second weekends?
21:36 - the web site shuffle, spoilers, and angry Matt
28:20 - last minute puzzles?
33:06 - Erik's mom has got it goin' on
34:19 - (Yes, he's pronouncing it wrong. No, he doesn't care.)
35:05 - What's next? Wei-Hwa's book, Sean's mobile puzzles
38:40 - The End

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Sean Wei-Hwa

* Did you know that "Doctor Who" is an anagram of "Torchwood," in the same way that "Doctor When" is an anagram of "Trenchwood?" Well, you do now.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Snout Games FTW (Part 1 of 4)

Last week, Mike Selinker's Wired post on "The 10 Greatest 'Games' Ever Played" made a bit of a splash within the Game community. (I was personally quite chuffed that 40% of the events he called out were Team Snout productions.)

Before the article went up, Mike posted on Facebook asking if anyone had photos from any of the events they'd be willing to share. I sent him a few pictures which Wired didn't use in the end, but since I had already spent the time digging them up, I figured I might as well do a show-and-tell here over the next few days.

Starting at the top of Mike's list...

1. Hogwarts wands

Here's Sean Gugler (late of Doctor When Game Control) testing the wand prototype. The cable is providing power, and sending data back to a laptop which records the wand motions. We had everyone on GC cast the same spells, so wand-maker Acorn could see how much variation and "slop" there was in different people's movements and adjust the recognition software accordingly. (Photo by Curtis C. Chen)

Here's Seth Golub of Team RadiKS (Relaxed Alchemical Dilettantes Investigating Kurious Spells) in wand class on Saturday, demonstrating the "Nope!" response which indicates an unrecognized spell. You can see the full reference for turning spell names (puzzle answers) into wand motions starting on page 43 of our Hogwarts textbook (5MB PDF download). (Photo by David Lindes)


And a couple of photos from the grand finale on Sunday, when every team had to cast the same spell simultaneously to defeat our villain. Not surprisingly, the bad guy turned out to be the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, played by Sean. (Photos by Team Snout)

For more information about the Hogwarts Game, check out Larry Hosken's "Hogwarts Inside Out" write-up and our GC wiki.

Next: Superheroes!


Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday Flash Fiction: "Under the Sea"

I know some writers are exceptionally wary of posting any part of an unpublished work online, but I'm not too worried about this one: this is the last excerpt from "Making Waves" I'm going to post, which adds up to just over 21% of the wordcount, and only a small fraction of the whole story, believe it or not. I packed a lot into this one.

I have a complete draft now, which I will have polished and submitted by the end of the month. And when it gets rejected, I'll submit it again, and again, and again. Till Hell won't have it!

Read "Under the Sea" at 512 Words or Fewer


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

SnoutCast #115: Sluice Box Mucking Starts Today

The title of this week's show is an inside joke from JoCo Cruise Crazy II. You kinda had to be there. Sorry.

[ Download mp3 - 24 MB ]

01:03 - "fanciful"
01:36 - a brief WarTron update
03:25 - Playtesters wanted: e-mail WarTronGC@gmail.com to join the fun!
05:43 - a limited DASH 4th Portland recap
09:55 - keeping up with team "Dashers and Dancers"
16:24 - DeeAnn advocates "aggressive confirmation"
19:09 - neighborhood outreach
23:44 - it takes all kinds--of Gamers and GCs!
25:25 - The End

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "First of May" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn