Solstice Greetings — Returning Like the Sun

Merry Solstice!

It seems appropriate that I restart my flogging at the turning of the year, with a summary of my whereabouts over the last six months. Many a moment I have sat down to break radio silence, and for this that or the other reason I failed. Struggle I will no more! You will endure more regular postings from me… until morale improves, that is.

This post talks mostly about what I’ve been doing personally and a lot about Burning Man (blah blah blah). If you’d like the business update from Three Rings, read the latest Letter from the Captain. You can expect more posts from me ranting about various MMO and business issues that have been bothering me, or are noteworthy, in due course. Along with what I had for lunch and how the weather is, of course.
Since we last spoke;

July and August 2006: Mostly, I stayed in San Francisco

Having done a lot of travelling earlier in the year, including my period of exile in the Orient, I resolved that I would not even look at an aeroplane at close quarters for July and August. I really don’t like flying very much — being stuck in a tin can with a lot of other people that is then accelerated to high speed in order to optimistically fling itself from the earth and hurtle around the globe at precipitous speed and height, then to fall to earth again… it just sounds like a bad idea. That said, it doesn’t *bother* me — I usually fall asleep before the plane takes off and, on a short flight, don’t wake up until it bounces back down to earth. It’s more the air conditioning and ‘flight poisoning’ that peturbs me.

Anyway, I accomplished my objective, staying in San Francisco with some roadtrip detours to the mountains and to Tom’s bachelor party in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I got waylaid by car trouble and spent a few days sampling the high desert. Sedona’s pretty, and the drive to and from, through Yosemite, Death Valley and the Mojave, is spectacular and highly recommended. I’ve done it before going to Vegas, but avoided that particular MMofflineG this time. Instead I went to my usual favourite;

Burning Man and Dora’s Boxen

At the end of August I went on ye olde annual pilgrimage to the Black Rock desert for the Burning Man. This was an interesting year for me, my ninth.
My camp for the last four years, the illustrious Red Jade, took a hiatus this year. We’d had a pretty stable group of approximately 40 folks for the last four years, which makes for a good deal of communal infrastructure — shade structures, water, bikes, food, a lot of rubbish to take home, and a truck to put it all in. This year less of us were going, and those who were did not fancy truck duty. So some folks camped with another camp, and Michael (Three Rings’ co-founder and CTO) and I went our own ways to each have ‘Camp Me’ out in walk-in camping (the little known secret rustic hinterlands of Burning Man, whence one has to carry ones stuff ‘in’ from the roadside, making it much more spread out and like actually camping in the desert, rather than a big city). Michael and I saw each other only three times the whole week, and although I had lots of fun moments with friends, I was mostly left to my own devices, which made for a very different experience.

I rented a van and brought with me this year’s arrrt project, Dora’s Boxen. This was my mostly solo follow-up to Michael and I’s Subconscious collaboration in 2005. The Subconscious was a hard one to beat — I bumped into a couple of people who said (unprompted) that it was their favourite piece that year. Dora’s Boxen went pretty well, but of course left to mostly my own devices I was hopelessly underprepared by the time I rolled out to the desert on Sunday afternoon. Jon had drawn the artwork which Jillian and Toast of Because We Can very kindly cut out of plywood with Frank, their CNC Router Shopbot (BWC are building the Nautilus in the back room of our offices). All I had to do in the desert was paint the exterior, line the interior, and put it all together on top of the trolley base. This took most of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on the playa; she finally shipped out on Thursday afternoon, where she was to wander (I moved her, by pushing her, about twice each day) across the outer playa until Sunday night, when I brought her home.

Inside Dora’s Box there were various smaller boxes containing things like chiyogami paper, brocade fabric, pens, glue, books, etc. Treasure chests within treasure chests within treasure chests. The walls, roof and floor were lined with gold brocade. It was comfy and out of the wind. I tried not to spend too much time in the box, but like an anxious parent would check up on her periodically and met some nice people who were having fun within.

The net upshot of all this box-work was that I fell into an unusual ‘peasant’ sleep cycle, which started on Monday when I rose at dawn, worked all day, ate dinner, and promptly fell asleep. I woke just before dawn, went out for a while, then worked all day, ate dinner… I did not make it out in the peak Burning Man partying hours of between 10pm and 3am until Sunday night, when I saw the temple burn. I had to have a nap on top of the box. I saw every sunrise aside from the Monday of departure (I was asleep inside the box), and had a few very fun mornings out and about with the people who’d been up all night, but I missed the anxious run-about-get-dressed-and-get-ready of a camp full of people going out for the night. I was tucked up in bed. It was fantastic.

Other favourite pieces at Burning Man this year; a bathtub filled with balls of yarn, the bamboo Mandala, the temple. I did not think much of the ‘Waffle’, it was too big. Favourite musical moments; Lorin, Glitch Mob, Hamsa Lila (all at sunrise, unsurprisingly).

Next up: Austin Game Conference

Back from Burning Man and I was immediately into a relentless schedule of conferences and other travel. First up was the Austin Game Conference, where I spoke on virtual microcurrencies twice and Burning Man itself once. For the Burning Man panel we had a surreal planning meeting int he desert — one of the most extraordinary intrusions of ‘real life’ into Burning Man I’ve had outside of trying to read email on a dusty laptop (I’ve not even tried this the last couple of years). It was a lot of fun being in Austin, but I was definitely delirious at times.

Other September and October Events of Note

My good friend and colleague Tom Schofield was married to Margaret Lee in mid-September in Mendocino, which was lovely. I went to a couple of outdoor campout partes (‘crusty raves’ as we might have called them in England) which were fun. In mid-October I went to Seattle to hang out at the new Dojo and harrass business partners, then LA, then London shortly afterwards to be the surprise for my mother’s 70th birthday party. It was a breakneck visit, less than a week, and I was back in time for Halloween — that great San Francisco costume tradition. This year I was Wendy to my friend Ema’s Peter, which was fun (no, you can’t see the photos), then some sort of Edwardian vampiric mess for the Extra Action gig on Halloween proper.

November: Project Horseshoe and Back to Korea for G-Star

I barely had a moment to throw off the Halloween costume before heading to Austin again for Project Horseshoe, a game development think-tank put on by George ‘Fatman’ and Linda Sanger. It was jolly good fun trying to break down some of the boundaries around games with a group of marvellously smart folks (I will refrain from name-dropping). Our group was called ‘PlayBack to the Future’ and our presentation had me as Doctor Who (Tom Baker, naturally, I have the scarf) introducing a group of white-tablecloth-clad game designers from the future, who each espoused their own ‘school’ of thought. Good stuff.

No rest for the Doctor, however. No sooner had I returned to San Francisco then it was off again. I was honored to be invited this year to speak at the Korean Developers Conference at G-Star. My topic was ‘Bringing Item-Based Games to the Western Market’ (see the PPT and it was my first time being translated. I think it went well — I managed to get a couple of 30-second delayed laughs out of the audience. Of course Nexon delivered their big MTV announcement right in the middle of my presentation, which I suppose means that my talk was ‘timely’ but ‘ill-timed’.

Upon my return we had a pre-Thanksgiving conference for our remote employees, most of them Oceanmasters on Puzzle Pirates, and a rib-tickling launch party for Bang! Howdy, Three Rings’ second game.

December to the present:

By Thanksgiving I was completely spent and enjoyed a few days doing absolutely nothing with my mother visiting. November had really worn me out, but I emerged into December with a new optimism and excitement about the future… and also a little bit of a phobia of aeroplanes again.

More soon, and a merry season to you and yours — light a candle tonight and tempt the sun to return!

– Daniel

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