Another old Telltales video—this one of a semi-acoustic performance at the Exchange Hotel, Balmain, Sydney, in August 2005. As noisy drummer I was relegated to filming duties. It’s a shame that we took so little live footage of this band, but this is a nice snapshot of its quieter side.
The songs are My Father’s Things, Cornflower Girl, Absolve You, The Phone Call, Christmas Day, I’m No Fool, Flying Juice, I Won’t Be There, Memory, and It’s Over.
I’m old enought to count the skeleton fight from Jason and the Argonauts (released in 1963, two years before I was born) as one of the most seminal visual experiences of my youth. I can’t imagine how much this one scene has influenced my imagination and my life. I consider it brilliant in every way—that stunning, slow lead up, the sudden break into screaming violence, the frenetic music, the incredible personality that he managed to inject into those articulated puppets. Genius. Rest in peace sir, you inspired generations.
Long, long overdue, I finally uploaded the first Telltales single to YouTube, which for some strange reason was never done at the time. Absolve You was the first and only ‘single’ off our 2003 debut CD, The Telltales. You can find out more about The Telltales, currently in hiatus after three CDs of damn good songs, at the band’s website.
I’ve been using Adobe software since the very first versions, and I’ve bought just about every single upgrade they’ve released over the life of the company. Throughout my entire working career, some 25 years, I’ve paid Adobe tens of thousands of dollars to use, in essence, three programs: Illustrator, Photoshop and inDesign.
But that’s not enough to satisfy the greed of this company. Now that they have virtually complete control over the graphics software market, Adobe wants to abuse that monopoly by getting access to my wallet every month. And if I continue in my profession and want to continue using their software, they want money from me every month for the rest of my life.
Adobe is stopping development on their Creative Suite and making their ‘Creative Cloud’ the only option for users of their software. No longer will I be able to buy the software, I’ll have to rent it. And as soon as the money tap turns off, I won’t be able to use it anymore, because the software checks in every month to see that I’m still paying.
This has got to stop!
I remember when Adobe stopped providing a manual with their product; replacing it first with PDF documents, and finally with an online mish-mash of user videos and badly designed Help pages. I remember being amazed that I was till paying the same amount to upgrade, but the physical manual had been taken away, and what a huge amount of money the company had just made for itself by doing so. But imagine the cash Adobe will be raking in now—no more physical product, no physical distribution, no local support, reduced piracy (piracy, I might add, that often leads to later purchasing)—just lots and lots of lovely regular cash from everyone’s Visa cards, in return for a lot of useless twiddling and bloated ‘features’ that you use in real-world situations about 0.2% of the time.
Because every design professional knows that Adobe upgrades—even the more regular ones we’ll supposedly be getting now version numbers will be done away with—are 90% useless bloat. I’ve been here since version one, and I know how fundamentally different the programs are now from the initlal releases. Strip out all the bells and whistles and you’re pretty much left with multiple redo, the history palette, and layers as the only game-changing improvements over all those years. These programs still quit and freeze, and the interfaces are a primitive, outdated mess.
But the bottom line is, we cannot live in a world where companies have a hotline to our wallets. If this business model continues we’ll all be paying out huge sums of money every month, locked in to vendors churning out mindless marketing spin as they increase their monthly kickback in return for nothing.
Adobe don’t want to give us quality software at a reasonable price; they want to be the next Facebook. It’s essential that we let Adobe know now that this forced subscription model is completely unnacceptable. Don’t sign up to the Creative Cloud. Let CS6 become the last version we use if necessary, and hope that some company has the foresight to take on Adobe and beat it at its own game. As soon as that alterative is available, it will have a ready-made audience of millions of disaffected and exploited Adobe users eager to switch.
Don’t sign up to the ‘Creative Cloud’. Let Adobe know we won’t put up with this abuse.
Some gamers may know that I’ve uploaded some 200 rules summary and reference sheets to Boardgamegeek over the last 8 years which have proved very popular, and those sheets were gathered together at this blog.
When I was younger, I used to carry around my collection of games in cardboard boxes from share house to share house, and apart from a few fledgling attempts at foamcore box inserts and some figure painting, I didn’t lavish too much attention on them or care about their condition too much. But as I’ve got older I began to cherish my ever-growing collection more and more. It started with designing rules summary sheets so I didn’t have to read through the whole rulebook everytime I’d forgotten how to play a game. I began making foamore box inserts for every game box. They were even developed to double as trays that could be used during the play of the game. Any miniatures had to be painted to a high standard. I inked the edges of counters with a black marker to make them look better. In the meantime I was uploading the sheets to Boardgamegeek for other people to use. And eventually, work met hobby and I began finding clients among the major boardgame publishers and designing for games like Tales of the Arabian Nights, Aztlán and Ninjato. All in all, you could say tabletop gaming has become a big part of my life.
Now, I’ve finally created a stand-alone site to host not only all my sheets, but articles, reviews, and lots of stuff to help gamers enhance and enjoy the kind of thematic games I love.
The Esoteric Order of Gamers (www.orderofgamers.com) is a place for the few who, in a world of ephemeral, digitally-driven entertainment, still revel in the feeling of tearing the shrinkwrap off a new game; of breathing in the sweet smell of fresh ink; of the weight of quality gaming components as they sit heavily in the hand. Those people who are strangely impelled to improve their gaming experience by dint of hard graft coupled with the sensitive touch of a master craftsman, and who continually seek to beautify these precious objects.
In short, those dedicated to high standards in their tabletop gaming!
In the months to come I’ll be adding instruction sheets for build-your-own foamcore box inserts; articles and photographs to help paint your game figures; more reviews and blog posts of interest; and of course always expanding and perfecting the huge collection of premium summary sheets that help you get into and enjoy your gaming faster. Players can comment on each game and make suggestions or corrections for the sheets, and of course engage in discussions about the articles.
The EOG is all about high quality, useful content for the kind of gamer who really loves immersive, thematic games. And there are many more plans on the horizon …
One of the loudest, most powerful concerts I ever saw as an 80s teenager was The Divinyls. A fantastic band, great songs and some of the best melodic guitar breaks in Australian music history—but most of all, a lead singer with a charisma and talent that blew everyone away. As a kid, growing up on Kate Bush and New Wave bands, at first Chrissy Amphlett scared and confused me, with her strange jerky moves, her eyes hidden behind that low fringe, the pout, and the weird juxtaposition of schoolgirl outfit and blatantly grown-up, aggressive sexuality (something that had a particularly strong effect when I was in school myself, I can tell you). But she absolutely fuckin’ rocked in a way that changed all the rules. RIP, Chrissy.
I posted a while back about the OSR, or (‘Old School Renaissance’), the revival of interest in late ’70s/early ’80s Dungeons & Dragons and other early roleplaying games. Inspired by the efforts of small publishers, and after reading James Maliszewski’s Grognardia blog, I contacted Maliszewski in October 2012 and offered to do the layout for a free community project he had worked on since November 2010: Petty Gods. Inspired by an old Judge’s Guild publication called Unknown Gods (and an idea by Blair Fitzpatrick of Planet Algol), Maliszewski had gathered together an impressive number of article submissions and illustrations. All he needed was a reliable graphic designer.
Well, I spent a serious chunk of time laying out the 150 pages or so of text, images and tables, in an attempt to get the project out the door as soon as possible. All was going swimmingly until Maliszewski suddenly dropped out of contact. With everyone.
Just about everyone in the OSR knows this story; Maliszewski experienced a personal tragedy and shut down all communication with the people he was collaborating with on various projects. Which personally was nothing more than a bit frustrating, but for many others there remained the matter of a Kickstarter project called Dwimmermount, almost 50K in funds, and a lot of unfulfilled promises.
Several months have passed and most of these responsibilities have been taken off Maliszewski’s hands, who still hasn’t commented publically. I sympathise with how he has been affected by events in his personal life and wish him a better future. The Dwimmermount project has been kept alive by Autarch (his business partner in the Kickstarter campaign) who has doggedly acted with maturity and integrity.
Anyway, back to Petty Gods. I heard not a thing, and thought the project was dead and my weeks of work wasted. And then the other day I stumbled across a blog called Gorgonmilk, where a fellow had got sick of waiting years for the book and decided to kick it off again afresh. At first I was taken aback and somewhat peeved, especially after he didn’t want to just finish what I’d done and make it available—and why should he, since no one had even known I had been working on it. But it turned out that Greg Gorgonmilk has far loftier ambitions—coupled with an infectious enthusiasm for the OSR and a generous and positive nature. So instead he suggested I finish off the existing book, make it available as Original Petty Gods (OPG), while he continued with the bigger Expanded Petty Gods (XPG), a project, I’m happy to say, which is getting bigger by the day and already has names such as Michael Moorcock and Gene Wolfe on board. Go for it Gorgonmilk!
So, after another day’s work giving it a rough polish, that, as they say, is that, and if you’re interested, you now know the whole story. After two and a half years, you can finally get your hands on the ‘original’ version of Petty Gods and all the talented authors and artists who contributed to it for free finally get to see their work out in public. Let me know what you think!
Yes folks, it’s the first International Tabletop Day. After the big success of Wil Wheaton’s series of Tabletop videos, in which he gathers his famous-among-pop-culture-geeks friends to play tabletop games, Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry network has bestowed upon this humble day of 30th March the title of International Tabletop Day. that means getting together and playing board, card and miniatures games with your friends at your local game shop, coffee shop, pub (never mind the half-plastered old guys who come over and ask you what you’re doing every ten minutes) or home.
Tabletop games have been taking off all over the world in the last few years, and Tabletop has done a lot in just a few months to increase the profile of this kind of fun, sociable, face-to-face gaming. It’s great to see it go even further with this promotional day.
Of course, big fan of boardgames though I am, we have houseguests right now who don’t play boardgames and have little kids who would destroy my beautiful expensive games if they were allowed within a spit’s distance of them—so no gaming for me today. But I’ll be making up for it in spades next weekend when my best gaming buddy comes to stay for a few days. There will be gaming, oh yes …
And talking about gaming, I have a big gaming-related project in the works that I think will excite and interest visitors to this blog. Keep your dice ready and your eyes peeled …
Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of that most contemptuous of monopolies, Adobe Software, had a press conference in Australia yesterday where he totally ignored repeated questions about Adobe price gouging in Australia. In one instance, it will cost you $1,400 more to buy Adobe software than in the United States, so in fact it would actually be cheaper to fly there to buy it (and, as one commentator cheekily pointed out, you’d get Frequent Flyer points as well).
Watch either of the two videos below and see this idiot—who is being paid millions of dollars a year remember—squirm like an uncomfortable schoolchild up on stage during Assembly, as he ignores legitimate questions about pricing and instead repeatedly parrots the schtick his minders have told him to say: “the Creative Cloud is the future of creative.” Until his local lackey has to rescue him of course.
Well bugger off Mr Narayen. It’s not the future of my creative, nor is forcing people into a subscription model for your outdated, clunky, bloated, badly designed software the future of anyone’s creative. As far as I can see, everyone who uses Adobe software is just itching for a viable alternative to come along, and when that leaner, meaner, faster, smarter company does appear, we’ll all be jumping ship faster than you can stammer out “the Creative Cloud is the future of creative” for the hundredth time at the retreating backs of your once-loyal customers.
Games Workshop—the company gamers love to hate. Is it the worldwide success, the relentless corporate mindset, the short-sighted business practices or the eye-watering prices? It’s everything; and yet Games Workshop still sells plastic and (self-proclaimed) ‘finecast’ figures and over-priced books hand over fist all over the world.
But maybe, finally, Games Workshop has jumped the proverbial shark. Because no matter how ridiculous the prices get, no matter how many times their lawyers strong-arm their fans and distributors, and no matter how many times they re-release the same old rules in shiny new clothes, the figures have usually been pretty damn good. The Games Workshop Warhammer (fantasy) and Warhammer 40,000 (sci-fi) universes have decades of development behind them, and are distinctive and imaginative. So when I got the latest issue of White Dwarf, I was pretty shocked by the new Chaos figures they’ve just released.
But hold on—why do I get White Dwarf magazine, when it’s just a glossy advertisement for GW products that I don’t even buy? Well, it’s kind of a habit that won’t go away, and my girlfriend is kind enough to tack a subscription for me on the end of every Christmas present pile. And it’s an enjoyable bit of eye candy, despite the endless gushing self-congratulatory hyperbole about their own products that quickly becomes tiresome. With a few gaps here and there in the late 200s-early 300s, I’ve got almost every issue since #1 back in 1977 (for some bizarre reason they’re no longer numbered, but the last one is getting up to #400).
Anyway, back to the shark-jumping. The latest fanfare is for a bunch of Chaos Warriors for the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game. And these are by far the worst figures I have seen Games Workshop produce for quite some time. I don’t know who is approving these things, but they are nowhere near the standard that such a market-leading miniatures company should be churning out. Let’s have a look shall we? (Click all of the following images to see larger versions.)
What? What’s happened to the dynamic poses, the realistic detail, the gritty fantasy? What we have now is something a lot closer to the following—the image on the left recently posted by someone on a Warhammer forum that I think perfectly captures the feel of the new Chaos chariot, and the image on the right, the figures that GW was making for the Heroquest game twenty-four years ago in 1989:
The same thick, chunky shapes, the same static, lifeless poses, the same cartoony, kiddy feel. Now, to further elucidate my point, here’s a quick look at what some other miniatures companies are producing these days. These from the Dark Age game:
And these from Privateer Press:
Compared to these characterful, inspiring miniatures, the GW efforts are looking more and more like something you’d buy in K-Mart, or bundled with a Happy Meal. Then again, maybe that’s the direction the company suits are targeting.
Let’s hope this is just a minor aberration and GW stop making such clunky-looking figures. While I no longer buy their product, it’s a shame to see the quality level deteriorate to this degree—especially when the prices are so outrageous. Because despite everything that’s made them a target of mockery, I still have a small soft spot for the company that loomed so large in my early years as a gamer.