Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Games From The Summer Sale Shenanigans Part 1: Talisman Digital

Goons are lovely people, except when they're not. Luckily, one of them is rather consistently cool, and just gave me and some fellow Goonsires copies of Talisman: Digital Edition, because we're all tabletop geeks and thought it would be a good idea.

It has been, and it hasn't... Which is going to be a phrase you're going to see, in one form or another, a lot. Talisman's like that. It was originally a boardgame, created in roughly 1983, and had shitloads of expansion packs, some of which were rather silly (Timeline, for example, added Space Marines... And this, I am told, instantly makes it the best expansion.) Like many games of the period, it's basically a race game where you and the dark gods of dice attempt to dick each other as you rush for the Crown of Command (or the Frost Witch, or the Lich-King, or whatever the hell objective your addon had in store for you.) There were lots of characters, some pretty cool artwork, and if you can find any copy of a recent-ish edition, you'll have great fun.

An awesome piece of artwork. Shame it's only Strength 3.

The Digital Edition, by contrast, appears to use 4th Revised Edition rules, has two and a bit expansions (paid DLC, naturally), and a Random Number God that wants to cripple you, and then destroy everything you've ever loved while you watch. Here's a good example: The Enchantress. Technically, there is only a 50/50 chance that something bad will happen to you, only a 1 in 6 chance of being turned into a toad, and if you have Fate Points, you can make a reroll. Sounds fair, doesn't it?

What this actually translates to is a 50/50 chance of you getting Toaded, and a 25% chance, on a reroll, that you will still get Toaded. The netcode's also a little wonky. That's "A little" as in "We have given up playing with all but the Router Optimisation Illuminati". But, in case this all sounds too negative, let's talk about what's awesome, what's broken, and what's irritating.

Pure awesome is the sheer variety of classes. Want to play a Troll that sucks at fighting Monks and Ghosts, but beats the crap out of Dragons from the get go? Want to play a guy who can pick whether he's Good, Evil, or Neutral (with benefits and drawbacks for each) any time he wants? Or maybe someone physicallly and magically average, who can steal one item every time he lands on either a market or another player. That's just three classes. Out of something like 30, with more on the way. Even better, due to to events, shrines, items, and monsters, your beginning class is only a guideline. One of my favourite wins was with a Monk who had 12 Strength and only 8 magic by the time he won.

The Dwarf. Surprisingly not as powerful as you'd think.

Of course, some classes are a tadge annoying, to the point they're banned in our MP games. The biggest offender here is the Prophetess. Now imagine, if you will, a character who can take anything up to ten seconds thinking about whether she's going to discard an Event in favour of another one. She can also waste time chain-casting spells (we'll get into spellcasting in a minute), because she can never run out of spells. Luckily, she's easily killed. Unfortunately, she also knows what your spells are too.

The magic system, sadly, is irritating, but I can't actually think of a better system. Many spells have to be cast at the right point of someone's turn, and while you do get between 3 and 5 seconds to cast said spell, this involves:
  • Clicking your cards icon (pauses the game, but you can easily misclick)
  • Clicking the spell.
  • Clicking the spell again.
  • Clicking the "I want to cast this/save it for the next time it triggers" button (a misclick here will fuck you over.)
  • Waiting 3-5 seconds for someone to maybe cast Counterspell.
  • Waiting for any rolls that may occur.
  • If the person casting is a Prophetess (or a Wizard), it's entirely possible this whole process will start all over again.
You can queue a spell, but in many cases, this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Cases in point are Immobilise (has to be cast on the person's turn before they move... You can totally immobilise yourself if you forget), and Preservation (triggers the next time anyone is injured. This includes monsters.)

This can totally happen in your game. If even one of these is replaced by a Doppelganger, you're fully justified in ragequitting.

But, regardless of all this, it's pretty damn fun, and, while the base game is £11 (with a Season Pass for DLC costing a fair bit more), even the base game has a lot of potential for hilarity. Also swearing. Before I go, though, a word of warning: Do not confuse this with Talisman Prologue, from the same company. Talisman Prologue is single player with no AI, achievements, and is basically an extended tutorial which you have to pay for.

Also, as a complete aside, the most common trash-talk I've been hearing are the following phrases:
  • "I'll [fight/stab/beat] you at PAX IRL!"
  • "Come at me, Nerd!"
  • "GET TOADED, SON!!!"
  • "ONE, ONE, ONE, ONE, ONE!!!!"
Did I mention competitive play with understanding friends is awesome?

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Lovely Day Part 3: The Bit That Was Only Sort Of Lovely.

Last we left off, I had taken what would turn out to be a decision I should have known was unwise. I should have known it was unwise because I have previously found it to be unwise. But I did it anyway, because it has been a while since I have been exploring these little phenomena.

What phenomena, you ask? Well, let's start with Coastal Paths. Pembrokeshire is very proud of its Coastal Paths. They're really really long (in part, due to the nature of Wales, being an incredibly... crinkly place), they're very pretty...

...And they're slightly less well maintained than my vegetable intake. This rivals the amount of attention that is paid to our roads, but more on that (and a phenomenon peculiar to rural areas like Pembrokeshire) when we get there.

This is your first inkling that not all is right with the world: Pembrokeshire is a place full of fae folk. Fae folks are bastards, and not in the pleasant and genial way of your current host, who will only lightly torture you before leaving you in an easily escapable and highly implausible death trap. Fae love this sort of fucking tunnel tree... thing, and it's decidedly unsafe. But funnily enough, not as unsafe as certain other portions of our lovely Coastal Paths. If safety (from supernatural creatures that many don't believe exist, but I know, I KNOW - coff) was the only problem, that would be fine...

But it's not.

What a lovely field, eh? But there are two things that are missing here. One of them is anything but the vaguest pointer as to where you should be going (that arrow is your only clue in most fields. The other is that there is a growing crop here, and there is no sign on this gate (the more commonly traversed direction being away from Fishguard) that politely says "Stick to the clearly worn and trampled bit, so that Farmer Dai will not fucking have you if he catches you, so help me, Duw you fucked 10% of my production with your careless ways, and you will not walk for six months now, butty boy!"

You'd be amazed how many people don't get this basic concept, so you'd think they'd be more careful about putting signs up. Farmer Dai is not to be messed with, and not for nothing do we call one of our national agricultural groups "The MAFFia"

But, to be fair, the coastal path is filled with two things, and you can occasionally see one other thing. Let's talk about the two things, because the one thing is basically what any sane and loving couple will do in a field when they don't think there's a remote chance of any discovery and weather permits.

- Beautiful landscapes, showing off the fascinating geology and agricultural richness of the region (Well, okay, maybe not that last bit)
- More hidden coves (and equally hidden and arduous ways to get to them, in many cases) than you can shake a stick at.

Case in point. Note: It's your own damn fault if you trip and fall down this one.

The Coastal Paths are both lovely and dangerous, and it is advised to travel them in only conditions not described as "torrential rain", "your usual pitch black Pembrokeshire night", or "fuck me, it's a bit foggy, isn't it?" I'd give you a really good example of being easy to get lost, but I'll just describe it.

It's a field. There are no signposts, the grass has grown, and only whoever tramped past today will have left any clue which way to go. Don't worry, you'll get where you're meant to eventually, but odds are you'll have traversed the whole field any which way you went.

So yeah, I had real fun with the paths, which, by the way, only put those wooden stair things you saw last post on muddy slopes in the path when the stars align, and some horrible accident tangentially related appears in the local papers. And they put them only in the place where that thing wot was somewhat distressing happened.

In any case, my shoelace broke (poor things weren't strong enough for my boots), I got lost along coastal paths, randomly came across a pair of lovers canoodling (as was implied... And lo, both parties were duly both distressed and amused), and finally came to a choice... Do I continue along the Coastal Path, or do I take the possibly safer option of a road?

Fucking right I took the road. And, while not a worse idea than taking the Path in the first place, it allows me to talk about another wonderful artefact of Pembrokeshire... RoadSpace.

See, Roads in Pembrokeshire are special, nay, magical. Behind me, in this photo, is more road. That way eventually leads to a single farmhouse, with anything up to 10 people (but more likely less than 5) living there. So you'd imagine there's not a whole lot of traffic. But it doesn't work like that. You can guarantee that either you will be completely unbothered for your journey, or that at least 10 cars will come hurtling down what Pembrokeshire would call a B-Road, maybe a C-Road (no longer an official designation, afaik). Not tractors, not milk trucks or gas trucks or any of a number of other things a farmhouse might need to have truck with... Cars. And, if asked, over half of these people would not have a fucking clue what's at the other end. Luckily, I had the first option.

But RoadSpace isn't the roads themselves... Oh no. RoadSpace is the weird things that happen to Space and Time when you're on these little roads. Which Pembrokeshire is full of, by the way. Time moves differently in RoadSpace, and what may seem like a ten minute walk (because the scenery is alright on either side, it's just the road that looks a bit shit... always with pebbles and grass in the middle, for no discernible reason beyond the ravages of time) is actually forty minutes of walking... half a mile. As the crow flies. I've said it before, and it bears repeating, but Wales is crinkly. But it's subtly crinkly.

In any case, after spending about thirty minutes RoadSpace time, I finally get to the main A road between Cardigan (capital of Ceredigion County) and Haverfordwest (capital of Pembrokeshire County), which, coincidentally, happens to also lead back to Fishguard, where I live. Which is a good way to show just how crinkly the place is.

See that harbour, and the lovely houses in the distance? That isn't Fishguard. That's Goodwick, our neighbour (Who would technically be a district of Fishguard if it weren't for the Gwaun river, the marshy land around it, bloody mindedness, and, of course, our old friend Politics). Fishguard also isn't just round the corner. You're being welcomed to Fishguard a good quarter of a mile before you get anywhere near it, because...

Those houses, just visible among woods that can't possibly be connected to the road I'm on, could it? THAT'S Fishguard. Specifically, the bit that happens to be quite near where I live in Fishguard. And just a little further on...

AAAARGH! The same place, different routes, different hassles. I love going out... I just hate coming back, and not just because it's coming back. Still, I took lots of pictures, the itching on my knees has subsided (not my lower legs, the nettles only seemed to hit my knees... strangeness), I've stopped sneezing because I'm indoors, and nowhere near the massive volumes of pollen and cut grass I inhaled on the way back, I have some very snazzy trunks for swimming again, and I've managed to amuse you all.

So yes, even if it hadn't been a lovely day... It's been a lovely day.

A Lovely Day Part 2: Rock Stuff.

It's not well known, but I do like me a bit of amateur freehold rock climbing. Sounds like a mouthful, doesn't it? But it's very simple if you break it down into bits:

- Amateur (I'm not good at it, but I still try)
- Freehold (No ropes, no pitons, no boots, just bloody mindedness and casual disregard for one's own life)
- Rock Climbing (If you need help with this bit, you should be my henchman. I like 'em stupid.)

Pwll Gwaelod, you see, is a place of many rocks to climb, and pretty rewards for those who like to go to the effort of finding their secluded hideaways. So a villainous type like myself is right at home here. The first part of the ascent is fine, but I really should talk about the rocks around here. The rocks around Pwll Gwaelod are mostly Limestone, shearing at a 15-30 degree slant from vertical, and lots of other crazy stuff abounds. But it's the shear angle that's really important here, because it makes for cliffside clambering that is both pleasurable, frustrating, and pants wettingly horrifying at the same time. Also remember that, being at a beach, many of these rocks are also wet. Even when dry, the wet bits are enough to make any standard boots (like my steel toecaps) unreliable for short periods of time. The shear also means that barefoot is a Decidedly Bad Idea. Here, let's show you where the climb to my favourite place becomes somewhat difficult.

Right click, Open Image In New Tab, zoom it in, think about it for a second.

For reference, that shelf on the upper left is something like 4 feet, so no, you can't chimney along like a boss, you have to either:

- Get wet (bad for later bits, and treacherous footing)
- Clamber along rock formation to the right, realise that leaves you nowhere to go, choose option 1.
- Go from the lower portion (with damp bits) to the higher portion, keeping in mind that there are large puddles in the upper portion that can cock you up. In the "Whoops, I broke select portions of my cranium on this hard thing wot is conveniently angled to fuck me up real good."

Option 3, you may be surprised to know, is the safest one. This was made even more tense by the fact that, since I was not here with family or friends, and nowhere safe to stash my gear, I had it all on my backpack... Which, like backpacks tend to do, especially when not tightly secured, changes your centre of gravity in ways that make the whole thing a lot more tense than it would be unhindered.

Did I mention I love rock climbing, by the way?

How it looks once you've safely taken Option 3.

So you've gotten the hard bit over with. To give you some idea of how I felt after that one, I not only have a photo, but can tell you. Put a hyperactive toddler on your back. Lean forward at a 30 degree angle (whole body!), with said toddler attempting to wrestle you, and reach up for something on a high shelf while lifting one leg sideways, as if you were trying to be Spiderman. Providing Social Services haven't twigged what a horrible person you are for actually following my suggestion, and you have some idea what it was like to make the first grab. It's not easy. So let's see how... Exhilarated I was that I'd made that short step in what would overall be a 25 foot journey across rocks of varying degrees of slipperiness, pointiness, and occasionally, lack of good handholdiness.

This is how I look when I'm dead chuffed I'm not dead.

Nonetheless, the hard part is over with, and I can now look unutterably cool, most of the way to a lovely little spot that's quite hard to get to without a boat or good body awareness... Or rather, I would look cool if the reason for the hyperactive toddler analogy hadn't made itself clear in this photo. I was not aware of it until I got back and asked some lovely folks to take a pic. This is a pic I took with a timer, just to emphasise how oblivious I was.

Paging Dr. Ru Paul, Paging Dr. Ru Paul, Zipper Emergency In Ward A...

That's right, I'd overpacked the bag, and the zipper has a nasty tendency of coming completely open when it does that. Overpacking a bag, or indeed, bringing a bag as large as this one, when one is climbing over nice, killy rocks, is not recommended for normal Mensch. But I, as you well know, am a true blue moustache twirler, and Work Safety is not really a thing I subscribe to. Also bothering with matching socks... I mean, who does that these days?

You can tell what an Ubermensch I am because of the legs. I am proud of those legs. They let me walk squaddies into the ground, perform Percussive Maintenance really well, and my scissor grip is something to behold.

I'm so sorry, legs. We'll see why soonish. But for now, our reward for climbing this craggy side, and the somewhat treacherous, smooth, and most of all, unpictured final descent?

This place doesn't know even the sight of man more than once a month. It's quite beautiful, has an interesting little feature you may or may not notice already, and it also has some absolutely insane climbing prospects. Quite literally, you'd have to be less sane than I am to try them freehold, and that takes effort. Is it sad that I know someone who did just that, because he couldn't be arsed to go back? You know who you are, and I salute you.

Well, let's take a look at some of the wonderful features of this place, shall we?

This is something I can get behind... Some quality trolling! It's not a pigeon nest, it's definitely not a house (look at the previous photo zoomed in to get some idea of how tiny this thing is), and I fucking love it. If I were to move my Evil Lair here, even if I installed the traditional Bloody Massive, Yet Oddly Pointless Doors in the cliffside, this would stay. I'd even put tiny bunting on it sometimes, just to say "Yes, the villain who owns this lair has well and truly lost it"

But if that were all that attracts a crazy welsh moustache twirler like me, the place would only be a curiosity. Ohhh no. There's some other stuff here too.

"Okay", I hear you grumble ", it's a tunnel. So what?"

Well, apart from the minor interest to student geologists (Shoutout to Geop, LPer, Mod, and Master Geologist, he knows more about "Rock Stuff" than any 5 people I know!), it proves a small point I'm going to make about the potential for true crazy. One of these days, I'm going to god-damn do it, and the resulting documentary deals will set me on the road to WORLD DOMINATION MUAHAHAHAAAAAA- Oh, sorry, beach, yes...

This is what lies on the other side. Doesn't look like much, but you'll notice it's just as craggy round there as it is back where I started. It took me ten minutes to go forty some feet  (IE - here) along the coast, literally along the coast forty some feet, and theoretically, theoretically, you could freehold climb the whole fucking way from here to Fishguard (6 or 7 miles, give or take a few). And one day, I'll be crazy enough to do it. One day.

Oh well, time to head back, and... D'aww. Little filter feeders, chilling out after a hard day doing their best X-Factor viewer impressions. You carry on, little guys, you carry on...

So I clamber my way back (anyone who tells you that climbing back along a route is the same as going forward is a bloody idiot... Remember that 30 degree shear in the rocks? Now that's working against you, and specifically, your bollocks when you have to go over one particularly difficult bit.), and find, quelle surprise, there are still more tourists and Welshmen in the pub than there are on the beach. Fuck 'em, time to head -

Hrm, I might save some small amount of time, and get to see more enjoyable scenery, this couldn't possibly go wrong!

Next post, dear readers, you get to find out about the wonders of Pembrokeshire's coastal paths and...


A Lovely Day Part 1: The Beach Itself.

Let me tell you about my day, for, despite the fact that my knees itch, my nose itches, my chin itches, my hair itches, and that I am sneezing like a bastard, Today Has Been A Good Day. So let's talk about that, and a little bit about Sunny Pembrokeshire while we're at it. You see, every moustache twirling rogue needs a day off once in a while, and today was it. Where did I go?

To Pwll Gwaelod, a beach my friends will know, because I rapture on about the rocks and watersports funtimes there any chance I get to talk about Pembs scenery (Most people know me for my incessant yakking about vidya games, but that's more a "Factory Setting" than anything else. Don't take it personal.) Now, getting to Pwll Gwaelod is quite easy. You take the 412 from any point along its route, go to Dinas Cross (If you're already in Dinas Cross, good for you, it's a lovely place!), and, from the bus stop, turn immediately down the left road. Be prepared for ten minutes of this...

It's a road, and it's pretty. Anyone wanting more, jog on.

In fact, if you look closely at the next picture, you can see where my darling demonic sisters (Vodbog and Beff) and I have buried the many bodies from our separate villainous careers as moustache twirlers and maniacal cacklers.

Ah, the fond memories... Some of them were still wriggling!

Of course, as you get there, you will notice several things, in this rough order:

- There is a beach. It is sandy, it is mostly a bit wet, even when the tide's out.
- There is a pub.
- There is good parking, especially for the BOTES.
- There is a pub.
- The coastal path goes through here.
- There is a pub.

Why did I emphasise that one point so much, dear readers? Because of a (perhaps sad) truth. More people are inside this pub, or in the beer garden, than they are frolicking among the waves, picking limpets, making sandcastles, or surfing. Well, okay, maybe not the surfing, because, as later photos will show, if you surf at Pwll Gwaelod, you are a suicidal moron who well and truly deserves an Honourable Mention in the Darwin Awards.

That building, behind the car park? Pub.

We Welsh love our pubs. Many of the people who visit love our pubs. Not so many people like beaches anymore, for a variety of reasons, most of them silly. Many of these reasons are the same ones our local teenagers spend many a night sitting on the square pissed, instead of on a beach somewhere in Newport or Pembs Dock, pissed and playing with barbecues. But don't worry, beach... I love you. And it's hard not to see why.

Botes, sand, water, rocks to climb... What's not to love?

Having reached my destination, and found only the minimum of holidayers anywhere near the beach itself (Some hidden in nooks and crannies of the rocky cliffs, some sitting on the walls, a couple walking their dogs, quite a few boating... But very few actually on the beach), I decide to set up for something like an hour of relaxation before the main event (keep reading, you'll get there.)

- Sketchbook (villainous plans, various henchmen sketches, occasional angry scrawl crudely demonstrating my hatred of Dudley Do-Rights)? Check.
- Towel (Always know where it is)? Check.
- Henchmen Monthly, disguised as a digital art magazine (I read it for the articles, not the pictures, honest!)? Check.
- Bag full of stuff and things? Check.
- Lightly flavoured water so as not to dehydrate, sunscreen, all those things non-villainous types think about? Check.

Yes, the towel is somewhat mucky. You don't ask, I don't have to kill you to preserve my liberty.

And now, it's time for a combination of catching rays and performance art. The wind is warm, and it flows over my body like a gentle caress (PS - All moustache twirlers and maniacal cacklers of the right persuasion, please get in touch, I somewhat miss gentle caresses by hands as opposed to wind and water, lovely partners though they may be), and the sun is not too hot, not too cool, just mm-mm good. So where does the performance art part come in?

Well, see if you like this one, I call it "Sand is fucking weird, isn't it, mates?"

So... beautiful. It really speaks to me. It says "FUCK, SAND!"

Or perhaps this one is more to your taste. I call it "Totally not planning the doom of everything, look at me, Mister Plod, look at how safe I aMUAHAHAHAHAAAA"

See that twig? It's allll part of the plan... >8{D>

But this is only the beginning of the afternoon for me. Once I've had my fill of the evil day-star (It's why I felt so comfortable, it's as evil as I am), I decide to do something else I've not done for a while...

...I fancy a spot of climbing. Not this bit though, this is one of those "fine in theory, do not do freehold in practice" ones. You'll see. Next post.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Game Things That Make Me Rage: Story, And When NOT To Use It.

Okay, so recently, I've been playing a few "Casual" games. Things like Tales of the Orient: The Rising Sun, that sort of thing. And it's pissing me off. Why is it pissing me off? Because they don't think the game is good enough. That is, of course, a subjective opinion, but it's hard to get rid of when there's a lot of unnecessary shite around what is, essentially, a Match-3-Or-More game (the -Or-More comes from one of its mechanics).

This is the game...

The game itself is, as mentioned, a Match-3 game. Or rather, three different styles of Match-3 in one game, because you can pick to play any level with one of the main three types of match-gaming mechanics: Click a cluster to get rid of tiles, click two clusters, swap 'em, and maybe get rid of two sets of tiles in one go, and drawing a line from one matching tile to another through matching tiles to get rid of tiles. It's a game about getting rid of tiles, and our lizard brain is fine with that.

What our lizard brain is not fine with, however, is annoying pop-ups with story that I don't care about, and my hindbrain definitely doesn't give a shit about (no boobs, no compulsive behaviour, no fine asses... Nope, moving on!)

...And this is your reward (sans annoying pop-ups), as shown to you by a player who is better than you will ever be.

Essentially, there is this city that got destroyed, and a bunch of refugees, including three chucklefucks who are going to be giving you annoying popups for most of the game, want to rebuild elsewhere and be safe and yada-yada-yada. No really, all I hear past that point is a combination of endless chatter and "YOU MUST CONSTRUCT ADDITIONAL PYLONS", because that's essentially all the story boils down to. You click tiles to build up the refugee city, and you are going to be faced with a screen that shows how your village is progressing, complete with stylised people, with the occasional pop-up saying "Oh my, this thing is important for our village because reasons, you have to build it [which will take a longer number of harder levels the further you are in the game]"

It's a waste of good art resources. Why?

Because nobody wants to be told to continue the game. And while it may seem to the developers that they were rewarding the player, they really aren't. Because it's the wrong damn game for it. And because it's not actually a story, it's a framework that's been shoved into the role of story. Fuck. That.

See, even most of the nerds are happy!

Now let's look at Girls Like Robots. Surprise surprise, it's a casual-ish puzzle game. But the story isn't based on telling you what reward you have to get next, it is the reward. And it's pretty gosh-darned cute, too. I won't spoil it for you, but it's silly, it's romantic, and good fun. And guess what, it doesn't tell you you have to continue. I mean, look at that screenshot, and tell me you don't want to see more smiles (or angry faces, if that's your thing!)

Battle mode never looked so CUUUUUUUTE!

Or why don't we go the other way, and look at, say, Circuits, or Clickr? Neither of those have a story, and I love them both. Not because of their nonexistent story, but because their art styles work, they have fair to good mechanics, and there's no damn popups telling you you *have* to finish this level or the people you don't care about won't thrive. Oh, and the music helps too.

And guess what, Green Sauce? One's cheaper, one's the same price, and one's only a quid more expensive.

I've found exactly the same thing with racing games. Blur wanted me to care about a plot from some random Need For Speed game, while having substandard netcode, a flawed matchmaking system, and track design that allowed one player to DNF everyone else if he was halfway good and got to a nitro first on at least three of the tracks. Pyroblazer wanted me to care about its Post-Human Space Opera, but neglected the fact that a game where a mechanic becomes mandatory isn't nearly as fun as a mechanic that lets you be a pro if you learn it. Meanwhile, Wipeout let the backstory be there for anyone who wanted to find it, and Burnout Paradise largely didn't give a fuck about story, preferring that you just roam around a city blowing shit up.

So here's some protips for devs:

- Story is a reward, a spice. It isn't something you try to shovel.
- Story can be ignored if you have everything else right, in most varieties of games.
- Make sure everything else works, and if you're going to have a story, that it fits somehow. That last one really trips a lot of people up, and is the core of what I'm bitching about here.

Depression: A Confession.

It's time to face up to something that people who know me have known for some time, but I've been largely unwilling to accept myself. Depression.

Seems like such an inoffensive word, doesn't it? Calm, clinical. It sounds nothing like the real thing. The real thing is hella complicated, sounds like laziness in some quarters, cynicism in others (and, make no mistake, I'm definitely cynical, always have been). But it's more than that, and that's part of what makes it so hard to deal with. Lemme try and spell it out for you.

I have two guitars, a graphtab, and a brain that, when it works right, can churn out some good stuff. But the guitars lie mostly unused, except for when I need to cheer myself up a little. The tablet goes only sporadically used, even though people tell me my sketchbook is filled with good stuff. The Wii, which I bought for fitness, goes largely unused. And I don't go out much. But here's part of what makes it complicated. I don't go out much because I can't afford to go out much. I pay my bills, act mostly responsible (except at grant time, that makes me slightly crazy, as any family member or close friend can attest), and hold up a few friends as much as I can.

But not going out much means I don't meet many people, except the assholes who decide to make your life shittier because their life feels shitty, and they wanna take it out on someone. I don't blame those guys (and it is mostly guys), because they've been schooled by a lot of things to believe that they can't get out of their lives, their chase for something that'll make them feel less dead inside. And that doesn't help matters.

Stay with me here, because this is gonna be long, and it's going to sound like whining. Don't think of it as whining. Think of it as a confession. Because I know I can't get better without getting this off my chest.

I don't blame my family, either. I'm a terrible communicator (ironic, considering how much I write, and sing, and apparently make other people feel better to the point that some folks call me a "legend" or an "alright guy"... Believe me, that's high praise, and it'd be wrong not to feel flattered). They've got their own problems to deal with, their own life to live, and I don't want to be a burden to them. But I can't depend on them for my safety net. Not because they won't help out if they can. They would, and they have, pretty much every time I've been in trouble. Bless 'em, they've coped with this Durbin Jr for years.

In fact, there's nobody to blame, even myself. Because even if you make a conscious decision to fight it, there are going to be days like the past couple, where I know I've done nothing of substance. In fact, I'm currently fighting the temptation to destroy what little progress I've made on something, because of the other facet of what makes Depression such a bitch. Little things.

See, when you're depressed, little things hit you more. That one line (whether drawn or written) that just doesn't sit right. That one time where you can't find a way to fix things with a ctrl+z and a quick wave. That one slightly shitty game that you just don't want to write words about, because you might piss someone you vaguely like off, and the remote chance they'll cut you off from reviewing their stuff, from talking to them more, because you showed an opinion they'll get over when their next good game comes out. Or even the slight shittiness you get from people when they're drunk and angry, and act slightly racist. All of these little things add up, whether they're from outside of you... Or inside.

And you don't want pills for it. You want to beat it, because you've had pills before, and they make your mind move too damn slow. But there's no easy answers here, folks. No happy ending, no Superman to make things right all of a sudden. I'll be honest here, I'm not sure what to try. People say "Find a routine, stick to it, it makes things better."

It's a solution. But it's also one you can't do alone. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a god-damn saint with a cast-iron will. It's also one you can't do with just one person. I tried that with an ex (no names, because that would be decidedly unfair to the person in question), and believe me, it wears you down, because they look to you, and you're not always there... And when you're not there, suddenly you're an asshole who can't do anything right, and god why don't you feel for them, and... Oh, look, a week after the argument, they're back, and only you can help them. We don't talk anymore, and it's not just because we grew apart interest wise. It's because, even if they have gotten better, Depression is a sneaky son of a bitch that can come back, and I'm not strong enough to deal with that again. I know I'm not. And I wouldn't wish that on any one person.

All I can do is my best, but... I guess I'm askin' for something. Friends, family, people I know but don't really talk much to (It's not your fault, it's mine... Terrible communicator, not gonna apologise for that, just gonna outright say it's so), think about me a little. Not a lot, that would be selfish as hell, and I've seen where that goes in my past, and the past of others. Just a little. I can't be inspired on my own, I can't deal with this on my own, and I know, again from past experience, that the majority of folks, even in the psychiatric field, don't really know how to deal with depression, and don't really have the resources to do it safely, even when they do know.

And hey, even if I've made you a lil' sad reading this, don't be. Or rather, accept that it's a sad thing that happens, even to the best of us, and... I would say move on, but it's not that sort of thing. Keep on making the world a better place in your own ways, is what I really wanna say... Because hearing about that may make me feel briefly shitty, but it'll make me feel better in the long run. I guess. Heh. It's kinda hard to put it into words.

Terrible communicator, like I said. :P

Tell you what, let's find a picture of a pug. Pugs make everything better.

As an aside, go read Mike Norton's Battle Pug. It's pretty cool, and is one of the things I use to cheer me up for a bit.