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Friday, May 11, 2018

Four Random Mini-Projects from the Past (and a Surge of Unexpected Nostalgic Gratitude)

What a rough year. So little free time, so much stress about finances, and so much hinging on my success in this coding certification. Luckily, the course is going good for the most part (I seem to learn by osmosis—even on days I don't pay attention I seem to soak in the knowledge and remember it later), we have WIC, and I just started a D&D group with my wife, my brother, and his wife. A weekly group! I couldn't be happier. Having something like that to look forward to each Wednesday night is a real buzz. Maybe I'll summarize their adventures on the blog every few weeks. It could be a fun thing to showcase, since I'm going to be doing a lot of worldbuilding for it.

Anyway, today I want to just dig up a few old projects from my past to showcase them for you. I found them while looking through old tablet boxes at my parents' house, and I gotta tell ya, those blasts from the past feel real nice. Honestly, one of the things that just keeps me going in life is seeing all the stuff I came up with as a kid. It gives me hope of having continual creativity in years to come.

Anyway, let's just get started or I'll never get around to actually finishing this post:

Mini-Project 1: Fatachu Pokémon Card


Truthfully, this barely even counts as a project, but it was funny to find and I remember it was a huge hit at my... let's see, junior high school by the look of my handwriting. I thought it was middle school since that's when Pokémon cards were big, but back then I wrote in all capitals. Regardless, my friends and even acquaintances all thought it was hilarious.

I looked real close at a Pokémon card of my own or my brother's and, as I am wont to do, I copied it very carefully and adapted it as my own. I doubt the attacks are balanced for cost, since I've never actually played a game of Pokémon cards in my life, but I do know Tackle doesn't normally paralyze, so I thought that was hilarious. The length and weight is an odd combination, obviously just made up on the spot, but it's actually really close to real sumo wrestler weights and heights, so that's kind of funny in retrospect.

Anyway, I wish there was more to say so that this text would fit on the side of the card without having to start a new section next to it, but that's about it. Fat Pokémon were a hit on the young teenage years comedy scale.



Mini-Project 2: Native American Quest

This is kind of a funny one. So, in Mr. Clifford's eighth grade history class, we were learning about Native American culture, and my friend Robert and I were paired up as a group for a project. I'm not quite sure who thought of it, but one of us decided it could be fun to have a sort of collaborative edutainment roleplaying puzzle map game activity session, where we would have the map (shown below) that the class could roleplay their way through in order to guide the main character through a Native American setting in order to figure out the way to... get to the end and... win? I guess?
The problem was (in retrospect), there was absolutely nothing at all Native American about it except for the setting, which was extremely loose. I mean, you can see tepees on the map and stuff, but I remember Robert creating encounters with finding an abandoned shield and other items that may be strictly fantasy Europe based. Oh, ha ha, I just noticed there's even an indicator for hit points in the corner. How cute.

Anyway, I think we got a good score on the project, but I just remember some people in the class just being flabbergasted at how geeky and pointless this was for them. And if I remember right (based on the Warcraft 3 adaptation of this game I made), there was a freaking cannon in the cave on the map that you had to secure to win somehow. Anyway, good times, weird memories.

Mini-Project 3: Dragon Cards

The dragons themselves that these cards are based on are more of a project than these cards are, since I had a tablet and even a WordPerfect story full of all the different types of dragons and even the types they could merge into written up. They were basically Pokémon, except dragons, which I was obsessed with in Sixth and Seventh grade (notice the all caps writing. Definitely from that era). There were dragons for all four elements, plus light and shadow dragons and psychic and "physical" dragons. They could all merge together into everything from sun dragons (fire + light) and ice dragons (water + air) to moon dragons (light + shadow) and mud dragons (water + earth). Given that card on the left of that sentient puddle, I'm guessing the dragons' early forms were elementals, and then they "evolved."

The attacks themselves look pretty dumb indeed... Some kind of "dragon tokens" you used to power your attacks like in Pokémon, but as I said earlier, I didn't know how that works. I'm guessing you'd be pretty hard pressed to be holding eleven tokens in your hand to power Meteour [sic] Attack. And 64 damage? That means a meteor wouldn't even be enough to kill a water dragon, as seen by its hit points. I dunno, my Battle Cards had a lot more promise than these things. And I wasn't expecting to talk so much about Pokémon in this entry.

Mini-Project 4: Teasy Wars

Have I seriously never talked about teasies on this blog? I should sometime. My brother and I invented them as little cartoon characters and we drew them all the time. They mined with little pickaxes, subsisted on mashed potatoes, and domesticated other tiny creatures. They were also really inventive, coming up with all kinds of interesting vehicles to pilot and cause mischief with.

This page is a colored remaster of an older version of this prospective game that I made somewhat earlier, but the premise was the same: Essentially, it was my own version of a strategy game, which I've always loved (and really miss currently! Is it just StarCraft 2 now and nothing else forever?). I used this project to compile all the ideas surrounding teasies I could "mine" from old drawings. The first teasy drawings were from long ago... I'd say when I was at most six or seven. When I was in junior high or so, I used those old drawings as creative resources for inspiration on how teasy culture might really be in a strategy sense. I'm particularly proud of the vehicles, because I could (eventually) find each and every one of those in an ancient childhood tablet somewhere, and you can tell I didn't make them up in my later years because of how lame they are: "Pow Planes" were so named because of the sound they made when they blasted something, and "BlastCO" is my attempt to vaguify what was, apparently, a device made by an actual industry devoted to blasting things. In other words, "Blast Company" (I think there was a (TM) symbol after it even). I think I made up TITAN, though, because that page didn't have a name for the giant teasy with a glass bubble for an eye that an actual teasy would pilot like a mech.

Resources

First off, there were a lot of resources the teasies would use in this game.
  • Potatoes were for the creation of teasy troops, and you can see the square icon representing this on the units' cost because they stored potatoes in drums or cans that they buried in caches in the ground.
  • Coconuts were rare and expensive delicacies, so the more "noble" or educated troops like pilots, barbarians, and priests needed those to be created.
  • Fish were fed to domesticated beasts.
  • Minerals were smelted down and forged into metal vehicles.
  • Grass was burned for fuel, but it seems to only be used for flying units. So maybe it was required to keep them airborne? I remember grass was also used as fuel to process raw potatoes into mashed potatoes, too.
  • Precious Stones were essentially just rare components that were needed to finance higher-tier buildings and units.
  • Prisoners/slaves were "harvested" by barbarians raiding enemy settlements, and transformed into Mamelukes (I got the word from Age of Empires II, which in the manual explained that they were slaves trained as warriors. It turns out "mameluke" or "mamluk" actually means slave, so I actually dodged a bullet with borrowing words there). The white counterparts to teasies were called "sibleys." There were also malformed, large white teasies with black eyes and white irises called "cobcows," which are really obscure and only mentioned once in my tablets, but I didn't decide to include them in the game.
  • Corpses were used to make necromantic Skull Warriors and Sky Eyes, and they were animated using the final resource, Coin Power.
  • Coin Power was also used to perform miracles or spells and to summon the ultimate warrior, the Teasy Angelic.
Coin power is a bit odd, because it comes from a single reference to an orange "teasy coin," which is apparently "any teasy's greatest possession." So I decided to make it have religious significance. In my mind, it was so cool: basically, you had a coin on a pedestal just sitting there flat, and then you'd click your priest and right click the coin, and he'd go over there and start chanting and waving his cane, and the coin would float into the air vertically and revolve slowly in place, radiating orange energy into the priest and adding to the value of how much you had. I'm sure that was currency for how much you could heal as well, probably.

Units

The units themselves pretty much all have significant origins in tablet lore, and even the different teasies themselves have interesting differences if you notice.
  • The worker has a small mining pick-like growth on his neck because, like ants, teasies are marked from birth as to what their duty in the community is.
  • I'm not so sure that farmers have a strong place in teasy lore... I seem to have gone somewhat "Age of Mythology dwarf vs. worker" on it. Perhaps I just wanted to showcase a teasy with buck teeth, which sometimes existed in older tablets.
  • Priests represent the "old man" figures found in a lot of old tablets. I think his single-lensed glasses, er, 'glass' is pretty funny. And is that a turban on his head? Oh, and it looks like he did have a specific spell that used Coin Power. The only problem is, AP could stand for either "attack points" or "armor points," and DP could be either "defense points" or "damage points." So it could literally either help defend at the cost of strength or vice versa.
  • I like the idea of pilots, which I wouldn't be surprised if they were inspired by the civilians on Starcraft that can operate battlecruisers on one of the levels. A lone pilot could operate a jet, Pow Plane, or TITAN, but it took three to operate a BlastCO.
  • Barbarians (and the Angelic) have tails, which is symbolic of strength. They are the ones that can knock out enemy sibleys and take them back to change into slaves. I do find it a bit odd that the sibley Mameluke doesn't have a tail, but maybe it's an enslaved worker or heck, maybe they cut off the enemy's tail once they capture them as a form of subjugation. That actually sounds reasonable.
  • Brick spiders, or as I think they would've been cooler called, "spider riders," are based on a crablike "brick spider" that I drew in one of my childhood drawings that was named because I used a "brick red" crayon. I think they had some kind of venom-spitting gland in the back, which is perhaps how the teasy riding it can dip its spear thingy to stay venomous.
  • I kid you not, I named that bird a kapow because it dived like a falcon and probably made that sound when it struck. Man, names were not my strong suit back then. I was probably inspired by phoenixes in its art, and its rider has a very similar helmet to the Warcraft III wind riders, which it's doubtless based on.
  • Hhhhh.... Let me explain what this unit is and then you'll understand why it's called a "yow." It's a dirt-brown porcupine-like creature with grasslike green spines on its back that likes to burrow into the ground, and is a hazard to be stepped on. Basically like a mobile mine. Almost certainly inspired by the sentinel units on the computer game Dark Colony, who also burrowed before they were useful.
  • Beastmasters aren't from anything at all. It's a ripoff of kodo beasts from Warcraft III. Shame on you, teen-Aust. That beast it's riding has no basis in all the lore of the planet Surtiss!
  • A lot of my ancient drawings had passing drawings of a pilot in a little jet plane wearing a flapping scarf and goggles just flying over the scene I had doodled.
  • I already explained Pow Planes and TITANs, sort of. As for the BlastCO, I remember having a fun idea that one of the pilots would push the vehicle from behind, and the other two would operate it. Judging by its original drawing, it would fire bright blue pulses of energy out of its cannons as the two (or three, I suppose) pilots pulled belfry ropes to fire them.
  • Skull warriors and sky eyes also have no basis in teasy lore, but I'll excuse it, because I genuinely wants to know sort of what teasy anatomy and skeletal structure would be like. I imagine that (possibly on a thinner scale), the skull warrior is pretty good attempt at depicting such a simple creature's skeleton. And the sky eye? Pretty much just a straight up Eye of Kilrogg.
  • Mamelukes are so ripped off from Age of Empires II. Not just in their name, but in their fighting style. The mamelukes on the game throw scimitars to fight, and it looks like this is an exact copy of that—it's even dressed like a Saracen. The only thing it's missing is a camel to ride.
  • The Teasy Angelic was a pretty cool image in my mind. In my head I imagined it descending from the sky during a desperate battle with sibleys at just the right moment, invoked by priests. Perhaps you needed multiple priests to summon it. I think I'd knock off the precious stone cost for it and just say that one of the victory conditions of the game was to amass enough Coin Power to summon one and win. Anyhow, it would descend, and slowly stomp along the ground killing enemy sibleys, and then it would aim its two-handed staff and fire beams of sunlight that would eradicate enemies in a single shot. It would feel like a cheat code, because if you spent that much time collecting five hundred Coin Power, it should be worth it. Three minutes is actually quite a duration if you think about it. But if it moves slowly, I don't know.
It's always a pleasure to look back on the past. I don't know why, but I've been nostalgic lately. It seems like my nostalgic personality has taken a back seat in the past few years. I'm not sure why. I guess one factor is that time seems to be accelerating constantly. The days fly by, even though they're long ones of full-time work and three hours of school each morning. It's already almost summer, for heaven's sake. The holidays fly by, each Christmas that comes feels almost like just a Saturday. It's like years are the new week for me as an adult.

That's partially a good thing—I don't get as sad leaving my parents' house after a vacation because I know that I'll be there again really soon. I'm also just filled with gratitude constantly, which is a blessing. I feel like I personally have experienced so much good and happiness even in the 29 years I've been on earth. I hope this isn't prophetic, but if I died on the way home from work after publishing this article, in a personal sense I would be satisfied. I've experienced so much that there is to life: a loving family, a fun-filled and engaging childhood, love, parenthood, religious enlightenment, satisfaction of progress, laughter, fun, excitement, fulfillment, and joy in the small things of life.

I've written and published a finished book. I've made over 100 color comic strips. I've started and found joy in scores of projects. I've DMed games of D&D. I've watched the entire series of Critical Role one and a half times. I was alive to watch the Homestarrunner videos as they came out, and I got to see the Warcraft movie in theaters. I was a 90s kid who got to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I got to go to Brazil for two years and learn to speak Portuguese fluently. I've gotten to try so many delicious foods and experience so many fun places. I've heard so many beautiful and stimulating forms of music. I've ridden roller coasters, gone down water slides, hiked and camped in the mountains, made love, gone to college, flown in airplanes, gone water skiing, known and lost children and grandparents, and learned to code.

Sure, I get down sometimes, and I've got a bucket list of things to do, like see Stonehenge in person and go to Medieval Times someday, but I can't believe how many things I've done that so many people throughout history, and even in the world today, will never get to do. Sure, I hate the 2010s and miss the 90s and 2000s, but who cares if the future doesn't look bright if you've already had a wonderfully bright past?

I definitely wasn't expecting to do this on this particular blog post (added to the title: "and a surge of unexpected nostalgic gratitude"), but I just want to gratefully thank God for my past, my present, and my future. Any person in the world would be lucky to have experienced half of the things I have in my 29 years.

Thanks for reading my blog! And in case I do die on the way home from writing this, I want this song to be played at my funeral.

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