Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hike up the Tugela

Yesterday, I decided that my Drakensberg stay wouldn't be complete without, you know, a little bit of old-fashioned legwork around the mountain ranges, so I signed up for a shuttle to take me to the Royal Natal National Park.

That's not to say that I put my chips in for a guided tour along the mountains. Oh ho, no. See, I'm a bit of a cheapskate. I sleep in tents and eat noodles. And while something like R400 is considered acceptable for a guided day-long hike amongst some of South Africa's most glorious peaks, I can't say that my wallet is entirely thrilled at the prospect of parting with that money for a walk. Unlike 99% of the people who pass through most backpackers, I'm not a foreigner: I earn in rands, I travel in rands, I suffer in rands.

So anyway, summary of the whole thing: guided hike costs 400 bucks and takes people along the mountain range to the top of the Tugela Falls (basically one of the highest waterfalls around). Shuttle to Royal Natal and entrance fee came to R60 and afforded me a gorge hike that took me to the base of the waterfall. Bonus points because the gorge hike was both warmer and easier.


While I enjoyed my stroll, mountaineers were freezing their arses off on this escarpment.

The Drakensberg is awfully scenic, and has a lot of winding trails that take you to all sorts of nice places. I personally went along a trail that closely followed the Tugela river. Being winter, the river was mostly dried up, but it still offered an interesting scene or two for my camera to snap up.


Of course, my pics suck anyway, so it doesn't make a difference.

There was also a bit of wildlife hanging around the path: namely, a bunch of baboons that dotted the trail here and there. Admittedly, they made me a little nervous at times: I hear that they sometimes kidnap and eat human infants, and due to my rather spry frame, I was worried that they'd mistake me for an infant. And I absolutely hate being carried off and eaten.

But seriously? They belt out some of the most frightening sounds at an unbelievable volume – at one point, I nearly fell over when I heard what I thought was an angry simian creature standing right behind me – it turned out that it was a noisy little bugger practically standing on the opposite end of the gorge who was the source of the crazy racket.


If I recall correctly, this was the culprit. He was barely visible.

About two-thirds of the way through the hike, I met up with a group of students from Holland. They were a notable bunch because one of them was called Zoltan, which is possibly the most awesome name in existence. We went along the rest of the trail together, exchanging smalltalk and trying to figure out just how badly lost we were. We even decided to take a brief stroll along the dried-up riverbed after the trail came to an unceremonious halt just short of the falls.


Dried-up waterfall in the background, random Hollandaisy dudes in the front.

Lovely day walk, though I'm glad it finished up before evening struck: I swear, the moment that the sun disappears over the mountains, it's as if somebody flips a switch from “sweltering heat” to “bloody chill”. When you're in the berg, DON'T get caught in the shadows. Pitch Black style, yo.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lodged in the berg

It's Drakensberg, baby! Gee whiz, it's been a long time since I've come up here. I mean it's probably been, what, a good ten years? Altogether way too long, considering that this place is tucked away right inside my home province. Yeah, sure, KZN has beaches and Zululand and stuff, but I think that its most distinctive feature is having the best gosh-darn set of mountains in the country. Not that I don't appreciate and respect Table Mountain, but man, “the berg” really puts stuff into perspective.

I'm currently holed up in a backpacking establishment known as Amphitheatre Backpackers, named after the area of the Drakensberg where it's based. Not a bad place: prices are reasonable, cool features abound and I'm able to hide in a corner whenever I want in order to do geeky, computer-related stuff. The jocky vibe of the place makes me a little ill at ease, I will admit, but I'm putting this down to being out of practice when it comes to backpacking.

The main bar, where people drink beer and watch rugby. It's true.

In some ways, this place is a rather mixed bag: some of the facilities are amazing, while others (such as the kitchen and water) are a little on the iffy side. Which is okay, I guess: it's just that alongside the super-duper awesome indoor jacuzzi (which I'm still too shy to clamber into: my pseudo-tan has thus far refused to return and, as I've said, the vibe is a bit too jock-ish for me) I have to deal with stuff like shower doors which don't entirely closed over, leaving me in perpetual fear that the Dutch girls I was staying with were going to see my willy.


Not much room for modesty. And that shower door crack feels pretty big when you're on the inside.

At least I have a comfortable place for the night:

My bed ...

... NOT.

Yeah, so, I almost decided to lie down in the dorms. Then I remembered that I had some freakin' expensive camping equipment that needed to pay itself off with use, so at about 5pm on the day of my arrival I told the backpacking crew that I'd changed my mind and decided to set up a tent instead. Camping is usually a lot cheaper – in my five-day sojourn here, I'll be saving nearly R200 just for sleeping in a tent instead of a bed every night, and the figure would have been a lot higher if dorms were more expensive or campsites were cheaper (this is often the case).

“BUT NANDREW, AREN'T YOU GOING TO FREEZE YOUR ARSE OFF?”

The answer is no. It's not quite dead-winter yet, and the weather here has been jolly nice so far. I can now state proudly that my cousin was wrong: she hit a 7 on the Mother Scale before I left due to all the fuss she made about how cold (and dead) I would be with my current equipment in the Drakensberg. But, as always, I'm a survivor and stuff. Life's pretty good right now.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ciao again, Pretoria

Between the Bat Cave and my family's hideout, I think that Pretoria has been my longest stay in one location this entire year. Although I tend to dwell in favourite spots for at least a week or two at a time (read: Cape Town and Grahamstown), it seems that I've inadvertently nearly clocked the full month of May in Gauteng. Blast it all!

The past two weeks have seen me entertained by several clutches of the greater Joubert clan: many thanks to the family, and it was good to see y'all again. I look back fondly on all the great memories I've formed with this particular visit.

Wimpy lunch with the cousins.

Mimmo's dinner – ahhh, the atmosphere!

Sunday lunch at my aunt's place.

I love food.

But now I'm just allowing my mind to wander too far into the realm of nostalgia and self-indulgence. Instead, here's a picture of my aunt's dog.

My aunt's dog hates me.

Hatred. Seriously.

I've not been this creeped out by an animal since seeing that super-creepy dog in Plet. Canine eyes have a way of burrowing into your soul, seriously. And when a dog has it in for you (not the world, not people in general, not even anybody else in the room. Just you), there's little you can do about it.

My aunt's dog hates me, won't go near me and won't let me touch it. It growls at me on a near-constant basis -- kinda like a revving Lancer. If that fateful Sunday gathering was in a movie, the audience would immediately be able to identify me as "the bad guy" cos the animals hate me. Gee whiz.

And, yeah, that's it for now. Just a quickie: I've been procrastinating a whole bunch this week and now need to get myself sorted for a Baz Bus shuttle tomorrow (didn't think I'd use these guys again, but go figure: turns out that they really are cheaper on multi-stops than a public bus would be, and they go door to door anyway).

Depending on how things turn out, I'll either be in the Drakensberg or Joburg tomorrow night. It's all very complicated and last-minute, so don't ask.

Catch y'all in 24 hours.


A LONG-WINDED POSTSCRIPT FOR BONUS READING:

This blog post was supposed to go up yesterday. I swear it. But then, halfway through my evening, my Internet died and refused to start up again. I thought that this was typical cellphone failure until I got an SMS five minutes afterwards that cheerfully told me I was screwed for net cap. But that's just the beginning of this grand tale of woe and deceit.

Let me give you a quick run-down of cellphone pre-paid Internet. When you get a non-contract phone with, say, Vodacom, you usually have the opportunity to use it as a make-do modem to access the Internet on your computer. The typical pre-paid tariff is about R2 a megabyte. This is effing steep, and is not to be used unless, say, there's a crazy guy with an axe behind you demanding that you log onto the Internet by any means necessary (in which case you open up your closest instant messenger app and give your online buddies a “help me please” code signal).

Fortunately, one has the opportunity to purchase Internet data bundles, and the more data you purchase at once, the cheaper it is per megabyte. I typically pay about 30c per meg, which still isn't great compared to a regular land line, but suits me well enough as long as I exercise some restraint. When you run out of data on your bundle, you go back to R2 per meg and that eats into your regular cellphone airtime.

Right, so, with that explanation down: I top up my cellphone airtime using Internet banking. I top up my Internet bundles using spare airtime. This is a very elegant solution which can sometimes go horribly, horribly wrong. When I'm surfing the net with my cellphone, SMS messages often don't come through until I log off. This is dangerous when, say, your “low bandwidth” warnings for Internet data bundles are sent – lo and behold – via SMS. When my Internet cut out at about 11pm last night, I immediately received four SMS messages from Vodacom.

The first one registered as being sent at about 7pm, warning me that I had less than 4 megabytes left on my bundle. The second one was sent half an hour later, telling me that my data bundle had been exhausted, and that I WAS NOW BEING CHARGED R2 PER MEGABYTE. The third was sent later, warning me that I was using up all of my cellphone's airtime on the Internet.
The fourth and final message: “YOU F**KING IDIOT! YOUR MONEY IS ALL GONE!” Not in those words exactly, but that's kinda how I felt at the time.

So in summary, I simultaneously lost all Internet and cellphone access at a really inconvenient time last night because the only system of warning that I could receive was, ironically enough, disabled by the very use of the device which warranted the warning in the first place. To top it off, I recharged my cell's airtime with about R70 yesterday afternoon, and it all got chowed by the Internet in one evening. Suffice it to say, Vodacom and I are no longer on speaking terms.

End rant.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hatfield: day and night

So, I finally decided to get off my ass and do some walking around for a change. Footlike movement comes rather naturally to me (spend a few years in Grahamstown while lugging your laptop everywhere, and you'll see what I mean) but in Gauteng, that habit all but dries up in favour of getting to far-off locations with a private vehicle of some kind.

Deciding that my personal improvement and whatnot relies exclusively on my ability to wander around aimlessly for at least an hour every day, I've recently been slipping into my anti-mugger kit (also known as “dressing up like a freakin' hobo”) and took to the streets in search of adventure and geographical enlightenment.

My grandparents stay rather close to a lot of important places in Pretoria. After a few trips around the local neighbourhood, I've realised that I'm within perfectly acceptable walking distance of the University of Pretoria, the Loftus Versfeld stadium, a local KFC and Hatfield Square.

Hatfield is possibly THE hangout for Pretoria's student population (aside from the University itself, that is) and is, in general, a place for a great day (or night) out.


Hatfield in the sun: nice restaurants, open plazas and interesting walks.

Hatfield in the dark: jostling jocks, sticky floors and blurry pictures.

Although most of my recent expeditions to Hatfield have been during the sunlit hours, I also went there for a post-rugby party on Saturday night against my own better judgement. Not that I have an undying hatred of the jock crowd or anything (hey, they're people too. Sometimes), but they tend to get on my nerves when I'm surrounded by too many of them at once. And there's just way too many people in this world who enjoy getting drunk because it's an excuse to act like an ass.

Hatfield is nicely cosmopolitan though, which I quite like in a student hangout. There's stuff like dance clubs, Irish pubs, sports bars and all that other mainstream tomfoolery, but there's also a few slightly more alternative spots like Tings an' Times, Cool Runnings and a nice, down-to-earth bar called Aandklas where I received no less than three separate compliments for my glorious fedora hat.

And then there's stuff like this:


Not a student club.

Hatfield is bursting at the seams with fancy stuff like embassies and diplomatic establishments hailing from all sorts of countries. It seems rather strange that they'd throw in such official buildings amongst the student / backpacker riot that makes up the Hatfield area, but there you go. I've literally got Iran setting up camp just a little down the street from where I'm staying, so I guess it's kinda normal around here.

The embassies themselves are also quite unexpectedly plain-looking: you'd think that stuff from Thailand, UAE and Singapore would at least have some pretty cultural architecture, but no ... most of them just look like big houses. Or flats, even.


Canada totally has the best crib. Other countries are totally jealous about it.

Quite a few people ask me why I insist on walking about everywhere even when I have access to transport, but the fact is that I'm somewhat “car-blind”: since I'm not a driver, I get absolutely no sense of direction or geography when I'm using motorised transport.

Humble use of my feet generally gives me a much more solid sense of a location than vehicles ever could – often bringing about rather critical revelations such as the fact that Hatfield has always been just a little north of my grandfolk's place instead of some indeterminate location “somewhere in Pretoria”.

A funny habit, you say? Well, screw you.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Variance prototype is out!

Right, so: long story short, I don't write about enough geeky stuff on this blog. So it's time to jack that up a little and post some regular updates on my game development efforts.

As I mentioned earlier, a recent mini-death in my blog updates was attributed to two weeks of caffeine and heavy game development. That game is currently called Variance. And it currently has a prototype version available for download.


Bright colours. Very bright colours.

Variance is a puzzle-platformer ... WITH A TWIST (a tip for marketers out there: never ever ever use the phrase “with a twist” when promoting your stuff. Clich├ęs are a pet hate of mine). If you've ever played the likes of Shift and Sokoban, then you can imagine what it would be like if they ever got together and had horrible mutant offspring. Localised gravity fields have your avatar moving up, down, left, right and wonkways in an effort to navigate obstacles, solve grid-based puzzles, dodge enemies and get to each level's exit for glory and presumably some sort of reward.


Huuurgh, more colour. And puzzles.

As mentioned already, the game is in the prototype phase. What I'd like to call the “last” prototype, yes, but still a proto. This means two things: firstly, I've been focusing on getting gameplay down to pat, but acknowledge the need for better graphics. They're like doggy doo, I know – get over it. Secondly: there currently exists a bigger, better game behind closed doors in a whole different engine and stuff (I'll be keeping my lips sealed on the details, at least for now), and this particular bugger is just a version that I hacked out for public consumption to get important stuff from people ... like FEEDBACK.

That means that I'd like everyone to pick up a copy, dust it off, play a little and give me some useful advice about making it better. There's some handy feedback guidelines over here if you choose to accept this quest, o reader.

But yeah. Have fun. More blog updates soon, I've got a bunch of photos in my camera which need to hit this page before they explode.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The University of Pretorialand

I have a few cousins who live in Pretoria. Funnily enough, this means that at least one of them studies at the University of Pretoria. And as it just so happens, I took a stroll there yesterday while one of these student cousins went to hand in some stuff.

Pretoria's campus is rather different to others which I've encountered. For a start, it's a lot more functional and a lot less pretty. Here's the administrative building:

Unintentional lens flare of awesomeness included.

In other ways, though, the University is just like any other campus: loads of students doing important student things like bunking, slacking off and socialising on the lawns. I kept thinking that I saw some of my Grahamstown buddies amidst the crowds: oh, how the campus aura loves playing tricks on feeble minds!

In the middle of everything, there was some sort of event going on which brought back memories of the trolley race day that I saw at UCT. Minus the trolleys, that is.

I have no idea what's going on here.

After getting hand-ins sorted out, I went with my cousin to the nearby tuckshop. Now, we have a day kaif back at Rhodes which serves various munchables for passing students, and I've borne witness to the miniature food court at Cape Town, but for some reason the sheer jam-packed nature of this particular tuckshop environ absolutely stunned me. If the shopkeepers ever wanted a bit of fun, they could just tip over one or two shelves of sweeties and swim about in the stuff like a particularly nutritious ball pit.

WHY DIDN'T I TAKE A PICTURE? I WAS SURE I'D TAKEN A PICTURE!

The walk to campus and back was pretty refreshing, despite winter's encroachment, and I brought along my devil sticks for some knocking about while I waited for the cousin's paperwork to be done. There's something to be said for Gauteng winters: they're bloody freezing indoors, but if you're fortunate enough to get a sunny day, a spot of standing around in the open can really warm you up. Time to work on my long-lost semi-tan, methinks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The joys of being fed

Dear reader, I last left you a day or so back with the knowledge that I was now sitting pretty with my grandparents, recovering from what can only be described as mild caffeine poisoning and a clinical lack of sun and time away from the computer.

Starting from Monday, I decided to switch things around a bit. I've resumed an age-old habit of drinking only water (despite my grandparents' best efforts to laden me with coffee and cola), spend about an hour outside training with my devil sticks every day and, most importantly, am seeking to restore my damaged blog in the midst of all this chaotic self-improvement. Gee whiz, I feel like I'll be able to maintain these resolutions for at least an entire week! Did I hear somebody say “new personal record”?

That aside, one of my resolutions is to eat a lot better. After you spend a couple of weeks living on noodles and peanuts (read: typical student diet), you tend to get a better idea of when your body is lamenting a lack of nutrition. Fortunately, said nutrition is abundant – apparently, my grandmother is unsatisfied with the fact that I weigh less than a baby elephant, and constantly endeavours to remedy this startling condition with a whole menagerie of well-made meals. This is the stuff that I call “real” food – by comparison, most of my eating habits consist of stuff that looks, smells and tastes like food, but actually isn't.

Holy crap, there's more than one course?

The above is a small dessert sample of a big, fancy meal that I ate with my grandparents last night. A few aunts, uncles and cousins came over to join in the gastronomic festivities and brought over a colossal pot of – wait for it – BILTONG SOUP.

I eat biltong. I eat soup. But together? Wow.

Maybe I'm a bit of a soup noob (related: noob soup is totally a real term), but I'm sure I've never heard of the concept of putting biltong in a bowl of gloppy stuff. It's one of the few meals in existence that I would describe as being deliciously confusing. Kinda like a dish that you'd attack with raised eyebrows. And this is coming from somebody who gladly launches himself at IceBix (patent still pending).

Up against this bowl of distilled interestingness was also the biggest loaf of bread in existence.

Told you so.

So yeah, summary of my evening? Soup, bread, pie, feta, baked apples, meringues, strawberries, cream, ice-cream and possibly the entire continent of South America. I win.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Time with the grandfolk

I'm finally out of the Batcave. For the past two weeks, I've been sorely lacking sunshine, sorely overdosing on caffeine and remained sorely immobile considering my resolution to travel more this year. That, and my blog has been sorely missed. All the results of a labour of love, but now I need to remedy my behaviour somewhat.

My itchy feet haven't carried me too far yet: I finally decided to pack up and go visit the greater clan in Pretoria after a fortnight of maintaining radio silence. So, well, I'm currently staying with my grandparents. I visited their abode earlier this year, but I didn't get to write much about it because I hadn't started my blog yet.


They own a half-breed cat: half Siamese, half jet engine. Noisy bugger.

I haven't done much here so far, since I'm currently suffering from waves of caffeine withdrawal (not the “lol, I've been drinking a lot of coffee” kind – I think I've clinically overdosed on energy drinks) and it seems that I had another session last night: I arrived at my grandparents' place at about 5pm, passed out at 8pm, woke up with a nosebleed and lightheadedness at 1am, got over it and fell asleep again at 1:10am, then got jerked back into consciousness by the dulcet tones of my cousin ordering me to wake the hell up at around 9am. So yeah, it appears that my body is still operating at a level considerably below its peak. I'm denying myself coffee and drinking Milo to fool my system until this passes.

I have fond childhood memories of visiting this house: it's rather old and holds a certain charm and sense of aesthetics that newer buildings fail to incorporate.


Aesthetic point number 1: there's visible wood within the house.

Not only is the house itself pretty, but I really like the garden too. It's one of those small, pristine affairs that you see in those fancy victorian fiction movies, with vine-laden walls, natural shelves encrusted with various forms of pottery, a cobbled path surrounded by a rich variety of plants and, of course, a swinging garden bench.


Aesthetic point number 2: there's green stuff when you walk out the back door.

Now, since I haven't had the opportunity to do much just yet, I'll comment on what I HAVE had the chance to do, extensively. And that is lie in bed:


Ugh, PINK?

My grandmother has a tendency to fuss and pamper (I think it's a trait that instinctively gets triggered in any woman who finds out that they have a second generation of mortal progeny), so I have a very comfy bed. Pink, but comfy. We're talking about fluffy pillows, extra blankets and a perfectly situated wall plug for my laptop. Even if it is pink (the bedding, not my laptop).

So, with a combination of a steady foundation (floral), a glorious mattress (pink), some extra-warm coverishness (more pink), I believe that it's only fair to rate this bed as a solid 9/10 (pink).

I'll write more stuff after I do more stuff. Promise.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lurking at Luma

Dear reader, lo and behold! I have once again surfaced from my never-ending pile of work to present you with another instalment of what some call the Chronicles, others the Rodblog and the remainder A Bloody Waste Of Time If You Ask Me (or at least, that would be the case if I hadn't already shot them all).

I'm still adventuring in a very geek-heavy environment and loving it to bits, despite the fact that I'm regularly settling for about four hours of sleep a night and fuelling my days with enough Mountain Dew to drown a fish (and you know that's intense because it's a fish). It's a labour of love, though: through a mixture of writing and game development, I'm simultaneously honouring both of my major career choices in one fell swoop of work and sleep-deprivation. I'm also going on some rather interesting field trips as a result.

Last Friday, I paid a visit to Luma, a design company in Johannesburg which just happens to make games as well. Their game development studio – known as Luma Arcade – has already been making waves in the local dev community with a few nice racing titles and mobile games. Now, however, they're kicking it up a notch and starting on development for the iPhone. Unfortunately, there's not terribly much that I can say about it because they're locked up in a non-disclosure agreement thing (they call it an NDA in fancy-speak) and they'll cut off my sensitive bits if I violate that, but it should suffice to say: “Yay!”

Fortunately, the Big Boy burger kid wasn't part of the NDA. So here he is. Yay!

Without divulging too much, I'm really excited about what Luma's getting up to now. Their first few games were okay: they covered new ground and paved the way well for the South African dev community, but they weren't breaking any barriers with regards to game creation as a whole. Now that I'm seeing some awesome concepts and a real one-up on their previous projects, I'm kinda keen to pump images, interviews and reviews of these guys into every possible media outlet at my disposal. Because I'm a Level 90 Journalist, at least on the odd occasions when I somehow manage to do things right.

The head honcho at Luma decided to make his face a part of the NDA at the last minute. He said it was because he looked silly. Tsk tsk.

Anyway, that's all I'm going to say. Mostly going to save the juicy details for people who will, you know, actually pay me to scribble them out. And I'm waiting on permission for some things anyway. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a little something I whipped up this morning. I call it Icebix:

Oh no, he's not ...

Oh he just DID!

The surprising conclusion: Weetbix in icecream tastes DELICIOUS! Patent pending.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Food woes and cool news

This blog post is about food. In all ways. Food is pretty awesome. Not only does its consumption allow human beings to continue surviving, but it also has the occasional decency to taste good while it's doing the job.

Of course, instead of taking the time and effort to eat properly, I usually just drown my pangs in a mixture of caffeine, carbohydrates and MSG. Occasionally, I'm bold enough to try something different – like cooking and stuff – but this is a purely artificial resolve that I try to conjure up because my doctors keep saying stuff like how I should be clinically dead right now.

For one, I'm sure that I've by now overdosed on caffeine at least six times.

Two litre Mountain Dew bottles have become the bane of my existence.

Not too many people are aware of this, but I have a thing for Mountain Dew that's basically borderline worship. I mean, the stuff is great and all, but it's still quite rare in most of the shops that I go to and even then it tends to be in cans (which aren't even nearly worth the money compared to the price of bottles).

When I arrived in Pretoria and learned that one of the gentlemen I was staying with regularly supped on the well-caffeinated fruits of BOTTLED Mountain Dew, it was basically over for me. I purchased a few gallons for myself, squirrelled them away in the fridge and began drinking. About five days later, I realised that I'd stopped sleeping. Or, at least, I was no longer prone to the bouts of narcolepsy that I've been oh-so-unfairly labelled by my friends as being subject to.

That, and peanuts.

This is a kilogram of peanuts. Also known as my survival rations.

Of course, that's not all I've been eating. Just last night, we decided to make a pasta dish. Today, I made the mistake of eating the leftovers.

Be warned, dear reader. Never finish leftovers in the Bat Cave. You'll be fined, guilt-tripped and cast into hell. Moreover, offering your comrades a kilogram of peanuts as compensation will not work. They'll simply pass commentary on how they have no food to eat that night, raising concerns in your tormented mind of waking up the next morning to the sight of a pair of emaciated corpses (still posed in front of their computers of course). And then, five minutes later, they'll douse the unnecessary fires of guilt by whipping up a fish and chip dinner for themselves. Asses.

This seafood is made of pure failessence.

Unfortunately, I'll have to leave my blog post at that, as I've surely just placed myself in great peril. My current companions both keep tabs on my writing, and one of them is a freaking ninja.

...

Oh, and before I forget: I got an article featured on Gamasutra, the face of the world's largest game development journalism conglomerate thing. I've apparently earned the label of “Expert”. The professional in me is unmoved. The aspiring juvenile in me is busy going “EEEEEEEeeeeeeeeee!”


Discussing the Gamasutra exposure with Dev.Mag's editor. Professional composure in action.

Totally sweet. But seriously? It's not just a personal pride thing: I'm actually genuinely stoked that Dev.Mag (the SA publication that I'm writing most of my game development stuff for) is making moves to establish a global audience, and I shall continue to update on Gamasutra with Dev.Mag reprints that I feel are pertinent. Hopefully this effort will serve as encouraging news for disillusioned SA devs and get them out of their shells a bit more.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Game geekery with Dev.Mag

Okay, okay, I know: my blogging rate has rather unambiguously been suffering as of late. I can predict three reasons for this. Logical assessment of situation number one: anticipated decay and loss of steam. This is the result of a scientific formula that dictates how, if you're not paid to do a given task, you tend to do it a little less often as time passes by. Mainly because you can't be arsed to put in the same effort. I kinda accepted this eventuality when I started out.

Logical assessment of situation number two: hanging about in places like Grahamstown and Pretoria have the unfortunate side effect of causing me to slack off and not do much blogworthy stuff. Sitting in a comfort zone is a far cry from, say, doing newsworthy stuff like throwing myself off bridges.

Logical assessment of situation number three: perhaps most importantly, I've been devoting one helluva lot of time over these past few weeks to Dev.Mag, an online e-zine that's all about cool stuff like game development and ... well, just game development. But that's more than cool enough on its own.


It's also very, very orange. And has lots of gears. And a giant robot.

I've been with Dev.Mag since its inception three years ago, assuming various roles within its grand superstructure of awesomeness that included a fairly lengthy stint as editor and grand high poobah. For most of its existence, the mag has been a humble monthly PDF with a reasonably small circulation, but a few weeks ago it was jacked up to become a full-blown dev Website with daily news updates and free icecream.

Right now, we're doing our damndest to punt ourselves to the international community. I won't bore you with the marketing spiel, goals and rationale – suffice it to say, I'm writing a lot of stuff for them right now, so whenever I have spare time to sit down and scribble out a few words, I'm unfortunately forced to choose the mag over my blog. So really, I'm still updating the Internet with Nandrew-ish goodness: it's just that I'm mostly doing it elsewhere. With a different pic of myself.


What a devilishly handsome bugger!

If you're interested in game development (or even if you aren't), stop on by at http://www.devmag.org.za/ and have a look-see at all the cool stuff. If you have any friends interested in game development, swing them the link. If you have any friends with loads of money who are sitting around wondering, “Where can I squander my vast wealth now?” ... well, point them in our direction too. We may be able to help them with that problem too.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Luggage woes, adamantium claws and a return to the Bat Cave

I bet that most of us have had fun and games with public transport in the past. I'm not sure how things are for international readers, but the services in South Africa are a far cry from the if-it's-five-seconds-late-it's-unforgivable mentality of the Japanese subway system. I've heard quite a few horror stories from friends who have been horrendously delayed, robbed of their luggage or even hijacked by laser-wielding dinosaurs who want to catch the next bus ride to the lost city of Atlantis.

Personally, I've not suffered too heavily in this regard (except when it comes to the dinosaurs. Stupid bloody dinosaurs), but that changed a couple of days ago when I hitched a quick ride from Grahamstown to Pretoria via our delightful domestic bus system. A quick overview of what happened: both my luggage and I hopped onto a bus in Grahamstown. But while I was safely deposited in Pretoria about fourteen hours later, my luggage was whisked away by an extremely localised space-time rip that tore it out of the nice and safe underbelly of my transport and deposited it somewhere in Midrand. And although everybody seemed to know that it was in Midrand (and, indeed, could confirm its presence with one of a multitude of buses that hopped between Midrand and Pretoria every day), nobody seemed able to retrieve the luggage and put it into my grubby little paws until a good 24 hours later, following several broken promises from the transport crew and a few chewed-off ears at 6:30am.

A picture of my missing ba- OH WAIT, I LEFT MY CAMERA IN MY LUGGAGE.

Fortunately, my renewed presence at the Bat Cave has more than compensated for this momentary setback. The Bat Cave, as you may recall, is something of a gaming Valhalla – a gathering spot for geeks to achieve something of a critical mass and explode in a shower of awesomeness.

Plastic controllers and bright colours = instant rock band success.

There were three reasons that I arrived on this particular: one, it was a long weekend. This begs people of my ilk to get together for major videogaming sessions (which, ironically, never seemed to consist of the stuff I actually wanted to play. Screw you guys, I'd do anything to play Lode Runner on the Xbox).

The second reason was the cinema debut of X-men Origins: Wolverine. This needs little explanation: the guy is a freakin' cultural icon.

A freakin' cultural icon.

Lastly, I had a score to settle with the local division of Yanky's – more specifically, I needed to finally confront one of their Monster Burgers for myself. My encounter was framed by a challenge that I levelled at a fellow geek: we had to race to see who could eat a whole burger first. Preferably without dying from gastrointestinal complications in the process.

It's bigger than my laptop. Oh dear.

I lost. Horribly. And now I have a bit of a tummyache. I'm still trying to figure out how that much physical burger can fit into such a scrawny frame as my opponent's, but admittedly the overpowering sensation of mass indigestion is blurring my cognitive processes for the time being.

This blog post is dedicated to Simon “you-never-mention-me-in-your-blogs” Croudace.