18 July 2008

Coming Out of the Closet

OK - maybe a bad title.

But then again, Kate used to tell me that I had the makings of a proper gay man except for the shoes...I'm pretty sure she meant it as a compliment.


I've been putting off saying anything for several months for fear of jinxing it, but I reckon it's time to say something about a long awaited arrival - Soma Games.

We unquestionably lost some significant momentum back at the beginning of the year when everything went nuke-u-ler up here, but once I got back on the horse things really started coming together. Soma has now taken on a partner, my friend David from BCNW, and we're now going to appear at the Christian Game Developers Conference. We are in conversations with several folks with the checkbooks to underwrite the whole thing and everything has a certain air of inevitability about it. Now I don't want to make that same mistake Hillary did and coast, there is still a lot of work to do, but it sure feels like the goal to make video games is now a matter of time.

One of the coolest things has been getting some real life concept art done for the games. Let me share some of it with you...

This is for The Race, our MMORPG. These were both made by our friend Devin

These are for our spy game, Dark Glass, provided by Chris Breithaupt

Finally, and not at all the least, is the fantastic design work being done by Paul Bryant at Design Point.

There is still a lot to share, but I at least wanted to get this stuff out there. I'm so freaking excited I feel like I'm gonna wet myself.

04 July 2008

Another quick report

As many of you know, I had the privilege of being invited to be an elder at my church about 8 months ago. And not to be flippant, but the job has been somewhat ambiguous. In TFC the elders are a sort of unofficial body. We don’t vote on anything, we don’t review anything, we don’t write any checks. Likewise, nobody votes us in or out and there is no official body that oversees us. We aren’t mentioned in the bylaws nor do we operate under any written set of guidelines. Instead, it’s a group of people who serves at the head pastor’s convenience and pleasure and we meet periodically to discus the spiritual health and atmosphere of the church. And so in many ways I’ve been showing up with a kind of ‘so now what do we do” kind of look on my face – trying to figure out what‘s expected of me and what the rules are.

Now that said, I don’t mean to suggest that the church or the pastor takes the group less than seriously. We are far more visible than the church council as we are usually the folks who wind up on the stage praying for new babies or missionaries or whatever. Most every service we are mixing with the people during worship, praying or them or counseling them or whatever comes up. And I take the position very seriously. The Bible has several non-trivial things to say about elders specifically including the authority to anoint and pray for the sick. It’s just that in may ways, the job description has been very vague and free-form.

Let me also say that while we are a Foursquare church, I’m told by folks who know such things, that we are uncharacteristically calm and contemplative for the denomination. That’s not to say that we don’t believe in and walk in the gifts of the spirit, but I guess everybody is pretty low key about all of that. Which is part of the reason the tongues + interpretation that I witnessed a few weeks ago was a new experience for me. And in some ways it was so totally underwhelming. It was like this matter of fact, zero hype, thank you Lord sort of event...and it felt so right to me.

One of the (long delayed) thoughts coming back from SC has been an observation about Christian hype. I see that I have a certain distaste for the super emotional displays that often accompany revivals. Now I’m not saying that such a thing is at all wrong, it just isn’t me. But I also can’t deny the obvious ting that I JUST affirmed – that kind of expression OFTEN accompanies revival type moves of the spirit. So I’ve wondered if I’m somehow jaded or cold (lukewarm?) or if there is something else going on here. Just to cut through any tension, what I’ve come to believe is actually very simple and has been in my face forever: 1COR 12:4-7. Basically, people have different personalities, don’t wig when they experience God and express themselves in different ways according to their personalities...oh, duh.

But principles (and scripture) aside for just a moment, it’s been incredibly powerful to really SEE that happening at my own church. So there CAN be a word given and its interpretation with minimal fanfare – and that works with my personality and the personality of my church. We can pray for, and see healing, even resurrection, without a Wigglesworth (Bentley?) punch in the gut.

Anyway, what I really wanted to write about was a new event hat goes in a similar vein. A few weeks ago one of the elders had a vision and he thought it was likely a prophecy. Now in just about any other place I’ve been where prophecy was ‘practiced’ the words shot out across a room like a ping pong ball. The prophet spoke and everybody kinda went, “oooh, cool.” But then there was no sense of follow up (was the prophet accurate), no sense of responsibility and really no real sense of the reality of the prophecy. They have always been treated sort of like a pep talk from (maybe) God where it wasn’t really a matter of being true, or accurate or even particularly important.

But the last elder meeting we had was entirely devoted to evaluating this prophecy, basically line by line, and thereby performing one of the explicit written roles of the elders – evaluating/judging prophecy. I don’t know how this will sound, but I felt like I was somehow acting as a grown up where I previously been mostly a child. We were in no way quenching or limiting he spirit – in fact we were taking a less than popular command of scripture seriously and trying to bear the responsibility of our office with sobriety. The result of that meeting, and the unanimous decision that the prophecy was in fact valid in no way diminished it’s value – quite the opposite. Now, instead of a random utterance in the course of other things it will be presented to the whole body as something serious, something specific that God had intended or our body, and something we all need to take into account. (and let that answer anybody who wants to know the details of the prophecy – I think it was for TFC and to blab it out there to the world would be inappropriate).

This was also the first time I really felt the weight of this office. Rightly diving the word is no small thing, especially when you’re going before the whole body to say -”We think this came from God – you need to pay attention.”.

Anyway, there is still a lot more to write on this topic, and how it fits into a larger conversation I’ve been having with Jesus, but enough for now.

02 July 2008

The Dragon Released

(This story is actually several years old now and needs to be updated to be both internally consistent and consistent with how the Avatar world has developed since I wrote this. But until just three days ago I had the sick feeling in my gut that I lost this story entirely when a hard drive crashed. So when I found a hard copy I literally cheered. Now I want to post this so that Google has a copy even I blow up again..)

The Dragon Released
Note: Black Sea radius = 214.3 miles / diameter 430 miles / circumference 1350.88 miles

Over the centuries, The Dragon had only a handful of visitors. Most were pilgrims of a sort, motivated by some desperate need to see for themselves that the monster was indeed bound; making the life-threatening journey on the compulsion to spit at him. Others were misguided admirers, drawn by his infamy, hoping for some boon in return for their meaningless sympathy.
As The Dragon's guard, Abaddon was the silent, invisible witness of each encounter but there was never any real need for him to intervene, either on the behalf of the visitors or his charge. A thin golden chain anchored in the rock and wrapped about the beast's wrists kept him from moving more than a few feet in any direction, a heavy leather hood kept him from seeing his guests, and most importantly, an iron muzzle kept his poisonous tongue locked within his own head. Part jailor, part jail, Abaddon was the strength that kept the chain strong, the darkness that kept the hood opaque and the cold that made the dragon’s muzzle so perfectly effective. Treading a line between sentience and function, Abaddon’s was an exceptional existence. Something less than a ‘he’ Abaddon was also far more than an ‘it.’ He had been created before time began with a single purpose, the restraint of this villain so long as the Dragon shared a world with men. Despite the Dragon's long and complicated tale, the swath of destruction that was his wake, and his former reign upon the Earth, to Abaddon's eye he was mundane, even vulgar; a pedestrian creature with the simplest of motivations, and therefore boring. While The Dragon was driven by the singular impulse to consume, the pilgrims who sought his presence came with fascinatingly complex sets of emotions and ideals. Invariably, the guests were far more interesting than the creature they were drawn to.
At dawn, 8,651,640 hours since his arrival, Abaddon noted the arrival of a new pilgrim at the periphery of his awareness. More than a thousand years ago, an icy stone fell from heaven, adorned in blue-green flame and Abaddon came with it. On impact, the hypersonic meteor boiled an ancient sea in an instant, sending a tower of steam and sand twelve thousand feet into the sky that rained down like so much poison for months to come. Sown with three hundred twenty-nine tons of vaporized copper and iron the crater remained a lifeless pan of corroding stones, obsidian gravel and rusting sand. While the molten rock was still falling from the sky, cinders swirling in the firestorm like obscene locusts, Abaddon took his position, awaiting the prisoner, and watching for whosoever might enter his sphere.
Abaddon's preternatural eyes watched a pilgrim's approach from exactly 214.09 miles away, where a pair of stunted, suffering Gopherwoods marked the entrance to the abyss known alternately as The Footprint, The Eustabea Sea, or The Last Resort. Once a man's foot came to rest on the raised rock highway, Abaddon began to observe and measure - listening first to the pilgrim's heartbeat, analyzing their sweat, numbering their breath. The initial descent into the crater was exceptionally steep, 802.29 feet of pitted basalt at a roughly 78.4 degree incline. A pilgrim attempting to climb down without the aid of rope had a 52.3% chance of a fatal fall, a 69.1% of a debilitating injury. If a pilgrim managed to reach the floor of the crater, they would have come beneath the persistent fog of carbon monoxide and catch their first sight of the Millstone. The hulking remains of the meteor, the Millstone was a jet-black mesa nearly a mile wide and half that across. It rose 319 yards from the ancient seafloor like a gigantic altar and even from so great a distance, to a pilgrim at the edge of the hole it stood out as the only visible feature in a massive, bleak expanse and the terminus of the wide, stone highway.
 As a visitor approached, Abaddon would calculate an integrated chance of survival built largely upon the amount of water they carried. The crater's razor-like rim made the use of pack animals logistically impossible. Regardless, animals refused to approach the wasteland, rearing, bucking or simply laying down according to their nature; and so a pilgrim had already hiked a day before they ever reached the rim, looked out across the immense hole or pondered its boiling sea of fog. With the pilgrims that overcame, and lived to see the crater's floor, Abaddon would count the beads of sweat that fell from their faces, determine a droplet's average volume, multiply by the rate of production, and divide by the pilgrim's average speed. 81.2% were sufficiently prepared to walk in but not to walk out. He would adjust his calculations favorably for those who chose to travel at night, adjust down for those unable to maintain a minimum pace of 22.8 miles per day and he had been correct 92.77% of the time. But the pilgrim he glimpsed today was different.
The man’s heartbeat was exceedingly regular; in fact Abaddon was unable to recall any heartbeat in any creature that was so modulated. His breathing too was perfectly calm and measured. Abaddon listened intently for half a day, waiting for some variation in either, but heard none. While the man walked briskly toward the Millstone at an unflagging pace of 2.97 miles per hour Abaddon found himself looking for alternative methods to calculate this man’s chance of survival. The usual gauge, based largely on hydration, was seemingly insufficient in this instance. The man was carrying no water at all; a death-knell in all other cases, however the man was not sweating.
As the sun began to set, Abaddon calculated that the man had covered just over thirty-five miles - an exceptionally good pace that nudged Abaddon's survival estimate upward to eleven percent, but he wasn't sure if should adjust that rate up or down when he determined that pilgrim showed no intention of stopping. The man continued walking through the night - never stopping to eat or drink, never pausing to catch his scentless, sterile breath, and never lifting his bowed and hooded head from the location of his next perfectly timed footfall.
By morning of the second day Abaddon was intrigued as well as wary. He had come to an 82.69% certainty that the pilgrim was not human after all and that made his presence suspicious. His plain black robe, drawn tight across broad shoulders revealed nothing about the man's identity, his purpose, or his loyalties, and that was enough to shift Abaddon's thinking from intellectual curiosity to conservative risk assessment. Still, with so little available information, Abaddon found himself able to do little more than wait. For another two days, and without pause, the enigmatic pilgrim strode the bone littered highway, and arrived at Abaddon's feet as the dawn broke.
For a moment, the traveler stood facing the Dragon as if evaluating his condition. Despite his namesake, the Dragon appeared as a normal man. In other circumstances one might regard him as tall, athletic, even handsome. But in this place, bound and gagged, stripped naked and beset by the horrid environment, he was simply pathetic. His shoulders sagged under a millennium of defeat and humiliation to a point where his former glory was almost unimaginable. The traveler walked around him slowly, inspecting his chain, his hood and particularly his muzzle. When he appeared satisfied, he cleared his throat.
"Watchman, I come on The King's errand."
Abaddon had been here for over a thousand years and never once been spoken to. At the sound of the pilgrim's voice, the Dragon's interest was also piqued, raising his head and sniffing at the air. Abaddon paused a long moment, calculating the likely effect of possible responses. After the most tactically effective silence, his voice, coming from nowhere rang out across the valley like crystalline thunder, "I am a servant of Aral Mark pilgrim. Ere my making, nothing but eternal things were forged and I endure for eternity. Already ancient, I witnessed The Dragon's birth, His mutiny, and His imprisonment. I have counted the hairs upon the heads of every man who believed his lie and to this day I keep his cord taught, his jaw muzzled. All this I've seen and yet I know you not." As he spoke, the air seemed to thin, to darken, and to smell of ozone. There was a faint crackling across the traveler's cloak as static electricity rose with the guardian's voice.
 “This disguise confounds even you?” The slightest hint of a grin crossed the traveler’s lips, “You know me Tin Man,” he spoke teasingly, “but not this shape.” The traveler casually drew back his hood revealing a man in his late forties with closely cut black hair and a deeply weathered face. The man took a long look at his own hands as if they were as alien to himself as they were to Abaddon. Drawing his robe aside he reached for an ornate hilt at his waist and drew a long, mirror-edged sword. "I've also known The Dragon, his treachery, his hubris and his weakness. And I drug his wretched hide from Moriah to the Millstone just so you could keep him silent. Shapes aside brother, you'll recognize the seal of my office." The traveler grabbed the sword by the blade and lifted the hilt high as if to provide Abaddon with a better view. The bright blade was engraved with the names of mighty men, a log of exceptional warriors throughout human history. Where the blade met the hilt was the bronze image of an owl, placing wisdom between death and its wielder. Set in the hilt were three onyx stones arranged and sized to suggest the belt of Orion, and twisted about the handle were ten gold ribbons, etched with the law of the King.
"Dreamsinger." spoke the air.
"Aye friend. Dreamsinger."
Abaddon was calmed and the air about the Millstone returned to its normal, fetid condition. "He is to be released," spoke the air, as if the idea held no more weight than an observation of the weather. "I am to be unmade."
"Yes," spoke the traveler, "the King sends his discharge. Well done."
>From behind the traveler came a quiet snuffling sound. At first, it could be mistaken for whimpering or even sobbing, but as the sound grew in strength the Dragon stood and threw back his head, he was laughing.
Surveying the Dragon coldly, the traveler drew the hood away and looked into the jovial eyes of his enemy. The Dragon glared back in a kind of gleeful contempt and patronizingly raised his bound hands to the traveler. With a quick stroke of his blade, the Dragon's chain was cut and he slowly rolled his battered wrists as if to reacquaint himself with their proper function. For several long minuets he languidly stretched his arms and legs, arching his back and rolling his head back and forth. Finally, he reached behind his head and unhooked the iron muzzle that for a thousand years had kept his venom from the world.
"So my brother, you are to be destroyed. Countless years of loyal service and your just reward is to be cast upon the pyre and forgotten."
"Not upon the pyre sir. That place belongs to another."
The Dragon spat at the ground and squared his shoulders. "Humph. Still, typical don't you think?"
The traveler broke in before Abaddon could be baited. "Your first words in an age and yet an insult. This mercy is wasted on you."
"It is no mercy to be manipulated like a puppet!" snapped the Dragon.
"Silence!" shouted the traveler and the Dragon ground his teeth. "This is the shape you shall keep. This is the tongue you shall speak; this is the ground you shall walk. Deviate once and be certain that this blade will strike but once." The traveler pressed in toward the dragon, Dreamsinger held above his head and the Dragon stepped backward, coiled like a snake. "You've only a short time wretch. And even you can choose to make the most of it." The traveler lowed Dreamsinger slowly while keeping his body taught for whatever the villain might attempt.
With a sudden and somehow casual toss of his head the Dragon stood up full and smiled warmly at the traveler. "Perhaps you're right," he said. "Abaddon, I owe you an apology." He turned his hands palms up, as if in surrender to the invisible watchman. The traveler slowly placed Dreamsinger back in it sheath and drew his robe close about his body.
"An apology?" came the somehow tentative voice from the air.
"Yes." said the Dragon as he turned around and faced the traveler. "I was in error a few moments ago. Destruction is too good for you." With a sudden leap he threw himself past the traveler and across the Millstone toward the descending staircase. As he swept past his clawed hand swiped at the travelers face and drew a long thin cut across his cheek and neck.
Immediately the air again darkened, charged with electricity.
"Let him be." spoke the traveler. "His path is his own."