StarFest - Jim's Report

Hello readers.  As you may have gathered from my Professional Gamer article this week, I’ve been at StarFest this weekend.  More specifically, Crystal and Chris have had a table set up to sell art and plexiglass, and while I have gone to a few panels and talked to a lot fans.  In the end, Chris spent a fair amount of time away from the table to take pictures, so I was often filling in for him to help run the table.  Helping run a table for a whole weekend, is not the perspective that I am used to at a convention.  In this case, it meant that I got to watch the convention crowd walk past me, rather than being part of that crowd myself.

In total, I was able to attend three panels/events.  The first was on Saturday in Avistrum, a kid-friendly Harry Potter themed space.  While I was there, an “instructor” presented a lecture on the History of Magic as it related to lucky charms and talismans.  He talked about the various symbols associated with luck around the world, then provided the kids with materials to craft their own talismans.  The kids all seemed to be having a lot of fun with the whole event.  It is really welcoming to see a convention that is not just kid-friendly, but makes an effort to have dedicated spaces and events for kids.  This was something that I haven’t seen in the other Denver area conventions, but I think it would be worthwhile for more of them to include this type of programming.

The second panel I attended was about recent and future exploration of Mars.  The panel was presented by Carrolyn Collins Petersen with help from engineers Christopher Grasso and Pieter Kallemeyn.  The panelist discussed recent missions, including Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix and Curiosity, as well as the upcoming mission, Insight.  This happened to be the first time that I had heard anything about Insight, but it sounds like a very interesting and scientifically promising mission.  At its crux, Insight will help us to define the inner structure of Mars.  The mission will include three primary scientific instruments: a seismometer, a thermal probe, and an X-band radio transponder.  The planned mission has a 700 day duration in order to collect the detailed measurements required to characterize the inner structure of the planet.

The third panel that I attended was called “Star Wars as Story”, and included local authors Betsy Dornbusch, Carrolyn Kay, and Lisa Manifold, and was moderated by David Boop.  The panel looked at Star Wars and Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”, and discussed how the authors applied these story elements in their own writing.  The authors noted that in most cases, these story elements come out naturally in dramatic writing and therefore, authors who push against the norms tend to be more interesting.

Finally, in sitting around and watching the crowds go by I got to see a lot of great costumes.  The most surprising to me was a guy wearing a Starfleet uniform based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  I, like many others, have never been very fond of the movie, but I still enjoy the costume design (at least for the male Starfleet crew and officers.

In conclusion, the convention was well run.  Staff and volunteers were easy to find and friendly.  Being in the Crowne Plaza is a blast from the past (NDK used to hold their convention here).  The fans were fun and full of passion.  I’m planning to come again next year, and hope to meet a lot more fans and creators.

This Weeks Geek - 01/20/2015


Star Wars, a good chunk of us love. And even those of you that don't have to admit you would love to have a lightsaber, assuming you don't cut off your own in limbs in the first 5 minutes of owning it. Well the folks at Google know that. And a as a result have created a new(ish) Chrome Experiment called "Lightsaber Escape".

Read More

The Professional Gamer - January 4, 2016

Happy New Year readers! I hope you all have enjoyed the end of one year and the beginning of a new.  I enjoyed a short week at work (probably the last until we get closer to summer).  And I've ended up spending most of my free time this week working on plans for my Traveller game.  And I've got quite a lot done.  For example, I've made a map of the sector where the players will start out:

If you can't tell, I'm rather excited about this whole game.  I have Star Wars to blame for a large portion of that enthusiasm.

Speaking of Star Wars, I'm still reading Shadows of the Empire, and it has improved somewhat.  I still feel that reads a bit like a fan-fiction, with a lot of purple prose and too much telling, rather than showing.  I'm a bit surprised that I was so into these sorts of novels when I was in high school and college.  I suppose that imagining the action sequences, like the star fighter battles and the blaster shoot-outs, was more important to young Jim than artful prose and characterizations.  In spite of my concerns about the quality, I'm having a ton of fun reading it.

I also got back into reading The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.  I haven't quite finished yet, though I think my favorite part is the visit from George Boole.  I just love the setup and build to the punchline.

That's all I've got for this week.  I hope 2016 treats everyone with care and respect, and that you all have a great year.  Have a great week and game on!

EA to Publish in a Galaxy Far Far Away

Today it was announced that Disney has given EA the rights to publish games based on the Star Wars universe for multiple years. This comes shortly after Disney axed Lucas Arts leaving a number of games in limbo, including Star Wars 1313. Still no word on if that game will actually ever see the light of day, but at least we have a new hope.

This deal EA will be responsible for creating games for "the most popular gaming genres and platforms" while Disney will have limited rights to make games for mobile, social, and Web platforms.  EA has three studios already signed up to make games, BioWare (duh), DICE and Visceral will all be producing games in this universe for us to enjoy.

EA is quite excited about this opportunity, citing EA Labels President Frank Gibeau "Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe". While I appreciate his excitement the cynic in me has a few problems. 1) What if that developer is a die hard Trekkie? He might hate making a game in the Star Wars universe. 2) How much are they going to make me pay for lightsaber parts?

In all seriousness EA knows they have to do this right. They have now been voted the worst company in America, twice. This will give them a chance to endear themselves back to gamers by making quality Star Wars games. This their big chance to not just be a souless empire , but a company we admire. Please EA, turn back from the dark side; you can still redeem yourself.

May the 4th be With You

Today was Star Wars day. It was not really the day that Star Wars launched all those years ago, but geeks love their puns. Denver actually has a small celebration for this day at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. This year it included getting to sit in an X-Wing, foam lightsabers for kids to fight each other with, and a large number of costumes.  Check the gallery for pictures of the event, or just watch the slide show.


This Weeks Geek - Blood From a Stone

Established series, they are the life blood of many industries. They give companies a reliable way to make a profit while they experiment with on different products. Without a good series many companies would have gone under long before their time. Done right a series can endear itself to generations and bring up fond memories in conversation. Too bad it is rarely done right. Investors want to know they will get a decent return on their investments. They will happily beat a series to death just to resurrect it and beat it again.
Read More