Sunday, April 1, 2012

Welcome to my Office & Library

So I haven't had the time to write up all of my thoughts about Skyrim. Buuuuut I have been able to set up my home-office and I thought I might give you all a tour. When I visit someone's house... one of the things I love to do is browse their library (although these days people don't always have one). So I thought that I might give you all a chance to browse mine.

Establishing shot looking into my office. Computer desk on the one side, TV  table and smallish desk on the corner side. You can just see one corner of my wall library.

These are my two degrees to the left of the window. The first is for the arts in English Literature, Philosophy and Political Theory. The other is in the sciences for Computing Sciences. I got them both in the same week, and it only took me ten years.

Jean’s Christmas present to me last year, but only just finished getting it framed. A map of Westeros from A Game of Thrones. I dream of telling stories of the scope and scale of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Here is the far left shelves of my library. Bottom shelf contains role playing games: D&D going right back to the 1977 book, Paranoia & Vampire. Second shelf is my horror novels, of which half are H.P. Lovecraft. The third shelf is devoted to Call of Cthulhu the RPG, along with binders of complete sets of the limited edition Cthulhu CCG. Also on this shelf is number 292 of the limited edition 20th Anniversary Call of Cthulhu rulebook, I love the art in this edition. The fourth shelf is more esoteric RPGs like Deadlands, GURPS, Aliens, Cyberpunk, Phoenix Command, Kult, Emperor of the Fading Suns, Warhammer, and James Bond. Also on this shelf is a complete collection of the Kult CCG. Second from the top is a smallish collection of books on medieval history. Top shelf are notes and designs from personal projects I’ve worked on over the years. I’ve kept them all.

This is the middle left shelf of my library. Bottom shelf contains general reference materials. The next shelf up contains over 20 lectures series from The Teaching Company (, over 500 hours of university style lectures on DVD on subjects such as Game Theory, Geology, World Religion, and Sociology. More importantly over two thirds of the lectures are on ancient history stretching from Neolithic settlements, Mesopotamia, Pre-Columbian North America, Egypt, Greece to the grandeur of Rome. Next shelf up contains a few more specific reference books on Ancient History, an original version of one of the best little-known strategy games: if you want cooperative backstabbing and politics with unmitigated intensity you can’t look any further than The Republic of Rome. Also included on this shelf is three binders of reference art for a strategy game I’ve been researching and developing for more than seven years. The top three shelves contain more  academic books on Ancient History. The top shelf has a collection of DVD movies set in antiquity, along with a model of a Lament Configuration (the puzzle cube from the Hellraiser series). Also on the middle shelf is the most expensive RPG supplement I’ve ever purchased: Ptolus by Monte Cook, it is a truly gorgeous city designed with such rich intrigue and plots. At the top of this shelf includes all of the transcript books for my Teaching Company courses… yeah there’s a few.

Next set of shelves contains my technical books. Bottom shelf is Oracle Database books, along with C++ language reference stuff. Next shelf up is networking, UML and C# reference. Above that is my Adobe reference library with lots of stuff on Flash here. Next up is the beginning of my games books. I’ve got stuff on Chess, Go, and some other more general technical books on Cryptography and Security Protocols and Algorithms. Second from the top is my shelf for game design books and interactive storytelling. My hope is that one day I’ll actually be able to design games and use both my English and Computing Science degrees at the same time. This hasn’t happened for me yet because usually you don’t get to do both in modern game companies. Also on this shelf is a complete collection of Writer’s Digest books for writing mystery fiction: poisons, firearms, crime scenes, police procedures, con jobs and other sordid topics. Great stuff! I used to get dirty looks on the bus when I’d be reading stuff like “how to kill someone with poisons”. Then the top shelf is my collection of Franklin Mint Mystery books… I’m a sucker for a good mystery novel. I’d love to do a mystery computer game that goes beyond the mechanics of Clue. I’ve even got some design notes on it two shelves to the left. ;)

Ok last shelf now, and this gets into the broadest mixture of stuff. This usually happens when I wish I had an extra set of shelves so I could better divide stuff into clearer categories. Bottom shelf is collections of funny comics, and language books on Spanish. I’ve been trying to find the time to pick up better phraseology than “two beers if you please”. Next two shelves are fantasy and science-fiction. I wish I had more room here. But you can see my collection of Game of Thrones up front. Next up is a few binders of notes, a few reference books on the original Doctor Who television show, and a collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja comic books. I like the weird stuff. Above that is a selection of my favourite Fighting Fantasy Game books (a slightly more intricate series of Choose Your Own Adventures), and then my three volume set of Burnham’s Celestial Guide. In 1989, (pre-Hubble days) they catalogued the known universe at that time which I thought might come in handy if I ever decided to write my own Master of Orion game. Finally the top shelf is my collection of favourite game manuals for all of the computer games I’ve played over the years. The first game I ever spent my own money to own: Ultima 5.

Then comes my board game collection. Here’s a pretty good rule of thumb, if you want to make GREAT games you have to PLAY great games. I think my last count was something like 150-200 board games and expansions. And above that, I freshly mounted my game plaques that I got from working with Electronic Arts for over seven years. I wish we got similar plaques when we launched a Zynga game.

Here is a close up of one of my plaques, the one that fills me with the most pride: SSX3. This is still my highest metacritic ranked game on which I’ve ever worked. I developed a special Localization system for this game, that would go on to be used in eight other Electronic Arts games.

These are the shelves above my desk: the two plush Cthulhus complete the work (Men In Black Cthulhu) and play (Tropical Holiday Cthulhu) theme for my computer. This is a machine to be used both for creation “work”, and research through “play”. The current obsessions are Left For Dead 2, and working on an RPG Editor application in C#. Also included is my map from Ultima 7, the last best Ultima I ever played.

Well that’s it for the tour. I’ll keep working on interesting apps and games here. It’s nice to finally have my “space” set up. I've got some cool stuff simmering in my off time right now. I can tell you more about it soon.

Thanks for reading, I hope to do some more blogging over the next couple of weeks,