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Sunday, May 11th, 2008
2:31 am - Interstate O


I wrote up some thoughts on music, art, Audiosurf and the hearing impaired.

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Friday, May 2nd, 2008
2:38 am - Blog Updates
Two new updates on my blog. First is a photographic journey through Trackmania backstage. The other is a short lament on Little Big Planet.

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
4:15 pm - Second Saga

20th Snake


After some prodding from a friend I finally got of my ass and decided to track down a copy of the pre-order bonus for Metal Gear Solid 4: Metal Gear Saga Vol. 2. Now, I looked and it doesn't seem like I chronicled my experiences with obtaining Vol. 1 of the Saga, so I'll give a brief story on how it came about.

About six months after New Orleans was ravaged by hurricane Katrina I was back in the city living in a hotel room paid for by my job. This hotel room was about a 30 min walk from a GameStop in a mall. The next closest GameStop was over an hour drive, and most others had been shutdown. When I found out that MGS3: Subsistance was being released I knew I had to get a copy. The thing of it was that you had to be one of the few early pre-orders not only to get the collectors edition of the game (with the MSX ports of the very first non-Solid MG games), but you also had to be there on like day-1 when the Metal Gear Saga Vol. 1 discs were handed out. Now for myself this wasn't much of an issue, but it did involve a lot of constant tracking and calling to make sure I didn't miss this.

Shortly after I had figured out my plan on obtaining these my friend Andrew Toups (living not to far away in Lafayette) called and said that he needed help because he couldn't get a copy of either the special edition or MG Saga Vol. 1 in his town. So I now had to figure out how to do this for two copies of the game and the bonus. It was quite a bit of work, but I managed to get both of them in perfect condition and was quite pleased with the quality and frank nature of Kojima in Saga Vol. 1.

So, of course, I'm not online as much when the plans are all laid out for Vol. 2, and MG-Online Beta codes are anounced. Luckily I have friends looking out for me and constantly text messaging me about this information, so I was only about a week behind. After the fiasco last time, I figured that being informed a week late meant that I was shit outta luck on this, but I drove out into my new town and spat in the face of bad odds.

After getting to two stores and being told that they'd basically gone through 50+ copies of the pre-order bonus each I didn't feel like I had good luck on my last hope. When I got there I asked "If I preorder MGS4 do you have any copies of the Metal Gear Saga Vol. 2 discs left." It felt futile but I had to try. I must have looked desperate--or defeated--because the clerk said "Yes" and asked if it was hard to find or something. I told him about the previous two stores and saw him slyly grab a few copies from behind the counter and put them under it.

Upon getting home I couldn't hold back and had to watch Saga Vol. 2. I loved the first one with the bold Kojima talking about many of the behind the scenes and early development details I hadn't heard before. Vol. 2 is not quite the same. It's more of a re-cap of all of the MGS games focusing on the Snake lineage. Most of the information is told in a very bland and detail-less way by a third party that we haven't been introduced to. He has a British accent and meets snake for the first time during the events of MGS4. Due to this the whole thing kind of feels watered down in comparison to the first Saga.

Like the first Saga, this comes with all the currently released MGS4 trailers included (Documents of MGS2 has all the trailers for MGS2, and Metal Gear Saga Vol. 1 has all of them for MGS3). I remember when I was at E3 2006 and was completely blown away by the graphics presented to me in that trailer. There were facts like Old Snake's mustache has more polygons than the PS1 could display at once tossed around that made it seem even less improbable. I kept thinking that when the game was released it wouldn't look anything like what we were watching in the convention center in LA.

Not too long ago I was going through my Documents of MGS2 disc and noticed that the very early trailers for MGS2 actually looked worse than the final product did, and I remember thinking that those looked gorgeous coming from the PS1 era of games. So I started to think, perhaps that MGS4 trailer isn't all bullshit after all. Now, watching it again almost two years since I saw it last I realize that not only are those graphics going to be what we see in game, they're not as impressive as they were before. Watching what I see now I relize that a lot has changed in the face of gaming. Being bombarded with fantastic looking visuals from games like Gears of War, Bioshock, and Uncharted leave me feeling a bit more complacent about how MGS4 is going to look, and that's a good thing.

Getting a bit more back on track, I just wanted to comment that the Metal Gear Saga Vol. 2 disc is no where near as good or interesting as the first one. If it weren't for the Metal Gear Online Beta code I got with it I probably would have felt like I had wasted some time.

Though, I wouldn't have you know. Because it would have bugged me forever that I didn't end up picking it up.

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Sunday, April 13th, 2008
11:29 pm - Asleep, dreaming.
So, I'm not dead, vanished or anything. I'm just in a bit of a game slump and I'm still moving into my new house. There's going to be a large announcement about The Gamer's Quarter very soon, so keep your eyes open for that.

The new house is really fantastic, and part of what it's allowed me is access to all of my videogame items. Since mid-November last year I've only had access to some of my videogame consoles which I brought with me while staying with my parents for a while. I also didn't have nearly full access to a television* which hindered not only my game time in general, but also majorly effected the flow of my gameplay so I found many things not as enjoyable as normal. I did fall back in love with PC gaming since that time and greatly explored its realms.

With the access (and organization) to all of my retro gaming items, I was dearly looking over my PS1 collection with shockingly loving memories. The irony in this is that the early years of CD-ROM based 32bit gaming is a pretty bad memory for me. During that time I thought an awful trend was started that has unfortunately continued: putting graphics over games. Some really awful tripe was concocted during those years in the early nineties, and even as a kid I could tell that it was tarnishing what I considered games. But when I picked up my copy of Mega Man Legends I saw that it was just a rough spot that I'd despised for so long and shouldn't effect the actual gems of the bunch.

It seems as though I'm not alone in my fond nature of the good items in that early 3D history, everyone else is too. After reading an article at I looked at some of my favorite games being up there with top sellers. I know there are many others that didn't make that list and are still worth much more than the $10 copies I was finding in used game stores no less than two years ago. It seems that the first generation of Sony's consoles games is ripe for harvesting. Not that I say this in a greedy way, in fact I'm a bit sad that I didn't finish up my collection sooner.

This same price hike happen with the Dreamcast before I finished my collection, and it's been slow work since games like Bangaioh moving from commonly seen at $10 new to over $50 in disc only condition. I feel stupid for missing on this and it just means harder work for me in the future. Part of me wants to say “who cares” in a much more digital age where these things are a mouse click away. The other half misses opening a package with a game and a loving manual in it.

These are strange times in gaming for me, and I think that the pricing of the PS1 is one of the signs. So in these moments of slight grief I turn something I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd say, World of Warcraft with friends now distant from me. I leave you with the best picture in my collection of my wife and I playing together:

Innecro_Omar

* which didn't suck

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Friday, February 1st, 2008
5:07 pm - Rainy Woods (aka David Lynch Homage: The Game)
Originally posted on my blog

Rainy Woods


I was very recently turned onto the upcoming Xbox 360 and PS3 game Rainy Woods (trailers here). Otherwise a fairly corny looking game that was debuted at TGS '07, the game has more than a couple striking similarities to David Lynch's work (most notably Twin Peaks, with a bit of bit of Mullholand Dr./Blue Velvet in the mix). Other similarities seem to be heavily rooted in Silent Hill (particularly SH4) and otherwise unmentionable b-games in the survival horror genre. Games like this tend to pique my interest in sick ways so I started to poke around in the credits for RW and came across something interesting.

The Executive Producer of Rainy Woods is Yasuhiro Wada--the man behind Harvest Moon--which makes sense since the game's being published by Marvelous Entertainment. The director/lead designer is SWERY who also directed Spy Fiction and Extermination (PS2). I then made the connection that Extermination was developed by Deep Space which was part of the team that broke up from Whoopee Camp. Diving a bit deeper into the staff list it turns out that Hidetaka Suehiro, one of the writers for the game, also worked with Swery on Spy Fiction. The other writer, Kenji Goda is responsible for the Parasite Eve II story (unfortunately). The character designer, level artist, level designer, writer, art director, and a few other carry over from Deep Space and most worked together on Extermination. The only person who's a mystery is the art director, Hitoshi Okamoto. He could be the guy who I've found with the same name that previously worked on sound and audio for games like Riviera, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, and (of all things) Dragon Ball Z: Budokai.

In the special thanks appears Yoshihisa Ohbuchi who was the producer of King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood, and also appeared on the special thanks of Valhalla Knights (an XSEED published game). The other person in the special thanks is Eishin Sasaki, who I believe to be in Killer 7's special thanks as well.

At the very bottom of the credits--where I should have looked first--I find that the developer for RW is Access Games, the combined staffing remains of Deep Space and Whoopee Camp. There is a long and interesting history behind the creation of Whoopee Camp which starts with Tokuro Fujiwara. Ghosts ‘n Goblins was his first major undertaking, and as stated by Play Magazine, the greatest 8-bit platforming game ever (though I disagree with them). After GnG he went on to create another Capcom legacy game, Mega Man (aka Rockman in Japan).

After being the creative force for the first two games in the Mega Man series, Fujiwara took the producers seat in which he sat through the Super Nintendo. Credited on all regular MM games, and Mega Man X games through X3 (as well as the oddball Mega Man Soccer) the series stayed quite faithful to its roots, and the worst you would hear about any of them is that they are “more of the same.”

During his time as the caretaker of Mega Man he was also involved in the creation of Street Fighter (1), Breath of Fire, Strider, and Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan). Strider turned into a fan and cult favorite receiving many ports (some more faithful than others) which also continues to be ported as recently as 2006. Resident Evil is the last game that Fujiwara worked on before he left Capcom. We all know what ended up happening with Resident Evil: many sequels, multiple re-releases and re-prints, and has spawned three films (so far). While only the producer his creative hand could be felt in the game all over from the unique control scheme to the level of difficulty.

In 1996 Fujiwara and Yoshiki Okamoto (Creator of the 194X series, Time Pilot, Street Fighter II, and also worked with Fujiwara on Biohazard) created Whoopee Camp. While Fujiwara left Capcom, Okamoto stayed around and even picked up where Fujiwara left off on a few projects (Mega Man, Mega Man X, Breath of Fire, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts GBA, Biohazard, and went as far as to produce the Resident Evil films). Whoopee Camp was started with “the mission to create high quality games based on creative sense, experience and close calculation.”

Aside from Fujiwara and Okamoto, Kenji Kaido has been associated with the forming of Whoopee Camp. He went on to be the production manager for Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Kaido started his career at Taito arcade games and was project leader and lead game designer for Cameltry and a few other games. Though, this information only comes from an IGN article, and I can't seem to find their source of information.

The first game to be released by this new venture was Tomba! which Fujiwara himself explains best in his own words: "I have designed a lot of different games in my career, and while Tomba! may have been my biggest challenge, it is certainly my greatest personal achievement as I believe the character and the gameplay have the ability to attract and challenge gamers of every age and skill level. […] Nothing satisfies me more than imagining parents playing with their children as well as challenging those hard-core gamers who want to experience a whimsical fantasy world with extraordinary gameplay. Tomba! will capture the hearts of everyone."

After Tomba! 2 Whoopee Camp seems to have fallen off of the face of the earth. At one point in mid-2001 Tomba! 3 was announced for the PS2 only to disappear along with the company. Backing up a bit, in 1998 Fujiwara was appointed to the Executive Producer spot of the Deep Space joint venture company between WC and Sony Computer Entertainment International with games published by SCEI. Deep Space created Hungry Ghosts and Extermination (which listed Whoopee Camp in the Special Thanks section of the credits). In early 2002 the remains of Whoopee Camp and Deep Space created Access Games (which has only really released one game, Spy Fiction), while the original companies disappeared. According to Archive.org, the last time that WC’s website was updated was on August 8th 2003. The website has also since disappeared.

But Tomba! 2 was released in 2000, and Extermination was released in 2001, what happen to the rest of the team? Mega Man Powered Up, the re-envisioning and re-creation of Mega Man 1, was absent of Fujiwara's name. Then, in late August of 2005, Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins is announced (then titled Extreme GnG which is closer to the Japanese name) and Fujiwara is back in his old seat for the series, and completely removed from what's left of Whoopee Camp. The rest of Access Games has been in a state of limbo as well since 2001 and it's interesting to see that so may players have come back to work together with Rainy Woods.

While the company's track record hardly instills confidence (nor does the trailer) I'm still looking forward to Rainy Woods' release as a curiosity of whether it will be a loving homage to auteur director David Lynch, or just an aping of his aesthetics.

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12:29 am - PixelJunk/PixelPrize
Originally posted at my blog

bitGenerations


A while back I bought a game on faith of the company alone, PixelJunk Racers. The company is Q-Games and the slogan for the PixelJunk games are "High Quality Casual Game (1080p Play Style)". Cute, catchy and full of Engrish, who wouldn't bite. The main reason I have faith in the company is more to do with the founder Dylan Cuthbert. He's probably best known for the work he did for the Super Nintendo with Star Fox, but that's not really why I like the guy. When the bit Generations games came out for the GBA back in 2006 all but one game was developed by Skip ltd.: Digidrive. Most of the other titles followed a similar design aesthetic, but few followed through with gameplay beyond the initial level of being just a puzzle. The style and complexity of Digidrive stood out as unique, modern, and multidimensional.

With the dearth of games on the PS3, I was happy to give a new (downloadable) game a shot with a company I mostly liked. (Honestly, my wife wanted that LocoRoco game and since I hate navigating the PSN store I kind of need more than one reason to go there in the first place so Racers would have to do.) Now my definition of casual games usually entails both simple and easy to pick up. This usually turns into monotonous and/or gameplay that's too easy. Not all of them mind you, but a good amount. Either way, Racers is neither easy or simple. The only thing similar from race to race is the slot-car-esque aesthetic. In one race you could have to hit every car to gain speed, and in the exact next you have to avoid every car to keep your speed. This isn't even including the multitude of wacky requirements. It's a hodge podge of ideas that can be done within the confines of simple mechanics, and after finishing most of the events in the game I still never felt like I knew what was going on. So, when Q-Games' second project came around (PixelJunk Monsters) I assumed it was going to be a similar mess and ignored it.

PixelJunk Monsters


I actually had no idea it came out so recently, but I was talking with a friend of mine who was telling me how much fun PixelJunk Monsters was. I retorted that I really disliked Racers, so I didn't really care about it. The game is nothing like the other though, and I was informed that it's more like Tower Defense games. Now that's more a concept I can get behind, similar mechanics and character design throughout. Tower Defense is one of those games that's been around for a long time with a lot of different versions created by everyone and their brother. Most are fairly simple and, honestly, a bit boring at times. TD is just the kind of game I'd play to kill some time at work.

Monsters takes the TD design ethos and expands on it by both making it more personal and cohesive than other versions I've played. The player is some sort of tribal chief who must defend the young tribe members. To do so he can (somehow) turn trees into towers which will attack the oncoming enemies. There are both ground and air enemies and towers that can attack both or either type. The interesting additions are more than just aesthetic though. Each new level allows for unique and varied goals and formations. A personal favorite of mine is where the enemies don't give you any coins and you have to defend the children with only your starting money plus what you earn in bonus.

What really makes Monsters a much better game than their first outing, Racers, is that once you've figured out the first level you know just what to do for the rest of the game. While the obstacles may change from level to level, what you learned and know will keep you going from the outset. There is also another kind of spin on the "casual game" that gives me hope for the genre's future: the game is challenging. After a few levels the kid-gloves come off and the game really puts you in your place. Most casual games don't do this until quite late, if at all, and it's a nice enough change in pace that the game no longer feels casual at all. The level designs become more intimate after a few tries and the strategy of the game type really shines for all the levels. Once you get just about tired of similar looking landscapes the tilesets change up to a snow covered land or a field in the middle of a downpour.

The visual design is something that Q-Games should be proud of as well. A quick visit to the PixelJunk site will show the developers intention and roots in classic pixelated games and style. By following what made the original pixel graphics iconic in spirit Cuthbert and his team have recreated and kept true to the iconic spirit of those days.

"By using a ton of meticulously hand-drawn 2D art instead of 3D modeled graphics, we have tried to re-create the feel of some of those older classics"
-Dylan Cuthbert

Personally I don't know what to think about the future of the PixelJunk line of games. Right now it's a severely mixed bag and the next title is as much a toss up as is its identity. The thing is, I probably won't have anything else to play on my giant black shiny monolith, so I'll pick the game up anyways.

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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
7:15 pm - The 2007 [random] Indie Game Challenge Results
The results to this insane exercise are in!

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Friday, January 18th, 2008
4:40 pm - The 2007 [random] Indie Game Challenge
Original Blog Post Link

mypc For completely arbitrary and torporous reasons I have decided to randomly select 10 independent games from recently released “top of 2007” game lists from numerous indie game reporting blogs. I tired to limit it to games which I've either spent very little time with, or games that I've never touched. I will be ranking them in order of 1 to 10 based on initial impressions of 30 minutes or less with the games. This exercise should not be taken seriously by any stretch of the imagination, don't let the title fool you.


Now for the game list in alphabetical order:
-Akuchizoku
-Cottage of Doom!
-Dive
-Dwarf Fortress Graphical Version
-Flipside
-Iwanaga
-La Mulana
-Poesysteme
-Sam & Max Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die!
-Sauerbraten / Cube 2


So, play along on your PC too. The games shouldn't be all that hard or taxing on most PCs: at worst you need to get Steam, and for one game you'll need HL2 (which everyone has anyways, right?). One game is to feed my own indulgences and curiosities, see if you can pick which one. Results will be posted within the next few days.

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Thursday, January 3rd, 2008
10:34 pm - Ragnarok Offline
See, RBO is probably one of the best 2D brawlers ever released. It has a very in-depth combo system and also includes cancels, juggles, launchers, and damage scaling. It has 6 classes that all have completely different play styles, each with unique male and female characters (while still retaining the same moves the combos and attacks vary based on your choice of sex). Total there are 15 “normal” stages including the expansions, and over 50 arena stages (though those don’t appear until the expansions). Oh, yeah, did I mention that there’s up to three person multi-player simultaneously?

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Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
5:49 pm - Merry Christmas from Gallifrey

Well, this Chistmas has gone and past. If I didn't send you a text message wishing you a great day I apologize, but that probably means I haven't talked with you on the phone!

Anyways, I'm only here today right now to show off the greatest gift that I got, which my wonderful wife gave me!


me under the cloth

Yes, I have officially passed into the higher and greater geek realms than most men will ever dare to go. It is an exact replica, stich for stitch, of the season 12 Doctor Who scarf. When originally worn by Tom Baker it was made out of wool, but it's no where near as durable or comfortable as other materials, so this replica is crafted in acrylic yarn. Either way, it's gorgeous, comfy, warm, and incredibly nerdy. The perfect gift!

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Friday, December 21st, 2007
4:37 am - Hackers the Movie the Game
After spending a bit of time with Defcon earlier this year I decided it was the perfect Matthew Broderick in WarGames simulation. Uplink on the other hand, turns out to be the perfect Jonny Lee Miller in Hackers simulator. It’s brilliant in execution, and for being a seemingly unoriginal idea has a fresh and nonpareil feel to it.

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Saturday, December 8th, 2007
6:17 pm - I guess I shouldn't relocate to Silent Hill
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…

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Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
1:59 am
As some of you may know I've always had a hate/wanna-love relationship with Silent Hill Origins. Basically it was announced then shown in movie form at the last E3 (not to be confused with the most recent). What I saw there was laughably poor in quality and very vague as to what was happening. Later that year something like two thirds of the development team was sacked (notably the art director) and the project was moved over to England where things would hopefully shape up...

Shortly after we picked up SH:O our largest, and probably final, home move took place. Since then both her and I have spent a lot of time looking for new houses, visiting family we've been ignoring for nearly 8 years and other misc. stuff. Did I mention that we're also living in my parents basement? Anyways, somewhere along the way we both pretty much completely forgot about the game and it sat at the bottom of a bag in suspend mode for nearly 3 weeks. Well, she's been gone for a couple days, and I'm getting a bit tired of PC games at the moment (more on that later perhaps) so I pulled out the main PSP memory stick and put in my camera's so that I can get a crack at it...

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Sunday, November 4th, 2007
8:42 pm - Last Day in the Service of the Leviathan
As a few of you may know, I've been under employ by the Federal Govenment for nearly seven and a half years now. I've been under the thumb of the United States Coast Guard (a subsidary of the Department of Homeland Security) and their Uniform Code of Military Justice for far too long....

So I decided what better way to celebrate than to do something I hadn't done in about 10 years: go to Rocky Horror Picture show in a theatre. Apparently it's only done four nights a year in St. Louis (though I haven't seen it done anywhere else I've lived since I joined the military, so I can't rightly complain) and I was lucky enough to get in on Friday night. I let my hair down (or up depending on your understanding) and decided to go all out. It was a fantastic evening and a great celebration. My wife Sara and I both got dressed up: her in grand vaudeville attire, and I as unconventional conventionest...

Cutsom Portal


Cutsom Portal


Cutsom Portal

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Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
3:42 pm - Not-So Personal Computer
So, I’m pretty disappointed in my Laptop right now. I mean, I kind of knew that I wouldn’t be able to play many PC games on it, especially nothing new, but I didn’t expect to have problems running games that are 10 years old or so. Or, hell, even games that I could play on my crappy older desktop PC...

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Wednesday, October 17th, 2007
2:58 pm - I blame Steam
Quake was too far ahead of its time.

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Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
3:17 pm - B-Games, Half-Life 2, and Criterion
-New post up where I discuss the B-Games Competiton, Narrative and Storytelling in games, and a new found Criterion blog

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Thursday, October 11th, 2007
6:15 pm - Now You're Playing with Portal
So, of course, I got the Orange Box last night. Well, yesterday afternoon really, but I was doing some work and didn’t get a chance to play until the evening. The box isn’t just a standard orange either, it’s a bright safety orange. After spending over 10 hours with the game last night I’m sure of one thing: were this just HL2, HL2 Episode 1 and HL2 Episode 2 this would be an amazing deal. But no, absolutely not, they couldn’t leave well-enough alone. Valve decided to make the best game package and deal _ever_, with some of the best representation from three distinct genres: Action (HL2), Puzzle (Portal), and Team Tactical (Team Fortress 2). Sure they all use the first person perspective, but Valve really is the state of the medium when it comes to presentation, narrative and execution.....

Click to follow to original.

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Monday, October 8th, 2007
7:43 pm - First crosspost:
Waiting for a Team of Heroes

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6:59 pm - Work and Play
Ok, so as a couple of you may know, I'm phasing out my LJ in favor of a "real blog" of sorts. I feel like I've moved up. This will technically be my third blog (First: Gaming Journal. Second: LiveJournal. Third: Work and Play). Technically I've attempted this before which is why I have a ShaperMC.com account in the first place (see the old one here).

This LJ will move to the back seat of secondary journal for as long as I remember to cross post to it. I would really love if someone who knows how to do this stuff would show me how to syndicate to this LJ. I've seen it done before and if anyone has the know how please step up.

Anyways, it was a fun three years here. Keep reading my blog as I do have RSS for it an I know many of you have RSS readers. I'll also keep up with my friends list here, so don't think I'm dropping out on anyone.

Thank you all for putting up with me, too. I was reading some of my older posts and just wanted to say thanks for hanging in there through some terrible writing!

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