Mr. Charlton – Still Gaming

It was a week before I got the opportunity to sit down with my new computer and play a game on it for longer than five minutes. An entire week, plus a day. I got the new computer, in a number of smaller boxes, on Tuesday March 7th 2017. It wasn’t until Tuesday March 14th 2017, that I got to fire up a game and not just stress test my machine, but actually play for a bit and unwind. One very long week.

12 year old Mr. Charlton would (have tried to) kick my ass for leaving a sweet rig sitting around for a week before playing a game.

Twelve year old Mr. Charlton had a lot less responsibility than thirty-three year old Mr. Charlton. Twelve year old me also had a lot less disposable income than I currently do. But this train of thought led to me thinking about exactly when I started playing games.

The earliest I can remember was playing games over at other people’s houses. I remember heading over to the Spehar’s place when I was five to play with Stef. They had a Nintendo, the old school grey box, and they had a couple of sweet games with it (notably Super Mario 3 and Ducktales). I’m pretty sure that after playing the first time, I sped back home and started begging my parents for a Nintendo.

There was a bit of problem with this. Nintendo Entertainment Systems were goddamn expensive. When they first hit the market, they were retailing for $199. Adjusted for inflation, this was about $450. And those were American dollars, so for a brand new Nintendo, you were looking at a pile of money. My parents didn’t have a pile of money lying around, so I never did get a Nintendo Entertainment System. What we did get, in the winter of 1989, was a Nintendo Gameboy, the handheld version of the console. We also got a couple of games thrown into the mix.

Now, this was an incredibly smart move and a really bad move on my parents part, and this was no fault of theirs. It was great because it was cheaper than a big system and could be taken on long car rides, which was a pretty common occurrence when we were children. It was bad ’cause you COULD take it anywheres, which meant I was bringing it with me on every camping trip we ever went on. It was also bad because unlike the system you could plug into the wall, this little punter used 4 AA batteries, so I’m pretty sure my parent ended up spending more on the Gameboy when you factored in buying piles of batteries every other day. The biggest flaw with the handheld device is that it was a one-man operation. So even though there were three boys, there was only one Gameboy. I’d have to ask my mom, but I’m pretty sure we fought over the stupid thing constantly.

Both my brothers play video games. Heck, even my mom is playing HayDay on her IPad. But I’m pretty sure that out of the family, I’m the only one who’d be called a “gamer”. I was, and still am, a fiend. I’d consider getting a ‘Legend of Zelda’ tattoo. I’ve put a Super Nintendo emulator on basically every electronic device I’ve ever owned. I’ve beaten ‘I Wanna Be the Guy’. I played Cave Story before it was cool. Man, have you even played Cave Story? That’s straight Indie goodness at its finest.

Now I’m starting to build games. This has been on Mr. Charlton’s bucket list for a long, long time. I told myself that 2017 would be the year I at least give it the ol’ college try. So I grabbed a couple of classes from Udemy and I’ve been taking the plunge.

Luckily, I’ve got some skills from a previous life that’s making the process of learning a little easier. A decade of drafting has given me a lot of tools for designing, planning, and executing basically anything you throw at me. I’ve been slowly learning to code for the last couple of years, so when I was tasked to learn a new language, it wasn’t complete gibberish I was learning. I’m using Unity for the game engine and development environment, Blender for the 3D modeling, Visual Studio for the IDE, GIMP and InkScape for the 2D art and textures. There’s only one thing I’m lacking…

Music. Sounds. A video game needs some sort of music to fill the space between your ears. That’s the weakest link in the chain, easily. Even though I’m not a great artist, I can manage. Even though my code is rudimentary, there’s a vibrant community who’s willing to answer questions and help a noob. Even though Blender is still new to me after years of having it installed on my machine, I’m picking it up quicker now that I’m allocating time to learning it. But music?

Look, I consider myself a lousy guitarist and an OK harmonica player. But I don’t know where to begin with making music on my computer. I’ve been given some pretty good advice so far, it’s just that I’m so new I might be asking the wrong questions. So if I’m making music on the old PC here, here’s what I need to know. Ignore these questions if you’re not

  1. What DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is right for me? And when I say right, what I mean is cheap or free. Unity? Free until I make bank with it. Ditto for Visual Studio. Blender, GIMP, and InkScape? All free. I’m going to start out with Audacity, ’cause it’s free. But people keep telling me I’ll have to upgrade eventually. I’m leaning towards Reaper, ’cause it’s cheap and people seem to like it. Keep in mind I’m doing this legit. Don’t fire me a link to a torrent for Fruity Loops.
  2. People, I’ve got no sense when it comes to plugging instruments into a computer. No sense? I might have to steal some of that sense from you. Should I get a keyboard? Or a controller? Can I rock one of these things into my computer via USB? Where can I get some cheap instruments? Where’s the shady guy with a van full of gear that ‘was just left behind in a warehouse’ somewhere? Mr. Charlton is in desperate need of some cheap stolen shit.
  3. All the other programs I’m using make sense to me. Blender is just 3D modeling, and I have a background in that sort of thing. I’m not a great coder, but I know what they’re talking about when they’re asking me to import a library. But this audio shit? Holy Christ on a cracker am I out of my element. I might have to actually sit down with someone and get this sorted out.

So music people, I’m asking you; what the hell are you people doing making music so damn complicated? I don’t need this malarkey. Can’t a guy just hammer on his computer keyboard to make some beeps and bloops for a game? Did you folks make this complicated to pretend like you’re doing actual work? Where’s the MS Paint version of music making?

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Seriously, I am a fish out of water when it comes to music production. Any advice you wish to solicit would help me out greatly.

p.s.s. I ended up going with Reaper. I’m slowly, slowly learning it. The manual is only 500 pages long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meta Post – The Big 100

Since the inception of the website, back in May of 2016, I’ve posted 100 blog posts. Every post so far has been at least 750 words (except for one post. I can’t remember for the life of me which one it was, but I was busy and the subject was pretty sparse to begin with). Now, I’m no accountant, but doing a little math shows that I’ve then written well over 75,000 words on the ol’ website here.

What that doesn’t include are the rejects that don’t get posted or that get erased. Combined with the 55,000 words I’ve written for my novel, a bunch of short stories, the writing prompts I did with the River Bottom Writers, well, I’ve written a lot last year. It’s a number, for sure. I’m going to be writing even more this year.

While I sit here and congratulate myself by patting myself on the back while researching information about removing a couple of ribs, there’s other things I have to mention when I talk about the craft of writing.

See, not only do I write a lot, I read a fair amount as well. Reading is a wonderful tool that allows me to look smarter than I actually am without really doing any work. I recently read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, where he talks about his job. Which is sitting down, thinking about a bunch of crazy stuff, then putting in down on paper. It was a fascinating read, especially since I’m not actually a huge fan of his work (I mean, I could be, I’ve just never read any of his stuff, besides the ‘On Writing’ book). One of the things that stuck out for me was he considered writing something he’d be doing anyways, even if he wasn’t a big name.

Now, this stuck out for me for a couple reasons. One, right now it costs me money to write on this site. Not a lot, mind you, but the space ain’t free. And two, the game has changed slightly. There’s a lot more people writing today than there was when Stephen started his journey. The market for paid writing is also a lot smaller. There was a number of magazines catering to his kind of stuff. There are websites that cater to it, for sure, but they pay a lot less than they did in the 70’s. Magazines and websites now hold contests instead of asking for submissions. The opportunities presented to authors today is less of a low-paying gig and more of a low paying chance to win.

I’m not complaining. I’m going to continue writing, even if I never get published, even if no one except a couple of close friends and family are reading. I’m alright with that, because writing gives me something I don’t have in real space, and that’s the ability to express myself. I’m pretty closed off in real life, and for whatever reason, the walls get torn down when I put myself behind a keyboard. It’s good for my mental health too, because I don’t bottle up everything inside and let it rot.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way about writing, some wisdom I hope to pass to anyone who might be delving into the craft themselves this year.

Getting Published means you’ll need an editor, and editors cost money.

A lot of money. If you have a book you want someone to go over with a fine-tooth comb, expect to pay somewhere between $3000-$6000. Keep in mind, there’re a couple of types of editors. Paying someone to do developmental editing means they’ll be looking over the story structure and they won’t be necessarily be paying attention to the grammar. Every time they go over it, they’ll want more money. That means tighten you work up and get some beta readers (friends who read a lot) and get their input before you hand it off to someone. Editors are people with jobs, and people have jobs to make money. They’re not going to work for free.

It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

There’s this notion that writers sit in quiet rooms, working away at their novel, free of distractions. And that’s absolutely true. You need a quiet space to work in to write. If you want to get published, however, you’re going to have to meet some people, rub some elbows, make some connections. Join a writers group. Move to a bigger city. Don’t quit your day job. There are zero paths to success that don’t require you working with other people. If you don’t know how to socialize and network, then learn.

Ask yourself why you want to get published.

If it’s because you want money, look somewhere else. Seriously, there are so many better ways to make money. Same with fame and recognition. I learned a lot of things in 2016, but the bigger lesson I learned was this; there’s a good chance I’ll never be a successful writer, whereas success is defined by money and people telling me I’m awesome. Writing is just too saturated of a field. This is going to come across as silly, but what I’ve found is that being a writer isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. I mean, you still have to do it, you have to write, but if you’re writing without getting paid, that’s perfectly fine. I write because it makes me better at recognizing my own emotions, and it makes me a better story teller. If I could also get paid for it, that’d be awesome, but it could be a damn long time before any checks roll in.

People are going to tell you that you’re not a writer.

Or they’ll tell you that you’re not a real writer. Personally, I’ve never had someone tell me this, mostly because Mr. Charlton surrounds himself with only the best people. My solution is having business cards made out. Business cards seem to legitimize it, and they’re cheap to get.

To wrap it up, if you’re writing, or painting, or playing music, do it because it makes you a better, more interesting person. Don’t expect applause or money, because it often isn’t there. Sometimes the art itself is the reward.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Also the sex. People like banging artists. Known fact.

p.s.s. Next milestone is going to be 1000.

Mr. Charlton Goes to a Concert

In my younger days, I used to go to a lot of metal shows. This was due to the fact that my roommate, Metal Rob, was seriously into Heavy Metal music. At least once a month, a band he wanted to see came into town, and Jered (another roommate) and I would almost always go with him. Here’s a laundry list of some of the bands that I’ve seen. Bask in my metal credentials.

  • MegaDeth
  • Anthrax
  • Slayer (twice)
  • Strapping Young Lad (god knows how many times)
  • Tool
  • System of a Down (twice)
  • Dimmu Borgir
  • Nile
  • Napalm Death
  • Opeth (Three times)
  • Korpiklaani
  • DethKlok
  • Ensiferum
  • The Devin Townsend Project
  • Three Inches of Blood
  • Amon Amarth
  • Zimmers Hole
  • Wood of Ypres
  • Acid Bath
  • Children of Bodom
  • Cavalera Conspiracy
  • FinnTroll
  • Moonsorrow
  • Turisas
  • Tyr
  • Pericardium
  • Therion

And probably a bunch I’m forgetting. I also saw Roger Waters a few back (great show) and Green Day (lame show). I’m throwing the list down to let people know this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve driven to Seattle for the sole purpose of seeing Strapping Young Lad. I’ve flown to Toronto to see Ensiferum. In my early twenties, I was a complete metal head and going to shows was something I was doing all the time. Fast forward a decade. I haven’t been to a show for five years, and since 2013, the only thing I’ve listened to is new retro synthwave.

I only want to listen to music that makes me feel like I’m in a John Carpenter movie.

So it was pretty weird when I get a message from Willoughby, a guy from high school I haven’t seen in 15 years, asking me if I wanted to come see Five Finger Death Punch this last Tuesday. Tickets were free.

Truthfully, I didn’t want to go at first. I’m getting old, and I’ve seen enough live music to last me a lifetime. I was going to have to work the next day, and knew we were going to be getting into a few beers. Here’s a Life Pro Tip kids, right from Mr. Charlton himself. If you have an opportunity to go do anything, whether it’s a rock show or a knitting class, and it’s free, you goddamn go do that thing. You don’t complain about free beer, you don’t bitch about an application that you downloaded for nothing, and you certainly don’t say no to a concert because you might be a little groggy at work the next day. If it’s free, consider it a gift.

A couple of other guys from Golden were going as well; Ringo and Santuchi. So not only was I going to be going to a show for the first time in half a decade, I was going to be hanging out with guys I knew from small times. I’ll be frank here for a second, it’s goddamn weird hanging out with guys you haven’t seen in a long time…

… for about five minutes. Then it stops being weird and now you’re just drinking beers with some dudes you haven’t seen for a bit. Everyone is a little fatter, a little wiser, and with new stories to tell, but everyone is pretty much the same. So we drank beer and then we went and saw a rock concert.

It was a pretty good concert. We saw three bands; Sixx AM, Papa Roach, and Five Finger Death Punch. Let me tell you all about it.

The Good

I’m not really familiar with any of the bands. The only one I’m really familiar with is Papa Roach, and that’s because they had that hit song “Last Resort”, released 16 years ago. I wasn’t expecting much, but both Papa Roach and Five Finger Death Punch put on a great show. I was pleasantly surprised by the performances, and the sound quality was good.

The Bad

I quit smoking almost two years ago, but was using a vaporizer for the longest time. Recently I gave up vaping as well. This was the first time I had drank beer since I gave up nicotine. I didn’t have any cigarettes, but I did stand outside in the smoke pit soaking up second-hand smoke.

The Weird

Sixx AM is the project of Nikki Sixx, the Bassist from Motley Crue. And I’m not going to bash the quality of their performance, because even though it was the first time I heard them, I thought they were pretty good. The only thing is, Nikki Sixx is old. Like pushing sixty old. And he’s done a lot of drugs. You could tell he was the old guy, ’cause while the rest of the band were running around, he kinda just slowly walked everywhere. The stage had this box everyone was leaping off of, except for Nikki, who would step up slowly, play for a bit, then hop back off. And it was definitely a gingerly, I-do-not-want-to-pull-anything, kind of hop. Again, I got nothing against Nikki Sixx, just a little bit of a contrast to the rest of the band.

Here’s the final question, though. Would I go to another concert? And the answer is; maybe. Slayer and Anthrax are coming to town on Willoughby’s birthday, and part of me really wants to go. The other half of me is getting old, and to be honest, I’m one of those people who thinks the record sounds better than the performance. I used to go see shows ’cause it was the thing to do. Now I’ve got other things I’m doing, and getting tinnitus isn’t one of them. If I do go to see this show, it might be the last metal concert I ever go to. But a Slayer / Anthrax combo would be a hell of a way to go out.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Not to brag, but I have gotten the least fat.

p.s.s. Alright, I’m totally bragging.