Origins: The World Tour

Okay, let’s just say that I have Google Maps on a list now.  And it’s a list that smells really, REALLY bad.

First off, the ever-present WRONG direction in the second-to-last step to my first destination.

Then, on the way down to Columbus, they route me, in a 25 foot truck onto a TWO LANE ROAD!  That was CLOSED halfway down.

I’d rather have taken a longer way around and made up time time in speed, rather than going almost 40 miles at 35 mph.  The only way it could have been worse is if they had routed me through someone’s back yard…

GAH!

Because of this, I got there with 45 minutes to spare before the closure of the docks.  Luckily we only had three pallets plus the booth.

No pictures yet.  We were too busy setting up the booth, and need to get back in early tomorrow to finishe the job.

My feet hurt from standing on the concrete, my right leg and butt hurt from 11+ hours of driving.  I’ll snap some shots tomorrow.  It’s time for me to go comatose now.

Origins…the Quickening

Okay, first post of the con season for me.  We’re two and a half days out from Origins.  A couple fevered calls at the end and we’re about as squared away as you can get (better than last year when I found out at the last minute “Oh yeah, we need you there!”.

Pictures will be forthcoming.

Now, I’m going to take advantage of my last free night and do something smart.

SLEEP!

The Light Shines!

The Light Shines!

Okay. Good news as of this morning (well, technically, yesterday morning now). Jim has spoken with a lawyer, and there are apparently some laws in place to stop exactly what Jim’s landlords are trying to do to him. And, now that they’ve been made aware of it, they’re suddenly MUCH more willing to talk for some reason.

Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

The long and short of it is, Photon itself is still alive, and still moving forward until someone manages to pry it from Jim Strother’s cold dead fingers.

The Strothershere for now. WARNING! The files are about 2MB each.

Once I get home tomorrow and have a chance to process them down to a reasonable size, I’ll upload them to
and the gallery should be able to work on them.

I’ll provide a bigger, more complete AAR after I get back home (and take a nice hot bath…)

Tulsa or bust!

Okay, earlier this week, one of the laser-tag mailing lists I subscribe to got a rather unwelcome shock.

Photon was closing…before it opened….

For those of you who haven’t ever had the privilege, Photon is a non-flashlight form of laser tag, set in a fully built out field. It’s a complete package, equipment, sound, etc. And an absolute BLAST to play. I burned an incredible amount of money (and energy) there.

Sadly, the last true Photon center closed in Harvey, Illinois back in 1995. Yes, I was there. Yes, it bummed me fiercely. And, unfortunately, the rights to Photon were hopelessly tangled up, and spread out all over the place.

Anyhoo, flash-foward to last year. I started noticing activity on the Phazzar group on Yahoo again. Apparently someone, a guy by the name of Jim Strother, had spent most of the last 12 years acquiring EVERYTHING necessary to resurrect Photon again.

And, watching the activity in the group, and the photos going up of the slowly resolving field, I grew excited again. If you want, you can find pictures of the site up at http://www.photon-qei.com. The field is, for all intents and purposes, finished. All that was needed was some fine tuning of the field antennas and some work on the pods (the gun/chestpiece unit) themselves and he was ready to open.
Anyhoo, earlier this week, we got a letter from Jim stating that Photon would be closing before it’s opening day. Apparently there were some financial difficulties with the landlord, and Jim had been served an eviction notice. Bad scene all around. I’d been hoping to pay a visit to the new center as soon as time and money permitted. As were a lot of members of the mailing list.

At this point, it’s looking like the venture is unrecoverable, and while I don’t have all the facts in the case, it appears to be really shady on the part of the landlord.

So, as a sop to the rabid Photon junkies who’d been jonesing for a fix for thirteen years, Jim is throwing open the doors of Photon for one night and one night only.

This weekend.

And my mission, should I choose to accept it. Get my ass to Tulsa, Oklahoma and play Photon.

A couple e-mails, and ten hours on the road, and I’m here. Now all I need to do is get some shut-eye before the big event.

D-Link or bust? Or D-Link busted?

Those of you who’re fairly close know that I’ve been having network problems back at the ranch lately.

A few months back, I was doing a firmware update to my router and it bricked. And, since I’d had it over a year and a half, tech support was NOT going to RMA it. Especially since the device was no longer in production.

So one fairly-well-working 808-HV down the tubes.

So here I was, looking for a router with more than 5 ports again.

Other than the bricking, which I put down to unfortunate happenstance, I’d been fairly happy with D-Link. And since most of the other high-end consumer/prosumer router devices out there usually maxed at 5 ports (and I needed more), I would either have to buy D-Link again, upgrade to a low-end pro router, or go with a router and a second switch.

My setup isn’t so tough that I really NEED a pro-grade router. Plus plunking down several hundred bucks for one isn’t something I can easily justify.

I also would like to avoid sprouting network devices all over the place. Adding a separate router/switch combo adds another possible point of failure to my network and also increases network latency.

So I settled on the DIR-130. Nice little router. 8 ports. Pretty much all the features I had before.

Here, my troubles began.

I was able to duplicate my original setup in relatively short order. And everything was nice. For a while.

Then I noted that the router would periodically “lose” the web interface. The device still functioned, it still router, it still did DHCP and port-forwarding. But the web interface simply stopped functioning (or even being accessible). The only way to get the management interface back was to bounce (power-cycle) the router. A MAJOR pain in the cojones, but not a complete show-stopper. Additionally, I’d seen complaints about this around the web, and the next firmware update was supposed to fix this. Being a somewhat happy D-Link camper, I chose to wait.

Fast forward to September. The new firmware update was out as of August. So I snagged it and, being somewhat leery since I’d bricked my last device this way, flashed the router.

Everything came back up nicely. No headaches. Nothing. Success!

Ha. Ha. Ha.

So, thinking everything was great, I began browsing the interface, looking for updates/changes, making sure my settings were all preserved, etc. Then next thing I know, my network just “goes away”.

Just to be on the safe side, I reboot every device on the network. Then I notice I’m not pulling DHCP. Nor is the LAN working, even with static IP assignments. Worst, I can’t access the router!

One emergency call to D-Link later, and I was faced with yet ANOTHER bricked router.

So I drop the $150 for expedited cross-shipping. A full week goes by and the new device arrives. And guess what, the device isn’t running properly, and the default logon in the manual isn’t working. Unfortunately, with this device I’m only eligible for 9-5 weekday tech support to make sure the device runs, and it’s Friday night 8PM.

So I had the privilege of waiting an entire fscking weekend to get my stuff working. And by the time I got on with D-Link support, I was swearing up and down that if they didn’t get it working, they were getting the RMA unit back in the mail.

Sure enough, the default logon was different from what was in the manual. So I was in. I set the router up on the 1.0 firmware (why the fuck are they shipping new units with the old firmware anyhow?), then held my breath and flashed to the 1.10. I browsed around in the interface for a bit, then pushed my config into the router.

And problems started… again.

Certain ports (ssh, FTP, web) weren’t functioning properly. I had portions of the interface that showed this data, but the sections were grayed out, and duplicating them in “live” sections of the interface didn’t help.

So I bit the bullet and restored the router to default and got ready to manually config.

My setup isn’t much.

Approximately 5 DHCP reservations. Three computers, one NAS device, and one Wireless AP. This way, when I remote in, I don’t have to hunt all over my network for a random address. No problems right? WRONG!

First off, DHCP reservation is FUCKED UP on this device. Initially I’d reset the DHCP assignments to be between 2 and 150 (150 being the default upper limit). So when I tried to assign my first workstation to *.2, I get an error stating “2 must be within the DHCP range”.

HUH?!?!?!?

Back on the phone with D-Link IMMEDIATELY.

For some reason, the interaction of DHCP and address reservation isn’t working properly. I have to shrink the pool of DHCP addresses down to within 50 addresses (the maximum number of reservations on this device is 50) before it works properly. And the imbecile on the other end of the phone hangs up on me thinking that the problem is solved. It isn’t!

Random addresses within that range STILL don’t auto-assign! I get the “# must be within the DHCP range” bullshit. Literally, I can assign IP addresses 2-5 fine. But then, DHCP’s first address assignment after that is 23! And doing reservation of an IP for anything between 6 and 22 fails!

Yes, I could go ahead and statically assign addresses to my standard network node but why the fuck should I have to? This is what I bought this device for! Now I need to call in to them yet AGAIN. Waste MORE time. All for something that should work out of the box.

Worse still, they have yet to credit the $150 back to my bank account.

Needless to say, in the future, I’m not putting D-Link on my short list of network equipment providers.

My somewhat disjointed GenCon After-Action Report

Holy cow! GREAT year to be the BattleTech and Shadowrun people at GenCon!

First things first. The booth. For those of you who’ve seen the
FanPro booth in recent years, you know we had a fairly…spare…booth.
Some tables, some plastic shelving, and if we were lucky, foam padding
for the floor. Also, it was tight as hell back there.

This year, the Catalyst booth was exactly that. A booth.

We had a (IIRC) 4×4 area where all the product was sold from. And a
huge pyramid of boxed sets. Even the freebie stuff had it’s own space.

The Sales Area and PyramidThen,
to break up the booth a bit, and give people some space to walk through
and look at things, we had the CamoSpecs guys plunked right down in the
center, giving people an awesome view of their incredible diorama.

Booth Picture 2Finally,
towards the back of the booth, we actually had demo area. YUP! Real
live space from which to run demos of BattleTech and Shadowrun.

Booth Picture 3So
we had an ungodly amount of space this year, all of which was covered
in Catalyst’s black and acid-green foam flooring (your feet still hurt
at the end of the day, but on bare concrete, you hurt all the way up
into the knees, hips and back). And we used every inch to the
fullest.Now, before I get into a breakdown on the rest of the con, I
need to apologize in advance. I was a somewhat scattered mess at the
Con. Don’t know why. But I seemed to be firing a few cylinders short
the entire weekend. So forgive me for the lack of extensive pics
(brought the camera and left the charger), but I had to
economize.Myself, Peter Smith, Ken “Kid Chameleon” Horner (the lovely
individual in the demo area pic above), and Ted “Gleep” Penn (far right
of the sales area pic) rolled out of Chicago on Wednesday morning about
5AM on our way to Fort Wayne to pick up a truck and haul several
pallets of product down for Catalyst.We picked up the truck and, after
a small object lesson on why to NEVER trust online mapping for fine
directions, we arrived at Alliance’s warehouse. got our skids and
rolled on to Indy. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the FINE union
employees at the loading docks who told us we were going to have to
head to the staging yard and wait until they had a dock for us. So we
had a bit of downtime, caught the Shadowrun contingent bringing in
stuff of their own. Finally we got to hand unload the truck…as we’d
unfortunately been given a truck with a gate too low for a dock.

As mentioned above, first impression of the booth was something approximating “Holy Cow”.

I then rolled on to the Embassy Suites. Nice rooms, free breakfast,
and a LOUSY layout. If you stay there, take the stairs to get down if
you can. The elevators are an exercise in futility and gamer-funk. And
you can’t get out of the building directly without taking an escalator.

Thursday, bright and early…10:00 A.M. (man, I get better sleep at
the cons than I do in real life!), the exhibit hall opened. And, while
I’d love to say that the booth was bum-rushed and cleaned out in under
an hour, it wasn’t. However, it was still busy as hell throughout the
day. Sales were steady, lots of people gawping at the diorama, and the
demo area ran nearly non-stop.

The actual BattleTech area was kinda pushed out of the way this
year, much to our annoyance. Still, we were directly off an escalator
in rooms 203 and 204 (back behind where we’d been in previous years),
and the events ran nearly non-stop the entire weekend. Massive kudos to
Chris “Bones” Trossen, Chris “Chunga” Smith, Rick Remer, and all the
rest of the guys who I can’t remember off the top of my head, but are
no less appreciated for their efforts. These are the guys who made sure
BattleTech REALLY never disappeared at ANY point throughout the various
transitions in the last 10 years.

Afterwards was the obligatory dinner in the local food court.
Shooting the breeze, and just generally taking digs at each other to
avoid showing how well we really get along.

Sightings throughout the day.

Kevin Killiany and family,Phaedra Weldon, Loren Coleman, Heather
Coleman, Randall Bills, Tara Bills, Jason Schmetzer, Jason Hardy, Mike
Stackpole, David Stansel-Garner, Troy Stansel-Garner, Trent Garner,
Oystein Tvedten, Ben “Ghost Bear” Rome, Paul Sjardin, Songuru, Nick
“PropWash” Smith, Klaus Scherwinski, Rob “Sprite” Boyle, Herb Beas.

Then, late night, I wound up roaming around the “more interesting”
parts of downtown Indy looking for a supermarket to keep us in water.
The command had come from on high (Heather Coleman can be QUITE
intimidating when she’s of a mind to be). The number of cases shall be
ten, and it shall be called Dasani…and I answered the call.

Friday was nearly as busy as the day before. Lots of people, lots of positive buzz from everyone I spoke with and demoed for.

That evening we had the BattleCorps dinner. And OH MY GOD we had a
lot of people this year! Normally, we have around 20-25 people. This
year, we had nearly double that, and the poor wait staff ran themselves
ragged.

Some of us ducked out a bit early to attend the ENnie awards. We had
four nominations this year. One for Shadowrun’s Street Magic, one for
Total Warfare (Best Regalia???), and not one, but TWO for the CBT Quick
Start rules.

Neither Street Magic or Total Warfare collected an award,
unfortunately. The competition in their categories was stiff as hell
though. So, while not winning sucked, it wasn’t as if they lost to some
inferior product.

HOWEVER, the Quick Start rules collected a Silver for Best Free
Product. Then it went on to collect a Gold for Best Electronic product.
Much to even Randall’s surprise.

Saturday, busy, busy, busy. Everyone was looking spiffy in their
Catalyst T-shirts. Ducked out at one to hit the “What’s Up With
BattleTech” seminar (wanted to attend the unified “What’s Up With FASA FANPRO

Catalyst” event, but I was busy giving demos at the time). Apparently
the GenCon scheduling group screwed up, and we’d been moved to a teensy
little room. Even so, we coped. Additional sightings, Steve Mohan.

Here’s the highlights of the talk.

Herb, the God of Nukes, is taking over as line developer for CBT.
Randall is still staying on as a senior developer who’s going to be
floating between the CBT and Shadowrun propertie, as well as doing his
own writing.

Upcoming products for this year.

  • Jihad Hotspots 3072
  • Interstellar Players II

Products planned for 2008.

  • Tactical Operations (Jumpships, warships, space stations, etc).
  • Revised CBT RPG
  • Wolf and Blake (Next Starterbook)
  • The next handbook (Periphery States)

The fiction anthology should be out around the end of year as well.
It WAS scheduled for much earlier this year, but the whole “Starting Up
Catalyst” thing kinda kicked our plans out the window a bit. It’s
currently in layout.

For Commando events, Martial Olympiad, between October and December.

As noted at the talks, Microsoft owns all electronic rights to CBT
and Shadowrun computer games. Catalyst, unfortunately, has NOTHING they
can do about pushing CBT computer games into the future.

However, Nick “PropWash” Smith announced that he and Microsoft had
agreed to release an old alpha copy of the PC BattleTech game as a free
download. This is a program that was being worked on at FASA
Interactive around the time that the unit was sold off to Microsoft.

Is Battletechnology going to become canon? NO.

Does Randall hate LAMs? No. He just doesn’t feel they fit the aesthetic that BattleTech has created.

Will Catalyst be releasing the old house books on PDF? Yep! It’s
just very time and work intensive, not to mention the fact that
original books actually need to be destroyed to create the PDF files.

Is Catalyst considering podcasting? Yes, they’re looking in to it.

Will someone be revising Warship costs? Nope.

Will the Proliferation Cycle be finishing up sometime soon? Yes. Now
that Catalyst is off the ground and running, the authors can return to
a more normal release cycle.

In-store events: Return of the Wolves. August 20th.

The 1st track will be running mostly between September and November.

In the October-November time frame, there’ll be two semi-tied
events. The Hunt, which is a traditional BattleTech game. Then, The
Breakout, an Aerotech event. These events are Commando-only. Also
upcoming, Vengeance Gambit II.

That evening, Iron Writer 2007.

Iron Writer 2007

I attended, but I was so scatter-brained this weekend, I couldn’t even
justify turning in the page worth that I was able to complete. And
never let it be said that the guys at Catalyst are afraid of voicing
their opinions. =)

Dave giving MY reaction to my abortive attempt at Iron Writer 2007Lots
of Good Stuff going up soon though.And afterwards, Catalyst brought in
around 40 pizzas for the BattleTech and Shadowrun gaming areas. As a
gesture of thanks to the GMs for all their hard work (these guys work
harder and longer hours at the cons than they do in real life, all for
a “hobby”).Sunday, my GOD! It’s almost over! We actually RAN OUT of
Quick-Start rules. We also sold out of Augmentation for Shadowrun. Lots
of swag trading going around, and we kept going right up to the final
bell.So, my impressions of GenCon 2007 for Catalyst games. A VERY good
con and a hell of a debut for a company that’s been in the game
publishing business for only two months. It’s not yet known if we broke
even cash-wise, but we sold a LOT of product and the ship-home bundle
is going to be significantly smaller than what came in to Indy.

And, already, we’ve learned from this con. Next year, there’s already plans for a bigger, better booth, and more GM support.

What’ve *I* learned from this con? To get my frickin’ head together!
My airheadedness cost me more than anything else this weekend. Most of
the problems were due to being crazy-busy at work just prior to the
con. Next year, I’m taking the day before (Tuesday, since Wednesday is
setup day), and the day after the con off, just so I can make sure my
head is clear for the event.

Ah well. Another year, another GenCon put to rest.

If you’re looking for more pictures of the event, you can find them here for general GenCon CBT pics and here for the Iron Writer event.

Origins: Days 2 and 3

Sorry for the combined update.

COMPLETE ass-end of Day 1, went and saw the Die Hard flick. Was okay, not great. Shoulda caught some shut-eye though.

As such, because of the screwy sleep schedule, I woke up with a blinding headache the next morning and spent a couple hours medicating myself back to abnormalcy.

Got to the booth at noon. A MUCH better day for me, MUCH less pain in my legs (or maybe all the pain receptors had died overnight), and I got a chance to see the con a bit during lulls in the dealer area. Lots of cool stuff, but seeing as I’m on “The Budget Of The Last Minute”, I bought nothing but extortionately priced food (having brought my own drink).

It was a lot busier at the con on Friday, we actually sold a bunch of stuff (YAY!).

After the dealer area closed, caught some food in the food court and headed up to Dave Stansel-Garner’s room so that he could get his Shadowrun cherry popped. Ran a quickie adventure, then headed back down to the Shadowrun area for the final minutes of that night’s games.

Then we stuck around for another two-ish hours and talked shop.

Nope. Sorry, can’t discuss it.

Anyhoo, again with the goofy hours, but this time I just woke up late, no pain.

Made it down to the hall with time to spare for the “What’s up with FanPro Catalyst” seminar.

You can read about it here.

Actually had nothing going on tonight. Think I may turn in early and thus, hopefully, be a wee be more spritely on the following morn…

My unvarnished two bits.

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