In the spirit of actually recording my life to some extent, here’s what happened today, my odd Thursday off from work.
This was a big day, for a Thursday.
My weekend got split this week into Thursday and Saturday, but I was resolved to be at least sort of productive (as if me saying I’m resolved actually makes me more resolved than I am usually.) Because I was the only writer on the U5:Lazarus team to be given a warning last week for turning in a late NPC script, I wanted to bang out a relatively easy script today and get an advance on my Monday deadline. So I did, to the AIM-relayed amazement of the project lead.
I haven’t written a whole lot about Lazarus, in part because I didn’t feel comfortable talking about something that isn’t finished and won’t be for a while, but it’s the main thing I spend my free time doing these days — the only thing that I have something to show for when I’m done, besides save-game files. I had no clue about the amount of work that needed to be done when I started nearly a year ago, and if I had, I might not have committed to work.
I’ll put that in perspective. Of the 279 NPCs that will be in Lazarus (which comprise the majority of the “writing” for the game, besides in-game books, documents, signs and gravestones,) less than 40 percent were ready to go when I joined the team last July. That’s after four years of a few team members working steadily, and a huge revolving door of others doing not a whole lot of anything before wandering off never to be heard from again, or worse, doing a whole lot of crap that has to be cleaned up by someone else. As of this week, however, the NPCs will be 90 percent complete.
It’s not all my doing, of course. A few new team members came not long after I joined, but a bunch more joined after the release date, which as the defaced graphic at top left declares, was pushed back from May to “when it’s done.” Not all of them have been added to the team list, but Laura “Shadow of Light” Campbell definitely deserves to be at the top of the writer list. She’s been with the team the longest, more than three years, and has already done about three times as many NPCs as I will have done when I finish my assignments, not counting writing extraneous to dialogue.
After writing, I hurried to downtown Austin to catch a production of The Mikado by the local Gilbert & Sullivan Society. On Wednesday, Sam Johnson (whom Shadowbane fans might or might know as Meridian, the staff writer and author of 99 percent of the game fiction) told me he was in the cast and to come on down, not knowing I’d have Thursday off. Half-price tickets for the weekday opener were a good enough incentive to come.
Not just for me, either. The auditorium at S.F. Austin High School was nearly full. The stage ate the sound, and I found out after the fact I should have taken a seat on the other side so the orchestra didn’t drown out the singing, but Sam as Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else, frankly stole the show. I was only vaguely familiar with the libretto, having seen the movie Topsy-Turvy, which doesn’t feature much of Pooh-Bah at all, and Sam had me wondering why. I already knew he could sing and act, and the part is very funny all by itself, but Sam pushed the role of haughty, self-impressed nobleman to comedic limits with physical as well as vocal humor.
After the performance, I wished him happy birthday on behalf of Chris “Vosx” Mancil, whom I’d called on the car ride into town. Yeah, I know it was bad to call while driving, but I hadn’t expected to reach him at the office at Monolith, where he’d been working on The Matrix Online. Sam was of course curious where Chris was going to end up (read here for why). I am too.
As usual, Sam seemed more interested in talking to me than I ever expect him to, and I remarked that things must be going well for him if he can take time off from work for performance in light opera. He and fellow Wolfpacker Clay “Nazgul” Towery had taken time off to perform together in a different production two years ago. And you thought all game developers were uncultured wage-slave chair-bound zombies.
Before any of that happened, though, I walked to the corner store to get a donut, as has been my habit on days off. On the way, I called my grandfather. He’s the only grandparent I have who’s still alive. The one who’s mostly recovered from a mild stroke that robbed him of feeling in his hands and feet, who still grieves for his wife of 63 years who died four years ago, and has only recently started talking about his experiences fighting Japanese forces during World War II and nearly getting killed.
Grandpa John is fairly easy for me to talk to. He’s about as blunt as I am, which at 87 means he’s also prone to being as morbid as I often am. “You know, I’ve probably lived too long.” I’ve called him three or four times in the past few months, and every time he says something like that. Not that it bothers me.
This time it was a little different. “How old are you now?”
I tell him I’m 29.
“Your mother was 36 when she died … I always thought she got cheated. And now you’re almost as old as she was.”
I borrow a reply from Neil Gaiman. “Well, she got what everyone gets. A lifetime.”
“That’s right,” he says. “And you just never know how long that’ll be.”
I think I made his day.
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