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Introduction to Play by Post Gaming

It’s tough being a grown-up. You have to have a job, you have to pay bills, your body is falling apart, and sometimes you have a kid or three to take care of. All of these obligations can make any leisure-time scarce, and trying to plan regular activities with other adults with their own responsibilities can be difficult.

That’s just life, but it makes being a player of tabletop roleplaying games hard.

Remote Play

One option is to play remotely, over skype, or google hangouts, IRC, or some other internet means. While you can play with friends all over the world, this still requires everyone to be able to set aside the same time on a regular basis. In many cases, that’s exactly the obstacle preventing people from getting together in the first place. In other cases, not everyone is comfortable with playing via real time typing, or has a sound set-up good enough to play remotely.

It’s a solution, but it may not be the best solution.

Play By Post

Another solution, the one that works for me, is play-by-post. This takes place by email (play by email or PBeM) or on a forum or some social media app, but there’s no real-time pressure. Players can post as they are able, whenever they have the time to compose and send a post.

Some Play By Post games are free-form, others use specific game systems. Some post daily, others weekly, others less regularly. How exactly they work is up to the group involved.

I’ll be revisiting this topic in the future with guidelines and advice where it comes to playing, running, and setting up a Play By Post game, but for now my advice is to go and check one out, watch the players, see how everyone interacts.

Where you can find Play by Post games:

  • RolePlay Online – a site architecture specifically designed for playing PBP games. Well moderated, with many tools to make playing easier and more efficient.
  • RPGNet’s Play by Post Forum – They also have a PbP Meta-forum for games to isolate their non-play chatter.
  • SJGames’ forums PbP Forum – GURPS specific but contains some of the most knowledgeable players
  • PBEM2 – Site where you can announce recruitment for email-based games, or join games in progress.
  • OngoingWorlds – A site with a blog-like architecture dedicated to collaborative storytelling.
  • You can find a lot more over on this TVTropes Page. I don’t have experience with them, of course.

If you want to promote or point readers to any other PbP game portals, you can do so in the comments section. Let us know!

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
Photo Credit: geishaboy500 via Compfight cc

First Book, Worst Book

There are a lot of skills that go into writing a book.

Coming up with ideas is a skill. Evaluating ideas for their potential as books is a skill. Developing those ideas into workable concepts is a skill. Pre-writing and research is a skill. Story structure is a skill. Drafting a manuscript is a skill. Revisions are a skill. Knowing when to stop revising? Skill.

Designing covers, print layout, market research, titles, blurbs, pricing. All skills.

And all these skills get better with time and practice. This means, of course, that a writer’s absolute worst work will be their earliest, and their best, usually, will come near the end of their career.

This generally implies two things:

First, if I’m asked what my favorite project of mine is, it’ll almost always be whatever I’m working on. Not because I’m promoting it or because that’s what I’m most enthusiastic about at the moment, simply because I’ll think it’s better written than anything else I’ve ever done.

Secondly, my earlier work is also my least favorite.

That’s not to say I regret any of it. I like Bartleby and James and Grief and Infernal Requiem. It’s why I wrote them.

Just that they’re not the best example of what I’m writing now. Of what I’ll be writing in the future. I wrote those books four or five years ago, with four or five fewer years of practice.

So yeah. When asked to recommend a book of mine to a new potential reader, I’ll usually go with one of my latest. In 2016 it’ll probably be Cold Reboot if they like gritty science fiction, or Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken if they’re into steampunk.

But next year? The year after? I’ll be recommending something more current. Something better. And, unless I stop learning, unless I stop improving, “better” never stops happening.

It’s a good reason to write series with multiple entry points.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
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Exclusive Cold Reboot audition files available

CR-cover-smallSo we start recording the audio drama adaptation of Cold Reboot this weekend. It’ll be a free 9-part audio drama released through the Synesthesia Theatre podcast starting in July, after Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken wraps up. I wrote the adaptation, I’ll be directing the voice actors we’ve cast for the production, and I’ll be doing significant audio engineering afterwards with my Burning Brigid Media co-producer Kat O’Connor.

A Great Cast

The cast is bigger than with our first Synesthesia Theatre project, and we’ll be hearing some new voices along with several actors returning from Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. We were simply blown away by the quality of the auditions we received. Narrowing it down to choose between two equally capable performers was a frequent frustrating problem, but in the end I’m happy with what we’ve got.

Supporters of the Synesthesia Theatre patreon have been given access to several of these audition recordings, if that’s something you’d be interested in hearing. Not a Patron? Not a problem! Just pledge to donate $1 or more per episode to help defray production costs, and you’ll have access to the auditions, Iron Horses’s gag reel, production diaries, and whatever else we can think of.

That’s basically how Patreon supports. You support creators you enjoy financially, and they show their gratitude by giving you extra stuff. It’s worth it.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
machineintelligence

Machine Intelligence

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge, in which each day of April a post is made inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Each post will be related to the research done on upcoming trends for the near-future techothriller series Shadow Decade.


Machine Learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence that covers the construction and study of algorithms capable of learning from data without being programmed to do so. In general, they build a model of the real world from input and use that to make predictions.

There are three categories of the tasks performed by machine intelligence:

Supervised learning

This is the sort of intelligence shown in my story, Simple Harmonic Motion. A computer is being taught to operate a spacecraft, and the data given is the different crew members training it. Generally, that’s the form it takes: A teacher trains the computer to map behavior to the desired output.

If you want a copy of Simple Harmonic Motion, you can download the half-hour audio drama free by signing up for Burning Brigid Media’s mailing list.

Unsupervised learning

Unsupervised leaves the algorithm to find its own patterns in order to solve a problem, or as an end in itself.

Reinforcement learning

The algorithm interacts with an environment, working towards a stated goal, learning which actions are optimal – for example, in playing a game.

Generally speaking, the goal isn’t to teach the algorithm a task, but you’re trying to teach it how to learn tasks.

Types of Machine Intelligence

    • Genetic Algorithms –  Heuristics that mimic natural selection, using mutation to find the best solution or method for a given problem or task. Iterations can be processed very quickly.
    • Decision Tree – The AI creates a map of possibilities and outcomes to maximize the liklihood of a desired end state.
    • Association Rule Learning – The AI discovers correlations between variables; certain behaviors are likely associated with other behaviors, which allows prediction.
    • Artificial Neural Networks – Algorithms inspired by biological neural structures using artificial neurons. They find patterns and create statistical structures.
    • Inductive Logical Programming – Paradigms based on formal logic. They build logic statements of examples, databases, and hypothesis, and create a program involving all of the positive examples, then suggest a theory to explain the facts present.
    • Support Vehicle Machines – Allow the classification of new data. Provided with samples of data, they categorize new data based on shared traits.
    • Cluster Analysis – Observations are categorized into sets called clusters, based on whatever criteria are considered important. This is a method of Unsupervised Learning.
    • Belief Network – Focused on the probable relationship between elements; what causes what. This can be used to infer probabilities.

Real World Applications of Machine Intelligence

  • Search Engines
  • Diagnostics
  • Information Security
  • Data Mining
  • Robotics
Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
LEDs

LEDs

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge, in which each day of April a post is made inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Each post will be related to the research done on upcoming trends for the near-future techothriller series Shadow Decade.


The earliest use for LEDs were the sort of red “standby” lights, like you’d see on televisions. This was because back when they were introduced in the 60s, they could only handle lower-frequency (red) light. It took 30 years for them to develop blue (high frequency) LEDs, an accomplishment that proved worthy of the Nobel Prize.

The technology has continued to evolve and be refined, to the point where they are quickly replacing filament-based lighting in countries across the world.

There’s an ambitious plan in New York to replace all their street lights with LEDs by sometime next year, due to the lower energy and maintenance requirements. Widespread adoption of LEDs will lead to urban areas that are consistently and safely lit, leading to an overall decrease in crime.

 

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
kuiperbelt

Kuiper Belt

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge, in which each day of April a post is made inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Each post will be related to the research done on upcoming trends for the near-future techothriller series Shadow Decade.


The Kuiper Belt is a ring of icy debris that surrounds our solar system, discovered in 1992, several hundred times more massive than the asteroid belt. The discovery that Pluto was a part of this belt is one of the primary reasons why it was reclassified as a dwarf planet.

What else is out there? We don’t know for certain, but we will soon – after the deep space probe New Horizon finished its flyby of Pluto in 2015, it set course for Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, which it should reach by 2019.

Cut the probe some slack. 2014 MU69 is like a billion miles away from Pluto. That’s not hyperbole.

Until it gets there, all we know about 2014 MU69 is that it’s 30-40 miles in diameter and has a very stable orbit that takes centuries to make its way around the sun.

After that? Well, after New Horizons is done with the Kuiper Belt, sometime in 2022, it’ll be time to mosey off into the sunset. Or rather, away from the sunset, off away from the sun, away from us and into greater unknowns.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
Jobs

Jobs

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge, in which each day of April a post is made inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Each post will be related to the research done on upcoming trends for the near-future techothriller series Shadow Decade.


Or lack thereof.

In this series we’ve already talked about government benefits for the poor and housing provided for the homeless. Today we’re going to examine why we’re going to need to take care of a large and relatively permanent class of poverty-stricken.

There are no jobs.

Business entities exist for one reason and one reason alone: to generate profit for their shareholders. Everything else they do is marketing (to increase revenue) or incidental to their primary function. A business does not exist to employ people, but employing people is a by-product of its existence.

When technology advances to the point where change will generate greater revenue, a company has to make that change to stay competitive. Some corporate structures in fact legally require the company do what it legally can to maximize revenue, and the fact that it’s “the machine” doing it absolves individuals from making the sorts of decisions that ruin peoples lives.

The point is, automation is advancing rapidly, both in the sorts of jobs it can replace, and in how affordable it is to do so. Within the next decade self-driving vehicles will have completely transformed the transportation industry, and retail will see a vast drop in jobs typically offered to unskilled workers.

Some of this can be attributed to rising minimum wages across the US, but all this does is hasten the process. Truth is that these jobs will be phased out the instant it becomes economically viable for them to do so.

White collar jobs, however, will not be safe. Advanced robotics, facial and voice recognition software, and deep learning artificial intelligence advancements are leading us towards a world where many office jobs are becoming redundant.

The few jobs this automation will create are going to be in high-skill technical fields. The end result: Capitalism does not need you. It does not love you. You are a surplus resource that is no longer required.

You, and millions like you. Got a job? Want to find out the terrifying probability that robots are going to replace it in the next decade or so? The BBC has provided this handy little search box to help you figure it out

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Hooray! I’ve only got a 1 in 3 chance of never being able to work again.

So while you still have a wage and a place to live, try to build the sort of world you want to live in when your job is replaced and you can’t find anything else. Vote.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.