Category Archives: Personal

Building myself a new PC

As some may have seen a couple weeks back, I was whining about having some problems with my home PC. The short version is that, all of a sudden, my monitor wasn’t working and after diagnosing it in a few ways, it ended up that a power surge screwed up my motherboard. And, later I found out, my video card, too. The upside is that my main PC is fairly old and, while I’ve been upgrading some of the parts, it was fairly limited and I’ve been wanting to get a new one:

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz
  • RAM: OCZ Fatal1ty Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)
  • Motherboard:  ASUSTeK Computer INC. P5G41-M LX2/GB (LGA775)
  • Graphics: 2047MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti (PNY)
  • Storage: Crucial M500 CT240M500SSD1 2.5″ 240GB SATA III MLC (SSD), 1397GB Seagate ST31500541AS ATA Device (SATA)
  • Power Supply: 730W Power Supply – Raidmax RX730SS

So I was definitely ready for an upgrade. The downside is it was some months too early. Right now it is club volleyball season and my daughter has a tournament just about every other weekend for months. I try to keep that time of year on a tight budget due to all the various expenses associated with it — driving, flying, hotels, eating out, etc. Any other time of year, I’d go a little wild and get a PC that is going to last me for a while but, due to this, I have to keep it in check.

At first, I debated just buying a pre-built. This will just be a temporary PC that I’ll end up handing down to my daughter so it doesn’t have to be a powerhouse. And, at a cursory look, building my own and buying a pre-build seemed pretty comparable.

Then I started looking into the details. While I found some pre-builts that were in a good price range, I noticed the Power Supply (PSU) was generally pretty weak… 350w. Add in a few other factors such as the RAM wasn’t from a vendor I’d prefer, the motherboards were built more for a casual user, and I already had an SSD, HHD, and video card I wanted to use and didn’t need more of them (I have a stack of HHDs around here).

I put a laundry list together of parts I wanted to get and took off for my local Fry’s (oh Fry’s, my bane… I always want to buy more when I’m in there!). Unfortunately, most of the exact parts I wanted weren’t there and I was faced with the dilemma of buying it all via NewEgg and waiting, or building another configuration based off of the parts available at the store. Since I’d already been days without my PC and having withdrawals, I opted for building a set of parts but stayed within my budget. I ended up getting:

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… and then add in my SSD, HHD, and video card I already had from my old system. I chose the S340 because I like the look of the case but, more so, it has some great cable management as you’ll see. The i5 I can upgrade later to an i7 if I feel the need and since this is a temporary PC, I don’t really need all the bells and whistles for the motherboard — and neither will my daughter, hehe. I did get a new PSU, though, because the fact that my motherboard went out makes me wonder how well my power supply aged. Better to be safe than sorry.

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It’d been some years since I built a PC… not quite the same as upgrading one. But, luckily, it came back like riding a bike and I got all the pieces properly together and the system booted up fine (sad truth, the first PC I ever built back in like 1998, I fried the motherboard because I put the power supply on wrong).

2015-04-07 20.42.32

My monitor popped on and then I realized it was on my integrated graphics chip so I popped it over to the external card… and nothing. I didn’t have a spare card on me so I went over to Discount Electronics and bought a cheapie to see if Murphy’s Law hit me (no matter how unlikely, it could of been the PCIE slot on the new motherboard) or the card. It ended up being the latter, the power issue fried both my old motherboard and my old video card.

2015-04-09 08.24.11

Part of me wished it was the motherboard because, while I’d have to return it to the store, it is cheaper than buying a new video card. But it is what it is so I ended up grabbing an EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB Superclocked ACX (02G-P4-3759-KB) video card. Close to the PNY I had but this one needed to get power via the PSU instead of just through the PCIe slot. Also, since it looks like my old one didn’t work, I grabbed a new battery backup (actually two but the other one is for my wifi and network drives): CyberPower 650VA Battery Back-Up System.

Put it all together and now it purrs like a cat. Actually, that’s a lie, my cats are much louder. This PC is running around a cool 29 °C but I can barely hear it make a sound. So I am back in business… can play some (real) games again (#PCMasterRace) and get back to video editing for my daughter’s volleyball.

See you all in-game!

2015-04-09 08.25.11

I fear I was too successful in teaching my daughter about finances

Debit and Credit CardsThis year, I was quick to do my taxes. QUICK. As in the moment I received my W2 , which was the last piece I needed to do them, I did it that night. I wanted to do it as quickly as possible because I’ve been aching to build a brand new PC (#PCMasterRace #PC4Life, heh!). I’ve been upgrading components of it over the years… 8 GB RAM, SSD for my OS and most used programs, GeForce GTX 750 Ti, Windows 81. (with Classic Shell, of course), etc. But my motherboard and processor are pretty ancient at this point. I have an ASUSTeK P5G41-M LX2/GB running a Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz. There are some things I do that pushes it to the limit, such as video editing for my daughter’s volleyball stuff and I’ve noticed that Dragon Age: Inquisition just barely runs “well” on it.

Now, me being me, I could just upgrade my current system but my plan is to build a brand new one and use my old one to run off of my TV (my own version of a Steambox) or let my daughter use it since it’s more powerful than her laptop (GPU wise, at least). Either way, I have convinced myself to build a new PC from scratch and have it all specced out via PCPartPicker and Newegg. Wouldn’t be the super PC but it’d spin circles around my current one and have some good upgrade potential for the next few years.

Today I go to pay bills and noticed there is a chunk more in my account that there should be. Sure enough, my tax return came in! I, our course, have to express my excitement and tell Kat that we’ll be going to Fry’s today after I price-check against Newegg (so I can get the best deals, of course). And then I hear “Are you sure you really should do that, dad?” The moment I asked her what she meant, I regretted the words that came out of my mouth.

You see, when I was younger, I made some dumb decisions with credit (credit cards, lines of credit, loaning, etc). I luckily learned from my mistake(s) early on and have paid almost all of them off systematically. But I talk to Kat so she understands and learns from my mistakes so that when she is at college (too soon, too soon!), she doesn’t get herself in debt and learns to properly live on a budget.

So while dreams of new PC parts are flashing in my eyes, my daughter explains to me that my tax return is more than enough to pay off one of the last cards I have. I struggle with finding a reason to explain to her that normally she’s be right but in this instance she’s wrong. Obviously I failed because she is right. So I paid off that bill this morning, with her standing over my shoulder to make sure I do, and I still have some left over. So I figure out that maybe we’ll still buy all the pieces and put the rest of them on credit and before I finish my sentence I get the “Are you serious?!” look from her.

Instead of running off to Fry’s to buy all my new components, I’m just going to buy a few of them and start building it piece by piece. This volleyball club season ends in a few months so I’ll have more dispensable income at that point and can just buy the rest without putting anything on credit.

But seriously, I need to explain to her one day that I’m the parent and she’s the kid.

And the next chapter begins

Last week it was announced that I no longer work for Stray Bullet Games. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I could announce where I’d be working next and figured it would be better to err on the side of caution.

Well, today was my first day and it was confirmed that I could spill the beans. My current position is as the Community Manager at BioWare Austin. Yes, the very same BioWare Austin that was announced to be working on an MMO some time back.

What exactly is the MMO? Obviously, until an official announcement is released, I can’t say. So don’t ask. And yes, even those of you who have already asked via private messages, emails, and IMs… no, I won’t tell you on there either. Sooner or later, the official announcement will be made but in the meanwhile, I’m not even going to attempt to drop any hints. I will say that I am very excited about this and it is one of the very few opportunities that would even have me consider (much less follow through on) leaving Stray Bullet Games.

That’s all folks.

The Death of Ashen Temper

For those of you just tuning it, today it was announced that I have left Stray Bullet Games, LLC. Also, if you’re into Shadowbane lore or even just a good story, Sam aka Meridian published the first part of the Death of Ashen Temper.

Today has been very surreal so far. Many of the people at Stray Bullet Games I’ve known for years and years and they are so much more than co-workers but all also my friends. Shadowbane itself has been in my life for over eight years and its funny to think back of when I was playing Ultima Online (Pacific Shard) and Everquest (Rallos Zek) and heard of this crazy game called that morphed into Shadowbane. I was so intrigued by the game that I helped moderate the unofficial Shadowbane Forums on Stratics and then later ran the Shadowbane Vault on the IGN Network. Since then, I’ve been the Community Manager, Event Team Lead, and even headed up design on this immense labor of love. I have shed a lot of sweat, tears, and blood over this game. Granted, I’ll still be playing the game, much more openly even, but it won’t be the same.

Monday will start a new chapter in my life. But before moving ahead, I want to take a moment to thank the people who have helped me get here. First and foremost would actually have to be Todd “Warden” Coleman who, for some crazy reason, took in a U.S. Marine and let him (aka me) run the community for the Shadowbane. Also Frank “Kellion” Lucero, Mike “Ramsie” Madden, and Damion “Ubiq” Schubert for seeing the potential within me and taking a chance at directing the future of Shadowbane. There are a a plethora of people I’d love to thank that I’ve met over the years. Chris “Vosx” Mancil, Danielle “Sachant” Vanderlip, Brian “Xanther” Lucas, Jeff “Ashton Kai” Tony, and soooo many others. And of course, if I don’t mention Morigor, she might actually “PK me IRL”. I could easily turn this post into a CD cover (y’know, the music ones that people use to buy back in the day where the artists would thank EVERYONE). But I won’t. I will say that there isn’t a single person I have had the pleasure of working with that I haven’t taken something away from.

Where am I going? I’m not really at liberty to say quite yet. I will say that I am remaining in the Austin area, though. I love this city and not much will tear me away from it in the near future.

Why? Let me clear up any rumors before they start; I am a firm supporter and believer of not only Stray Bullet Games but also the product they are creating. It is a fantastic company and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I hold no ill will whatsoever and, truth be told, everyone there I consider a good friend. No, this is about me and my growth in the profession I have chosen.

I was presented with a fantastic opportunity that would take my career to the next level. The easy road would be for me to stay at Stray Bullet Games but I’m not the kind of person who takes the easy road; I’m the kind that will take a challenge if it will help me grow.

I truly wish the best to everyone at Stray Bullet Games; not that they need it. They are not only a company with a wealth of knowledge, talent, and skill but also are also thinking of games as they should be done… They want to make games that are fun to play, first and foremost. Some would say that is obvious but I would disagree.

Well, its time for this to go live; the announcements are about to go up. And maybe its because I’m biased, but if you haven’t read Meridian’s post on the “Death of Ashen Temper“, you really should.

Ashen On Vacation

Due to the fact that my last official work day was May 15th and the next one isn’t until June 1st, I decided to take advantage of the “free” time and I am out-of-state for a bit. I’ll be back soon but I doubt I’ll be checking the forums or my email or things much until I get back.

Beware the Stray Bullet!

What a few weeks it has been! Since my initial trip on a job interview in late April, everything has become a blur; so much that I have a ton of catching up to do on my very own forums! A few days after getting back to Austin from there, it seems like I was back on a plane and this time headed for E3 2006 (which I definitely need to do a write up about still). Had a great time there and actually got about half the things accomplished I set out to (which is good for E3).

I headed back to Austin and wait the dreaded May 15th; the last day of Wolfpack Studios. I showed up early in the morning as I usually do, and sat down at my desk. Sitting there, though, I really was unsure what to do and, from the look of things, most others did not either. Our last deadline was upon us and there were no future ones.

Well, the day dredged on as employees were brought into the HR office and given their walking papers. Slowly but surely, the Pack started to dwindle. You would think that would be the end; but it wasn’t.

From the ashes of Wolfpack Studios, a new company has formed called Stray Bullet Games (SBG). Unlike Wolfpack, SBG is not a Ubisoft company. Instead it is a Third-Party Development Studio. This basically means the studio is, technically, answerable to itself. I say technically because, obviously if a studio undertakes a contract from a publisher, that publisher will be making payments and will garner them at least some say in the project they are contracting for.

Which brings us to Shadowbane. Ubisoft has contracted Stray Bullet Games to keep Shadowbane alive and well. Since SBG is not a Ubisoft company, things will be a little different than it was with Wolfpack Studios. For the most part, these changes will be transparent to players.

Is Shadowbane the only thing Stray Bullet Games is working on? At this point I cannot go into much detail but there are other things in the works. Stray Bullet Games definitely does not plan on being a one-trick pony. And, of course, we have the goal of designing and crafting our very own next-generation MMO.

What will it be? Well, it is much too early to say and it is something we are discussing internally as to what exactly we want to do. I will be blunt and say we will not be doing Shadowbane 2. The publishing and intellectual rights are not owned by Stray Bullet Games and we will, more than likely, make an original title. With that said, we plan on doing what we do best so it wouldn’t be unthought-of to expect player-vs.-player and strategic combat. And while the implementation and specifics may differ, the aspects I talk about in my (crazy) sandbox idea Dominion, such as an in-depth political system, territorial and economic control systems, and character building with meaning are echoed by everyone at Stray Bullet Games.

While Stray Bullet Games might be considered by some as a new start-up company, it is not really. In fact, Stray Bullet Games picked up most of the key personnel from Wolfpack Studios. Frank Lucero, the General Manager and founder of Stray Bullet Games (not to be confused with the Latino Comedian), has been in the gaming industry for over fifteen years. Most other members of the company are seasoned industry veterans, not even including their time in Wolfpack Studios, such as Ala Diaz, Clay “Nazgul” Towery, George Ruof, Ivan Enriquez, Mike “Ramsie” Madden, and Ranjeet Singhal. And we must not forget our loremaster Sam “Meridian” Johnson. With this much experience and passion under one roof, not even the sky is the limit!

Stay tuned for the new website (for Stray Bullet Games) which will contain much more information and official press releases.

Up, up, and away… to E3!

Hey all, I’ll probably be quiet on here for a few days. Doing a few last minute things before my flight takes me back to California where I’ll be (for E3). I’ll check in every so often but mostly out of touch (I imagine).

Behave (somewhat, at least!) and don’t burn the place down!

God May Forgive Your Sins

As the philosopher (and scientist) Alfred Korzybski would say; “God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won’t.“ Before you read too far, no, this is not really related to game mechanics or systems or anything of that sort. In fact, the only relation this little “blahg” post has to games is that it refers to me searching for a job in the game industry. So if you’re not interested in reading something personal about me, I’d stop here.

Some of you already know, late last month Wolfpack was given the notice that its doors would be shutting and, since then, I have been looking for a job. Well, over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewing with some really great companies which sort of surprised me. I won’t lie, I am unsure of my standing in the game development circles. I know I’m a “known” in Shadowbane; hard not to know me since I write the articles on the Chronicle of Strife and annoy people in-game with my announcement pop-ups.

Outside of our community, though, I figure I’m more of an unknown. Sure I do a few interviews here and there and I use to be a regular on the old Lum the Mad forums so a lot of the “old skool” is familiar with me. And I have this, my little place in cyberspace that some people check out. But outside of that, I doubt too many people have heard of “Ashen Temper”.

So, the news hits the web’zines about Ubisoft closing Wolfpack and then I put up my post on here about it — and I start getting contacted by a wide variety of people from different companies. This surprised me a bit and actually made me feel pretty good. I won’t lie; it’s nice to have all the things you have done recognized by your peers. Since that initial announcement, I’ve been through quite a few interviews; mostly phone but a few in-person interviews too. What does that have to do with the quote by Alfred Korzybski? Yes, I know, none of you were actually thinking that but I figured I’d bring it back on track, heh.

I’ve worked in game development for a decent amount of time. I’ve done Community Management as a developer for about six years (or will be on June 1st) and I’ve done it from the “fan” side of things for many years prior to that as a Site Manager on various sites such as Stratics, Vault Network, and XRGaming. I’m quite comfortable in talking to people (one of the prerequisites of the job) and rarely do I get nervous about such things. I can’t think of a single interview lately that I’ve actually been nervous about yet.

But then on Wednesday, I received a call from a company that would like to do a follow-up interview in-person. I was really excited at first because this is a great company; it not only has a great history in gaming but a very bright future. In fact, when things were unsure at Wolfpack some time ago (shortly before Ubisoft acquired us and we were unsure if the studio would survive), I interviewed for this position and didn’t make the final cut.

That was some years ago, and I believe I have not only gained more experience in Community Management and game development since then, but I have a lot more street credit. I’m one of the few Community Managers who’s been through all stages of development and launch of an MMO; initial design, alpha, beta, launch, and expansions. I’ve not only seen it all, I’ve experienced it all. And while some people may say “That was only on Shadowbane“, I think they fail to see the fact that actually strengthens my position. I’ve been through the hard times where a game is having technical issues. I’ve worked with probably one of the most hardcore communities in the MMO industry. I have the scars and bruises and I wear them with pride.

Reading all of that, you might think me confident; even over-confident. Don’t let the words fool you. I do realize I have some very good selling points but, at the same time, I don’t actually have that big of an ego and I know there is some great competition out there. So, I’m actually really nervous about this interview. This is one of the few companies I would actually considering moving out of Austin (Texas) to be a part of.

To make matters worse, and speaking of competition, I do know one of the people I’m competing again. My very own assistant in the Shadowbane Community (although, truth be told, she is more of an equal); little miss Mistress of Souls herself. Granted, she is the student and I am the teacher and many companies will take someone more seasoned; but Sachant is a phenomenal Community Manager. This woman could easily become one of the best Community Managers out there if just given the chance to shine and show what she’s truly capable of.

So, that does make me a little more nervous. Of course, there are other things pricking the nerves but I have to admit that I am quite surprised at how nervous I am about this. At the end of the day, they either give me an offer or they do not. The only thing I can do is put my best foot forward and show them what I bring to the table. At least that is what I keep on trying to tell myself. Like I said, I’ve been through quite a few interviews already; which I am very grateful for since being given such opportunities to even be considered to work at these great companies. This is the first one that is actually making me nervous.

That’s all. No interesting game developments or anything cool or interesting for me to talk about. Just venting a bit to relieve some of the nervousness. And if you don’t hear from me for a few days, now you’ll know why, heh.