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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Names, backstory, and wanting to stab yourself in the brain...

One of the most boring parts about writing this gang supplement for DF2020 is coming up with names and backstories for the multitude of NPC's that are invovled.  Unlike with other sourcebooks, where most of the characters have real names, or a few nicknames... with gangs nearly everyone has a colorful nickname, and to be honest I am just not that creative when it comes to this stuff... I run into this problem with every sourcebook... but with this one it seems compounded... because with gang members, their backstories have to be pretty similiar for the most part, in at least they share the same goals and outlook... but how many times, how many different ways, can you say "This guy is a violent sociopath who wants to rip your face off and chew on your lungs!" 

At the end of the day I continue to slog through it, finding myself distracted as much as possible, often fooling myself with the excuse of "maybe this will give me some inspiration" before my random boredom has me looking a t pictures of cats for an hour...  I will get more focused as the project continues, I always do... but until I can see the end, usually about the halfway point of the project, I never can be totally focused on it...

I have noticed one thing though.  When I first began doing sourcebooks and articles for Datafortess 2020 they were purely online affairs.  Simple HTML, using netscape (then later Seamonkey) and the built in composer.  But a few years ago, I converted all of it to PDF for ease of use.  Now I write the articles in word, writing for the PDF you could say.  And then convert the article to HTML.

Writing for one format is vastly different than writing for the other.  They both have pros, and they both have cons.  Writing for HTML in a composer, it allows you too keep and work on the sections seperately, without screwing up the format and layout of the entire project.  Its a much more organized way of doing it.  Unfortunately when you keep everything in separate folders (curse you OCD), it means you end up spending a lot of time recompiling everything when you are done so the images and links match up correctly.  Writing to a document for PDF, its all their, which is nice.  You have a lot more simplicity when it comes to layout and formatting, both due to the standardized restraints inherent in page size uniformity, and the fact that the tools for creating tables, image placements, and so on, are much simpler to use overall.  Placing images is a simple copy paste awesome sauce.  Unfortunately you lose a lot of the format, and the images are renamed when converting doc to html. Converting either format to the other is such a massive headache, especially when it comes to the images, that it is easily my least favorite part of any given project....

Trying to think of a new way to approach this... maybe doing them both simultaneously.

Of furious anger and joyous exultation, the recovery of lost files...

Lost files... It happens to anyone who spends a significant amount of time working on something on your computer.  Sometimes its as simple as not saving your work regularly, and having the program or your computer freeze up, or making a long post only to have the connection time out as you hit the post button, and the entire thing is lost.  The small moments are infuriating, but you can usually live with them... the bigger problem is when you lose a project you have been working months on.  Sometimes it happens because your hard drive gets corrupted or frizzles, and other times... its because like an idiot, you trash it yourself.

So for months now, I have been working on a Gang Sourcebook for Night City, to tie in with the eventual Expanded Night City sourcebook, centered around the new Night City Map I compiled using the map from the latest German version of the Cyberpunk core rules (I won a contest promoting the book, and Games-In were kind enough to send me a high resolution printout of the new map they created).  If you follow the link to see the small version of the map, the dark portion in the upper right hand corner is the German map... the rest of the map was created but carefully cutting and pasting sections of the city using Google Earth.   The German map is the same basic map as the one found in the English core rules, just much prettier looking.  The map that came with the Night City Sourcebook comprises just the top half of the German map... just to give you a sense of scale.  But I am digressing like crazy here, so let me get back on track...

Anyway, this gang sourcebook, I have spent months compiling images... this is the first stage of any sourcebook I do for Datafortress and it can take quite a while before I have enough images to feel comfortable moving forward.  One of the core concepts of DF2020 is that everything is illustrated... some would probably say over illustrated.  But I get much more inspired personally by an image, than I would at any amount of flavor text.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and why talk about it when you can show it right?  Some of the images sit on my hard drive for years before I finally get a chance to use them. 

I had finally gotten enough images (though I am always adding more) to begin writing the sourcebook.  But while writing I have been using the images for NPC's during the one of the Cyberpunk games I have been running which heavily ties in to the gang scene. 

I recently picked up a wireless receiver that allowed me to move my PC from my bedroom out to the gaming room.  Huzzah.  This would save me the problem of having to hook up my laptop, which is kind of a pain, to run games in the gaming room, as well as giving me access to the much larger hard drives in my PC which are full of music.  However, in doing so, it was necessary to move all the files from my current project onto my back up portable hard drive (the HD from my old laptop in a shell, not very much space but more than enough for what is needed.). 

The problem lies in that I already had an old back up on my portable hd.  So I go to erase it, holding shift-delete... cause I roll like that... only to realize that I was deleting the current version on my laptop, instead of the version on my portable HD.  FUCK....

I cancelled the deletion immediately, but the damage had already been done.... half the images were gone.  Hundreds and hundreds of images, and countless hours spent scouring the net, making screencaps from films, scanning images in... gone... because I roll like an idiot...

Eventually, I was able to recover the images from the protected files, but the file names had all been changed, and I was sifting through thousands of files.  Luckily the older copy on my portable HD wasn't that old, and by combining the two I was able to retrieve most of the images, and get them back into their original organized folders.   Also luckily, the images that were permanently renamed, which I had no backups of, were screen caps and film stills... so while I lost the artist name for a few images, luckily I can still provide proper credit.  Giving credit is a big deal for me, and from the beginning one the bottom of every page of every article or sourcebook I have done for DF2020 I try to list the artist or origin of every image I use.  I can't always track down the artist, as some of the images I find have just been posted to forums, or are from newsgroups, or in photobucket or image shack albums, etc... but I try and make the effort at least.

I think I should be ok, its pretty rare that I just find one image from any given artist, so everyone should be credited.

Just glad I was able to recover the images.

And I wish I could say I learned a lesson... Like look before you leap... don't get rushed when trying to make room on a portable hard drive, keep more backups, don't always hold down shift when deleting something... but the truth is, I probably haven't learned a damn thing other than how to recover lost files and what a pain in the ass it is...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Maintaining the Datafort

Greetings Programs,

Ok, so here I am... Wisdom000, or as real people know me, Deric Bernier.  I have run the Cyberpunk 2020 based role-playing game website, Datafortress 2020, since 1996 (Christ thats a long time and now I feel old) when I took it over from Paul Minor.

What originally started out as a relatively small website has become the single largest source of original material on the net for the game, as well as hosting the largest archive of Cyberpunk 2020 material in the world, gathering all the relevant material from nearly every website for the game that ever existed

Of course long before I took over for Paul I had been playing the game.  While I had some brief encounters with roleplaying games in the 80's with Dungeons and Dragons, it wasn't the best of experiences and it kind of soured me for years.  I aquired several gaming books over the years, but it was mostly for the art or the ideas behind them, as I didn't really have anyone to play with.  I did however start creating rules for them even before I really understood what RPG's were... when my brother and I used dice to decide the outcome of our elaborately staged action figure battles.  Finally, after years of avioding Dungeons and Dragons, a friend convinved me to play with him... so I spent a long night before the game with him making up a character... and then when I showed up to play,it wasn't DnD, but Cyberpunk.  I thought "What the hell", I came all that way, might as well play it.  Christ... that was 1989, and I haven't looked back since... the game became such an obsession with me, that it was ten years before I even attempted to run anything else.  Oh I played in a few other games, but nothing ever hit me as close to home.  Now, since the millenium change I have branched out quite a bit but after the oughts, I decided I was really, at heart, a one system kind of guy... other settings still held interest for me, but no other set of rules really encapsulated what I wanted as well as Interlock.

I have written a lot of material for this game over the years, several full sourcebooks, tons of weapons, gadgets, and other goodies.  I have created maps, character sheets, and endless other fiddly bits and compilations.  I spend hours searching for images to use with the articles, every awesome vehicle, weapon, or piece of tech from any film, cartoon, tv show, comic book, or whatever, that could be remotely believable in a Cyberpunk 2020 setting can be found, statted up, somewhere on my site.  And sometimes I draw them myself... in addition to drawing every PC that has ever been played in one of my games.

A few years ago, after 15 years of playing the game, I realized that I had changed, replaced, or added so many rules to the core Cyberpunk 2020 rules system of Interlock, that I could kinda re-write it... especially with the combined knowledge of the View From The Edge Cyberpunk forum, as well as some of the old school website owners I am proud to call my friends.  So after getting permission and brainstorming, I embarked on my biggest project to date... re-writing the rules for Interlock.

The goal was simple, not only repair and expand the rules that were broken or didn't cover everything, but streamline them and add new rules to cover the situations left unexamined.  In addition, the goal was to make Interlock a Universal system, that could handle any setting, any concept...

What I, with the help of many contributors and friends, came up with, was Interlock Unlimited.  A living evolving system, one that does everything I need it to do, and if a situation arises that it can't handle, rules are created and added so that it can.  I am not quite sure how many people use it, the truth is Cyberpunk 2020 is a dying setting, even though it was far more popular than its successor Cyberpunk v3 (which changed the rules to Fuzion, a hybrid of Interlock and Hero) and still has a shrinking but diehard fanbase, there is no official support for the game.  I do know that its been favorably reviewed on several blogs, its frequently suggested on RPGnet and other forums, it was the subject of a Sideways Tower podcast.  I get a lot of e-mails about it as well.  Unfortunately, I can't really look at the dowload numbers for it as being anything representative of its popularity.  I mean the numbers say its been downloaded over 3000 times... but the thing is, Interlock Unlimited is an evolving system, the core rules have been changed several times, so I don't know how many people are downloading it each time its updated, or downloading it once, or what...

I do hope that the people who have downloaded it are enjoying it.  Interlock Unlimited is a fan project, by fans, for fans... and while it operates with the unofficial but public blessing of Mike Pondsmith, owner of R.Talsorian games, creator of Cyberpunk 2020, it is something I give away for free out of love for the game and its potential.

Anyway, thats who I am and why I do what I do... as for this blog... Blame my friend from VFTE and longtime contributor Companero.  He suggested this blog, saying it would be a good way to get attention for the site, Interlock Unlimited, and Cyberpunk in general.  So here I am.

I am not going to promise to update this place regularly, I am not going to even hint at anything remotely resembling a schedule... what I am going to do is use this as a sounding board for  Cyberpunk 2020 and Interlock Unlimited  projects I am working on for Datafortress 2020, opinions about cyberpunk related entertainment like movies and comics, general gaming insights, rants, raves, and whatever other wierdness I feel like posting... I will try to keep it mostly gaming related however. I will post whenever the mood strikes me, that way it won't ever feel like work or a duty...

I freely encourage discussion on anything I post, the more feedback I get the better I get... so don't be afraid to rant back.  Sure there are the Datafortress 2020 forums, which you are all encouraged to join, but send me an e-mail if you want to register.  Due to the mamoth deluge of spam I get everytime I open registration, I generally only do so if I know an actual human being who plays the game wants to join... the e-mail to reach me at for registration is wisdom000 at gmail.  Feel free to write me there about anything connected to gaming, the site, or just to tell me I am sexy.

Anyway, to anyone who has made it this far, thanks, and I hope this works out.  Forgive any typos, and have a nice day...

Oh and be sure to visit Datafortress 2020, the largest most comprehensive Cyberpunk 2020 site in the world at:
http://datafortress2020.oliwy.net/
Also be sure to check out the Datafortress 2020 File Project, which is home to PDF and other downloadable file versions of all my material, the Interlock Unlimited Files, the Cyberpunk 2020 Archive (largest archive of Cyberpunk 2020 material available), and my personal art gallery at:
http://datafortress2020forums.110mb.com/filegallery/4images/index.php
And if you want to join in the discussions, check out the Datafortress 2020 Forums, be sure to send me an e-mail if you want to join and I will open up registration long enough for you to get in...
http://datafortress2020forums.110mb.com/