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Celebrating Small Victories (and a Music Challenge recap)

It’s been a while!

Last night concluded the Hero’s Journey 60-day workout challenge. Along with Blaugust, which ended less than two weeks ago, I now have two challenges under my belt. And I feel happy. Unlike those arbitrary gaming achievements, these are achievements that mean something. I wanted to do better at the things I was challenging and the challenges were the stepping stones.

They also helped to exemplify two things I’ve known, yet have had difficulty acting on:

1. Action is king.

Preparation can be important, but doing is how we learn best. Riding a bike, learning an instrument, learning sports or a video game, cooking, painting, computing; anything we become good at, we become good at because we do them a lot. The fundamental actions become second nature to us, and we can focus on the grander scale of the project at hand.

If I want to become better at writing, I need to write more. If I want to compose great music, I need to compose more. Will I make crap along the way? Yes! But, I won’t get to the goal without getting up and putting one foot in front of the other. So, I just have to pretend that I’m in ARK, and just my crap behind. 😉 Maybe I can compost them to make them into something useful.

2. You can’t have it all.

During these two months, I had to make choices. Do I spend these two hours gaming, or do I spend them blogging, exercising, and writing music? I made a commitment to the latter, and my gaming time suffered. My TV time suffered. My reading time suffered. But I am now at peace with the reality. I can’t do everything I want to do, but I can make a choice on what I will do, and try to do it well. And by doing it a lot, I will do it better. The other things will be there for me for the rest of my life.

To celebrate this victory, I am going to spend tonight logging back into WildStar, a game I’ve sacrificed for the past few months. Will I continue to have time to invest back into an MMO? I don’t know. But tonight, I’m just going to have fun!



I am taking tonight off from my self-imposed Music Composition Challenge as well. I never set an end date, and I may never. It’s a habit I need to keep if I intend to make anything of the skill. I would never have been able to keep this up without the help of these other two challenges, so a big Thank You to Belghast and Chestnut! 🙂

Here are my personal top 5 tracks from the 26 I’ve made so far (in the order they were made):

I thought the interlocking guitar parts were pretty cool on this one.

This one is different, and I love how it creates a specific mood.

Piano, Guitar, Bass and Drums. All the parts compliment one another.

My foray into writing orchestral strings. It sounds pretty legit. I impressed myself.

Compositionally, this one is my favorite. The melody switches over from the cello in the first part to the violins and violas in the second, but the cello line is still flavorful throughout.

Do any of these evoke a certain scene in your mind? What sort of game situations or scenario would these work with, do you think?

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2015 in Life, Music

 

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Two Habits for Stimulating Creativity

I didn’t post yesterday, and it was awkward. What have you done to me, Blaugust??

I’ve been working a lot of my creative muscles lately, and I’ve been having a blast. There were two habits that I’ve taken on lately that have helped greatly in keeping the process flowing, and I thought I’d share them with you.

  • Don’t eat a big dinner if you want to work on something afterward. I have been either waiting to eat dinner until later, or eating a light dinner with less carbs so my stomach will have less to digest. Sleepiness kills motivation and creativity.
  • Work standing up. Sitting can also kill creativity. Standing and moving keeps the blood flowing, and ideas flow more easily as well. Sitting can also lead to sleepiness.
Workspace

My standing music workspace.

In the past, I’ve sat down after a long day at work and dinner, intending to work on something, only to have my creativity drained out of me within five minutes of sitting down. Day after day. Frustrating.

Changing just these two things have helped me a lot.

I’m curious. Have any of you had similar experiences?


Here are my latest two entries for my Track-a-day Music Challenge.

I’ve been working on my string section chops lately. It’s making progress.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Music

 

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Day 31: Onward!

Blaugust Entry, Day 31 

Ah, the final day of the Blaugust challenge.

My life has gone through many ups and downs this past month. It has certainly been an interesting one. I have ten more days for my Hero’s Journey Workout Challenge, and I need to make a plan for my Track-a-day Music Challenge. I am certainly feeling a lot more in control of my life habits than before (except for when I visit B&N… then I’m screwed).

The only downside is that my free time is even more sparse than when I started. The upside is that I am more focused. I am more clear about where I am and what I need to do to move forward. I am more comfortable with taking my time and enjoying games at my own pace. I have come to a realization that there is so much to do and so much to learn that I will never be bored or run out of things to do. These months of alone time may have been good for me, who knows.

Where will this blog go from here? This month has been more like a repository of diary entries than it has been a communicative blog. I never had a specific goal or agenda besides being an avenue for putting my emotions into words, but nevertheless, I want to give value back to the reader. I guess that is what I will focus on going forward. Will it be about gaming? Will it be about music? Will it be about life challenges?

Well, it’s about time to wrap it up. Time for my workout. Maybe I’ll get to play some Metal Gear Solid 2 before bed.

It’s done! This is the last entry for the month-long blogging challenge! Congratulations to all of the challengers who participated! For more info and more bloggers to follow, check out the official Blaugust page.


Music Challenge #18

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

I think this is my best orchestral track to date. There was more room to develop it, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on it.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in General

 

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Day 30: Sizzle

Blaugust Entry, Day 30

Today was a good day.

I just came back from downtown Chicago, where a friend hosted an informal classical flute concert at his sake bar. Are we allowed to have informal classical concerts? It was refreshing to hear something like this in a live environment — there’s an energy and emotion that you just can’t catch through a sound system.

I often feel the same way about jazz music. There’s a monumental difference between hearing a jazz recording through your home stereo system and being there in person, watching the musicians’ intricate movements, hearing the sizzle of the cymbals and the murmuring of the audience, the pure silence during the moments where the entire room’s breath is stolen away. There are those uplifting, healing moments when you hear a beautifully executed phrase that pierces your soul and forces you to smile. I had a few of those tonight. Those are certainly moments worth living for.

Onward, to Day 31!!!!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.


Music Challenge #17

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

Today’s track is a little orchestral. I love French horns.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Music

 

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Day 29: Focis

Blaugust Entry, Day 29

*yawn*

Geeze. Today’s music track took forever. Not being proficient in piano made it even harder. I do like the chord progression, and the melody almost came together nicely. A bit more polish, and it could be a solid piece of its own.

I guess today’s post is gonna be a little reflection on how my music challenge is going so far.

It’s going as I expected. I’m starting to gain a familiarity with the process. The quality is nowhere near what I would expect from a professional, but that is not the focus of this current challenge. Speed of creation and finding interesting musical ideas: those are my two focuses (foci?) and I think I’m making good progress. If I make a thousand musical pieces, I should be able to make a few great ones. Not only that, the better ones should come quicker and quicker the more I do it. What I am gaining from this challenge is the ability to be self-critical while not letting it paralyze me from moving forward.

We have just two more days for this blogging challenge, too. I wonder how my life will have changed the next month compared to last.

Thank you to those of you who have bothered to stick around and read my blathering.

 

Onward, to Day 30!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.


Music Challenge #16

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

This was taking too long, so I called it a day. A little bit of FF at the end?

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Music

 

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Day 28: Fly Me to the Moon

Blaugust Entry, Day 28

Update on my reading of Have Space Suit-Will Travel. I’m 108 pages into this 255 page book. It’s a fast read if I put my mind to it. The story took its first serious turn with a cliffhanger of a chapter ending. The whole escape-by-foot-over-treacherous-lunar-terrain sequence reminded me of The Martian a little bit. Man vs. Alien Natural Landscapes. And the thin and large henchmen… They are probably a trope used in other literary works, but to me, it brings back specific memories of the haunting duo in the Otherland series.

This book is not a very descriptive book. As I said before, it is a masterclass in brevity. It fills in details by the context of the action. It infers and makes the reader fill in the blanks. It’s a very smart writing style. Still, the lack of descriptiveness may be why I am comparing this book to those other ones I’ve read in the past. My brain is probably pulling the imagery from the other novels into this one.

I also discovered a few more books that I purchased but haven’t read. Wee. I have a lot of media to consume.

I will hop into ARK in the morning to check up on my dinos. I hope they are still alive. It’s been a while.

Onward, to Day 29!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.


Music Challenge #15

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

I like how this one turned out, compositionally. I may eventually substitute the lead guitar for other orchestral instruments — when I get there.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Books

 

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Day 27: Blah

 

Blaugust Entry, Day 27

Oh boy. It’s 11PM and I don’t know what to write about. Well, I have lots to write about. It’s more the matter of what I feel like I can write about.

My weekdays have been so full that I rarely have the energy to play any games midweek.

I took a break from staring at this screen to play some Triple Triad on my phone. I like this incarnation better than the FFXIV version. It has character cards from FFI all the way to FFXIII, too!

I haven’t played WildStar since I hit level 50 on my second character about a month ago, maybe. I don’t even remember when it was. I decided to take an MMO break. I haven’t played FFXIV, Guild Wars 2, The Secret World; all of these games I still have installed on my PC, I haven’t touched recently.

Interacting with my game friends on Twitter is one thing, but not being able to do anything together in the games that we are a part of makes me sad. The first time I even saw one of my WildStar Twitter buddies in-game was a few weeks ago, and it was in ARK!

Playing games and being social can feel like work sometimes. I don’t want to have to make a schedule to play together with others. But playing on my own terms means playing alone for the most part. I either need to compromise, or give up certain expectations from my gaming experience.

I wish I had entire afternoons to sit at home and play. Just like in the old days.

 

Music Challenge #14

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Gaming, Life

 

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Day 26: Blank

Blaugust Entry, Day 26

Today was a physically demanding day. It’s one of those evenings where you don’t want to do anything except sit and stare into space. No gaming tonight.

I read a little bit more of Have Space Suit-Will Travel thoughIt’s a masterclass in brevity.

Tomorrow is going to be a stressful day. A lot of uncertainties. I don’t like uncertainties.The stress is already seeping in.

My mind is blank because it is so full. I can’t think about any one thing because it’s trying to think about a hundred. I think I just need to close my eyes and let them all flow out.

I wonder if I will explode one day. Implode maybe?

On to Day 27.


 

I’m going to take a break on the Music Challenge for today. We’ll see if it affects my overall resolve.

Good thing I’m ahead by one day.

Music Challenge #13

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Life

 

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Day 25: Reviving the Genre

Blaugust Entry, Day 25

On my ride to and from band practice tonight, I listened to the latest episode of the Massively OP podcast. It was a fun one to listen to. There was a section where Bree, the editor and one of the co-hosts, goes off on her famous rants (which are fun to listen to), and with every sentence she spoke, my mind went, “Yes, yes yes! I’m with you! 100%!”

They were speaking of the upcoming sandbox MMO Revival‘s “Gold” servers. It’s a subscription server where players essentially pay the fee for 24/7 live interaction from from a “live storytelling team” who control NPCs and interact in real-time to player actions and events. From what I took from reading through Revival’s website, the game is seeking to bring true player interactivity to the MMO space. One where player actions are what really matter — not their gear. One where players drive the economy. One where they drive the politics. They shape the history of their society and their world, because the world is run by people.

Iron Realms pulled it off in the realm of MUDs and gained prominence in it’s genre by leaving the cookie-cutter molds of Circle and Diku MUDs behind. They created living worlds where the devs were an active part of creating the narrative for the players, and the players took part in forging their own stories within the game’s canvas. When games like Everquest and World of Warcraft took over, I was very disappointed. They took the cookie-cutter molds of the older MUDs and adapted them to a graphical interface. There was so much potential there, but they chose the easier path.

On the podcast, Bree rants about how it’s absurd that this sort of interactivity is the exception and not the norm for MMORPGs. That this is something that would make the genre really shine and stand out. She argues that “this should be the backbone of MMORPGs”. I agree, one hundred percent! Go take a listen, starting from 48:48 if you don’t care to hear the whole thing. I’m not sure if the dark fantasy setting is really my cup of tea, but I definitely have my eye on Revival.

Whether it’s this game that pulls it off or another, this service-based approach could be the real “Revival” of the MMORPG genre. I am excited to see what comes of it.

Onward, to Day 26!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.

P.S. Can I make a confession? I didn’t realize the Justin on the Massively podcast and the Justin on the Battlebards podcast were the same Justin until months after I started listening to both. It was both funny and silly when it finally clicked…

P.P.S. As I am writing this, I logged into my old home of Achaea to find that I’m 510 years old. If I got back into the MUD now, I would be one of the oldest players in the game. This is the description I have of my character, written back in my teenage years. Each player could set their own description, where others could see by looking at them. It went through many iterations over the years. By the time I stopped playing, he was probably over 100 years old:

He is a winged atavian and is not the vibrant youth he used to be. Gentle creases in his skin show signs of aging, although his firm posture remains indifferent to the effects of time. His build is thin and his many years in the sun have gifted him with a finely bronzed complexion. Wavy gray-black hair with streaks of white flow loosely past his shoulders, styled fashionably to offset the disparity in colours. Carefully preened wings quietly flutter behind his slender frame.


Music Challenge #12

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

I feel the quality of these tracks are starting to degenerate over the last few days. Must get over the hump.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Gaming

 

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Day 24: Adventures in ARK and The Longest Journey

Blaugust Entry, Day 24

Today was a day off from work. A large part of it was spent with my son. He turned four yesterday. We went to the forest preserve, took a walk on the bike trail, kicked the soccer ball around, rolled it down repeatedly off a hill, and picked up some acorns. Then, we went to the mall and visited the Lego store, then to the kid’s play-place, then to McD’s for lunch and a big serving of soft-serve ice cream. I took him to the music store to see if he would be interested in anything – I think he enjoyed pressing buttons on keyboards and turning turntables more than actually making sounds. I got him a cheap harmonica in the end. It’s a start, at least.

The evening was spent playing ARK and The Longest Journey. I have to say it was an interesting adventure in both.

In ARK, I went out on a hunting expedition with my Trike and Dilophosaurus to a nearby watering hole. It was a total disaster.

I wanted to find some larger prey, and maybe a Raptor to tame. I took on what I thought was a lone Trike. There were two of them. After a bit of a scramble, we managed to take care of them. It wasn’t over yet. I’m still getting used to my dinos’ aggression settings, and because of the way it was set, my Dilo decided to attack a pair of Stegos which were peacefully munching on grass. Armed with tranquilizer arrows, I ran to the rescue with my Trike and managed to finish them both off. I used quite a few of my arrows by then.

Deciding that I should head back, I pulled out my map and compass, as the terrain was heavily wooded and very hard to see past my surroundings. The path I took led me straight into a Carno, a big, bad, meat-eating machi…dino. It was one of those frozen, “Oh, shit…” moments. My dinos were set to passive aggression after the Stego incident, so they didn’t fight back. Amidst the confusion, I managed to set my Dilo’s aggression back to fight the Carno. I used up the rest of my remaining tranquilizer arrows on it while it managed to mortally wound my Trike. It killed my Dilo as well just before it went down. I barely escaped with my life.

I salvaged what I could of the meat and saddle from the corpses, and with no ammunition left, I checked my map once more and bolted for the direction of the shoreline where my fort would be. I made it home, breathless and shaken. It was my first major encounter and loss since my series of death as a naked straggler on the beach. I wish I had remembered to run Forge in the background so I would have something to show of it. Afterward, I tamed a couple more Dilos and another Trike to take the place of the old one. I need to practice controlling my dinos better so I don’t repeat this incident the next time I go out.

Later in the day, I spent some more time playing The Longest Journey. I finally reached Chapter Four, and it’s starting to get interesting. The long dialogues haven’t changed. One thing the game doesn’t lack is exposition and backstory. I pulled out my anatomy coloring book and set to work.

The one major conversation which impressed me so far today, and maybe in this game, is the one with Abnaxus, the Venar. They are a species who somehow transcend time, and perceive the past, present, and the future simultaneously. Their speech reflects this, and really brings about a fantastic flavor to the narrative beyond the usual fantasy and sci-fi tropes.

I was also impressed by the selection of books at the Sentinel Enclave’s library. They are akin to the lore books found in the Elder Scroll Series, but instead of being scattered throughout the world, there were these dozen or so selected books presented in this one location. Some were histories of the land, some were tales of legends, but they fleshed out the world of Arcadia with their selective glimpses into this magical world. From what I could gather from all the details of prophecies and whereabouts of sacred objects for my mission, it seems like I have a very long way to go. The Longest Journey, indeed.

Onward, to Day 25!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.


Music Challenge #11

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

Ugh.. the mix is pretty bad. That’s what happens when you use the same tone for all the guitar parts with a careless use of reverb. I apologize.

 

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Gaming, Life

 

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