Friday, March 31, 2017
So there we were, myself, Mrs. Minotaur and the kids, our second vessel capsized, the maroon Saturn's starter kaput, marooning us in the Prince Kuhio shopping center. (yes, we Hawaiians are big on our royalty, thank you, Britain)
Our second car in two weeks, blown out by a decade of tradewind-tossed sea salt and sulfur dioxide, from lava-boiled seawater. Note to all future voyagers: the Big Island kills cars and takes no prisoners.
We'd blown through over three thousand dollars now in cars, car repairs, hotel stays due to our technical homelessness, tows. And there we were, for the second Saturday in a row, stuck in a shopping center whose doors would be closing at midnight, with no repair shops open to even tow the car to. No spare clothes, no tent (all still at the campsite, 15 miles north-north west). A few cans of generic-Wal Mart chili, green beans, a handful of stray Nature Valley granola bars. Two cups-worth of potable drinking water in a gallon jug.
No friends or family or anyone we felt we could bring the car to. If we even attempted to stay in the car, security would come around, and then we'd have to go through the long, sordid and embarrassing process of explaining to them our current temporary house-less situation.
We had some money saved up, but at this rate, we would burn through it all and be left with nothing in short order. We'd tried for rentals but they'd all been snatched up, or only wanted "single tenants", and the others we couldn't get to because the cars kept dying.
GR and I were on the edge of nervous breakdown. I had to do some forced-breathing stuff to stop from hyperventilating.
Maybe we didn't know what the hell we were doing?
Maybe everyone on Oahu was right, maybe we'd made a huge mistake? Taken too big a risk?
Maybe this was the end? Maybe it was time to paddle back, with our broken sail, tail between our legs, to that big soul-sucking concrete jungle? Look in my family's eyes, stricken with shame, as they'd say, "We told you so."
"Just send out an SOS on Facebook. Instagram. Anywhere, anyhow. There's got to be someone around here that can help us!" I said, having already done it once, and not wanting to overstay the welcome in the particular home-schooling group that we'd joined up with. My stomach was literally wrenching with anxiety, bile burning the back of my throat as we tapped out on cooking our own food and just walked to the nearest fast food joint (Burger King). A little later, the kids were throwing gravel in the Starbucks parking lot, and we had to yell at them to stop, unable to get to a park, a beach, anything. They asked us, "When we'd have our house? When will we have our big house?" I think that was about the part we cried.
But within fifteen minutes of sending out the call for help on Facebook, we got one, then two, then three responses.
"Hey! Looks like you guys are in a bind! We'd love to help out some fellow homeschoolers. I'm putting the little one to sleep but let us know how long you need to stay!"
"We may have something to help you out more long term if you're having trouble with the rentals..."
GR worked it out with a super nice couple who happened to be transplants from Oahu as well. They'd had an entire bottom floor, with kitchen, bathroom, guestroom, unused for a year or more. They offered to pick us up.
As if by magic, the Saturn started as the sun went down (something to do with temperature and the swelling/shrinking of copper coils.) So we ended up driving over, and got put up for the night, with the offer of more if we needed it. The guy was super-friendly, wearing an Ergo carrier with his 18-month old. It was a little queen size thing in a small room, but it was the best bed I'd ever slept in.
I'd helped out a lot of homeless kids and families in my time at the social work job, but I don't think I really had any idea about what it's really like, till then.
Another lesson: do not be afraid to reach out! This is a hard one for introverts and lone-wolf DIY-types like myself and my wife. Especially on a place like the Big Island, your network, your ohana, the people around you are the most important thing you've got.
So we spent the next day in Hilo at our gracious guests place as ANOTHER family offered to help out with the vehicle. Another super nice group, the mom, dad, and a teenager came over. Dad was a super chill hippy-dude with a black bandana, a never-ending stream of Camel cigarettes, and crazy mechanic chops. He and his son worked on the car, basically for free, for the next day. He hoped he could get it done in half an hour, but what might've been just the battery or alternator turned out to be the starter itself, and later there was the issue of a slow gas leak in the return line...
All in all, they worked for two days, and we stayed two nights with our guests. The Minokids had a blast playing with the Hilo house-owners young ones- apparently they really wanted to meet more families as the homeschool group in Hilo town itself was a bit sparse. The mom made the kids corned beef and spinach/kale on rice (never heard of it myself, might've been a Philipino thing) and the dad set up the Raspberry Pi arcade machine for them to game on. I told the dad (who happened to have a computer programming degree like me) that if I ever hired on for Neofeud 2 or other Silver Spook Games projects, that I'd keep him on speed dial.
That's pretty much how stuff seems to work around these parts. They call East Hawaii "The Wild West", but really it's more like, "The Human West", in the sense that everything happens on a person-to-person and community scale. There's no giant government or corporate entity mediating all your relationships. There is some, mostly in the 'bigger' town, but it's limited. People help each other out, and when they need help, they get it. If you're a dick, then people are a dick to you. That seems to be why a lot of folks who try to make it here end up quitting. Cause they think they're in corporate, suburban America, where they can just lawyer up or call the cops on the neighbor's noise or dog or unpermitted structure and make people disappear. On Oahu, you could do that. But on the Big Island, you have to deal straight with the folks around you, for better or for worse.
So the really, really good news is, we've finally got our place, like a bonafide house with four walls, a roof, sink, hot water (paloma heater / point of use), washing machine, Time-Warner high speed internet, all that good 21st century amenity stuff. It's crazy to think that if we hadn't sent up the smoke signals through Facebook when we had, we might've never gotten the place. Almost like the whole nerve-wracking soul-wrenching breakdown thing was meant to be, some kind of synchronicity. We can chalk it up to dumb luck, but around here we've got a lot of woo-woo astral plane types who are in an alternate timestream of the 60's, and they would say it was the cosmic energy of the universe righting itself. The yin, equalizing the yang. Tekaa, doused by Tefitti.
Spiritual psychedelics and tangential political diatribes aside, the voyage of the (now functional) Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge II continues.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Adventure Gamers: http://www.adventuregamers.com/news/view/32466
The... Gooder News. :D
To make the poor ol' blog feel a little less like the fusty interior of a 1991 Toyota Corolla, left idle in a garage for decades, I'm going to be adding a sort of journal of myself, my wife, and our three and five year old's big move to the Big Island of Hawaii.
GR/Green Robot = my wife,
"Minokids" = the kids,
"Minobot family" = the family
"Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge" = our voyaging vessel, our Millenium Falcon.
Chronicles of the Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge
So the Minobot clan is now Moana-style voyaging out on the road on the Big Island of Hawaii, and so far so good! We've camped at two different spots, one with an awesome black-sand beach with nice old hippy surfers and Duke Kahanamoku-looking longboarders riding waves at dawn patrol. The town right up the street is filled with organic farmers, and tye-dye and dreadlocks in pretty much the norm. They have a gigantic park that is nicer than anything I've ever seen on Oahu, and all the parent's are super chill and friendly, not hovering over their single-child, throwing Disney toys at them, and getting all snooty, which is great. Everyone looks way, WAY happier here, and the guy I bought the car from ofered to pay my gas, by me a slurpee, AND wanted to come visit us camping. He told me his whole life story about working at crap mechanic shops and getting into not-so-good crowds on Oahu (missing teeth, I know the drug that was). But now he's got five kids and a place! he actually moved from the same ghetto area as we did to the Big Island too.
I told him about our plan to use some savings and go the zero-mortgage route (get land, get septic, build shack, build house) to home ownership and he was like,
"Ho, brah, I can't tell you how many times I stay went get ten grand in my pocket," as he fiddled with a tattoo of the island chain, interwoven with 'mana' triangle stripes. Next to it something that might've been a cryp symbol.
"So what happened?" I asked.
"I went spend'em on souped-up Hondas! So now we still renting. Shit," he said.
"Hey, at least it was fun!"
"Tru dat brah! Tru dat!" He laughed.
He could've been one of my at-risk youth students back in my accelerated-diploma class on Honolulu. The rent on his place is about 1/10 what it would be on the big city isle.
So anyway, the 5 and three year old minibots are having a blast seeing the eyeland, meeting new friends, playing in waterfalls and black sand beaches, all that. GR and I are getting our minimalist, zero-footprint lifestyle figured out. We've been living in essentially an 8x10 closet on Oahu anyway, and so having this huge lush island paradise to spend most of your time outside in feels so much bigger than the cramped 3 bedroom we were smashed in with five other loud, often difficult roommates, and a driveway you can't always use cause they have big conventions in the space.
With car and temporary living taken care of, we're moving on to scouting land and slightly longer term housing as we build our new place. I just had my first official "looking for property" meeting with a real estate agent yesterday, and he was operating out of a rust-roofed shack with about half-a-secretary. Many of the agents just wear slippers, and one is a homeschooling dad and organic farmer in an area called "Volcano". All really nice folks, with not nearly the amount of pretense that often comes with the industry. I looked at three different plots, one in a lush, wet area filled with native Ohia trees, about 2 miles from that nice town that looks like the 60's never stopped. a couple others were down near the beach, and one was a bit cooler up in the mountain, where you can see the beautiful snow-capped Mouna Kea from your window (tallest mountain in the world measured from the sea floor).
These plots were all going for between 4 and 7 thousand!
I also got some more info about the process of building from the ground up. Basically it looks like you buy the land, then you can rip/clear it (chainsaw / bulldoze the bush and trees) or just leave it for as long as you like. The next step, if you want to build *legally* you have to put septic tank on it, that's ten grand. So that's actually the most pricey thing, outside of the cost of the house, depending. Still need to get a quote with the Big Island Container guy who is going to look at our floor plan for a 40x8 container to be converted into an off-grid solar 2-bedroom tiny house. Cool thing is, they will blow torch the windows and door holes out, install the fixtures and such, and even drop the house right on your propertyy with a flatbed for a $400 moving fee.
Then, if Madame Pele, for some reason chooses to spill her fiery red hair and your subdivision is hit with a lava flow (10% chance over a century), then you just hire a $400 flatbed, and port your house over to the next space!
The real estate dude got all hushed at one moment and said he'd known a guy, living in a 10x10 box with a tarp out ON an actual lava flow. He's got three solar panels, a 12 volt battery, and since he lives on the flow, there are "cracks" in the pahoe hoe (new lava rock) where he's put a tube down inside. So his excrement is literally being immolated by 10,000 degree lava! How's that for waste management! "I can't recommend this method, of course," the agent said, smiling.
I'm on the very last stage of running through Neofeud with my tester (who's been busy till this weekend). I'm doing the programming and online work from inside a starbucks or even while sitting on a tropical beach (How's that for office space!) but I'm hoping to have the game in a commercial-ready state, so I can put a release date for Neofeud out there by this Monday. Once the game is out, if it does well, then we'll defintely be jumping on getting that land and house built up. If not, then I'm going to start teaching robotics and STEM again, and save up some more which will be easy with the super cheap rents around here. One place we're looking at renting si $300 a month plus work trade, which means you're weedwhacking bushes around avacado trees, making sure nothing gets in the taro patch, keep the cabin looking good. it's about 2-3 hours a week, which is no problem since we were planning to do some small-scale growing of food and having some goats at some point. Good practice!
Anyways, aloha from the Big Island, and we'll keep you updated!
So more chronicles of the Princess Kaiulani's Revenge (what we're calling our Mazda Tribute that we're roadtripping in).
We discovered lots of places, organic farms, homesteaders, etc. do "Work trades" which basicall ymeans you're cutting back bushes and weeds and tending to avacado trees, banana trees, etc, in return for either staying in a cabin or a schoolbus for free, or very low rent. One of these places we got a hookup through a Facebook group.
It seemed like a great deal as the couple (with three kids and a grandma) were going to let us stay on their three acre plot in return for just occasionally helping them clear out ferns and ohia and such from their land. Basically free rent!
We got there and they had basically a 4-month shanty/tent city with a quonset attached to some makeshift guava-wood stilts (cut from the land) with some tin roof and tarps thrown over. They had goats and chickens and ducks and bunnies all over the place (baby goat was sleeping in their bed).
The Minokids did like the animals and it was fun to at least see the petting zoo animals and play with them.
Bigger issue was the lady drank about a case worth of beer in one day and was chainsmoking the entire time. Plus they started up their generator at 5:30 inn the AM and the area we were camping out on had lots of rocks. Oh and they had a scary pitbull that went nutz and started barking angrily at the five year old and my wife in the morning when they went to go to the bathroom (porto-potty). Also, they had apparently run out of water in their catchment tank.
Not bad folks or anything, just, a little too rough, and a little too... Just not good at the homesteading thing, and not really suitable for our needs. GR was having flashbacks to her alkie uncle the way the lady was drinking and getting kinda belligerent.
So we stayed one night (hey, one free night, more to save for our home!) and then moved on. The guy was pretty cool though, turns out he was a computer programmer whom I might help out with a job if Neofeud does well. They also hooked us up with a land guy (trust-fund manager with like a hundred acres) to help us buy property, and also tipped me off to using my phone as a wi-fi hotspot. (Why I hadn't figured that out earlier is beyond me. Dum-dum!)
Big good news though is I called up the biggest (really THE) real estate company on the Big Island and got info on how to set up the buying process. We found some really nice, central land that is equidistant to the more creative / 60's-never-died town of Pahoa for when we want that vibe, but also just 5 minutes from the more established (but not Manhattan-like) Hilo town, with the university and the great Starbucks, etc. So Monday I'm gonna be going in to get the buying process rolling! Looks like a month, month and a half for the buying process with the escrow, closing, all that.
Also got in touch with an off-grid tiny-house builder who gave us a quote of about 37-42 dollars per square foot, or about $10,000 for a 256 sq-ft cabin. We might go up a bit from there so around $12-15 grand by the end if we go with that guy. "Have tools, will travel" is the motto. We've been living in basically 6x8 ft plus a tent to save as much as possible, so 10 x 20 should feel like the Palace at Versailles.
Now back to full-scale assault of Neofeud marketing on teh soshul medias!
So, this has been the eye of category-6 hurricane for The Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge, this week (I guess it could be worse, we could be in Syria, or in the EPA under Trump, but it's been nuts).
First off, our Mazda Tribute went out last Saturday, on the way to our camp site, and we ended up having to get it towed at 7 PM, which was bad enough. We had to get it towed to a Firestone 12 miles away (luckily the Farmers Insurance I got covered the tow), but it was just a lot of stress. So much so that I accidentally slammed my face into the edge of the driver door while going back and forth between the battery and the hood, and started bleeding out like I'd just been shot between the eyes, scaring the crap out of GR and the Minokids.
So we get towed, it's 7:30, it's like two miles to any hotels, and we're scrambling with 10% charge on the phone trying to find a hotel or a BnB or *somewhere* to sleep. All the hotels are like $190 a night, we're having trouble setting up an Air BnB so last minute, and the kids are crying about how they want to watch Moana again, but can't. We end up getting picked up in this big unmarked van by this old Philipino lady with some early-phase dementia, who was a used-car-salesman on Oahu. Who only wants to do deals in cash. She works for a place called, "Hula Shack", and is the shuttle driver to the little townhouses done up with grass-shack grass on the outsides. The chimneys were mai-tai straws (JK... I think).
So it's $120 a night at Aunty Mercede's Margaritaville "cash only" that ends up having a toilet that overflows every third flush and napkins that can be used for coffee makers, as she explained.
We need two nights, because Sunday there's no mechanics in.
Monday rolls around, and I walk two and a half miles to the Firestone to give them the run down, grab peanut butter, a baby-food jar of turmeric (I take a shot to settle my stomach every morning), diapers, wipes and a change of clothes. We spend most of the day indoors. We've been camping for the last two weeks so we cherish the wonders of modern technology such as running potable water, flush toilets, eletricity and wi-fi. Kids watch all the Moana and James and the Giant Peach that they want. Funny how cartoon adventurer's vehicles don't have solenoids and timing belts that can break down mid-voyage.
Monday evening and we're thinking, "Great, we're back on track! That was crazy..." and then I get a call from the mechanic, informing me that the Mazda's engine has frozen. Locked up. Dead as a doornail, Smalls. The mast is gone.
So that's almost three grand down the drain. And GR and I are spending most of that night shooting high-ball offers to every craigslist vehicle in the area, basically throwing cash out onto Hilo Town to get someone to bring their vehicle out ASAP so we don't have to hemorrhage any more cash on hotels.
End up reeling in a Saturn early-noughties S-Series... With right-side driver. Like, Tokyo Drift, and stuff. Actually, just an obsolete postal vehicle, apparently. So I take it for a spin, get used to driving like I'm in Britain but with American streets, and take it.
So yeah, I'm blazing through last-minute bug reports on Neofeud Wed, Thurs, Friday in park pavilions, in Wal Mart parking lots, running in and out of Starbucks. Trying to handle the media end of the spectrum, get all of the virtual Silver Spook Games store set up... much of the time with no car, and no real place to be other than a campsite, an Air BnB, or this great place called The Reeds Hotel (when kama'aina (locals) want a getaway).
And then the Saturn dies, on launch day.
Looking back on it now, I'm regretting not just soldiering through another month at our old cramped place on Oahu, at least while getting the game out the door. Would've saved a whole lot of headache and probably would've kept the ulcers and hyperventillation to a minimum.
Then again, reception for Neofeud has been really great, thus far. Everyone who has bought the game (Thank you, all you WGBers who have, you know who you are) has given good-to-ecstatic reviews, which is more than I could've hoped for. Mainly I was just hoping the game wouldn't totally crash on everyone's computer due to some Windows Update version horsecrap or a Trojan or a Kuang MK-5 virus that snuck in there from that time I clicked on the fake Neuromancer movie trailer. The fact that it's "everyone" (plural) rather than "that one guy" who bought the game, is great news as well.
So everything in stride. I'm sure this will all be one jolly hilarious odyssey to be told and retold to Minobots and Robotaur spawn and prototypes for generations to come.
But right now, it is kinda fucking terrifying at times.
Since Princess Ka'iulani I, the Mazda, capsized and went to the bottom of the sea/junkyard, I'm calling the Saturn "Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge II". It currently awaits repair, but as it was going down, we managed to send out distress beacons from the deserted island of a Burger King, to Facebook, especially groups in the vicinity. We were bailed out by a magnanimous homeschooling photographer dad who had a Street Fighter II machine arcade box build out of a Raspberry PI sitting in his living room. The family happened to have an entire unused ground floor of their four bedroom (we got the guest room essentially) and that's where we're staying tonight, to avoid becoming fodder for ever circling Hula Shack shark lady, and meth-addled homeless crazy guy at Lincoln Park (no shit) who starts shadow-boxing at everyone, because he thinks they stole his iPhone's sim card.
We've also got a second lifeline from another one of the 'homeschool hui' (group) who's apparently got a more long-term solution for us. Ultimately, we'd've probably been fine if at least ONE of our cars hadn't broken down less than a week after buying them. We were going to go check out potential rentals, but kept getting stranded!
But hey. We're wayfinders, here. We'll find a way. It's what we do.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
First off, thank you, the AGS community, for helping make Neofeud as great as it can possibly be. You've played a vital role in taking this project from a figment of a deranged individual's imagination to a fully-fledged adventure game.
I've just announced the release date of Neofeud as March 25.
So please, spread the good word to your friends, the interwebz, etc. that the release date for Neofeud is March 25 and they can pre-order on the Patreon site and get the Neofeud soundtrack FREE!
Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/neofeud
Silver Spook Games website: http://silverspookgames.com
Thanks again for all your help, and if Neofeud does well, there may be a sequel or other new Silver Spook Games project in the cards!
Monday, March 6, 2017
The big news in Neofeud is of course the brand-spanking new trailer highlighting some of the great voice talent on board. But other than that, I've spent most of the past week cutting, editing, and mastering audio, then inserting it into the game at a rate of about a couple hundred lines a day. At this point, I've got almost all of the eight or so main characters (3000 + words of dialog) cut and into the game.
Once that is complete, there's just some final testing and tweaks, and then Neofeud is off to the presses!
Speaking of which, I am in the process of investigating potential distribution methods, including Steam, GOG, Itch.IO, Gamejolt and self-distribution. I will likely end up using some combination of these, and Neofeud will become available via more channels and hopefully on more platforms over time.
Here's the full status report:
-Voice Acting 95% - The above list is the remaining parts that need to be cast. Do hit me up if you think you'd be interested in voice acting for Neofeud!
-Debugging 90% - The remaining debugging mostly involves making sure the audio is working correctly, that characters aren't suddenly 'swapping voices' and the sonic mix is right. With 60,000 words and around 5,000 lines of dialog, just the cutting and editing process has been a monumental task, but it's nearly finished at this point.
-Music & Sound FX 85% - Working on this simultaneously with the above!
Thanks again to all the voice actors/actresses, testers, patrons, word-spreaders, supporters, nice-word-sayers, and everyone else whose helped make Neofeud a reality!