Upstairs Room Software

My most recent post was about me reminiscing back to the days of my youth and my love for Commodore Computers.  I wanted to paint a little of my history with computer gaming before jumping into my latest personal project, which is indie game designing and publishing.

Late in 2015 sometime before Christmas I started to toy with the idea of making games for the younger kids in my family.  Half the time when they are riding with me in the car they have their noses in their Ipad or Android devices playing a game.  It got me remembering my youth and how much I enjoyed gaming, and I thought it might be fun to try and make personalized games for the grand-kids.

I did some research online and came across a program called RPG Maker that allows people like myself with limited to no programming experience to make games.  The more I read up on the software the more I liked the idea and was pretty sure I could pull it off by Christmas 2016.  So I paid the $80 for RPG Maker MV and got to work.

Less than a month into my creation process and learning to use the software, I got to thinking about how fun it would be to actually make some games similar to those that I played as a kid on the Commodore 64 and Amiga 500.  I decided to do a little more research as I knew RPG Maker MV was not going to work as a game design engine for what I wanted to do.  It was great for making anime looking RPG styled games, but it wasn’t usable for much else.  That was when I came across programs called Game Maker and Construct 2.  I downloaded free versions of both programs and played around with them.  After a week of tooling around trying to get familiar with the software, I decided I would focus my efforts on Construct 2.

I jumped right into learning how to to use Construct 2 with a vengeance.  Scirra, the company behind Construct 2, has a great web page with lots of resources.  I found some game making tutorials and started making my own platform style game.  For those of you not familiar with what a platform game is, it is what Super Mario Brothers was on the Nintendo back in the 80s, or like what Pitfall was on the Atari 2600.  Platform games were popular back in the 80s and into the 90s.

At the same time I was working on my first platform game, I was also heavily debating if I would try to market any of the games I had in my head that I wanted to make.  I wanted to make retro games, games that had the look and sound of the old 8 and 16 bit games like I used to love playing in the 80s and early 90s.  And since my brain was so intently focused on those good old days, I decided to name the publishing company of my games “Upstairs Room Software”.  Yep, if you read my last blog post you know all about Upstairs Room Software.

A web site it up and everything, so go check it out.

Here is the link:  UPSTAIRS ROOM SOFTWARE

I don’t know if I will generate any revenue down the road from any games I make and try to sell.  But if I can put some gas in the truck once in a while and buy my wife a dinner out, then it will be worth it.  If nothing else, so far it has been a lot of fun.

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Commodore 64 and Computer Game Mid-Life Crisis

As I sit and wrote this latest post I am forty-two years old. I am not sure if I am having a mid-life crisis, but I suppose it may be possible, as I have been looking back at my youthful days more often lately.  It’s rather funny, because I remember as a kid hearing about and seeing first hand men in their 40s and 50s going through their mid-life crisis, and for them it was all about street rods, younger women, buying a crotch-rocket, dressing like Don Johnson in Miami Vice, etc…etc…

For me I keep thinking about fishing and hunting trips I took with my dad, and Commodore computers like the C64 and Amiga 500.  Throw in a Van Halen (Van Hagar) or Huey Lewis song, and I’ll start to weep ever so softly when I think about playing a computer game on my C64 called “The Bard’s Tale”.

My first introduction to ‘gaming’ was back in the early 80s when my parents bought my sister and I something called an Atari 2600.  Little did I know, or my parents for that matter, that my life would forever be different because of that Atari console.  We didn’t have a lot of games for it back when they were still popular, maybe fifteen or so, but man I sure was a skillful player when it came to kicking butt in classics like “Combat”, “Haunted House”, and “Warlords”.  In 1984 my family moved from Tomah, Wisconsin to Hudson, Wisconsin, and that was when I met some new kids who had Ataris just sitting around collecting dust, as by 1984 other options in gaming had been out, such as the Commodore Vic-20, Commodore 64, and then in 1985 the Nintendo to name a few.  I was still playing around with my Atari 2600 during 1984 and 1985, and since my friends weren’t using theirs, I collected a lot of games that I fell in love with playing.

s_Pitfall_2

Atari 2600 game, Pitfall!

Those ‘new’ Atari games were not new at all, but they were to me, and they all seemed to have a theme that evolved around quests, adventure, and escapism.  Games like “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Adventure”, “Pitfall”, and the classic “Asteroids”.  Holy crap I could loose a couple hours easy just sitting there playing those games and swapping cartridges every twenty minutes… When playing Asteroids I actually wore an old snowmobile helmet with a dark visor pretending I was wearing a space helmet piloting my space ship!  I hope there are no pictures of me wearing that helmet in front of the TV playing games. Continue reading

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An Unwanted Late Night Visitor

In the past I have written about “Sterling Oaks”, the name given to the land and cabin that I own along with some family members, with much fondness.  It is a great place.  Clean, entirely off grid with solar power, gas and wood heat, and the basic comforts.  No TV, no computer, barely get cell phone reception.  It’s nice to have a place to go and be able to get away from it all.  It is somewhat remotely located, off the beaten path so to speak, which gives it much of its charm in my eyes.

This time of year I spend much of my weekends up there, usually starting in late September through to February.  I hunt, and really enjoy being in the woods during the Autumn months more than any other time of year.

Last weekend I was up alone doing some bow-hunting.  Friday night, October 30th, it started to rain at about 10PM.  That was when I decided to turn in for the night and checked to make sure all the doors were locked (I am a fanatic when it comes to locking doors).  Around 3AM I woke up from a peaceful slumber and began to toss and turn for a few minutes before deciding to go outside for some fresh air.  I got out of bed, grabbed my LED flashlight, put on my shoes, and headed outside.

To get outside I have to unlock the main door and then step out into an enclosed porch.  The enclosed porch has a heavy sliding door, also locked, that needs to be opened before stepping out onto a covered deck.

So after I get outside I wandered around the area between the cabin and my SUV, all within fifteen yards of the cabin’s covered deck.  It was overcast, drizzling, and very dark.  After shinning my flashlight into the woods a few times looking for glowing eyes of critters and not seeing any, I decided to head back inside before getting too damp.

Stepping back onto the covered deck is when I noticed something startling.  There were wet boot prints on the deck planking.  They went right up to the sliding glass door that led into the enclosed section of the house.  I could see where I had walked over them as I walked across the deck, so they had been there when I walked out moments before.  The foreign boot prints had stopped at the sliding door and looked like they had shuffled there a few times before walking back the way they came and off the porch.  It was immediately obvious to me that somebody had been lurking outside my cabin very recently in the dark, and had been looking into the enclosed section of the porch where I kept a cooler and some hunting gear (backpack, camo hunting clothing, and a few other items of no real interest or value).

dark figure

An unwanted visitor lurking in the dark

I was instantly alarmed and my heart started jack-hammering.  I shined my light back towards my SUV and noted the windows were not broken, then I went back inside the cabin locking the doors behind me.  I went back to my bedroom and clicked off my flashlight and debated turning on some lights both inside and out.  The cabin windows are high off the ground, but many of them do not have shades.  So I knew if I turned on the lights that the person or persons outside would be able to see me easily within.  I didn’t like the thought of that.  I decided to leave the lights off and considered calling the county sheriff to report a trespasser.  I had the feeling that I was probably over reacting, and decided to wait and look around outside in the morning to see if anything was missing from around the cabin, and then call in and report trespassing and theft.  After all, this has happened a few times over the past years in my neighborhood back home, where people had their cars broken into and things stolen because they hadn’t locked their doors.  This to me seemed like a similar situation, except that the lurker also looked in the glass windows of the enclosed and locked porch.

I’m sure that whomever had been out there was looking for a quick score on some hunting gear; bows and or guns.  They were probably hoping my car was unlocked and there was gear to be found there, or perhaps on the enclosed porch.  I would think that most people with nefarious intent like that would not be so bold as to try and enter into a cabin in those particular woods, realizing that the odds of the person or persons inside being armed was a high probability.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason I woke up was because I heard something out of the ordinary outside.  I do tend to be a light sleeper and wake up to unfamiliar sounds.  The more I thought about that the more I believed that was indeed the case.  I also began so suspect that the lurker or lurkers may have been outside hiding behind a wood pile watching and listening to me move about the yard in the dark.

The thought of that creeped me out.  Big time.  I got more than a little annoyed thinking about it.

I never go to the cabin unarmed.  Just a habit I have always had.  So I laid there on my bed unable to sleep a wink with my 1911 loaded and close at hand.  Luckily dawn came rather quickly.  I kept myself busy since I couldn’t sleep by reading a book in my Kindle.

Once it was light outside I got up and went out for a look around the property.  I didn’t see anything damaged or missing.  Nor did I see any other tracks.  I checked the dirt road but there was nothing.  Whomever had been there was at least careful to an extent to where they walked as to not leave any signs of their presence behind… but stepping up onto the covered deck with wet boots was all it took to give them away, at least until their tracks dried up.

I of course report the incident to the County Sheriff.

Be safe out there-

 

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What’s New?

Been a few months since I posted anything.  I has been a long winter but spring is here!

DragonsofAutumnTwilight_1984original

Dragons of Autumn Twilight – an easy and quick read

I spent most of the winter months reading a lot of fantasy.  I think the first fantasy book I ever read was back in the 80s, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, sucked me into the world of elves, dwarves, knights, dragons…etc…etc…  And what a fun ride that was.  I soaked up the novels that followed that one and couldn’t get enough as an early teenager.  It was also about that time I was discovering the classics, such as Great Expectations, Tom Sawyer, and The Three Musketeers.  But I have to admit the fantasy novels really pulled at me, and soon I was reading Robert E Howard’s stories about Conan and Solomon Kane, and of course Tolkien.

Well, like I said, over the winter months I hunkered down to reread some of those novels I had first encountered back in the 80s and had a good time if it.  Recently, over the past month I have been dabbling more in writing and started (I am always good at starting, but not finishing) writing a fantasy story of in a world I made up/created.  Have to admit it’s been a lot of fun, and even got my wife involved helping me think of clever names for rivers, woods, cities, and of course some characters.  So far I have nine solid chapters written that I pounded out in the past three weeks, about 25k words total.  The outline is pretty much fleshed out for the book, and even have some solid events on paper for a continuation of some characters in a second book.

Of course between all the reading over winter and the writing in the spring there has been the usual stuff I like to do; watch movies, go hiking, spend time up north, fishing, hanging out with the dog, chilling with the wife… you get the idea.

Anyway I just wanted to chime in here… Maybe in the next few weeks I will post a sample from the latest story.

 

 

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A Social Commentary

 

Okay men, listen up!  You have heard of the age old expression “if a tree falls in the woods and there is nothing there to hear it fall, does it still make a sound?”.  Well, you want to know what I think?  I think who cares!  That’s what I think.

The more important question is this: If a man is all alone in the woods, and there are no women around who can hear him, and he says something…is he still wrong?

At this point I know my friend Carl has probably already left the computer and has gone to ask his wife what she thinks.  For everybody else, don’t be like Carl.  The answer to that question is this: we are men and we are never wrong!  Sure, sometimes we have to let the women folk think they are right and we are wrong, sometimes we have to say sorry in order to restore what the women think is ‘the balance’.  But let’s face it, we are never wrong.

The hunting seasons are upon us!  Don’t apologize and give in!  Stand up and fight for your right as a man to go hunt.  We are never wrong.  Not even when we leave the toilet seat up, and yes I do that on purpose often as a passive aggressive reminder to the wife that she lives in a man’s world.

So go out and proudly order a “No MAAM” shirt and wear it with pride!

Screen shot from the sitcom Married With Children.  Ed O'Neill as Al Bundy

Screen shot from the sitcom Married With Children. Ed O’Neill as Al Bundy

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Pre Season Deer Scouting

 

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and this year’s fall season has been one of the best that I can remember in a very long time.  The temperatures we have been having in Northwest Wisconsin have been warmer than usual for this time of year, not too warm, but a good ten to fifteen degrees warmer during the day.  The evenings up until recently have not been very cold either, as we have only had a few evenings so far with hard frosts.  Rain has not been too abundant, but for the most part we have had a lot of rain overall for the year – all of these factors mean the fall colors on the trees have been plentiful and have lasted longer than usual.  Another bonus is that the bugs have not been bad, and after a few light frosts a four weeks earlier have been pretty much non-existent.

The lodge

The lodge.

This past weekend I got away and headed up to the cabin in the woods I own with several other family members.  I have written about our ‘lodge’ before on this blog.  It is a fantastic place to get away from the daily grind and relax.  It is completely off-grid, secluded, and oh so comfortable.  With that said I actually didn’t spend much time in or around the cabin, instead I was in the woods to do some pre-season deer scouting, do some work on my ground blinds I like to hunt from, and get a little more comfortable with a new rifle I purchased earlier in the year that I plan to use moving forward for most of my North American hunting.

The cabin is surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of public land, and it does get hunted heavily during the Wisconsin bow and deer gun seasons.  As such, the opening weekend of the deer gun season is the busiest with the most hunters in the woods during that time.  On public land you cannot setup permanent stands or blinds.  You can carry in portable tree stands to use, or perhaps find a nice tree to lean up against or sit next to, or gather up dead trees limbs and build a ground blind.

My favorite ground blind to hunt deer from

My favorite ground blind to hunt deer from among a mix of jack pines and northern pin oak.

I’m all about ground blinds, they do a great job of breaking up a hunter’s profile while out in the woods.  I actually maintain four different ground blinds in the general area of the public woods I hunt in, and typically only use one to hunt from.  By maintaining the other blinds it makes it appear to other potential hunters out scouting that there are actually more people in my section of woods than there really is.  Sneaky, I know, and it usually works to keep other hunters a little further away.

The key to success in hunting public land on the opening weekend of gun season in Wisconsin is not to move from your stand.  I walk into the woods just before first light and get myself situated in my blind, and then I will sit all day long on that one spot, never getting up to walk around, or go back to my truck to get warmed up, or back to the cabin for lunch.  The best way to see deer on the opening weekend is to stay put.  Other hunters will get cold and need to walk around, or go back to their vehicles – and that is precisely when you start seeing deer, when the hunters are moving them around because they can’t sit still on their stands.  And because my section of the woods has less hunters, it is quieter, and the deer get pushed my way.

A view from a ground blind

A view from a ground blind.

When I sit down in my deer blind I am ready for a long day of staying hunkered down.  I dress in layers to help stay warm, and bring with me hand warmers and a backpack full of day supplies.  Usually I will have a nice lunch prepared that I can eat without to much fuss or commotion, as well as a few snacks to nibble on throughout the day.  And of course a thermos full of hot chocolate and a bottle of water.  Along with my food items I also carry some emergency items like matches, a compass, thermal blanket, para-cord, and a compact first aid kit to name a few.

A view from another blind

A view from another blind, with my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle and field gear.

As well as working on my deer blinds this past weekend I also brought my newest rifle with me.  For the past twenty years I have always carried a Marlin lever action rifle chambered in 45/70 when hunting big game.  Earlier this year I bought a Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle and plan on using it from this point forward.  I wrote about this new rifle earlier in the year on this blog, and you can follow this LINK to read all about it, and what makes this gun so special to me.  If you could only have one rifle and that rifle had to do a great many things equally well…what rifle would that be?  Well, when I answered that question my answer is the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle (RGSR).

I have spent a lot of time at the gun range with my RGSR getting familiar with it there, and I have also spent some time taking it with me on walks in the woods and practicing my field shooting positions with it.  I am really starting to feel comfortable with the new gun, much like I felt with my big-bore Marlin over the past two decades.  But this last weekend was one last chance to spend some quality time carrying it with me in woods prior to the opening of the Wisconsin gun deer season coming in a few weeks.

MRE lunch, crackers with cheese, potato/bacon chowder soup, beef ravioli main dish, and chocolate pudding for dessert

MRE lunch: crackers with cheese, potato/bacon chowder soup, beef ravioli main dish, chocolate pudding for desert, complete with a condiment pack and water activated heater for cooking my food.

I spent the first few hours of the day on Saturday adding some brush to my various blinds.  It was a perfect day with a slight breeze of the Northwest, mostly sunny, with temps in the upper 30s.  After the work was done, I started walking.  It was a such a nice day out that I spent the next six hours just hiking around the woods and scouting for deer sign.  I sat down a few times under various trees to take in the scenic woods, and even find a comfy place to have lunch.  I was well prepared for the day, as I knew that I was going to be out in the woods for the majority of it.  I had with me a shoulder bag with some of my basic emergency gear like I mentioned above, as well as a larger back pack that I used to carry along an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), a light blanket, some toilet paper (just in case), as well as a couple bottles of water, a few extra snacks, and some other goodies such as predator calls.

It was good being out in the woods.  It certainly has a way of revitalizing the soul.  And I have to admit I am looking forward to the coming gun deer season eagerly and can’t wait to put some venison in the freezer.  I’m not a trophy hunter, never have been.  It’s more about just being out with nature, putting some food on the table, and spending some time with family and friends.

Want to read more about the Scout Rifle Concept, check out this link here: SCOUT RIFLE FORUM

Want to read about deer camp and what the fuss is about:  WHAT IS DEER CAMP?

Just for men:  The devastating affects of the ‘look’, an evil power controlled by women

 

 

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Writing and Editing – Frustration!

Okay, so last night I went to bed and as usual I was laying there all comfy with my Kindle Fire surfing the net and checking the latest news.  When done getting updated on the latest news from around the country and world, I switch over and find some fiction to read until I get drowsy and decide to put the Kindle away and go to sleep.

Writing and Editin

Writing and Editing – writing is fun, editing sucks!

Last night I decided to go back and read ‘Duel at Strolling Ponds’.  I usually don’t read the works I have published after they are published… I don’t know why, I just don’t like to do it.  Anyway, as I am laying there next to a snoring Miss Nancy, I and have a good time perusing through number two of the Shogoro story when I notice a spelling error.  I can’t begin to explain how much it bothers me to find stupid spelling errors in my writing AFTER publication.

When writing I typically just get the words typed out and keep moving forward.  Yes, when my auto spellchecker indicates an error as I type I will almost always stop what I am doing and fix it.  But for the most part I rely on re-reads and editing to find and fix errors.  Then, after I finish a story Continue reading

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Publish another short chapter, or wait?

I’ get a few emails a week or more regarding the “Tales of Katsume Shogoro”, a couple of short stories that are linked in a series and published on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, to name a few online retail sites.  Mostly the emails ask me to hurry up and publish the next part of the story, some ask me to wait and just complete the entire novel and then publish.

I’m torn.  I want to put more of the story out, and have a few sections completed and ready to publish much like the first two, but a large part of me tells me I should just wait and finish the entire book and then publish.  I dunno what to do!

I’m tempted to continue to publish short stories in the tale of Katsume Shogoro, the vengeful ronin, and then maybe when I get half of the story done, compile the first batch of tales into one larger book.

Anyway, just sharing my thoughts here…

 

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What’s New!

 

Been getting a few emails from people asking me for a web site update.  Sorry for the major lapse in posting, but it has been one very busy summer!  Just to give you a taste of what I mean, I have attended three weddings within the past five weeks, not to mention all the other things going on.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, and soon things will be quieting down once again.

So stay tuned, I will be posting some things again soon.

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Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle Review

 

As I write this post I am in the middle of my fortieth year of life on this blue planet we call Earth.  I’ve been hunting since the age of twelve.  Longer than that if I count the forays into the woods that I did with my dad and uncles before I was able to carry a gun of my own to hunt with.  I’ve owned several different firearms that could be used for various sizes of wild game, but mostly when it came to North American Big Game, such as black bear and white tailed deer, I have been using a Marlin lever action rifle, Model 1895 chambered in the venerable 45-70.  The recoil from a 300 grain hollow point bullet fired out of that Marlin would be considered punishing by many people, and a person shooting such a round would need to become stout towards such shoulder pounding recoil when firing multiple rounds at the gun range.  But when it comes to big game, the 45-70 really packs a wallop, and offered a fairly flat trajectory out to 110 yards that truly knocks big game down.  However, beyond that range the round’s trajectory would quickly start to drop, and a real marksman would need to understand distances, bullet drop, and hold-over techniques.  I hunted with my Marlin using iron sights exclusively, and mostly in woods where a chance at a shot beyond 110 yards was rare.

I’ve used that model 1895 Marlin for the past eighteen years for all my big game hunting and it served me well.  But this year in 2014 I am going to set aside my beautiful lever action in favor of a new gun I recently acquired; a Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle.

Scout Rifle – Concept

Col. Jeff Cooper, May 1920 to September 2006

What is a Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle?  To answer that question we must first examine what a ‘scout rifle’ is, or what it is characterized to be.  People involved in the hobby of target shooting, hunting, and personal defense have probably heard of Colonel Jeff Cooper.  Colonel Cooper graduated from Stanford University with a degree in political science and received a commission into the United States Marine Corps.  He fought in World War Two and Korea.  In the mid 60s he got his masters degree in history from the University of California.  He was the creator of what is known as the “modern technique” of handgun shooting (every time you see a law enforcement officer hold their handgun with both hands you can thank Cooper), he was one of the 20th century’s foremost experts on the use and history of small arms, was considered an expert in the field of big game hunting, had written several books, and founded the Gunsite Academy in 1976 in Arizona.  He was also the man who came up with the concept of the “general purpose rifle”, which he dubbed as a scout rifle back in the early 80s.

Cooper’s concept for the scout rifle was based on this: If you could only have one rifle, and that rifle needed to do a great many things equally well as applied to hunting, tactical defense, offense, and survival, what would that rifle be?  If you are a person who enjoys shooting, or hunting, or defense, or survivalism, or a combination of the four, ask yourself that question right now…If you could only have one rifle, and that rifle had to do a great many things equally well, what would that rifle be? Continue reading

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