Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Into the RIFT... Or, My life as a White Dude.

Boy am I glad the NDA was lifted today...

I have been chomping at the bit to tell everyone about RIFT, and finally I now have the opportunity, with pictures I hope (I really need an online storage space).

Last blog I spoke a bit about Rift, the new MMORPG (massively multiplayer, online, role playing game), in the hopes that I would be one of the chosen few in the closed beta testing sessions. Actually I think when I wrote it, I had JUST gotten my VIP beta key. Now I have been on the other side of the login screen, and man have I got tales to tell. Where to begin, where to begin...

First of all, What IS Rift?

You could simply click here  or, I can give you a brief summary. Rift is about a world named Telara that is under siege. Telara was a world built near the nexus of the elemental planes (earth, air, fire, water, life, and death), and as such is in a prime position from all these elements, who desire to conquer it for their own gains (except for death, the lord of death just wants it wiped out.... no surprise there.) Now on this world under attack are a few races, separated by geography, but united in their belief that their world will die if they do not do something. The problem is, some of the races feel the only way to do it is to rely on their Gods (who are living dieties, no guessing games as to whether their Gods exist), and the other races would rather look towards science and the research of the planes themselves to find a way to "fight fire with fire". These factions are thusly called The Guardians, and the Defiant, respectively. Things really got to a head sometime in Telara's past, and when the player is thrust into what is unanimously considered "present day", the world is at a point where both factions are at war with each other, as well as at war with the elemental planes, in a dog eat dog bid for survival.

I know, pretty intense huh?

Now for this past weekend's beta testing, we, the players, were asked to become part of the Guardian side of the fight. From that standpoint we could get an idea of what the world was like through the eyes of the faithful of Telara, who look to their Gods for help. I did not have issue with this since I want to play an Inquisitor, so religious fervor it would seem would play into my roleplaying hands perfectly. To begin with, we are treated with this video:

Pretty good setup. Ok so I am reborn by the Gods into a world at war.

Now my first and probably only major beef with the game was that as I created my character, it dawned on me that none of the races really gave me an option to create.... a BLACK dude! According to the lore the human race in this faction (The Mathosians) are from the north, and as such, are caucasian, to almost olive skinned. Nothing darker. Needless to say I was a bit taken aback. You mean to tell me no black folks have the spirit of the Gods moving in them? Wow... Apparently there are no Baptist churches in Telara, at least near the Guardian city of Sanctum. Of course, the Defiant side have humans called the Eth, and since they are from the south, they can get pretty dark. No worries when the game goes live, but it meant that I would have to live with being a white dude this weekend. There's a twist, the whitest black dude... literally. (Note- the next beta event I will have the option of choosing Defiant if I want, so I can be as black as i choose to be.)

So armed with the "holy spirit", Belenos the cleric began his journey. The first thing  I noticed in the keep of Sanctum was that not all the souls (ie- professions) were available from the get go. Granted MINE was, since I wanted to go Inquisitor, but there were a number of folks that were a bit miffed that they could not get straight to the soul they wanted to be. This is an issue that will also be rectified in the next beta, which already is a plus for Trion, since it means they actually LISTEN to their player base....  +1 to Trion.

The starter area was well laid out for the Guardian side... and it took me a while before I came to the realization that I am actually placed in Telara's PAST! I was able to gain levels as well as understanding about the war going on, even if at times I felt I was not really doing much to save the citizenry from almost certain doom. At this point I opted to go it alone, since the world was bright and new, and I needed to concentrate on what I am doing. Probably just as well, since just as soon as I start getting to the crux of the problems on Telara, I am asked to fight an epic battle against the lord of Death, Regulos, and though it takes my life, I end up winning.

Suddenly I awoke.... and found myself here.

A place called Port Scion. (That's me with the huge hammer on my back, sitting by the water's edge). I was informed that many years had passed, and once again the world is in peril. The most important thing  I noticed this time around was there were way more PLAYERS than NPCs in this zone! The quest NPCs by the way show chat bubbles or quest icons over their heads, so in a way it was easy to figure out where to go, or whom to see in order to advance myself to the next area. Some might see this as handholding, but considering it was my first time in the world, I kind of needed that. I get distracted easily and might have spent all of Friday night simply swimming in the bay. (It was pretty sweet looking). I eventually made my way up into Silverwood Forest, where the bulk of my adventuring would be, and my leveling.

At this point I should pause to explain one of the key differences between Rift, and other MMOs. The soul tree. Most MMOs will have you choose one path, and you get leveled along that path till you are max level, and that is it. If you want to experience another path, you have to make another alt. If you are lucky your game has in it an expertise tree so you can add some extra skills and attributes as time goes on.

Rift does it differently. The soul tree is your path, but here is the kicker. You can have THREE! Not to mention there are 8 souls, per calling (the callings are Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, Mage), and you can save 4 loadouts of your trees, making the possibilities pretty impressive for whatever you want to be. You can also change this at any time. SO let's say I want to be a healer who also does some wicked melee attacks, and does some ranged DPS. Well I can be an Inquisitor / Justicar. Justicars heal the more they attack using their hammers, or mauls. Inquisitors do ranged DoTs and so on. Now as time goes on, if I wanted to add a third soul I could pick any of the other 5 available to me, and level up in that, adding the skills of that soul to my existing tree. Pretty darn ingenious if you ask me. The system is not yet perfect, but for what it is, it is really well thought out considering the game is only in beta.

As i journeyed onwards, I was treated to the meat and potatoes of the game in a most exciting way. I was standing in the forest, having just finished organizing my new skills, when suddenly the sky darkened, the sound boomed, and lo and behold, a rift opens up above my head! There is nothing to prepare you for the sheer awe that is a rift opening! One moment, it is a beautiful afternoon with birds chirping, next, you are standing amidst a lava strewn land with demons and goblins spawning all around you.... and worst of all, THEY SEE YOU! Only one thing for it... RUN!!!!

The above picture is an example of what the goblins look like. Some have stayed on Telara to start a foothold for their elemental plane (Fire), and are part of the quests you have to kill, but these goblins are nothing compared to the invasions that pour in when a rift opens. Since rifts are dynamic, if players do not seal them off post haste, they will eventually spawn enough invaders to take over the towns, villages, etc... and let me tell you that is not a pretty sight, especially if they are stronger than you, travel in numbers, kill you multiple times, then camp the spawn point when your soul is revived... AND kill the soul healer woman who removes your death penalty. I had just such an experience with the Satyrs that spawn from the life rifts. They hate me with a passion for some reason, and took every opportunity to wipe me out, especially if I was travelling alone, or decided, "let me sit for a while and enjoy the countryside". Luckily the chat system is pretty robust, so at any given time the call can be sent out to general chat, level specific chat, profession specific chat, guild, group, or just plain yelling that help is desired. Not surprisingly, in short order, a bunch of players will drop what they are doing and run to help seal off the rift. Talk about a community effort. I am sure I do not need to tell you that those sinister Satyrs did not last long enough to revel in destroying little old me the first time.

It was indeed impressive to see so many players run out to help whenever the call went out, and when it was all said and done, and the world peaceful again, you can TELL the calm has returned. If only for a few minutes... the world went back to being serene, the NPCs came back out (respawned if they were killed), and life returned to that relative normalcy on Telara that would allow you to go on your merry way questing and leveling your character.

Speaking of the world, I know I only got a small taste of it, one zone to be precise, but can I just say WOW. I am a visual person. A game has to have incredible graphics to interest me, and I admit that was part of what drew me to this particular one... It is also one of the main reasons why I will never play World Of Warcraft. I cannot stand their graphics. In Rift, everything looked like it was done with some degree of intricacy and care, right down to my garb. Chainmail rings glinted in the sun, while the sun dappled through leaf canopies overhead. My Maul of doom looks like it has been through some battles but is not much more tarnished than I would expect it to be since I take care of my items. The buildings fit the scenery, and although doors on the buildings do not open (a minor letdown), You really do not need to get inside the buildings to appreciate their architectural beauty... Except the INN... You HAVE to see the Inn in Argent Glade. I was hanging out in there for a couple hours in between life rift invasions. My favorite though would have to be the lush countryside. As I stated a little earlier there were times  I just wanted to sit by the road and take in the scenery. Of course my mistake was to sit in areas that would happen to have a significance to any invading elemental armies. Quite a few times my rest was interrupted by these interlopers.

Now unfortunately I missed most of Saturday's game time, since I had a party to go to where  I had promised I would cook. (It was great by the way), but Saturday night I was back on Telara, smashing and smiting my way to the capital city of Sanctum, as well as joining forces with some really great people for the good of getting a bunch of story related missions done, as well as sealing the occasional rift or ten.

One of the few complaints I had being a Cleric was that my healing skill was not up to the par of some of the other clerics, but I realize now that the way I meted out my skill points in my two soul trees (Inquisitor and Justicar, remember) left me in the position of being mainly offensive with no real strong defense, let alone the all crucial heal. Come next beta session I intend to revamp that. Some have told me that I chose two professions that really do not mix well with each other, but I beg to differ. I still believe it can work, and I intend to prove it. Had I been able to play Saturday during the day, I might have gotten to level 20 and done the quests I needed to get that all important third soul (I only got to level 19 by Monday morning), but since this was all a learning experience for me, I took it in stride.

When I finally made it to the capital city of Sanctum, I arrived just in time to help seal off a rift and stop a major invasion headed straight for the citadel. One of the things that impressed me about the NPCs there is as soon as it was all over, they CELEBRATED! For several minutes they danced, screamed in joy, played music, and actually gave you the feeling that they were grateful for the work you and the other "Ascended heroes" (players) did to save their way of life. It did not just feel like a bunch of NPCs standing around doing nothing... They actually gave me a real reason to roleplay it up. Other players celebrated as well, and it created the kind of feel good community spirit I have not seen since the good old days of Sanctuary guild in SWG. My hat goes off to Trion for creating a world with NPCs that actually respond to the world itself.

It seemed the best was yet to come on Sunday however...

I greeted Sunday with missions to the marsh to reclaim some items stolen by Boglings. I took my trusty maul and made the sinners repent, before I absolved them of both sins and life.

The quests themselves were easy since I had leveled up a little bit and was actually a higher level than the quests  I was doing. That worked for me. However, the devs had a little surprise for us as I made my way back to the town of Argent Glade, and the mission givers.

What you are seeing there is a giant tree. A Treant to be precise... and a nasty one too. This sucker took us almost 30 minutes to kill, and had some very impressive attacks, including a "knockdown" that literally threw players back a good 100 or so feet. I am sure  I do not need to tell you that once this bad boy made his way upon Telara, everyone and their uncle from one side of Silverwood to the depths of Sanctum came RUNNING over to get a piece of this tree. Apparently this was the secret goal of the developers this weekend, was to test out the epic monsters, and see how well the servers would handle 20, 30, sometimes 50 people in one place trying to kill a monster that habitually simply STEPPED on players to kill them in one go. When one Treant was not enough, they had to spawn two (one a few hours later), and when both Treants went the way of the wood splinter, they decided to bring out a third one when we least expected it... in the dead of night. (Day and Night last roughly 3-4 hours real time a piece). The night time tree even had the ability to turn us all into deer.... which was really funny to see, if not annoying to be fighting as.

No matter what the devs threw at us, our combined community effort repelled it... Even if it took us upwards of an hour to do, we never gave in, never gave up. It was truly epic. When trees just were not enough, they decided to spawn a giant goblin named Cinderon, who took us even longer to kill. In short, it was an impressive battle royale that made me glad the player community is as active as it was, and glad I had gotten those skills ahead of time that  I was working towards.

The piece de resistance came on Monday morning, two hours before the server had to be closed, marking the end of beta session two. All weekend people had been talking about the Fae instance, a sub section of the world called the Realm Of The Fae, where each section was a season of the year, and the fairy denizens within all wanted to kill you in the name of their lord, Lord Twyl, and ultimately the Dragon of the plane of Life- Greenscale. I quickly gathered a group of 5 (the max you can have in a group), and we went into the Realm of the Fae to dispatch this Lord Twyl.

Through Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter we fought valiantly. We did have some problems with Spring, as our strategy was not as sound as it should have been and we spent a few tries just to get it right. Unbeknownst to me, there is a certain order that the boss monsters should have been killed. I will not reveal that secret to you though... You gotta find out on your own.

Summer was pretty straightforward, but also required some careful planning, lest we call upon our hides way more enemies than 5 people could handle. A couple tries at it taught us what to do, and in short order, Summer was history... even the disgustingly amphibian looking boss monster that had a nasty habit of farting on us.

Autumn was by far my favorite. As it should so happen, the natural denizens of this particular zone were none other than my favorite enemies... yup... the damn Satyrs! They were more concerned with getting drunk on wine and hosting their Dionysian themed festivities to notice as we intruded on the sanctity of their revelry and got to the business of cracking skulls. A plus to this zone was that the boss monster had a voice over, which added a bit of immersion to the whole section.

By the way, here is the finalized group I went with... awesome awesome people.

With Autumn taken care of, it was time for winter. Now if I was impressed by Spring, Summer and Autumn, I was damn near blown away by Winter! The moment we made it up the hill from Autumn's terrace, the wind began to blow, and with it the snow... next thing you know, we are in a veritable blizzard!

When I tell you I FELT COLD, it is no exaggeration. This section of the zone had such an impact on me with the howling winds, and impressive graphics that I literally started shivering. It almost looked like my character did too!

Sure enough we killed the winterized Treants and made our way to Twyl himself. It was a huge battle but unfortunately time was not on our side, so we wiped out the first time and could not kill him before we had to leave the zone in preparation for the server shut down.

Next time baby... next time.

With 19 levels under my belt, a little more understanding about Telara, the war, and the life of a white Guardian of Mathosia.... I decided to head back to Sanctum, and log out. I made my way to see the leader Cyril, to turn in one final mission I had done, when my chat started buzzing about some kind of HUGE invasion heading the way of Sanctum!

I left my Liege in the throne room and made my way outside to see the entire plane of Life attacking us all at once it appeared...

Without warning a huge, hulking form appeared from the forest, the green behemoth, the lord of the plane of Life himself... Greenscale the dragon!

Then all went grey...

Greenscale made short work of all the players in a 100 meter radius. Eventually he was repelled, and once his attack subsided we were treated to our last epic vision of the beta, on Faeblight server...

The one and only leader of the Defiant, Asha Catari, came to fight against the guardian leader Cyril Kalmar. To my surprise and in fact great pleasure, SHE BEAT HIM! She kicked his ass from here to next tuesday, even with a ton of players attacking her as well, she was able to hold EVERYONE off. I consider it poetic justice... That's what the Guardians get for turning me into a white boy all weekend lol. Any woman who can kill the leader of the other faction is a woman I WANT to follow! My mind is made up, from here on out, my life in Telara is DEFIANT!

The next beta session is December 28 - 31. I am in no way affiliated with Trion, but I guarantee you, I will be on Telara on Faeblight Server if it will let me...

If you are lucky enough to get into the beta, I will see you there!

Addendum- Known places you can get a beta key right now!

IGN Rift Kingdom Giveaway

Game Sector Network Giveaway

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Joys of being a Gamer Geek

Or... Thank Gawd for small mercies.

So I sit here elated. I have not been this elated for a good 7 years.  Why Drew, are you elated, you ask?

I got accepted into the beta for RIFT: Planes Of Telara !

Now you are probably wondering also, ok what's the big deal... Why does this even matter to you when the world slowly rots, when you are STILL unemployed, and when the days seem to zip by with no real sense of accomplishment?

Well... RIFT, is a MMORPG. A massively, multiplayer, online, role playing game. I LIVE for these. Why I have no idea... Maybe I have some kind of escapist thing going on, or maybe since I have an addictive personality, this is my kind of crack. Whatever the case, I am looking forward to this beta in a way I have not looked forward to a game for all of seven years. I feel like Codex! More on her later.

Seven years ago, I joined my first TRUE MMORPG... a title by the name of Star Wars Galaxies. SWG, as it is called, was an eye opener for me at a time when I really needed it. I had just gotten out of a nasty divorce, and found myself on my own in a strange land NW of Pittsburgh, wondering why I had ever left Florida to come here. I had nothing to do to occupy my time except dwell on all the evil thoughts of the divorce, and the things I could have, would have, or should have done. I had always been a Star Wars fan since I was a little kid, having cut my teeth first on Empire Strikes Back, before actually seeing A New Hope. When I first perused their website I was intrigued... The chance to live MY story in the Star Wars universe! Wow! I could run toe to toe with the likes of Vader, Solo, even Mr. Fett! I was intoxicated with the possibility... so much so that I promptly ordered the special collector's edition the moment it became available for pre-order. A week and a half later, I was logging in for the first time as Druu Scandana, into Theed Spaceport, awestruck with the world that unveiled itself around me in rich color and glorious, John Williams sound. I was in essence, living my childhood fantasy. I was now OFFICIALLY a character in the Star Wars universe!

As time went on I found myself more and more immersed in that "galaxy, far far away", and it was indeed therapeutic. I had all but forgotten my attachment to my ex wife, and gave her the space she needed to rebuild her life as  I rebuilt mine, I found a common bond with my son, who loved watching Daddy run from big animals "RUN DADDY RUN!!!!", and I started to meet awesome online people and got into this thing called a guild. Who knew guilds existed?!! A group of real people who band together for a greater good in game, and actually have FUN at it! Amazing! I did not know it was possible, but sure enough I was soon inducted into SANCT (Sanctuary Of Hope) guild, and started making some real friends online!

I can see you now... You are saying... Whoa whoa whoa... Stop a sec Drew... REAL FRIENDS??? ONLINE?

Yup. See to the majority of the world, gamers are a subculture of nerds and geeks, with no life.We apparently were the ones you used to give wedgies to in high school, or steal our lunch money in elementary school. This is NOT entirely accurate.... (I for one, have never had a wedgie... and I used to DO the lunch money stealing!)

The people I have met online come from such varied backgrounds that it is hard to pigeonhole what a true "Gamer Geek" is! I have known State Troopers, active duty Army Sergeants, Nurses, Lawyers, Fashion Models, Teachers, High School students, the list goes on and on! Pretty much all elements of humanity come together under the banner of XYZ game, to have fun, to socialize, to achieve virtual goals that result in REAL memories of great times. It is a community without equal. So when I say I have found REAL friends in the gaming community, you better believe the people I count as friends have gone beyond "Let's group up and kill this boss monster", and have become, "How're your husband and kids doing today?" It is a really good feeling to have met such amazing people, all because we have a common bond of loving Star Wars.

A perfect example of the dynamic of a guild is the infamous web tv show of the same name- The Guild! Created by (in my opinion) the ultimate Geek Goddess, Felicia Day (better known to viewers as the super nerdy yet insanely gorgeous "Codex"), this brilliant tv show is a must watch for ALL gamer types. There is so much in there that cuts to the heart of what it is like to be a gamer, and to experience the social networking and dare I say, family, that is a guild. Aside from the fact that I would just about worship Felicia Day's character, this show puts into sharp relief what my life has been like for the last 7 years, through Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest II, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Lord of The Rings Online, Rappelz, and now soon to be RIFT- Planes Of Telara. Truth be told I'd probably worship Felicia herself too, but she'd probably tell me to get off the floor, and then she'd get beet red. Nevertheless, Codex is my idol. She defines who I am, and who a lot of people I know are in the virtual community. I cannot recommend that show enough! Once you watch it, you too will be hooked.

But what does gaming do for me exactly, you might ask?

Well as mentioned above, the first benefit was helping me to get over my ex wife. Let's face it, prior to SWG I was getting pretty obsessive and downright stalker-ish with her. Definitely NOT me... So by immersing myself in guild and game, I was able to break that spell and actually get on with life, even if life was mainly virtual. I may even go so far as to say, that anytime I have felt stressed, or otherwise depressed, I have used the virtual realm to get out frustrations, to talk through problems, to get time to "think", and usually come out of a gaming session feeling better about myself and about my life. Granted, problems do NOT just disappear because you are on Dantooine, or in Thundering Steppes, and at no time is this more evident than when one simply "forgets" to pay one's telephone or electric bill that week, and suddenly one is thrust into that often embarrassing situation of Game Withdrawal... oops. It happens... key is to work with it, or at least call to make payment arrangements in time. (I am still trying to master that lesson).

Do not get me wrong though, it has not all been rosy for me in these virtual worlds. For starters, not everyone subscribed to the family environment of the Sanctuary Of Hope guild... and those who did not, did their best to try and tear the guild apart, or even to discredit long time members in standing. It is that kind of drama I loathe, and it has taken its toll on many victims over the years, before and even after I took the reins of the guild (more like was thrust the reins). Names like Anneke Rose, Shyloh, and Rhoda Rambala come to mind, as people who brought a lot to the game, but were eventually ostracized simply for being who they are. The other major thing was, over the 7 years Star Wars Galaxies has been out there have been two critical changes, fundamental changes to the game that caused a lot of disillusionment and canceled subscriptions from members of my former guild. It came to a head a couple years ago when our server was closed down, and as the last SANCT standing, I migrated my "toons" (characters) over to a new server, only to find the same steady decline in active players, and a guild that reminded me a little TOO much of the old days of the guild I loved and even presided over for a couple of years. The heartache was becoming too much to bear, and I still to this day see a steady decline for SWG that may eventually lead to its being closed down alltogether as soon as a suitable Star Wars MMO replacement hits the streets. It was no wonder that other, more seductive MMORPG's such as Everquest II flirted with me and got me to commit to them in a forbidden relationship that only worsened my marriage to SWG. Let me tell you boy that Everquest, aka Evercrack, is a difficult mistress to turn down. Her ways are far more seductive than any flesh and blood woman I have met thus far in my 40 years of existence.

... And we won't even begin to discuss my constant battle to make a profit on Second Life... You can go HERE for that story.

Now while I cannot speak for anyone else, I have always been under the firm belief that if there is life on the other side of death, it should be a world of our imagining... Which is probably the only rational reason why some would condemn themselves to a "Hell" for the guilt they wrestled with in their lives. For me, my other side is more than likely pixelated... in sharp resolution, with photoreal skins, and endless questing and powerups. I'd probably have to go with the role I have in this life's gaming... the cleric with a little bit of the rogue thrown in for good measure. I exist to heal others, but can throw out some decent DPS myself (And kudos to you if you even understand a word of what I just said). When my time in the light is over, I hope to meet the grand game architect and ask for a couple rounds in that instance called afterworld... and we'll see if all this practice I am getting in this world may pay off...

Till then, I plan on beta testing RIFT, and hoping it is the game I have been waiting for that will take the place of SWG (which has changed so much since 7 years ago, so as to be a totally different game today). Ok, so I still do not have an actual PAYING job (Other than what I am doing in Second Life.), and let's face it... I don't actually have a steady girlfriend (well none closer to me than 900 miles or so), but thank Gawd for small mercy! Another MMO is coming out, and I get to be on the cutting edge helping them polish it for public release. That is an incredible honor and something I do cherish. Just don't ask me to talk about it though... I'm under an NDA (non disclosure agreement). I can still brag about it though! I got a beta key and youuuu don't. nyah nyah!

There that felt better...

Now if only I could figure out how to translate my love of gaming to something that actually PAYS ME MONEY! Hmmmm...... Or maybe Felicia is hiring on the set of The Guild? hee hee. Probably would mean I would have to move from Pittsburgh though... sigh.... maybe if there was a wedding ring involved. Nah probably would not work out... besides, I am still holding out for India...

Oh well, there's always game.

Game on people!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Beat Old Man Winter (reprint from my MySpace)

An oldie but goodie... Thanks again to Daaaaaaawn for the awesome recipe... my fictional St Bernard loves it!

It's Christmas! YAY!!!!

For those of us here in the USA, as well as many other countries (except Australia... those lucky folks get to go to the beach), it is pretty darn cold. Scratch that... it is GAWDDAMN COLD!!! If you are lucky... and I use that term loosely, you will have a white Christmas. Personally I would settle for the blue Christmas... complete with the tropical island beach, a corona (with lime) in my hand, and some steel drums playing in the background, but you take what you can get, right?

Cold weather seems to bring out the bear in a lot of us... as it is hibernation time, not to mention the moods we seem to get in when Ma Nature dishes out some bitter cold and stinging snow, making our daily commutes to work, school, wherever that much more of a chore. Not to MENTION the scraping of ice, the shovelling of snow, and the salting of driveways and sidewalks. In short... Old Man Winter is laughing at us. LAUGHING I SAY!!!

Well enough with him, I have hit on some great ideas to BEAT Old Man Winter at his own game, and I want to share them with you today! Now some of you are not old enough for all these suggestions so don't even think of it, or I am reporting you to Santa, and next year you know what you are getting... a gift only fit enough for a barbecue grillmaster like myself.

Without further ado... Drew's Top Ten ways to beat Winter:

10- Turn your house heat up to 90 degrees... This one is a popular favorite with kids, but not so much with parents... who have to pay the gas/electric bill... But nothing says tropical loving like walking home from a 5 degree day into a sauna. When you start seeing palm trees in your living room and dolphins swimming in your bathtub, you know you have done it right.

9- Brandy. (Not for the under 21) This warming liquid is the elixir of life... and there is a reason why St Bernards hang it from their necks... talk about man's best friend! (Now where the hell is that dog... Here Boy... Here Rover!) I think he might have drunk it himself... stupid dog. Provided you can catch the dog, or go to the liquor store on your own, stock up on this useful drink. It'll go great when they turn off your heat for non-payment of the bill in January.

8- Hot chocolate... Nuff said. Who does not love hot chocolate? I mean seriously... you have to be dead to not appreciate the warm feeling, the sweet aroma and taste, and shove some marshmallows and the aforementioned brandy in there and you have a winner suitable for ski lodges EVERYwhere! By the way, some of the best chocolate comes from Jamaica... wink wink. Winter is a perfect time for a road trip I think.

7- Cuddling... Now a note about this one. This only works best when you actually have a partner... wife or girlfriend if you are a man, husband or boyfriend if you are a woman... Don't ask don't tell, if you are of a different persuasion... If you have none of the above and are faced with nights alone... you have my sympathy. Try the pillow... Not a very good substitute, but it may keep you from freezing to death. Another note on cuddling... it seems to be better at night, since at morning... morning breath kinda throws the whole thing off... ugh. Also do NOT use the dog... dog breath is the worst any time of day. Btw, cuddling is best after brandy... unless your wife/girlfriend's name is Brandy, then it is a win-win.

6- Vacation... I am sure you have all heard of snowbirds... well it is not just for the birds. If you have the money... Get the hell outa dodge. Jamaica is nice this time of year! So is Australia!! Be sure to call your local phone company to put your phone on "vacation service" me on that... and make sure you turn the heat back down from 90. Don't take the brandy with you... unless your girlfriend/wife's name is Brandy... in which case... YEAH, you wanna take her.

5- Snowball Fights... Now I know what you are all thinking... Drew are you nuts? That's a cold thing to do. Nope... Yeah the building of a fort and the amassing of your "cold war" arsenal of snowballs is on the cold side but think of the physical activity of building then pelting your neighbors, the postman, cars coming down the street, your mom, the cops that come to arrest you for drunken disorderly behavior after so much brandy and so many neighborhood reports. You get to spend the night in a nice warm cell that is probably set to 90 degrees as well. Ok so the view kinda sucks... you'll be warm!

4- Carolling... this is great! Especially after brandy and even BETTER after Christmas! Nothing says peace on Earth like walking around the neighborhood after Christmas singing Christmas carols at the top of your lungs and dodging all sorts of missiles from neighbors... not to mention the heated physical activity running from the cops later. You can't miss... Old Man winter will never chill you out with this plan.

3- Throw a Party... Everyone loves Christmas parties... but let's not just stop there. Instead of a Christmas party, make it a Winter party! Make sure you have plenty of brandy on hand, and invite all the people you know to your house. Set the temperature to 90 (do this after about an hour at temperature setting to 60) and enjoy the fun. There is no greater joy than watching all your drunken guests disrobe and go to walk outside in the subzero temperatures to cool off. It's magical I tell you... magical. Be sure to prop the drunk girl up away from your computer... you know she is going to puke on it before the night is out. A great party trick is to get the St Bernard drunk on his own brandy... HOURS of fun! When the cops come... blame it all on the dog.

2- Sled riding. Now, while I will not condone driving while drunk, there is no greater fun than sledding after a nip of brandy in your own backyard. Watch out for the house... the dog... the partygoers... the junk in your backyard covered with snow. If your backyard is flat... I feel sorry for you... maybe your neighbor has a slight hill... Hop the fence and try it out... time to get some powder man. Just make sure when the cops come you do not run with the sled... humans run faster with no weight dragging them down... But hey, it will keep you warm!



No I am not kidding... in fact... in the spirit of the holiday season, I want to share with you a recipe I have for the absolute BEST Christmas cake that is SURE to keep you warm all winter long!

Christmas Cake


* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs

* Nuts
* 1 bottle brandy
* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the brandy to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the brandy again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.  Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the brandy is still OK. Try another cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the brandy to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.  Check the brandy. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the  oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Scream at party guests. Turn heat up to 100 or some fink. Finish the brandy and wipe counter with the Baint Sernard. Escape to Jamaica...


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

(disclaimer- Drew does not hold any liability for you getting in trouble with the law by trying any of these ideas... You on your own there buddy...) 

Why am I here? Or... of chicken, playmates, and music.

I like chicken.

My daughter says I am random... I would hope the above statement proves this theory. If not, strap in and get ready for the ride.

I like to write. I like to write a lot, obviously, as this is my third blog I am posting here. A few years ago I started blogging on MySpace, but since I rarely log in to it anymore, I figured I may as well use this avenue for my blogaliciousness. Now I know what you are thinking... oh no another blogger out there spouting off his philosphies and his kvetching about the world in the hopes of gaining his 15 minutes of fame. Well honey, I already had my 15 minutes years ago... I am doing this as much for myself really... Call it a catharsis, or perhaps creative writing... and you always have the option of NOT reading it. If I have something poignant and current to say, I will of course say it, but otherwise.... mutant ramblings of a mad scorpion is what this is. Here... have this red pill... Just hold on to it for now. You might need it.

Miss December 1987, Playmate of the Year 1988- India Allen

Nevertheless, I digress. I like chicken. I thought about this tonight as I was on twitter, for Gawd knows what reason, looking at India's twitter feed. Ok, so you are probably now asking... who or what is India. Well it will not be plainly obvious unless you know me, but I am referring to Playmate of the Year 1988 India. Yeah... I am following her on twitter. It's ok though!!! She is following me now too! (I assume that makes me NOT a stalker, right?) I cannot even begin to tell you how that makes my heart flutter, considering she has been my muse and source of artistic inspiration since I first gazed at the December 1987 issue. Ahh the stuff of fantasies. I cannot tell you how many times in my adolescent mind we were married with kids, or off on some globetrotting musical adventure in support of my band (which was also in my mind back then too). Funny how life works eh? One day on my wall framed in gallery quality wood and glass, next on my twitter page. Why am I making a big deal out of it then? I don't know... I got to thinking about dreams. In our childhood and teenage years, dreams abound. If you are fortunate, or work hard enough (traits I appear to be lacking from time to time), those dreams become reality. Perfect example... a little known dude by the name of James Hetfield... whose band you might have heard of- Metallica. He followed his dream, and is now a proud member in standing with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I honestly never thought I would see the day that Metallica became such an icon, and achieve THAT kind of status. Come to think of it, no one really thought that was even possible back when Kill Em All was released. But there they were... dressed in suit and tie, playing Master Of Puppets in front of a star studded audience... the song that was once the crowning achievement of the underground metal community, the song we metalheads proudly proclaimed as our anthem... our middle finger and devil horns to the world... on center stage for all to hear... mainstream!

I had that dream too... to be a big name rock star. At some points in my life I THINK I came pretty close to accomplishing it, but somehow, the hands of fate kept it out of reach. Hell, even changing my name to Drewcifer was not the gimmick I needed. (Nor were the other names I have gone by, Belenos, or Bel Geode). I have met some awesome people in my time, and played some amazing music, but let's face it... It would have been nice to be able to afford a house in Malibu, and be able to invite India over for some BBQ chicken, perhaps with a little spicy teriyaki sauce, as I am prone to create in my culinary mad scientist moods. Ooh, and I know this lady in Florida who gets the perfect flavored sake too! (Hmm... funny, even now India's still inspiring me... go figure. I guess I should send her an email and thank her.)

I think I can speak for geeks everywhere when I say, I have no idea where this is going. Not this blog mind you, but life itself. The dreams of my past have given way to memories that were, but never were... If you catch my drift. How many of us have those kinds of dreams? Think about your life and what you wanted or created only in your mind years ago. At times I sit and wonder if it was a good idea for Mom to give me that money I just HAD TO HAVE for that computer class, back when computers involved BASIC, green monochrome monitors, and had multicolored fruit on the chassis. Then I get to thinking... well, what if?

What if??

What if the whole point of my life's experience is preparing me for something great in my 40s (which officially began this past November 18)? What if the music I have made, and either never got published, or never even completed are to come around full circle? What if the books I have written, whether about Transformers, Playmates, or other odd combinations of sci fi and art, are about to be realized, if I only stick to the dreams of old? Perhaps I should be more like my singer friend Jen. Born the day after me, literally, she and I always seem to be living parallel lives, though our attitudes towards life's ups and downs vary drastically. She too has had that dream, and still does... and is still pursuing it actively, where I have for the most part resigned myself to the life of the hermit. Yes folks... the bass guitar sits upstairs, wondering if I will ever make love to her again. (By the way, for the record my bass guitar is named Artemis.... now that was not what you expected me to have named it... is it?)

Or perhaps, my future IS virtual? If TRON can make a comeback, maybe it is a sign that my delving headlong into this world of pixels and bits is my way of accomplishing something. Take a look at the other two blogs I have had going... one about my virtual business in the game Second Life, the other a series of virtual stories about running an airline in Microsoft Flight Simulator. I have to admit, they have gotten me some bit of notoriety in their respective communities. Granted, I won't be getting inducted into the "virtual hall of fame", if there is such a thing, but perhaps if I keep doing what I am doing, something might just pay off.

On the other hand, I am too damn introspective for my own good. I'm a gamer geek! I am part of a generation called X for good reason. It is not like I am going to revolutionize SOMETHING in the virtual realm, make it big, then suddenly be recognized for my music, art, or storytelling ability, get enough money to learn how to fly, and become such a household word that there will be a knock at my front door, and some 5'11" Playmate will be begging ME to come to Cali and be HER muse?!?! I do not have the "Tay Zonday" dumb luck streak going on here... I still hate that song by the way.

Yes... I still cannot stand your song, but can you sport a brother a loan please?

I like to say... I am just a dude. Yes I have done a lot in my life, but in the end, I am still just a dude. I am still a victim of this recession, trying to stay afloat. I am still an average cabbage who disdains the spotlight of fame. We saw what it did for Assange over the past few weeks. (Oooh, I probably should not put his name in my blog, otherwise I am sure the feds will be the ones knocking on my door, not India...) In any event, I am just a dude...

A dude with dreams... most of which adolescent or childish... perhaps 1% of which might actually have a chance of coming true, but in this world, hey you never know.

I remember being "world reknowned musician" Daemon Drewcifer Razorclaw, and his Playmate wife Indy... I remember thinking "Hey, it could happen!". I remember thinking I could BE Tom Cruise in Top Gun too... At some point in time, those dreams gave way to the harsh bite of reality, and try as I would like, I still keep falling down this rabbit hole. Thank Gawd I ate the red pill.

OMG! I think I just had an epiphany! There really IS a matrix, and we are all living in it! Life itself is certainly surreal these days... so it MUST be true!

In that case, will the creator of this matrix please zap me to wherever SHE is. I would like to have some chicken with her. While you are at it... Remember that song I made last year, "In A Funk"? The one I poured my heart into after over a year of musical doldrums? Can we get that to number one on billboard's charts please? It's not doing so well on MySpace.

What the hell.... Did you just see that cat?

There it goes again!