I think Agam is like Tay Zonday, and I love both of their voices!
Number 4: “Birog’s Oath”
I’ve been a Brave Druid looking for Birog for a long time. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong? Sadness remains.
Number 5: “Kanda Kanda, Manathu Kanda”
Performed by Manikandan
I always get a feeling of mysterious, unfamiliar nostalgia when I listen to this song. I need to visit Kerala again once all this Covid stuff clears.
Number 6: “Industry Baby”
By Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow
Lil Nas X is currently my favorite rapper. That’s just my opinion, but I stand by that opinion.
Number 7: “Jay Jaykara”
From Bahubali: The Conclusion
I know it’s a bad idea, and somewhat weird, but in many ways I desire to be like Bahubali. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, kind enough, brave enough, or anything like that by a million miles, but Bahubali was a two-part movie series that made me feel seen in ways I haven’t felt since.
So, In Conclusion,
My d*** hard.
But in all seriousness, this is the kind of music I like. What kind of music do you like? I’ll give almost anything a listen, out of respect.
Picking 5 entries for this list was difficult, since I’ve played hundreds at this point, but if I had to pick a top 5, these would be it.
Number 5: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
I think everyone at this point knows about Morrowind, but I first watched my big brother play it when I was in the 5th grade, and started playing it after he let me have his old PC.
As a kid, my favorite thing to do in Morrowind was just kill random NPCs and see how long I could get away with it.
As an adult, I’ve modded Morrowind more and more (thanks, Nexus mods!) and I now have a nice apartment in Vivec’s Foreign Quarter where I just relax in-game when I need to relax in real life.
Number 4: Rome Total War
At the time I mainly played Rome Total War, I really wanted to play Medieval II Total War, but I had Rome on my PC and my brother had Medieval II on his new one.
Honestly? As an adult, I think the Iron Age rocks as a videogame setting. Sandals and swords are badass, and I honestly prefer this time period to the ultra-overdone medieval setting that every other videogame is set in.
What’s sad, though, is that I have Medieval II in my Steam Library, but Rome Total War (and the brand new remaster) are out of my reach at the moment.
Number 3: Minecraft
Look, I’m not going to wax poetic about Minecraft. You already know what it is, and there’s a chance you might know this game but not the others on this list.
My favorite thing about Minecraft though is the memories I had of playing it on the Xbox 360 in high school with my friends, whom I’ll name Charlie, Brad, Lou, Sal, and K for the sake of their anonymity.
My friendship with Charlie turned into a friendship/rivalry because of the antics I’d get up to when we all played together. One time I remember we were all building houses in creative mode before we would collectively switch to Survival on Hard, and I built a tunnel from the basement of my house to his basement. I tried to seal it up and play dumb when he found the tunnel. I said “Hey, maybe it’ll lead you to the treasure of the ancients! Or maybe there’ll be a monster!” and that just got Charlie madder. When he ended up in my basement, he said “You know what, your house is cool, Jay, so I’ll just leave it this way.”
I remember another time where Charlie was trying to build an apartment building, and I turned myself invisible and stayed underneath it. Lou was with me too. When Charlie caught us, he shouted “What the f*** are you guys doing under my apartment?” As Lou and I scrambled to escape his basement, I stuttered “I’m invisi- I’m not here.” And Lou and I cackled.
Okay, those aren’t that funny when I retell them, but they were hilarious when they happened.
Number 2: Bastion
Yeah, I latched onto this game emotionally as a teenager. There was something poetic about The Kid’s backstory and how he was doing the absolute most to bring back a world that never cared he existed.
In a way, I saw myself as The Kid. I saw my aspirations to be someone famous and rich as trying to impress the wider world who wouldn’t’ve cared if I had died. And I drew parallels between me and The Kid in that way.
Is it a 1:1 comparison? Most likely not. But I played the s*** out of this game on the Xbox 360. And it was one of those games that I’d show absolutely everyone who came over to my house, sooner or later. Unfortunately, I only ended up meeting people who liked it when I was at university and after I graduated from there.
My emotional connection with this game is probably something I should bring up in therapy. And I would, if I didn’t have other problems.
Number 1: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Look, I’ve played RPGs and fantasy games since I was 4 years old. But the defining game of my adolescence would have to be, without a doubt in my mind, Oblivion.
And yeah, I know about the NPC memes. They’re at least 30% of what keeps me going back to Oblivion.
But what drew me in to Oblivion in the first place was the whimsical, magical, otherworldly nature of Cyrodiil. The towns all looked different, the people talked about current events and general lore, the grass was green and the forests were rich, and the HOMES! Don’t get me started on the HOMES! I was posted up in the Waterfront Shack, just reading collected books while sitting before the fireplace.
I lost myself in a world that I could explore and do things in, things that stuck. When I pissed off the stable owner of Cheydinhal, he remembered. And he remembered even after I killed the daedra attacking him.
But I’ll be the first to admit the scaling system was crap.
What do you think of these 5 games? What’re your top 5 favorite games?
This list isn’t exactly huge, but I am thoroughly satisfied with it.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
The Archer by Paulo Coelho
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Joy of Game Theory by Presh Talwalkar
I plan to read at least one more book, maybe two, this year. I want to finish reading The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and I definitely want to revisit The Collected Poetry of William Butler Yeats now that it’s been about a decade since my angsty, emo teenage years.
What books have you read this year? Did you like them?
One thing you might not know about me is that I’m a huge sucker for cozy ambience videos on YouTube. The right ambience video can help me sleep at night, relax after a tough day at work, or focus on my writing.
Ambience videos are videos you can find on YouTube or other sites that have relaxing white noise and immersive visuals to put you in the place of whatever it’s trying to depict, whether it’s a medieval tavern, a wild western saloon, or a campfire.
Like I said, they can help with relaxing and concentrating, but for some of us they can also bring feelings of precious nostalgia. Here are some ambience videos that do that for me, with their YouTube links.
This is by YouTuber “Lingering Fungus,” whom I have subscribed to. The campfire sounds, the scenery, and the timeless soundtrack of The Elder Scrolls 3 Morrowind make for a cozy ambience video to doze off to.
This is by YouTuber “comfy savage,” whom I am also subscribed to. This brings me back to those early days in high school when I played Fallout: New Vegas. It honestly makes me want to put my head down on the booth tables and just nap until the sun goes down.
This is by YouTuber “Ambiance Magic,” who I’m also subscribed to. This is an ambience video that lets me fall asleep when I’m restless, and I can snuggle into slumber with this on the television.
There’s some ambience videos I’m looking for though. I’ve been hoping to find ambience videos for a Lothering tavern in Dragon Age: Origins, or a bunker ambience, a Wall-E’s home ambience, or a Roman ambience.
Do you know of any that fit those descriptions? Or any other ambience videos you’d recommend?
I haven’t posted since April. I started working at a call center in June, just in time for me to get health insurance. Let me share the updates I’ve had with you guys.
Once I completed training, I got split days off (Sunday and Wednesday) and started working 9-5 every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But I found that something curious happened, that I think I’ve seen people on Twitter say before.
I’d get home at 6 PM, have my evening shower, and then I’d have roughly 3-4 hours before I’d have to hit the sack again in order to wake up at 6:30 AM to have my morning shower, eat breakfast, and get to work early. I had a limited window of time on every workday to actually get things done for my book and for TapestrY.
Time is not fungible, because it’s made of every moment… and it’s up to us to either squander these moments or make the most of them.
My job as a Call Center Representative doesn’t have me bring any of my work home. I don’t have “adult homework,” which is a Godsend. But I had a choice I had to make every evening.
Besides having to make & eat dinner, and sleep, I could do what I wished for roughly two hours a day. And the choice there was between idly passing time playing videogames or watching Netflix, or writing.
And on a consistent basis, I chose writing.
I discovered that writing at least 2-5 pages a day, 6 days a week, brought my writing up several levels. And I noticed that I really preferred spending time writing to playing. So after making the choice to write consistently for 8 weeks, I finished the 4th draft of my book, and started a new campaign for my RPG.
I found that my entry-level customer service job taught me one of humanity’s greatest superpowers: patience. Patience, and consistency.
We only have a limited amount of time to live on this earth. Time is our most precious resource. If you lose $1,000, you can get another $1,000 to replace it since money is fungible. But if you waste 3 years, you’re not getting those 3 years back. Time is not fungible, because it’s made of every moment that we’re awake and alive. And it’s up to us to either squander these moments or make the most of them.
I’ll be posting more about this in the coming weeks, but I feel more alive than I’ve ever been. This feeling is scary, but also exhilarating.
The one thing I’d been lacking with regards to bettering my writing, my game design, my health, my wealth, and other aspects of my life was consistency. And now, I have it. And I’m running with it. I feel like I’m finally awake after these three years of being unemployed, of being asleep.
If you see this, and you read what I wrote to the end, thank you. I appreciate you. I hope you stay with my blog because I’ll be posting once a week, on either Sunday or Wednesday.
And here’s a close-up of the part of the meme this post will be talking about:
So at this time, Colin and I knew the setting we wanted to make. We call it:
And it’s, ideally, a world where history, mythology, and fantasy mesh well together.
The problem with this setting though, was that it was about as limited as regular historical period pieces are, and the magical aspects were just added as an extra feature that didn’t find its way into the world well enough.
Sure enough, there were Roman wizards, Gaulish priest-mages, and minotaurs and centaurs. But magic didn’t proliferate into this world as it should have, and other than a few people having access to it, it didn’t effect the day-to-day living of the average citizen in this world.
TapestrY was meant to be a high-magic HMF world, and in my opinion, a world where magic is highly proliferated is a world that should be radically different from the real one due to the amount of spellcasters in the world.
We also had to come up with a name for this game. And we searched and searched, but it seemed every name was taken by someone, somewhere.
Eventually, we decided on TapestrY – the name refers to the “tapestry of time and space, weaving the fates of men and nations.”
We also struggled with some game design problems that plagued us long after this period of designing TapestrY. How to balance the different Attributes? How to balance magic vs non-magic? How would the classes be arranged and built, or done at all?
These were problems we struggled with every Saturday, and sometimes one or two days during the week too. Colin was working whatever job he could get, and I was looking to get into civil service.
At this time, I changed therapists after changing my health insurance. And I met a new therapist who – to put it bluntly – kicked my ass.
He asked me to tell him about myself, and I told him. It’s funny, when he and I visited this session again now in 2021, he said that I sold myself so short, downplaying pretty much everything I had done.
I was the first person in my immediate family to have a Bachelor’s degree. But then, there are millions of people with Bachelor’s degrees. Compared to them, I’m just a minnow in a vast ocean.
I was working on a giant role-playing game, and my therapist, a fifty- or sixty-something year old baby boomer, thought it was cool, he referred to me as an “inventor.” I once told him how impressed one of my other best friend’s family was that I was a game designer, and how surprised I felt and how heartwarming it was, and he said “You’re surprised? I hear ‘inventor’ and immediately think of someone cool, mysterious, and who’s a go-getter. How do you not think that?”
At the time, I just laughed him off. Plenty of people design role-playing games. What made me any more special or different than who I am normally? I told him that most people my age don’t really care about things like that, and he scoffed and said “Bulls*&^!”
He had me put in job applications to major corporations. He had me get interview mentorship at my city’s public library. He put me through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to counter my negative self-talk. And when I looked at it, I realized I had so much self-hate that I’d get a kind of social anxiety at the idea of going to Meetups or bars or events, because I’d think that everyone there would just hate me, would prefer that I not be around, would prefer that I didn’t exist. And a part of me, an insidious and smoldering part of me, believed that that feeling was right.
Did that actually hold up to how people felt? No. If you go to a bar, most people are there drinking or talking to someone and drinking, but otherwise minding their own business. Sometimes, you’ll go to a bar full of racists or something and they probably won’t like you, but most bars are full of decent people just trying to unwind. It’s not that they hate you or hated me: they were minding their own business. I probably didn’t register among their concerns.
But this insidious feeling inside me festered like an infected wound, and colored how I talked to myself, how I viewed myself, and colored how I gauged my place in the world.
Every once in a while, there was a reminder that I was loved and valued. And I knew my brother and mother loved me, and my dad who passed away loved me. But I always ignored these signs. I would think about it for a few minutes, and went back to just straight-up self-hate.
I continued building TapestrY, thinking that this was my ticket to being lovable. If I could be successful with a game, and make it big, so world-endingly big, then no one could hate me. And I would have no reason to hate myself.
I enlisted the help of one of my best friends, Yelena, to help with the history and mythology side of the worldbuilding, since she, like me, was a Bachelor’s in History, but she was way more academic, more knowledgeable, and smarter than me. Seriously, some people think I’m smart, or the smartest person they know, but she’s the smartest person I know, and leagues above me.
I also made a new best friend, whom I nicknamed ‘Clubba,’ who was an artistic genius. I met her in a Facebook group where she made 20-minute sketches of everyone as something cool. She sketched me as a knight wielding a mace, and I might update this post with that sketch if she gives me permission to post it.
Clubba grew to be a friend that I could confide in about anything, and she confided in me about a lot of stuff, too. I would tell her about the scandals and drama that happened in my university. She would tell me about the goings-on in her own country. Heck, she even fully adopted Wubba stuff, hence her accepting the nickname “Clubba.”
Clearly, the seeds of removing my self-hate were being planted. And I had really great friends to help me in that process. But those seeds faced a lot of trials before them.
And here’s a close-up of the part of the meme I’ll be talking about today:
Ever since I was 7 years old, I wanted to be a game designer. But back then, I didn’t even know what a game designer really did. I sometimes thought of it as something done by manipulating a CD? Like how a fantasy blacksmith can hammer a crystal and give it powers. But, I knew that’s what I wanted to be.
I also wanted to a fantasy author, and I wrote my first story from start to finish at the age of 7 as well. And no, I can’t and won’t post it. It was bad. Real, real bad.
But for a long time, I didn’t ever *create* a game. I would write “design docs” of what I wanted to include in a game, what the character progression would look like, what the world would include, what you could do in it. But I had never built anything that could be tested.
In 2015, about three months after my dad died, I started a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I rustled a bunch of friends to meet one Saturday at my house, and we played together.
I will tell you right now that I had no idea what I was doing. But I learned along the way. And eventually I figured it out, from one campaign to the next.
Eventually, stuff happened and I stopped seeing that group. I won’t get into that now, but from 2016 when I stopped hanging out with them, to 2017 when I began TapestrY, I picked up another game as a player. And boy, I loved it!
This other game was made by my mutual friend Paul Kallen, and he had some really great ideas that I had never encountered before.
In the end of 2016, I formed another group of D&D players, and started a new campaign, and built an impromptu setting for it called “The Chronicles of Kythera.” Nevermind that “Kythera” is a real island, I just borrowed the name for the mini-continent that my campaign took place on.
One night, I lay awake thinking to myself, ruminating. And I had the thought: What if your Attribute was represented by a Die?
Now, this isn’t a particularly new idea, but this got my mind working into designing my own RPG. At the time, we called the RPG “TempRA” for “Temporary RPG Acronym.” And so I remade all of our characters into TempRA, which was *very* different from D&D. It was skill-based, not class-based, though you had a little box for “Class” where you could write anything you wanted, from “Martial Artist” to “Badass.” It had a completely different set of races, where instead of Elves and Dwarves, there were Sidhe, Lion-People, Bunny-People, and Turtle-People.
I will say right now that a lot of this didn’t make it into TapestrY as it is today. It’s still not class-based, it’s much, much farther from anything resembling a D&D clone, and the “race” system works way differently than it did in Chronicles of Kythera.
But let us digress for a minute into something that happened parallel to all of this:
I had a lot of self-hate in my life. A lot of self-loathing.
It all developed starting in Grade 6 where I was basically the class pariah. A “new kid” from another neighborhood who had just moved there, I was often treated like a cockroach. A lot of my insecurities that affected me in high school, college, etc. and that I had to overcome through therapy started here.
I was treated pretty poorly.
If someone said a funny joke and I laughed while everyone else was laughing, the joke stopped being funny because I laughed at it.
My classmates would make a big ritual of having to “bless” the things I touched to remove my “filth.”
People would draw some pretty nasty drawings of me, and then pass it around conspicuously enough so that I would see it, but not so much so that the teachers would find out.
I was subjected to belittling names and insults almost every single day. I was made fun of for everything from my weight, my laugh, my hair, my race, my religion, my face, my nerdiness, my taste in videogames, etc.
It got worse and worse from grade 7 into grade 8, got slightly better in grade 9, then became more covert for the rest of high school.
I could go very deeply into detail on what I went through, but I won’t, because I’m not telling you this for you to feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this to give you a perspective of my sense of self-worth as a child, a teenager, and a college student.
It was nonexistent.
Any pride or good feeling in who I was I put into my tastes in music, games, and books, the things my parents got me, the illusion of fitting in, and mostly achievements and being good at things: which of course, besides writing fiction, I had very little of. Oh, I wasn’t an unintelligent kid by any means. But I had no desire to try any harder than I needed to get the grade I wanted or rather, that my family would be accepting of. I often turned to videogames as something to sink my time into that wouldn’t make me feel less than for just existing.
I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder in Grade 9, and was almost immediately put on medication and therapy. That’s a whole other can of worms to discuss most of my time in therapy, or how my peers viewed me going to therapy, but I won’t get into it.
In this time, I began to attach my sense of self-worth to whether or not I could get a date with a hot girl.
Part of this was that the foundation of the bullying I went through said that I was an unlovable, filthy, disgusting troll of a human being who would be the luckiest person in the world if non-family members ever deigned to give me the time of day.
And so, almost by instinct, I wanted to prove them wrong.
But how could I? I couldn’t. Because deep down, I believed them. Consciously, I was angry about it all. But some part of me grew to accept it.
In high school, I was rejected every single time I asked a girl out.
Ditto in college.
Then, a few months after graduating college, through online dating, I struck gold! I eventually started a romance with a girl I met on OkCupid. She was a lot like me: A huge gaming nerd, a Hindu (though she was a black South African woman, she was a Hindu), she was into spirituality, and she believed in me.
She was complementary to me too: she was short and chubby-thick and I liked that, I was average height and built like a hibernating bear which she liked. She was good at computer science which coincided with my desire to make videogames. And we would spend 6-10 hours a day talking to one another.
Sounded perfect, right?
I thought at that time that everything was going perfectly!
But it wasn’t. And it didn’t.
While the part of my ego that attached my sense of self worth to being romantically loved was stroked, a romantic relationship is a giant boatload of work. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to continue the relationship, so eventually I stopped seeing her.
During this time, nothing improved in my own mind. I didn’t feel less bad about myself. I didn’t feel less dipped in s&^*. I didn’t stop feeling less-than to the rest of life around me.
Frankly, if I were her, I would never have picked me. I don’t know what she saw in me at the time. Maybe she thought I was cute? I don’t know. But it was probably the best for both of us that we stopped being together. I have no hate towards her. She was a good person. I was just. Not ready for a romance. I hope she does forgive me one day, but it really was me, not her.
I then began my first job as a life insurance agent. And that lasted for about five months, until I realized I didn’t want to sell life insurance policies to the people I knew, and that wouldn’t be cool with the company I worked for.
I graduated college in 2017, and left the life insurance company in 2018. By the time I had left that job, I was out of work, with no girlfriend, and living at home. I realized at this point that I had no business trying to date people. I was well-put together on the outside, when I put the effort in, sure. But mentally, I was a mess. I hated myself. I hated living. And I realized that I would have to work on that, to let go of these feelings, before I had any business romancing anyone. And I also had to be someone before I could justify romancing someone.
One day after leaving that job, I looked at my Google Drive that contained the information for TempRA. And then, I thought “While I’m working on me and getting employed again, let me work on this, too.”
I met with one of my best friends, Colin. He had been in my D&D group, the RPG group with Paul Kallen, and he had been my first friend I made in college.
I asked Colin “What if we made the setting into like, history, but with monsters and magic in it? A historical RPG with fantasy and mythology being a part of it?”
I asked him if he wanted to help me design this game into something great. He agreed.
That’s when we became serious about making this game, that we now called “Sojourn.”
So, I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve found new energy to devote to posting, so, here goes.
I started designing and testing TapestrY as a final-semester senior in undergrad at Pace University. I was laying awake in bed one night and I thought of a gameplay mechanic that would be neat to put into a game. From there, I built TapestrY (which we called TEMPRA at the time, an acronym for ‘TEMP Rpg Acronym) around that mechanic.
That old game mechanic, which I won’t mention here, is no longer a part of TapestrY, but TapestrY has been being tested, designed, reworked, cut down, simplified, expanded, for the last four years and three months.
I think I’d like to discuss my journey through designing and play-testing TapestrY, and I will, but I will post this meme first as a reference for anyone who reads my following posts in the next few days.
The general order of settings we’ve gone through:
Chronicles of Kythera
The Period Pieces
Shattered Realms, Broken World, Star Dharma
(Coming Soon) TapestrY: Iron Dawn
I also greatly evolved so much as a person during these last four years and three months that I feel that my personal development during this time is just as important, and definitely intertwined with my development of TapestrY.
One of the main lessons I learned right off the bat from committing myself to making TapestrY though, is that things don’t always have to go the way you thought they would for them to go well for you. You cannot plan your life to the detail and still live a fulfilling life: things happen as they will, and all you have control over is your own actions. How you respond to the cards the world deals to you, is in your hands.
I hope that, when you read about my journey as a game designer, you will feel something good, learn something important, or feel inspired or validated in some way. I’m not the world’s biggest person, far from it, I’m just a buddy, but I hope what I went through helps you in some way.
Masala dosa with potato filling, vegetable pakoda, porotta, and some broast chicken. Here are some pictures I’ve pulled from the web:
This is masala dosa with potato filling. Masala dosa is a crepe-like pancake made in India that, in this case, is crispy. It can be stuffed with all kinds of nice things, in this case, potato. When I was a kid though, I ate it with sugar whenever I had dosa for breakfast.
Pakora is a vegetable fritter, basically vegetables coated with breading and deep fried. They’re some of my favorite foods ever.
Porotta is a layered flatbread, and I inherited my love for them from my dad. They go really well with raitha, an Indian yogurt-based sauce or “white sauce.” I can eat about four of them in a single go with no problem, of which I am very proud of myself.
You all might have heard of tandoori chicken, but in Kerala we do it with our own style of preparation with our own selection of spices. If you ever go to Kerala, it’s generally referred to as “broast chicken,” which I don’t know why it is, but that’s how I refer to it.
Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this is because I had a dream last night where I described my ideal four Malayalee food items to have in a single feast, and then in my dream I got to eat them.
The next time I go to Kerala, probably 2022 or 2023, I’m having all of this.
“But Jay!” I hear you say, “you will be fat if you eat all this!”