An Old Passion (Well, Several, Actually)

Though it seems a strange thing for a person who spent a career as an engineer, I had a large interest in acting, once. In my high school, I was the first person (perhaps only?) to achieve the Honor grade, the top rank in the Thespian Society. In college I spent my free time in a number of ways new and exciting to me, but still left room for participating in acting. While inevitably the drama majors got the good parts, I at least had a chance to keep my hand in, to be around a theater and enjoy the excitement of meeting an audience. I even took a course in Theater Lighting - it turned out that they had a class quota of exactly one engineer!

As a cooperative work student, alternating semesters in industry and school, I joined a community theater in New York, where my job was. At first I crewed - I've found that at each post in the drama world, you have to 'pay your dues' and become known to the local stalwarts before you're thought reliable enough to entrust with a stage role of any size - but eventually I won the lead role of Donnie Dark in "Butterflies Are Free"... which was never performed, as the theater ran out of money!

At my first job after college, in northern Ohio, I joined a troupe at the Fine Arts Center in Willoughby. We did a lot of fun shows, like "Man of La Mancha," "Camelot," and "Oliver!."  

My bachelor apartment had a spare bedroom. It shouldn't be surprising that I used that room for my game table. The walk-in closet held my new darkroom. I had taken up photography during college and took a darkroom course in New York during one of my semesters there. (I even spent a year as a photographer for our daily newspaper, The Purdue Exponent.) 

I recently uncovered some old negatives from those days, including shots I'd taken during a dress rehearsal of "Oliver!" The passage of time has not been good to them; perhaps I didn't leave the film long enough in the fixing solution. But, no matter. PhotoShop can clean up a lot of problems. So here is one of the latest of my series of hand colorizations of B&W photos - the scene where Mr. Bumble shops Oliver around on the street because he eats too much. "Boy For Sale"

Postscript -
Working on this photo got me wondering about my old haunts. A little Google work turns up that the Fine Arts Center is still knocking audiences dead, and my friends, Jim & Louise Savage, the founders, are still around.

Sadly, I also discovered that my college co-op company, Nepera Chemical in Harriman, NY, closed down in 2005. Its parent company purchased its chief competitor in pyridine chemicals and decided it only needed to run one of them. I and my family stopped by Nepera in 2004 while on a trip to evaluate colleges for my daughter, and it was still humming then. Now, it's just an abandoned and overgrown industrial site.

Post-postscript -
My theater career ended when I transferred within my company (Diamond Shamrock Corp.) from Ohio to New Jersey. At my new position as an engineer in a pilot plant, I was expected to be available for 2nd & 3rd shift work when our production plans included ultraviolet-curing esters. We usually ran them for a continuous week, instead of shutting down each night, as normal. Without being able to guarantee evenings for rehearsals and performances, I bid an unhappy goodbye to community theater. I never took it up again.


And More Games!

You would be excused for thinking that I've begun a third career, designing boardgames. Being part of a large and varied group of gamers that meets weekly is a tonic that often breeds new ideas.

When I finally discovered a place that met my graphic needs for SCAVENGE, I re-activated it and moved it to the head of the line. Because the visual elements are unlikely to be affected by tweaks to the game-play during testing, I went ahead with a professional printing of the prototype, as with SC PRIMARY FIGHT! The printer had a mean glitch in his order software, which fortunately I detected just prior to committing the order, which delayed the printing for a week but at least avoided it being printed hopelessly and uselessly wrong. I am, in fact, pleased with how it turned out!

The map is based on part of the city of Tobruk, in Libya. The dusty roads and flat-topped buildings give the sense of a city that was hardscrabble to start with, even though it is now a treasure-trove for the humans who sneak in to bag some needed items. (See my prior post)

The game has been play-tested twice now. I successfully taught it to a 6-yr old, a 9-yr old, and a 10-yr old. My target audience is age 11-14 and their families. That seems to fit with my observations - the younger kids didn't really have the attention span, even if they understood the game, and the adults who have played didn't regard it as terribly fun. My challenge in development will be to compress the play-time further, reduce the time spent on moving patrolbots, and add more interaction.

Two more designs have hit my bin of ideas to continue developing. RAILROAD MOGUL uses a patch of pre-RR countryside with several small towns and nearby resource locations, like mines and logging camps. Each player receives a commission to start short-line service between a pair of towns. As they build their rail networks, extending it to other towns and resource sites, the towns grow and evolve. The challenge is to grow smarter than your opponents, so that you can fund a bigger rail system and acquire a larger working income.

WIZARDS DEFENSE has an interesting (to me, at least!) premise: wizards are tasked with preparing the City for repelling a pending invasion by a hostile power. Starting with no standing army, they must quickly create one from raw human recruits and various beasts & birds they can acquire in the countryside. The combat system will involve Color Magic, where the interaction of colors provides buffs and nerfs - and since the days of the week are associated with colors, the line-up of who has the best chance to beat whom depends not only on their weapons & training, but the color of their unit Banner and the day they will fight!

More especially, the Invading Power can be chart-controlled. This will allow the game to be played solitaire, or by a pair of players who must cooperate to save the City, or by two teams of players.