The short story is that this week I relieved some stress and helped relieve some creative blockage by jumping headlong into over-thinking and over-working a new project. I'm working on a "Choreographer bot" for playing games with Corvus Elrod's HoneyComb Engine online via wave, email, and IM. I've got a command language parser written (and I think very well tested at this point) and written up documentation for said parser, which currently assumes familiarity with the HCE. I'll post the source code eventually.
I've hesitated to blog it, but most of the longer story should be familiar by now: I'm running on borrowed passion at this point; this year has been a huge kick to the groin for me. As is the case with many works that involve groin kicks, this post may be dark at times, but I'm trying to keep it on the side of dark humour or at least slapstick. I, at least, find the occasional bathetic introspection useful to get out of the system. If you want to invest your sympathy in "Ego credits", may I suggest applying extra funds to Deirdra's Life Flashes By project. Also, I wouldn't be opposed to gifts arriving in my Steam account or PayPal account, not that I expect any this year... I of course still continue daily my shingle hanging and search for gainful employment as a measure of my worth in society, should rumours of such reach little birdies in y'alls ears. If anyone has any ideas on bankrolling a good Relocation Fund, that might be useful, too.
I'm used to being my own worst critic. I've grown up very familiar with the adage that familiarity breeds contempt, and I've seen myself grow angry at everything from instrument practice to a certain mixture of stage fright and play practice contempt. The last year has seen perhaps the largest increase in external criticism that I've felt, and my own creative self-loathing seems to want to increase mightily to compensate.
I certainly want to blame myself for my own shortcomings, even if I can coddle myself with the all-around depressing statistics of the current economy. Even if lots of other people are hanging their shingle out just as I am, I can't help but pick at the scabs of my own flaws.
I worry that I'm not as creative as I was in High School and that all of my projects and my project ideas right now suck at some deep core temporal level. I've let some of that manifest itself as creative blockage, and have rarely succeeded to move past it. Thus far the only project in the last few months I was able to push forward was Assassins!, a rehash of a project from a couple years back, and to date no one is playing that.
I wrote a project start for one possible "evil plan", but upon completion of the first document grew to despise it. I'm still planning to revisit it, but I'm waiting until I have something particular to say or someone particular to talk to.
I've got a few ideas to proceed old projects, but haven't felt the passion needed to touch them. Only a week or so ago did I feel like I had any new ideas, for the first time in months. I wrote down a list of three of them that sounded useful...
One of which being the HCE bot that I'm currently working on. It's nice to have inspiration of any sort, and I'm actually glad to have a project where someone else can take the passion burden for a change. I respect Corvus a lot, at this point, and his enthusiasm for the HCE has always been infectious. Having a chance to play the game at PAX certainly helped me get a feel for it, and I'm trying my best to capture the spirit of that in my approach to the bot.
For instance, I've written a much more complicated parser than would be strictly necessary, but my hope is that it will keep dissonance down while roleplaying alongside the bot. Parser writing is also a skill I haven't exercised in a while, and it was nice to jump back in. This parser takes a few things I learn from old experiments with a language idea I was once fond of named VEND (thanks, Wayback Machine), and some thoughts I've had writing Inform 7 code. The parser I've written isn't as sophisticated as Inform 7's approach --- I'm still using a "normal" parser language.
This is the first time I've written using (Python-inscribed) PEG rather than traditional BNF. It's been a rather nice experiment, with a few small bits of unlearning/relearning, but PEG's semantic differences to BNF relate mostly to Regular Expressions (and the stuff one learns/considers writing everything by hand recursive-descent style) and the learning curve in the end wasn't much of one.
I'm working on the backend now, and from there will be work on the various front-ends to actually use the bot.
It seems like a good project and maybe I'll get some attention from it. I doubt it will directly help my job search (still too much in the "weird/unusual" bucket for most (myopic) game companies, even if this is solid "gameplay programming"), but we'll see, I guess.