Skydiving: Day 5-9 (8th-11th August 2012)

What started as a valiant effort to keep constantly updated on here fell by the wayside (wayside? Weighside? The ipad seems to think wayside but I’ve never wrote it before) when the weather turned a bit sour and messed with my routine

Basically Monday through to Wednesday weather turned against us and the AFF students weren’t cleared to jump. If the wind wasn’t too strong, the cloud cover was too much and then when conditions became perfect storms around the country forced London Air Traffic Control to re-route traffic over the dropzone so that scuppered any chance of getting into the air. Monday and Tuesday involved lots of just sitting around and talking to people and maybe wasn’t the best use of the available time. This was righted on Wednesday when we were shown how to pack a canopy and prepare it for jumping. Theres an awful lot of steps that need remembering but its just a case of practising it until it becomes second nature, which we didn’t get a chance to do as the weather cleared enough for a lift to go up but only with tandems in it so we were left watching them in the sky in the meantime

Thursday saw conditions improve enough for me to complete 2 more jumps. The first jump was my level 3 which was my final (If I passed it) jump with 2 instructors by my side. The jump went well, they both let go of me and I had a bit of a right turn but managed to correct it myself as one of the instructors was grabbing onto me again. The second jump was onto my level 4 with just the one instructor and involved being let go of and completing some 90 degree turns. Watching the video back I have a habit of keeping my legs extended when I come out of the plane so thats something I’ll need to work on more in the future, but despite some stability issues I managed to pass the level and progress to level 5 having completed my 2nd sunset skydive

Friday started with my level 5 on the first jump and it wasn’t my most glorious moment. Whether it was down to using a different plane, specifically one that didn’t have a door and no carpet for my shoes to grip on to stop myself moving around easily, or the fact we jumped a lot earlier than I anticipated it wasn’t my best. I struggled with my legs being too straight and a near constant right turn. Level 5 calls for a 360 degree turn one way and then 360 degrees the other way and I managed only one 360 turn and it didn’t look very controlled. Ironically when it came to locking on my altitude my neutral position became perfect and I held it steady and controlled which went to show that when I stopped actively thinking about what I was doing instinct was just kicking in and taking over. So attempt 1 wasn’t perfect, so attempt 2 would have to be better!

Only it wasn’t massively better. Legs were too straight again and my arms were too far forward, there was a lack of control again and if anything I felt I’d done worse than my first attempt. A consolation was that it was my first experience of going through a cloud and said cloud was also at my pull height so that was pretty cool. But under the canopy I was pretty frustrated with myself, it was like everything I’d managed in the tunnel wasn’t translating to the sky. So I was a bit grumpy on the way down, but I reminded myself that even though I wasn’t making the progress I’d imagined I would do that I was still skydiving and doing what I set out to achieve and should really just enjoy that fact rather than allow myself to get annoyed by it all. The weather continued to be good and I managed to get another attempt at level 3 in, third times a charm and all that. I can only assume my talk to myself had had some sort of effect on me as the jump went a lot better than the previous 2, to the point that I knew I had passed by the time I was under the canopy. The turns were a lot more controlled, I felt a lot more stable and I even managed a 3rd turn because I was enjoying myself so much. The canopy ride was great and the sun was shortly to set on an another good day of jumping. Only when I got back to the airfield they were preparing another load and there was space for me to go back up for a 4th jump. I had to run and sort some money out for my account as my rejumps had depleted it somewhat but once that was sorted I was getting ready (Sans altimeter as I’d managed to lose it so had to use a student one) and going up for my 3rd sunset skydive of the week, and it was a beautiful one

Level 6 involves a solo exit from the plane with the instructor merely observing a little distance away, from there you complete a backloop to get unstable and then get stable again before doing a 5 second track. Tracking involves fast forward movement and I refer to it as being like a jetplane as you bring your arms to face behind of you and straighten your legs and you kind of whoosh off as the air flies past you. My exit was suitably acrobatic but I got stable after a couple of flips, my backloop became a weird corkscrew that I got stable from quickly and then i tried my first track. It wasn’t ideal. As in I ended up spinning on the spot. But I was aware of it and went neutral again and had enough altitude to have another go and the second time went a lot better and I actually got the forward momentum I wanted. A turn to the instructor and a thumbs up from him told me I’d done enough and I was pulling my pilot chute and under the canopy in no time with an amazing sunset peaking above the distant clouds. On the note of canopies I actually completed this jump on a smaller canopy than I’d been on so far. Students are generally always on 290 sq ft canopies but as we’d jumped so much there was none ready to jump, so my instructor told me to pick up a 250 and I should be ok on it. That it was just a little nippier. He was certainly right. I figured I would experiment with this smaller canopy and see how it handled, running off the adrenaline off another awesome jump and the difference that 40 sq ft made was noticeable. Pulling tighter turns made me feel more g force and I was swung out at a more prominent angle than previously. This one felt more like a rollercoaster but one that I was in control of. Another fluffed landing (I’m omitting the landings as they’re all suitably dramatic and far from perfect) that saw me noticing everyone was watching me and me screaming out not to watch as I slammed into the ground knee first matrix style. Thankfully no telling injury other than a bruised knee

Saturday came around and the weather continued its niceness, the wouldn’t be many jumps today though as there was a military airshow going on in the afternoon so I hoped to get at least one jump in before that. So it was I was on the second lift of the day for my level 7 jump. Level 7 is much like level 6: solo exit, backloop, track, but with an added set of 360 turns thrown onto the end of it. I remained on the 250 canopy after yesterdays excitement and off I went. My exit was slightly more stable but still involved one roll on exit, my backloop was more of a twist, my track was good and it felt fucking amazing. In fact I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d try turning while I was doing it to see what it was like which with hindsight wasn’t the wisest, I had to explain to the instructor afterwards that it was an intentional movement :p the turns went as good as they had done previously and all was good, the instructor flew over and shook my hand before showing off by doing a breaststroke in the sky before I pulled and went on to fluff my landing again. But it was all enough to pass and I got signed off my level 7. With only my level 8 left to go (hop and pop, leave the plane at a lower altitude and pull within 5 seconds) before my 10 consolidation jumps it basically meant I would be doing the rest of my jumps with nobody else in the sky with me albeit with someone watching me from the ground instead. I was advised to hold off on my level 8 until my exits were more stable as you obviously have less time to allow yourself to be flipping around when your expected to pull in 5 seconds. But as the airshow was picking up I figured I would call it a day, so I had to wait to grab my logbook which proved to be a bit problematic. My instructor had a few entries to fill in so had taken it with him on an earlier jump to fill in, it never dawned on me that he wouldn’t be able to bring it down with him if he was jumping so it ended up in he co-pilot’s seat for the best part of 3 hours. On a positive note though it meant I eventually got the meet the pilot finally and ended up helping him refuel the plane as well as being shown around the cockpit which was all pretty cool

So it was my week at the airfield came to a close as I had to return home and go back to work. I plan on heading back there later this week to try and cross off a few more jumps off my list having paid up for it all up front. Weather permitting I’d like to think that I could get through all my remaining jumps this week but its forecast strong winds later on in the week so I might only get one good day of jumping before I have to call it quits

Skydiving: Day 4 (7th August 2012)

Having had to head back home yesterday evening following a day of no jumping I returned this morning a bit better equipped. 6 bottles of water, sunglasses and sun cream in hand (not literally, that would be a hell of a feat) I returned to Headcorn. I’m the only AFF student here today and my name was on the manifest board within seconds of it being opened up. Unfortunately thats no guarantee to jump and some pretty intense cloud action has scuppered my chance of a lift in the early part of the day, although it did give me a chance to go over some things in a rig but other than that I’ve just sat and talked to people while watching animals and hoping the weather will change

One good thing thats coming out of all this sitting around is I’m learning what to look out for with the weather and which websites to get all the readings and satellite pictures from to judge cloud cover and wind speed. So even at this early stage I should have some kind of idea of how to read the weather and what to expect from it all which is good. Its currently 1515 so theres just under 5 hours light left, its looking unlikely I’ll be jumping at this rate with the wind speeds gusting higher than we’d like and the cloud proving to be an issue. I need to be able to see the ground when I pull so I can orientate myself but thats just not possible. I’m off to grab some chips as I’ve been sitting in the bunkhouse for the last half hour charging my phone having used it quite a lot today. I shall return to update more later ^_^

Skydiving: Day 3 (6th Aug 2012)

My overnight stay in the bunkhouse wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. But primarily because I couldn’t get asleep until late because I was excitedly going over my jumps from the previous day, so I wasn’t as well rested as I’d hoped I would be. It wasn’t a problem but I had hoped to have gotten more but regardless off I went at 12 to grab some breakfast before jumps were to begin. Literally as I was just ordering my food there was a call over the tannoy for me to get my name on the manifest board and to do drills in preparation so I was to be doing my jumps on a poptart. That was until the wind picked up and it became too windy for us to jump, so off for a bacon butty it was then

Long story short, there was no jumps today. A series of events centering around a storm from that had appeared with winds too strong for us to jump in followed by a clear jump with minimal winds being disrupted by London air traffic control sending jets over our lovely sky followed by yet more unpredictable winds meant we had to call it quits by half 7. It meant I didn’t get a chance to christen my new altimeter that I’d picked up from the shop or put a fresh jump in my logbook but this can’t be helped

Its unfortunate the winds were too strong to get up on the lift when the storm was off in the distance else I would have had last nights sunset dive followed by a dive with thunder and lightning in front of me. That would have been pretty epic

Unfortunately I’ve had to head home for the night to sort some things out with my bedsit ahead of some viewings later in the week but it does mean I’ll get a good nights sleep again but with an early train journey tomorrow. It also gives me a chance to grab some sun screen as skydiving involves a lot of sitting in the sun and it doesn’t agree with my pasty skin

So at the end of the 3rd day of skydiving my jumps count remains at 2, I’m hopeful tomorrow will be a bit better weather wise but after todays experience I think if I set my new targets at 2 jumps a day I’m more likely to have an accurate figure. Which means all going well with not failing any levels I should be qualified by day 11 which would make that Wednesday 15th August, thats with working on Sunday so having to miss a day. I’m free then until Friday so that affords me 4 retakes that I hopefully won’t need to take

Skydiving: Day 2 (5th Aug 2012)

Due to work commitments. I was unable to return on the Saturday like the other 2 students to complete my first jump so have been forced to come back on the Sunday. Unfortunately I’m heading to the dropzone (I prefer that term over airfield, airfield sounds dull. Its a field of air. A zone of drops though, thats crazy cool!) a lot later than I’d anticipated due to deciding I’d be better being well rested than arriving early and not being with it. The weather isn’t amazing in London but its forecast nicer down at Headcorn but time restrictions might mean I’ll be lucky to get anymore than 1 jump completed today. I’ll be happy if I get 2 today and average 3 a day after that. Assuming no rejumps due to failing a level I need to complete 18 jumps, 8 AFF levels and 10 consolidation jumps. That means if I can pull a 3 jump a day average I can be fully qualified by next Sunday, if not I have plenty of time to come back during the week and complete whatever remaining jumps will be required

So I’m currently set up in the bunkhouse, wondering how much electric I’ll actually get for my £1 coin (I nearly moved into a house that all its electric ran off coins, that would have been hellish). I arrived at about 2 and discovered it was pretty busy here at the dropzone. But despite my first jump taking 4 hours to come around, I managed to get on the last one that took off just afterwards. So I managed to get my target 2 jumps on day 2 which makes me happy :)

Jump 1 went well, despite an initial struggle to breathe after I left the plane. I’ve seen been advised to just shout when you leave the plane and that rectifies that, I can confirm this is the case after jump 2 :p pulled my arms too far forward which causes you to move backwards but quickly fixed it when it was pointed out to me. Legs were a bit too bent as well but again fixed it promptly. Some slight turning but rectified it without even realising it which is a good sign. After that it was just my pull and canopy ride which all went great with a perfect landing after my flair (Pulling both brakes right down and holding them), then it was back to the packing room and a debrief and an ok to progress to the next level

I assumed I was on the last jump of the day but when I got back to base I discovered there was another going to go up and I should put my name on the manifest to see if I could get on it. It was a squeeze with 15 of us crammed into a cessna but we managed it, so up we went for my first sunset skydive :) I shouted on leaving the plane and could actually breathe, which made all my mid flight checks go a lot better. No issues with arms this time other than a slight right turn later on which I rectified quickly. Level 2 was much the same as level 1, which was basically exit the plane and arch to stabilise yourself in flight before completing your checks and pulling your parachute (Which I’ll refer to as a canopy from here on out) at the correct altitude. Level 2 fills the void that happens between completing your checks and pulling your canopy with 4 seconds of forwards movement which is achieved by slowly straightening your legs before returning them to their neutral bent position to stop yourself. I felt a lot more confident having been able to breathe and was aware it had all went well which came across in my debrief. The only bad thing from this was a tumble at the end when I came in to land after misjudging the speed I was travelling at, I tried to run to bring myself to a stop but failed quite clearly but with no damage done :)

So tonight I am currently at the airfield’s bunkhouse, I think I’m on my own until morning and the skydiving centre doesn’t open up again until about 1 I think but I should double check that. Tomorrow’s target is 3 jumps, and I’m hoping I might actually squeeze more than that but I won’t be disappointed either way. A good start to my AFF course, now to keep it up :)

Skydiving: Day 1 (3rd Aug 2012)

I’m on the train to Headcorn now, thankfully avoiding the Olympic rush at Charing Cross station. I had to start my day at 5 to get to the airfield in time for the start of my groundschool at 845, my plans of a daily commute are maybe going to be a bit off and I’m certainly going to look into bunking up on the airfield if its an option. Least if the weather is crap I can be learning something in the meantime there so it certainly makes more sense. I began reading through some training materials I found on the British Parachuting Association (BPA) website which I felt comfortable with, until i read the canopy control handbook and realised I hadn’t actually put much thought into the process after I’d finished freefall. I understand the principals but after reading death more in one document than I have on a weeks worth of the BBC news website I’m understandably terrified of misjudging my altitude and turning into the ground and breaking myself apart like a lego figure. There was a skydiving game I used to play, it was pretty awful but I appreciate after reading the canopy control manual why it was my guy often broke a lot of bones. I’m going to try and find it again tonight so I can practice flairing and judging height, I think I’ll appreciate it a lot more now

The morning was spent learning about the rigs and how to operate them, this included basic canopy control as well as how the actual canopy unfolds and is secured in place in the pack itself. We practised our neutral position which highlighted how difficult it is to adopt the positions needed when your feeling aches from the tunnel still. I’m hoping that a days rest will alleviate these problems somewhat and it’ll be easier in freefall. We also covered the procedures in the plane for exiting the craft which are:

    - Check in
    - Check out
    - “Up, down, arch” (adopt neutral position, leaping upright out then plane. Will stabilise in about 8 seconds)
    - When stable, circle of awareness (check alt, relay to primary, relay to secondary)
    - Practice pull
    - Practice pull
    - Check alt
    - (Free time to do whatever, ensuring checking alt every 5 seconds)
    - At 6000 ft lock on to altimeter
    - At 5500 ft wave off, pull ripchord and throw behind and away
    - 4000, 3000, 2000, 1000. Check canopy (maintaining arch throughout)
    - Check lines for tangles, part risers and kick to undo
    - Observation: look for LZ arrow and look around to get bearings of other divers
    - Take control, 2 pumps on brakes
    - Free canopy time (Practice manoeuvres and get a feel for it)
    - Be at boundary of LZ where arrow points to by 1000 ft
    - Begin approach, judging distance behind of arrow to rotate for final approach. Stronger winds need less distance, no winds needs more
    - At 15 ft, flare canopy and adopt PLF position in case of fuck up
    - After landing, let arms go up but maintain hold on one control line before pulling it in and collapsing canopy

So far its been a pretty rainy day, the airfield is busy but mostly for the tandem jumps I’m assuming. Theres 2 other people attending the AFF course with me, Felix and Kevin with Felix planning on spending time in the bunks over the next week so I’ll have company at least there. So as the day progressed we covered the rest of the material including emergency procedures, possibly canopy malfunctions and how to deal with them as well as some finer aspects of canopy control. Then we had a theory test to pass to check our understanding of the material, by passing it we could continue on to our first jump the following day. I passed with full marks but couldn’t attend the following day due to work commitments so I’m now currently on my way back to complete day 2 which will hopefully contain a couple of jumps so I can begin working through my levels :)

Skydiving: Day 0 (1st Aug 2012)

So I finally started to chase my dream of being a qualified skydiver. As I write this I’m on a train to Headcorn to attend the ground school portion of my AFF course, but I’m classing that as day 1. In which case that means day 0 would be the indoor skydiving tunnel I attended to undergo some training ahead of my actual AFF progression

Having chosen Headcorn to be my starter dropzone I found a link to a company called Sky Skills, ran by a guy called Chris Shaw. Sky Skills offers chunks of timed one on one tuition in a wind tunnel of which I opted for the middle tier of 30 minutes which set me back £360 which seems like a lot of money, but given that this equates to multiple skydives involving freefall it was an intensive option that would give me good feedback as to what I needed to work on and give me some idea of what to expect when I came to do the real thing. I was not to be disappointed

After a half hour in the teaching room running through hand signals and basic theory on skydiving as well as practising positions and manoeuvrability we got kitted out and prepared to go into the tunnel. I was nervous, but a nervous excitement. Indoor skydiving is something I’d never really looked into having always wanting to do the real thing, but suddenly here I was going to do it. This was the actual beginnings of me chasing a life long dream and I would soon find out if I would be any good at it. Its a hell of a feeling to be standing literally on the threshold of the start of something, and I was going to have to go against the feeling of falling that I would have when I leant through that doorway into the tunnel and adopt the neutral position. The 30 minutes of tunnel time was split into 15 slots of 2 minutes, I leant forward and began number 1

(I need to go through the video and pick up some highlights but I’m at the dropzone right now so I can’t)

Chris was incredibly helpful throughout and gave me valuable pointers in the briefing room with the time delay video feed. At the end of my session we went through a debrief at a different terminal where we looked over everything and pointed out what was good and the improvements I made. The difference was stark between my first couple of slots and the later ones, even with tiredness coming into play. Chris sent me a final email with some pointers to bear in mind from the day:

    - keep your arms in the 90/90 configuration and keep your chin up, you fly much more effectively that way
    - good use of hips to control fall rate. If things start to get away from you, press those hips down and relax then everything falls nicely into place as you hover in that neutral position
    - make small changes to your body position and you will find things easier to control, I think you got the hang of this in the end
    - really good to see that you “know” when you did it right. The smile and the thumbs up were excellent. If you can get that type of feeling, the learning will be quickest
    - good to see you pointed your toes and pressed your legs into the air to make sure you flew calmly. Wen you did your turns once you had this position, the turns were easy and effortless
    - you even managed 2 or 3 unplanned unstable recoveries, which shows how easy it is

I really got a lot out of the day and I can’t thank Chris enough for his valuable advice and I would certainly recommend him to people going down the same route. I hope to stay in touch with him and let him know how my AFF goes over the coming week or 2 and look forward to any dealings with him in the future :)

So after day 0 I have my points I need to work on. Keep chin up, maintain awareness of arm and legs position, sort out that flappy left leg

143 days to save the world

I haven’t wrote on here for some time for one reason or another (As per usual), but with a couple of people checking out the website again and reminding me that it exists now seems as good a time as ever to get back to writing something. Especially considering my internets down and theres nothing much else I can do lol

So what’s changed since last time I wrote? Quite a lot as it happens. I’m single once again and living a suitably single person lifestyle which goes without saying isn’t suitable to be written about here but can be summed up with the following categories: Good times, bad times, box ticking times and actual waste of times. Those in the know will be able to fill the categories with relative ease

I now regularly attend the Hide & Seek Sandpits in London with a friend I met through Gamecamp and as part of that we’re now heading to IGFest in September where I’m hoping to finally be able to have a go at 2.8 Hours Later after hearing so much about it. On top of this I’m in semi-regular contact (Read as “I’ve been to the pub a couple of times and talk to them when I see them but know I should make more of an effort to go to events”) with a group of indie developers based down here in London. I’ve still yet to get around to properly programming games but having now finished my zero year of my degree at London Met and due to start my actual Computer Science stuff in September I will be getting on that and addressing it. I learned some valuable lessons during my foundation year and hope to take them onto the main degree with me and benefit all the more from that experience, and I’ve got to know some good people from it all as well :) Also of note I’ll be moving into student halls by the September 18th so that’ll be another milestone passed

A quick summary of some things I’ve pre-booked over the next 6 months and thus will eventually talk about no doubt:

  • Getting early tickets to go to the Shard’s viewing platform
  • Potentially attending drinks at the top of the BT Tower
  • A gamification unconference in September

The list is surely going to grow as time goes on, but needless to say I’m definitely making more of being in London these days than I was. Which is a good thing as I’ve now been here just over a year, its flown past crazy fast and just goes to prove to me that I can’t sit back and just idle about. But I think I’ve put that into perspective by ticking a lot of things off my list in 2012 that I’ve wanted to tick for a long time

Now for some of those plans I said I had at the beginning of the year, back when there was 364 days to put those into action:


This was originally planned for Summer, and Summer thankfully arrived albeit later than we anticipated. So as this currently stands I’m due to begin my groundschool training this Friday (3rd August) with the intention to begin my jumps and my progress proper on the following Monday (5th August) whereby I have a week to complete as many (If not all) of the 18 jumps required to get myself my A license. Ahead of this, I’m currently in talks with a guy called Chris Shaw who will be hopefully taking me through some wind tunnel training so I can get some practice in before I’m actually falling out of the sky. I plan on blogging my progress on a daily basis on this to give people an idea of what it’s like as well as give me something to show people in the future given it’s been a life-long dream

Witness the Aurora Borealis

Iceland was the original destination! Iceland is expensive! Thus it was that Sweden became the new destination which is cool because I’ve always fancied the idea of going to Sweden. Plus I found I have a bit of a weakness for the Swedish accent, not sure where that originated from. So tickets have been bought to Stockholm where I’ll spend a few days before flying to the north of the country to a place called Kiruna. There is a nearby national park that apparently has some of the best Aurora Borealis viewings in the area, so the plan is to spend some extended period of time at the Aurora Sky Station. But these plans are subject to change and haven’t yet been set in stone

Save the World

Having yet to identify what will destroy the world this is still filed under “Work in Progress”. I will keep you informed

So all in all a lot has gone on and continues to go on. I’m just on my way to hopefully start my actual skydiving jumps and progressing on my course so I need to quickly finish typing up my post for the last day I did before I can start today’s! Due to me being in a relative rush as well there won’t be any pictures drawn until tonight so there’ll be a few blank looking posts for a few hours

Retrojaffa Reborn Again

So many times I’ve attempted to redo this site and keep it constantly updated and I never do. In fact I essentially transferred all of what I would do on here onto Facebook, figuring everyone I wanted to be able to read it would be able to read it on there. But thats no longer the case. So with the discovery that I can do pretty much everything I want to do with this site (Write posts, draw pictures, life commentary, etc) on the iPad. Its pushed me to make the effort to get this going again

Whats somewhat annoying is the design of retrojaffa has ceased to really change for a long time now. #775577 is the background and the image will be some badly drawn by me. But its back again, it really hasn’t changed from what it was. Although I’ll have to be more careful about workplace commentary, that’ll be a Facebook privacy protected staple now :p Lessons were learned from the At-At

So, for the 3 or 4 people that ever bothered to read this website. Welcome back ^_^


DF: Mafol Barim – The Chambers of Artifice

After one failed irrigation attempt, and 2 failed de-irrigation attempts my first fortress was spiralling into nothingness and a second fortress ending prematurely after a save game went corrupt. It was time to gen a new world and see what I would get. So it was that Mafol Barim, or The Chambers of Artifice in the human tongue was founded. With design philosophies from my previous world and an excellent embark location, it was destined to be a grand fortress. But true to Dwarf Fortress fashion, it slowly began to unravel at the seams. It all started with an Elven caravan that arrived at the same time as a goblin siege. Now there’d been a falling out between me and the elves in the year previous involving a polar bear and some wood. But first, lets get a bit of background on Mafol Barim

The Chambers of Artifice was perhaps wrongly named. My primary export was cooked meals. We cooked everything and it was fucking amazing. I mean you’ve never tasted roast bumblebee brain quite like it, and the trade envoys agreed. So it was that my kitchens were working non-stop turning everything that was edible into an amazing meal and selling it to the trade caravans usually in exchange for whatever lesser foods they had around to then turn into meals and sell on to the next caravan for a price hike and other things like anvils, cloth and cages

It was the first Elven caravan, and as per usual all they brought me was random bits of wood, some shitty caged animals and a fuck ton of cloth they thought I’d give a shit about. But this time was different, this time they had a mother fucking polar bear in one of their cages. This polar bear was to be mine. So I offered near all of my prepared cow intestine stews all handily stored in barrels to make transportation easier for this polar bear. But I forgot the barrels were made of wood. Elves take great offence to you offering them wood. They were outraged! They then refused to trade again and would pack up and leave as soon as I left the menu. I was left with only one option, I seized the caged polar bear and told them to fuck off which they did. I knew this would result in them being arseholes in the future, but we’re nowhere near where polar bears come from and this might be my only chance. So off they trotted furious at my offering of wood as outside my main entrance the prized polar bear was being setup in his cage for all to marvel at. I hoped one day to train him to be an attack polar bear that I could leave to catch thieves and other rotters as they tried to get in or out of my fortress but I’d have to wait for a dungeon master to do that

With the spectacle of a polar bear by my front door, I was ready to do great things! I wanted obsidian to decorate the outside of my fortress with, cos thats just cool as fuck. So down dug my miners! 20 floors, 40 floors, 57 floors… whats this… an underground cavern system? My word! I’ve never found one in all my time on DF. The discovery of this releases some spores into my fortress and part of my aquaduct that was awaiting completion suddenly started growing moss and mushroom trees in it. That was the end of my aquaduct then. I was tempted to dig in and have a look around but thought better of it and continued my downward trend. 70 floors, 90 floors, 110 floors and still no obsidian. Not even anything else that would point to obsidian being close. Then at floor 137 I found it, an underground magma shaft. But even better than that, a magma sea! I’d dug right beneath the crust of the earth to all the cool shit underneath. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to any obsidian, but this was much better. I could finally get a metal industry up and running

Not long after this discovery came the second Elven caravan, maybe they aren’t as pissed off about the polar bear as I had thought. As they trundle across the map to my trade depot the unthinkable happens. A goblin siege arrived, it was only a small one of 16 goblins but they were all archers and I didn’t even have a military presence at this point. So I waited as long as I could to get everyone inside before closing the main entrance gates. Unfortunately the caravan got in and the damage was done. 8 dwarves died during the siege who didn’t make it back inside, those inside were in for a far worse fate. I traded with the Elves and hoped they would hang around long enough for the goblins to leave so I could let them out. They didn’t. They got impatient and they got angry. Not as angry as their pack horse though, he went batshit insane and started kicking all the babies in the corridor and started maiming all the other dwarves who were running around terrified. I hastily threw a military together who had no weapons and told them to attack the horse. They bit it, they punched it, they did everything they could to stem the flow of blood the horse was causing. Eventually it was strangled to death at the hands of Fath Geardrill. The horse went on in legend to be known as Thiciviifedo Ditari Epeve (or ‘Apexconfused, the Crab of Sparkles’ to you and I). 10 dwarfs died to Apexconfused, it was the most dangerous thing the fort had ever had to deal with) ith the success of the defence, and the fear of more pack animals and elves going crazy there was only one course of action. They were to be bit and mildly punched to death as well

Eventually the siege ended, a rather unglorious victory that mainly involved the goblins walking off bored after they’d ransacked my peacock collection. Bunch of bastards that they were, took me ages to accumulate them. While all this had been happening I was discovering a small quantity of people who had died now that my fortress was crammed with people again. But not died in the usual sense, they had been drained of all their blood. A vampire! I don’t even know where to start with tracking and killing vampires in this game, I figured I would leave it alone for now and get to the task of removing all the dead bits of animals and elves that were littering my entrance hall and miasming the place up. The months that followed the siege were testing. With numerous dead having family in the fortress and the loss of so many skilled workers, it was difficult to get production back to where it was. Producing the required amount of coffins was near impossible, and even picking up the bits of dead dwarf everywhere was taking its time. Gradually over time, people began to lose control. Depression and tantrum spirals were becoming a cancerous growth in Mafol Barim. It was a grim situation for my threadbare military who by now had some crappy iron weapons I’d forged in the magma sea. Insane dwarves cause everyone to stop what they’re doing and generally die or be beaten horrendously if they’re caught, with a lack of a justice system in place or a means of neutralising these dwarves it was up to the military to get involved

Over the next couple of years, the military would be called to get involved and to bear arms against their former friends. Doctors, farmers and even children were slain to stop their rampage further troubling the now ailing fortress. But with every slain dwarf, the number of depressed family and friends increased. There wasn’t a solution to the problem that didn’t end in bloodshed and the shadow of a total collapse of society and order (I’ve since learned that cage traps in corridors would solve this problem). But I wasn’t to be given too much of a chance to recover order fully, as randomly a minotaur appeared

A shitting minotaur, how were my military going to cope with that? And worse still, there was nearly half of my fortress outside working on creating a protected courtyard to make the fortress safer. The only choice I had was to call to arms my 10 dwarf army. Only they weren’t needed in the end up. After they’d fannied around getting ready, I eventually discovered that a fleeing dwarf had been chased by the minotaur and he’d went into a makeshift trap room that was to be used for the goblins but became unnecessary and gotten himself stuck in a cage. Huzzah I said! As I dragged the minotaur off to put him beside the polar bear. How marvellous, and only 3 dwarves had to die for this spectacle

Again work returned to fortifying the walls of the courtyard, I’d reduced down the number of access points to just 1 and had plans to create a killing zone so that when I unleashed the enemy inside I could just pick them apart before they were anywhere near my entrance. That was the plan, and it was glorious. It would have solved all my problems, except that one that was coming over the horizon. Was it? No. It was, it was a troll. Oh shit theres 8 of them, wtf! Oh here we go, goblin siege again. Fuck me theres a lot. Its the late Autumn of the year 128 and at the edge of my map I have 8 trolls and what looks to be roughly 20 goblins, and each goblin has an attack crocodile with them. Time to lock down the gates and get everyone inside!

The lever is pulled, the floodgates go up! Well most of them do, theres 2 gotten jammed open. Fuck! 1 must have been damaged by a rampaging dwarf and I hadn’t realised and another was blocked by chunks of a dead animal that had found its way there and hadn’t been picked out yet. I hastily try and construct a wall behind of it to seal us inside or at least pull the bits of crap out of the gears but its too late. 8 trolls come barrelling through inside of the entrance hall way with nearly every dwarf in attendance. Before my military can grab their swords they’re upon us and the end is nigh

This is how DF works, you know when its the end. You don’t even need to know much about the game, but suddenly something happens and you know theres only one outcome. Its like that moment in movies when the good guys know theres no option but to go out with a bang. Only in Dwarf Fortress the only thing banging is usually bits of your dwarves hitting the floor and never getting back up again. Its highly unlikely I’m going to survive this assault, my threadbare military with their crappy iron swords have them tore asunder from their bodies before having their faces smashed to bits by the trolls. And then the crocodiles swarm in and make short work of most of the dwarves in attendance who haven’t already fled deeper into the earth. Slowly but surely they are hunted down and killed as I begin to write the eulogy. Its taking some time to wipe all of them out but I know they’ll get there

But with the number of surviving dwarves sitting at 2 for some time I take matters into my own hands and form them into a makeshift military. Conveniently they’re holding 2 axes from a previous stint in the army and I set them off to charge into a couple of trolls that I assume to be the herd of them, but can’t quite make out for all the blood and rotten miasma in the air. I continue typing and discover that they haven’t died and have in fact killed 2 trolls. Good show gents! Now go get the rest and hurry up and die so I can move onto something else. I check how many attackers are left and discover most have left, except for those 2 dead trolls and the leader of the siege who is standing at the edge of the map still. On forth mighty warriors! Except one dies on the way from complications of getting up close and personal with a troll. My last dwarf has no armour, is covered head to toe in the blood of his friends, of babies and of trolls, and is about to charge head first into a high ranking goblin officer with an axe. I get ready to watch how many bits he flies into.

The goblin takes the first wound and gets winded after being hit by the flat of the axe from the charge, a foolish first attack by the dwarf but I guess it would have worked had he hit him in the head but never mind. As the goblin lashes out he knocks the dwarf back stumbling, but he turns the stumble into a charge and ends up colliding with the goblin and they both fall into a small lake beside of them. The dwarf  recovers first and continues the fight underwater. This is epic! You don’t even see this stuff in Hollywood! The dwarf is beating and slashing at the goblin who is struggling to breath after being winded. The battle continues for a brief while until a slash hits the goblin in the neck and he begins to spout blood into the water before becoming unconscious and dying slowly. The dwarf manages to climb wounded from the water and passes out from his wounds not far from the lake. Hes not seriously injured, but unless he can get some help from someone hes going to struggle. The attackers have failed in their assault, but they succeeded in destroying Mafol barim. I abandon the fortress knowing theres no return from that carnage and I head to the Legends screen to find out the name of that valiant dwarf

I started reading. The battle was called Umuz Smoslu (The Attack of Ransacking), there was 8 trolls and 32 goblins against my 80 dwarves. The final fight took place midwinter of the year 128 between ‘Ngoso the Future Carnage of Fording’ (The goblin) and ‘Oddom Galleyscribes the Flickering Calamity of Denominations’ (The dwarf), he got named for his valiant deed! The guy will be forever talked about in history for his greatness!

But hes not just remembered for being the sole survivor of that fight, no sir. Hes remembered for the 96 kills hes had over his lifetime as a vampire. The guy was a fucking vampire! Hes the one that had been draining all those people. That wasn’t just an underwater battle between an angry dwarf and a goblin siege leader, it was an angry vampire dwarf and a goblin siege leader! Holy shit balls thats awesome! Turns out he managed to survive his wounds and retreated to The Molten Towers where he continues to live to this day and may well turn up in any one of my other fortress

And so ends Mafol Barim, the Chambers of Artifice. It won’t be the only time I play there, I have to go back with a fresh team and either reclaim the place or at least go back and bury all the dead and seal the fortress up as a giant memorial like I did with Inodad all those years ago

The latest update has added such a huge array of subtle tweaks and new features everywhere that I was completely lost for most of it. As evidenced by my initial flooding of a fortress. I haven’t even touched on healthcare and only had a makeshift hospital setup after the first siege to take care of casualties but even that was never equipped to deal with anything close to an outbreak of bee stings let alone a herd of trolls messing your day up

319 days to save the world

The past week and a bit has been an interesting time for me down here in London. The best way of summing it up is I’ve remembered that I live in a city, and not just any city but the Capital and that theres opportunities here that I just need to look for and even more important that I don’t need to have to know people to go to things I wouldn’t have dreamed of going to otherwise

To go over quickly what I’ve already ranted about work was utter pants last weekend. Which really, is a good thing. Because if I hadn’t had such a crap time at work, the rest of this week wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as it has turned out to be

Being sick of having nothing to do in London I began to look for social group type things down here. After looking into Rock Paper Shotgun and joining their forums, I managed to miss their monthly meetup but they had a forum post about a board game meetup group that then directed me to a site called London On Board. They have regular meetings every few days where people can just turn up to whenever they are free. So on Tuesday I had some time off and decided to go for it. I wasn’t quite as confident in the idea as I’d been earlier in the week so decided rather than hide in my room and find an excuse not to go that I would venture around London and see some things I’d been meaning to for a while. So it was that I ended up visiting North Gower Street near Warren Street which I discovered was the outdoor filming location for the BBC series Sherlock which was pretty cool. I noticed the sandwich shop was open but I didn’t go in at the time, I did eventually a couple of days later and discovered it was very quaint and cheap :) I then made my way to Shoreditch where an old work colleague had posted a video of a wall that had been spray painted with an advert for the upcoming Soul Calibur game so I went and took some pictures of that as well. After all this it wasn’t long until the meeting started so despite feeling completely out of it I went anyhow and sat as close to a corner as I could do but within plain sight of the door to give me an opportunity to at least get involved in a game as easily as I could

As it was I needn’t have been concerned, I managed to get involved in a game of ‘Cash n Guns’ with a bunch of people which was a hoot. Really need to grab that game if I ever get the chance, fantastic ice breaker game that doesn’t require much thought. We then went onto ‘Betrayal at House on the Hill’ which had a great concept and great mechanics but unfortunately kind of broke down a bit on us due to some odd game mechanics. I was a professor in a mansion who found a madman in a room that followed me around and helped me out, but eventually he turned on me and killed me instantly and I became to traitor of the group and had to hunt everyone else down with the madman now being my character. We finished on a game called ‘Parade’ that involved cards with pictures of rabbits and other animals on and a card counting mechanic almost. I assume it was meant to be a light hearted game but it ended up with more confusion and everyone concentrating too much to be that enjoyable, also I lost. So I went home afterwards feeling that I was back to doing something different and interesting once again

But it wasn’t to be the only new experience of the week. I randomly came across a tweet about an event on Friday called ‘Bit of Alright’ and indie game developers conference (Is the easiest way to describe it) that involved talks from developers and game sessions and what not. Now everything about it seemed to be aimed at current indie developers, but there was an option to buy a ticket and nowhere did it say you had to be currently developing games of any sort. I took a leap of faith and dropped the coin on the ticket. But we’ll get to this in a little bit, first we need to talk about ‘Wild Rumpus’. On one of the email reminders about the event was a passing reference to a meet up the night before at a pub in Brick Lane where there would be a collection of indie games and a lot of people from the event were going to go there. As it didn’t cost anything I decided to go for it and do a runner if it was shit. It turned out to be basically a pub with about 4 or 5 indie games in it which was fine to start out with, I jumped around and played with a couple of randoms (The games were Pole Riders, Hokrar, Monkey Seen Monkey Mime and something I can’t remember the name of) and watched a few other people. But it soon got busy and not having anyone to really talk to was starting to wain on me, so I decided to go outside and take a look at the game that was out there which had been one of the initial attractions for me. A game called Johan Sabastien’s Joust

This was to prove my undoing for an easy escape, Joust was the great ice breaker that Cash n Guns had been earlier in the week. To quickly explain what it is, the game involves 7 players who all have a Playstation Move controller (The Move controllers is a motion sensitive controller in a similar ilk to the Wii controllers, except with a big coloured ball on top of it) and are trying not to get knocked out of the game. You knock someone out by knocking them and moving their controller too much. Classical music is playing in the background at varying tempos, when the music is slow the controllers are extra sensitive and you need to be careful to not knock yourself out, but when the music is fast you can run around and being a bit more rough with it and get away with it. I went on to spend the best part of 2 hours playing this game and taking time out and chatting with people and laughing at it all. My legs were destroyed the following day and I struggled to be able to negotiate chairs and escalators, its apparent I don’t get anywhere near enough exercise

So that was Thursday, I headed home and went to bed to get ready for ‘Bit of Alright’ on Friday down in Battersea. I arrived late but thankfully it started late so I didn’t miss anything. It was a very English affair. There was a bar at the venue that didn’t serve drink but offered all the tea you could drink (There was coffee as well but the general consensus seemed to be it tasted of shit). So let me explain this one. There was indie game developers from all over the country in attendance and they were all discussing different aspects of games and stuff and different approaches, some of the main draws for me was a talk from Dan Marshall of Ben There, Dan That fame doing a talk on ‘Tea and Death’ and Introversion (Them of Darwinia and Defcon fame) showcasing their next game Prison Architect. As it happened I didn’t feel out of place here either and talked to a handfull of people (Once I’d plucked up the courage) about interesting topics and found out what they were working on (I talked to a guy who was a website developer until recently and started working on Unity making games for himself and accepted a plastic spoon of the guy that made VVVVvvVVVvvv) I joined in the discussion of death in games during Dan Marshall’s talk and got into a mini discussion about our favourite ‘disposable’ characters in games (Stoo in Cannon Fodder for me and Jops for him, but we agreed on Hicks from Syndicate). It was also the first time I talked on one of those pass around mics you see people using

I sat through a presentation by the National Video Games Archive people and got in touch with a mate who has just started a curatorship up in Scotland telling him I was gonna name drop him after the talk, so I grabbed those guys and done my good deed. There was a couple more talks which I can’t really recall now, but a big chunk of my day was taken up playing the Prison Architect alpha build and talking to the developers. I talked to Chris the lead dev on the project who also worked on Subversion while it was still active and I think the guy was called Alistair who was a freelancer brought in to create the mac versions of Introversion’s library for a humble indie bundle. He was also the guy who tidied up the Subversion city builder for that and dumped all the pictures in of the Prison Architect reveal. The game plays like an old Theme game but is obviously still very work in progress, I ended up finding a couple of bugs involving fire engines (Being unable to dismiss them and the only way to get rid of them was to either dump them in a rubbish bag or tidy them into a box and put it into storage, the rubbish bag one was best as you had a worker just lift this huge fire engine and carry it off to the waste area) that the guys scrawled down and chuckled about. Looking very promising and plays a little bit like Dwarf Fortress in how you assign tasks and people will just get around to it. Finally I ended up playing some more Joust with everyone but my Jousters legs were clearly showing and I was shit. Afterwards we all went to the pub down the road. Unfortunately I never got to talk to Dan on his own which sucks a bit, he was in deep conversation at the pub and I didn’t want to just dive in and introduce myself

So that was Friday. Then Saturday it was back to work, but then of course we had the snow! The snow began to fall while I was stuck in work, it didn’t look like it was laying and even when we were shutting the shop it looked fine. Only when I tried to get on a tube it was the usual English terror scene. Loads of tube stations in central London appeared to be shut with shutters drawn over all of the entrances. Fortunately I managed to get home after only a minor delay when I eventually found an open station. It was an odd scene seeing Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square under snow and heavy snow still falling down. To make matters more ominous, when I finally got into Leicester Square tube station, the busker at the bottom was playing Mad World on a keyboard

I wasn’t home for long until I looked out the kitchen window and saw we had a good 3 or 4 inches of snow lying undisturbed on the garden. Having limited exposure to snow, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to people that I’ve never really made a proper snowman before. So it was I began work on snow me, a near life size version of myself that I would dress in a t shirt and hat. After completing him and applying the finishing touches, mushrooms for eyes and cut up mushrooms for a mouth and carving out his legs from the mass of snow I’d mounded together, I decided I was quite interested in attempting another snow carve of something so grabbed a ball of snow and began rolling it around the garden. This continued for over an hour with me gradually getting more and more giddy at the size of the snow boulder I’d now produced. It was getting harder and harder to roll and at one stage I nearly managed to roll it through the only surviving fence panel in the garden. I ended up with a ball that was a good 5 foot tall and maybe 4 foot wide and weighed a tonne. Seen as I couldn’t roll it anymore I began carving up chunks of snow and piling them on top as long as I could stand the cold. As it ended up I have something vaguely resembling a snow man that measures about 7 feet and now dominates the garden. So finally at 145 am, I decided to make my way inside chuckling at the thought of people coming out into the snow to have a mess around and discovering the majority of the garden’s snow piled into a large snowman in the center. Unfortunately the only person I’ve bumped into thats seen it didn’t seem particularly swayed by it. Such is life I guess, I had a proper chuckle making it so I’m happy. Hopefully it’ll be a good few days before his melted away as well which will be great when the gardener comes on Wednesday

Today has been a bit more sedate all in all: my virtual football team the Aurochs romped home with a 6-1 victory, I got some trainers that were in the sale today for £50 off that I nearly bought on Monday and I visited the tower that was used for the outdoor scenes in the IT Crowd

So a great week all in all, a very promising one for the future. I’ll hopefully be attending more of these indie game developer things (A lot of them just end up being in the pub so all the easier) and getting myself in with that crowd and this board game meeting is going to become a more regular thing. Unfortunately uni starts again from tomorrow so that kind of upsets making lots of plans again, but I am finally starting on the programming and maths modules that are important to my attempts at games programming. Every cloud and all that

Edit: Oh shit lol, totally forgot I ended up going to the Da Vinci exhibition in the National Gallery too. That guy was batshit awesome