Author Archive

The Decline of Modern Creativity? (Those Damn Cell Phones)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

GrondTwenty five years ago I was stumbling through life and driving a 1980 AMC Spirit. It was a piece of shit car, but it got me around… mostly. One day, the seal on the water pump went out, rendering it pretty useless.

I had the choice of a $600 repair bill or doing it myself for about $75 worth of parts. My financial situation made it an easy choice. Six hours and a few bruised knuckles later, I was back on the road.

Fast forward twenty years and I had a similar thing happen to my 2001 Saturn. Except there was zero chance of doing it myself. Automotive technology had advanced so much in the 20 years of vehicle generations that I didn’t have the tools, much less the knowledge, to perform the repairs myself.

I couldn’t maintain something that was integral to my life. I had gone from a maintainer to just being a user.

I’ve been thinking about how that applies to computing technology today.

For years, I’ve been using a desktop or a laptop as an all-purpose device. I could play games on it, write code, watch movies, create graphics, and creatively write.

Now, that’s been drifting to multiple devices. I use the laptop for all the above, but increasingly I find that I’m using a tablet or phone for entertainment. But, even more relevant, I can’t use that mobile device to create or maintain the other, creative things I do.

Part of it could be that I’m tied to input devices and interfaces used by traditional computers – keyboards and mice – but a big part of it is that the productivity tools simply aren’t there. Trying to use a phone with PhotoShop? Hell no.

And I find that many people are moving away from laptops and desktops, gradually replacing them with tablets, phones, or other portable devices. This makes me wonder if we’re growing out of another stage of the Wild West of computing.

Will the trend continue, where skills erode and are mostly in the hands of professionals? Will our innate creativity be replaced by a user-oriented consumer mentality and most of us simply unable to channel those types of creativity?

Shades of Grey

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

GrondOkay, the Empire in Star Wars had a lot of bad guys. Palpatine wasn’t exactly the warm grandfatherly type. Gran Moff Tarkin was practically a caricature of antisocial personality disorder. And Vader didn’t just have a bad publicist.

But… was the Empire really “bad” versus the Rebel Alliance being the “good guys”?

I’m no Star Wars expert, but I don’t remember the Empire waging war or attacking anyone except Rebels. The Empire built a relatively stable infrastructure (off the back of the Old Republic, yes) that kept most citizens relatively content and basic needs met, with the opportunity for improvement. Case in point: the Rebels were a pretty small group, meaning very little popular support. That’s a good indicator of a content populace, overall, in such a large and widespread nation.


Being friends with that idiot Jar Jar is a good indicator of evilness.

Xenophobia wasn’t portrayed as common in the movies. While not many non-humans served in the Imperial Armed Forces, non-humans were treated as citizens. Even brainless teddy bears like the Ewoks were left in relative peace.

Endor may not have been prime real estate, but the Empire’s urban sprawl could have easily spread to a hospitable moon. Evidence suggests that the Empire had a fairly complex – yet fair – legal system, that took into account the needs of varying species.

Even Darth Ani’s motivations were based on long-term stability and peace:

“With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”

Everything adds up to the Empire being a bureaucratic snarl, like any government in history, but it wasn’t bad in itself. As always, individual actions can be morally repugnant, but that isn’t a product of the system.

I’ve thought about this a lot when we were creating the story world for Grand Arena of Serndall.

It’s too easy in worldbuilding to clearly define “evil” and “good” in social, political, or moral structures. It was something we wanted to avoid – there really isn’t a lot of clearly definable black and white, bad versus good, in complex systems like that.

In this case, the Brotherhood of the Ebon Circle.

Their purpose is beyond unsavory – they’re slave traders with a corporate structure to make slavery as efficient and profit-making as possible. Everyone is a potential saleable asset to them. Very few people outside the Brotherhood express approval of what they do… that supporter might bring a big profit if they were in chains.

Yet, the Brotherhood is still tolerated in Serndall. And not just tolerated, but endorsed in many ways. Why?

For one thing, they spend a lot of gold which supports the local economy. It’s hard for a tavern owner to stick to moral superiority when a large percentage of the tavern’s income is derived from serving slavers. The Brotherhood has a corporation-like efficiency and structure, requiring a lot of external hiring for mundane tasks: chefs, accountants, armorers, etc.

There is also a level of social responsibility the Brotherhood displays. They support the games in the Grand Arena as a form of popular entertainment. They don’t directly attack members of the Crimson Legion in the city proper. They adhere to local laws, even when it’s against their immediate interests.

So is the Brotherhood evil or the bad guys? I believe that’s a personal moral judgment on the player’s part.

Which makes people think. And that’s a good thing for any game, we believe.

Grand Arena of Serndall To Include Accessibility Standards For Color Blind

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Today Barbed Arrow announced plans to include accessibility features for color blind players in Grand Arena of Serndall, scheduled for a mid-2014 launch.

Members of the Barbed Arrow team have extensive experience designing digital technology to comply with accessibility standards — and are actually color blind as well. This increased the awareness of designing the interface and game play to include red/green and blue/yellow color blind accessibility standards; uncommon in mobile and online games today.

Follow Barbed Arrow on Twitter to get more news and updates. Now, dammit — color blind people think we’re cool.