Autoblography Part 39: Activeworlds

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 3, 2011

Filed under: Personal 187 comments

Heather and I are engaged. We plan to marry as soon as she’s done with school. I should probably leave this virtual worlds business and find something more stable.

Rick is honest with me about how things are going, and more than once he offers me the chance to gracefully bow out. He pays me money out of his own pocket when he can. I could bail out now and look for other opportunities with no hard feelings. I realize I’m probably doubling down when I should fold, but this work is so interesting that I can’t bring myself to walk away from it. This is what I’ve always wanted. Alphaworld can run on most home computers, it can connect people from all over the world, and it allows people to collaborate and build in real time. It can do all this, and it’s not even out of beta yet. This virtual worlds stuff is a huge frontier, and there are very few people working on this sort of thing.

For good or for ill, I’m going to stick around and see how this plays out.

In 1995, Alphaworld is officially released. According to Wikipedia, WI spent fifteen million dollars making Alphaworld. I’m sure they were expecting a massive surge of orders as the people of the internet jumped from webpages to web-worlds. I think there are less than a dozen sales. A few people are curious about this 3D internet idea, but nobody is ready to lay down the kind of money needed to support a project this big. Few people have the hardware and inclination to navigate 3D worlds, which limits the userbase, which limits the number of companies interested in building a presence here. The idea is years ahead of its time, and the business model is years behind the times.

The future of our little company is called into question. We are contractors working exclusively for a company that has every indication of imploding in the very near future.

Rick, with the help of some others, somehow brokers a deal where they buy Alphaworld from the struggling WI. I’m not privy to the deal and I have no idea how he managed to pull off something so audacious. We hire away the WI programmers and put them back to work, continuing development of the product they just finished. Suddenly we’ve got the artists and programmers all working together. Alphaworld is then renamed Activeworlds.

David has purchased Goliath.


It finally happens. Heather and I are married in January of 1997, just one month after she graduates from college. Some people might put marriage off until spring to avoid the abominable weather, but we’ve waited long enough. It’s a small ceremony. Less than thirty people attend.

Heather and I honeymoon on the Canadian side of Niagara falls. We are one of the last couples to see the place as a sleepy, slightly tacky tourist town. They’re in the process of building a casino here, and the character of the town will soon change forever. It’s bitter cold when we visit, and everything is frozen over. It doesn’t occur to us to take a single picture.

Back home, we settle in and get used to married life. Heather is substitute teaching. I get up in the mornings, pack her lunch, and then sit down and hammer away at online 3D worlds for ten hours. This workload is not demanded by my boss. It’s just that this work is more interesting than most leisure activities.

Three months later, Heather is pregnant. By the time we’ve been married nine months she needs to stop teaching and take some maternity leave. I start getting a regular salary from Activeworlds the same month she quits teaching.

I’m having the time of my life. My entire job consists of, “Shamus, we have a problem that nobody understands. Can you do something about it?” Then I go off and discover, look up, or invent a solution.

Another guy joins Rick in running the company. JP is a very practical businessman, dedicated to ideas like not spending money you don’t have and not investing in things which don’t have a visible return. This sounds like forehead-slapping obvious advice, but in the tech industry these are outlandish concepts. (Hence the coming dot-com bubble.) Over the years rival companies will explode onto the scene with great fanfare. They will burn brightly, but JP’s financial discipline and pragmatism will keep us solvent and healthy long after the challengers have flamed out, imploded, or faded from memory.

It’s now 1998. I’m a new father. For the last few years I’ve worked from home, but now Activeworlds is growing and the company is moving me to Boston to work out of our main office. Rick greets me at the airport. Since we began, we’ve gone from being a tiny art production contractor to a hot internet company. (This isn’t as impressive as it sounds. In 1998, all internet companies are hot.) This is our first time meeting face to face. We hug.

This experience has provided an important lesson: Business dealings have everything to do with the character of the person you’re dealing with, and almost nothing to do with what it says on the contract. Rick and I worked together for years without so much as a handshake to seal the deal, because we were both honorable and trusted each other. Over the years I’ll learn that contracts can’t save you from weasels, liars, cheaters, or morons. The best a contract can do is mitigate your losses when things go wrong. In my own dealings, I’m happy to sign a contract to make the other person comfortable, but I’ll never count on a contract to keep me safe. If I don’t trust someone enough to do business with them on the basis of their word, then I don’t trust them enough to do business on the basis of their word and a contract.

So goes my long adventure through the world of internet technology and 3D content. It says “developer” on my business cards, but I’m all over the map, filling gaps in our team. In the early days I design, code, and maintain our website. When we need art, I make art. I make texture maps. I program some in-house tools in C, and train a few people who eventually surpass me as 3D artists. When we need more programmers, I move programming full-time in 2001. I help migrate our million-line codebase from C to C++. I learn PHP, and MySQL. I learn about 3D graphics, client / server architecture, the Microsoft Windows API, Open GL, the Renderware graphics engine, a couple of 3D modelling suites, and a handful of scripting languages. I learn figure modeling so I can build animated characters. I invent a compression system designed specifically for 3D models. During the dot-com bubble I become a paper millionaire, and during the bust I go back to being a thousandaire. I write a particle engine and get to code a few lightweight game environments.

Beyond reading and simple math, I never use a single thing I learned in any school.

I spend about fifteen years doing nothing but learning and directly applying that learning to problem-solving. This is a deeply rewarding cycle for me. I could complain about a few events, and the dot-com bubble will turn out to be a painful time for me, but on the balance this is an exceptional job. I get to do what I love and stick with the same group of people for a decade and a half.

Despite the misery and disaster of my experience with public education, I’m skeptical when my wife comes to me and proposes homeschooling our three children. After all of those years of frustration and torment, I’m still perfectly willing to send my own children into the madhouse, because… well, that’s what everyone does, right? I mean, how will they learn if they don’t do school stuff? However, I trust my wife to know what she’s doing, and so we agree to have her homeschool the kids. At first we start out with formal curriculum, but as the years go by we begin to see just how little of it is necessary to the learning process. As our children grow and become knowledgeable, capable people, I begin to see that a vast majority of what we’ve come to understand as “schooling” is useless cruft that is unrelated to the process of assimilating knowledge.

In 2006, I begin this blog, which launches a second career for me as a writer.

So that’s my story. This series has been both cathartic and educational for me, and I’m glad many of you were able to find enjoyment from it as well.

If you’re thinking of commenting on the homeschool thing, I’d encourage you to hold off until tomorrow. I’m going to wrap this series up with some final thoughts on education.


From The Archives:

187 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 39: Activeworlds

  1. Huh, I thought you said in the last post that this was going to be 40 parts long? Anyway, it’s been a very interesting read so thanks for writing it!

    1. Dragomok says:

      I'm going to wrap this series up with some final thoughts on education.

      That’s the part number 40.

  2. Jarenth says:

    Well, that was swift. Fifteen years in the blink of an eye. Are you worried we won’t be as interested in reading about your happy years as were were reading about the miserable ones? ;)

    Quips aside, it’s been a great read and a veritable emotional rollercoaster. Thanks for writing it, and thanks for spending so much of your free time entertaining the bunch of Internet ingrates that we are.

    1. DanMan says:

      I wouldn’t EXACTLY say 15 years. He skipped from the late 90’s to 2006. He’s been including a lot about his life for the past 5 years on this blog.

    2. DaMunky89 says:

      I think he skipped forward because the years he abbreviated were covered more or less pretty extensively in earlier posts he’s made on this site.

    3. Eärlindor says:

      Indeed. This has been a pleasure and an honor to read. Thank you, Shamus.

  3. Kdansky says:

    I was about to write about homeschooling, but I’ll wait until tomorrow then. Curses! Also congratulations, even if a decade late. Your job sounds fantastic.

    Also: So little text for so many years?

    1. Shamus says:

      There are a lot more stories to tell, but most of them are stories about insane clients, technology problems, or horrible business decisions, and not really about me. I’m not sure my friends at Activeworlds would appreciate me bad-mouthing former business (and possible future business) in public.

      I might tell a few at some point down the road, but I don’t think they fit into the flow of my story, so this was a good place to stop.

      1. Kdansky says:

        All of these sounds very entertaining though.

        1. lazlo says:

          There’s plenty of them over at the daily WTF. Maybe some of them are even Shamus’, posting pseudonymously.

        2. Moridin says:

          Face it, Shamus could write about a random rock and make it interesting.

      2. SolkaTruesilver says:

        You didn’t mentionned the time you were a Millionnaire? :-)

        1. Shamus says:

          Hard to talk about that. AW became a publicly traded company in 1999-ish and became a dot-com focused on “Virtual Malls”. Ugh. Unlike most dot-com companies, we had actually been a viable enterprise before the VC money came in, so instead of going out of business we just had to massively cut back our staff to pre-dot-com levels. This was gruesome. Technically I was worth 1.5 million at the time, but by the time I could sell my shares they were worth just enough to help us move back to Pennsylvania and make a down payment on a house for our growing family.

          (We moved back to PA because I wanted to spend time with Dad before he died. He ended up dying one week before we moved. It was… awkward.)

          I’d love to do a post-mortem on the whole dot-com / virtual mall thing, but that did NOT end amicably between our company and the VC guys, and I don’t want to say or do anything to stir up that hornet’s nest again.

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            Pffff… That’s always the same with you fancy rich people. The moment you actually sell out and become millionaire, you become too important to comment on the blogs, get in touch with the REAL people down here…

            (joke.. obviously.. Just so we’re clear :-D )

          2. lazlo says:

            I always thought it was fascinating… I worked for a couple of companies that either considered or did get bought by bigger publicly traded companies. It was always a requirement that the purchase had to be between January and April, because there was a one-year lockout on selling our newfound stock, and none of us could afford to pay the taxes on our virtual riches unless and until we could convert them into *actual* riches.

          3. Jimmy Bennett says:

            Move back to Pennsylvania? When did you move out of PA? Did I miss something in the autobiography. I’ve been assuming that all of this was taking place in PA. Did you move to the Silicon Valley when you got swept up in the dot-com craziness?

            1. Shamus says:

              I lived in Boston for just under two years during the dot-com craze.

              1. TSED says:

                I’d love to hear your opinion on Boston.

                Not that I care about Boston, or anything. I just find the experiences of people going to big (or bigger) cities fascinating.

            2. Jimmy Bennett says:

              Nevermind, I reread the post (and the comments below). You moved to Boston.
              Edit: and now you answered my question so this post is redundant.

      3. Patrick the overly Caffienated says:

        Yea..but…what about the birth of the kids? Moving too and back from Boston? The epic battle of Pringles salt-n-vinegar chips VS. your gallbladder? Dad?

        1. krellen says:

          He mentioned all of those briefly, except the Pringles, which may be for the best.

      4. decius says:

        Anonymise the people and companies involved, and the potential for lawsuits goes way down.

  4. Amstrad says:

    Wow, I always imagined your previous job was just some boring systems job for XYZ corp or whatever, not something nearly as cool as working on what amounts to a precursor to Second Life. That’s really friggin cool.

  5. Matthew says:

    It took me a while to figure out that “weasels” was a kind of person instead of a small, rat-like mammals. Though I suppose contracts wouldn’t do much to protect you from them anyway…

    Another interesting read, this series has been highly entertaining/educational for me, and I’m sure, a lot of other readers.


    1. Kdansky says:

      You need to read more Dilbert.

      Note that Dilbert is only funny if you work, and not during university.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        My mom has the exact opposite attitude. She never thought Dilbert was funny because it remembered her too much of the office.

        1. Deoxy says:

          Then her office isn’t that bad.

          Seriously, Dilbert is for those who MUST laugh at their ridiculous work situations – the only other options are going crazy or going postal.

          (BTW, I am one of the only people I’ve ever met who has experienced something in real life that tops a Dilbert comic on the exact same topic. It’s not a pleasant experience.)

          1. Shamus says:

            I remember being baffled by Dilbert when I was in Tech school. It just… it WASN’T FUNNY. I remember talking about it with a schoolmate.

            “I don’t like Dilbert.”

            “Is that the one with the dog?”


            “Yeah, that one is just weird.”

            A few years later I read it again, and suddenly it all made sense. What seemed like odd, abstract nonsense had suddenly become pitch-black gallows humor.

            It really was amazing to realize that it was me that changed, not the comic.

            1. Cat Skyfire says:

              I always said that, to understand Dilbert, you had to have been in a Dilbert situation.

              My Dilbert moment was when we had a big meeting at my company of the time. They opened with “We care about our employees!” Then moved onto: “Our VP of finance has had troubles with her insurance claims, so we’re changing insurance companies, and there isn’t a network in your state… But remember, we care about our employees!”

              …I remember them being shocked/appalled that there weren’t snacks provided for their big meeting with the staff.

              1. The odd thing is my daughter has rather liked Dilbert since she was around twelve. I’m not sure what that says about my parenting vis-a-vis Dilbert situations . . .

        2. Dilbert was a webcomic before the web existed. I loved it, but I could never understand how it got into a newspapers.

      2. xXDarkWolfXx says:

        I find Dilbert funny even though im not even out of High School yet. Sorta raises the question of whats wrong with me.

        1. Mari says:

          I fell in love with “Dilbert” in high school as well so we’re weirdos of a feather.

          1. Sumanai says:

            Probably the strangest reason to feel fraternal (there’s a unisex word for this but it escapes me) that I’ve ran into. “United by liking Dilbert before it became reality.” And some say I’m depressing.

            1. Sphore says:

              Hahah, I came to enjoy Dilbert around the age of twelve- I’ve never had to deal with situations that strike me as particularly Dilbert-esque, so I suppose my enjoyment of the comic comes from my fondness for absurdist humour.

              1. Simulated Knave says:

                I’ll pile onto the bandwagon here, I guess. :)

                Though I would make the argument that teachers and fellow students can fill the roles of most people in Dilbert comics.

              2. Sumanai says:

                I don’t remember when I first read them, but I think I enjoyed for both the absurd humor and the fact that it sounded to me so likely to be true. But I’ve been pretty cynical for half of my life now.

        2. Demaudits says:

          I’ve actually read Dilbert since early in middle school.

          My dad had a few of the collections and I just found them one day and for some reason I loved them. I’m not actually sure why, to be honest.

          As I’ve gone back and read some of those older books I’ve realized how much of it I was actually missing back then. Kind of funny how you remember the strips when you see them again but all of a sudden the ones that really didn’t make sense are suddenly so clear and obvious.

        3. Abnaxis says:

          I found it funny in high school, but I always thought they were facetious.

          Then I got a job as an engineer and learned that they are only too true. They understate the problems they lampoon sometimes…

          1. Sumanai says:

            Yet I’ve heard that some people complain about the stories being too over the top and giving undeserved bad press for companies.

            Not that I’ve ever believed those people.

          2. Tizzy says:

            Scott Adams is well-known as a shrewd businessman, and he credits a lot of Dilbert’s success to being one of the first authors to put his email address on the strip. Turns out he got so many suggestions this way that the thing just wrote itself. Genius!

      3. Methermeneus says:

        Dilbert was funny when I was in school, but maybe that’s just because I’ve technically been working since I was six (helped out in my parents’ entrepreneurial efforts back then, and the person fixing everyone’s computers pretty much from age twelve, which helps me get Dilbert’s tech jokes; first “official” job was sixteen, as per state law) including all through university. In fact, I am currently in my longest unemployed period since then, beginning immediately upon graduation.

      4. Susie Day says:

        yup, I’m one of those who just didn’t get it .. then, I got a job as a receptionist / data entry at a mortgage company .. I worked for pointy hair .. and Dilbert was suddenly hilarious.

        1. Mari says:

          Yes, but how many times did you have to demand the head of a mail boy in exchange for an appointment with the boss? ;-)

  6. Rick says:

    Thank you, Shamus, for sharing your story. It’s been a wonderful read and a fantastic perspective on many many things.

    1. Even says:

      Seconded. Really, thanks. It’s truly been a humbling, insightful and educational experience.

      1. Destrustor says:

        Yes. Again, Thank you.

  7. Zaxares says:

    “Heather and I honeymoon on the Canadian side of Niagara falls. … It doesn't occur to us to take a single picture. … Three months later, Heather is pregnant.”

    I’m sensing a connection here… ;)

    Ribald humour aside though, thank you for writing this, Shamus. It’s been quite an entertaining, informative and often thought-provoking story. I can only hope that my own life story will be equally as interesting when I’m at your age.

    1. tengokujin says:

      I… missed that. But now it makes sense. :3
      (It takes two weeks to a few months to detect pregnancy)

    2. Ambience 327 says:

      “I'm sensing a connection here… ;)”

      Something in the water at Niagra Falls?


      1. Soylent Dave says:

        Flash photography inhibits fertility.

    3. BeamSplashX says:

      Oddly, my first thought was “How much did Heather curse during the birth?”

  8. MichaelG says:

    My reaction to this whole story is: close call!

    There are a myriad of alternate universes where you end up hostile and basically unemployable, frustrated in your desire to accomplish something with computers, and unable to take other jobs seriously.

    If you hadn’t had some good influences after your Dark Year, hadn’t met Heather, hadn’t lucked into this ActiveWorlds job, if that company had crashed and burned, etc., I wonder how things would have turned out for you?

    If your first couple of programming jobs had been boring, would you have just retreated into doing it as a hobby and working a McJob during the day? Without credentials, would you even have found something in your area? It doesn’t sound like you had the confidence to just up and move to Silicon Valley and pray someone would hire you before you went broke.

    I’d like to think that good people will find success no matter what, but I know that life can really mess you up. Given your background, I think you had a narrow escape from a very frustrating life.

    So congratulations, and thanks for a good story!

    1. Shamus says:

      Yes, with just a slight change in variables I could have led a very different (and probably worse) life.

      1. Mephane says:

        In retrospect, there are always so many tiny variables that had to align just the way they did or else everything would probably be completely different. This is actually the essence of chaos theory, and always amazing to see happening.

        1. MichaelG says:

          That would be true of any life, you’re right. But as I was reading Shamus’s story, I kept thinking “How does this kid ever turn out right?” I really think the odds were stacked against him, and it could easily have been much worse.

          1. Shamus says:

            Thinking about this more:

            If I hadn’t gotten a job with AW, I very likely would have gotten a job with one of the minor tech companies around here, working in IT and taking care of a computer system. (Nearly got one of those jobs in the gap between Big Iron and AW.) I certainly wouldn’t have moved anywhere, and certainly not to Silicon Valley.

            If that had happened, it’s hard to say what the result would have been. Maybe I would have just plodded away at that job and never done anything really exciting. Maybe I would have looked elsewhere for a creative outlet if my job hadn’t been so rewarding. Maybe I would have started blogging sooner and gone into writing sooner. Hard to say.

            1. MichaelG says:

              I have a friend who basically went that route after college. Eventually he dropped out completely and ended up living in a trailer park, doing computer graphics for fun, and hardly earning any money.

              Personally, I look back at that 90s period with the usual “what was I thinking!” chagrin. I left IBM Research, went to Oracle, left there when their stock tanked and my options were all way underwater. After I left, they reissued more options at the new price, the stock recovered, and friends ended up millionaires.

              Meanwhile, I knocked around from one blah company to another, tried to do my own thing for a couple of years, then ended up contracting, disgusted with the industry in general. I completely missed the dot com bubble, content to just get paid by the hour and not put up with all the drama.

              What was I thinking?

        2. Kdansky says:

          Yeah. I mentioned my marriage just yesterday. I met my wife while I was spending a year abroad as an exchange student, yet the relationship survived 4 years of 10’000 miles between us. I met her through a huge coincidence. Tiny choices have huge effects, which is also quite horrifying: We do not have as much control over our lives as we believe.

          1. Sho says:

            …It’s completely and utterly creepy the number of similarities between your situation and mine (same # of years, almost exact same miles distance give or take 1000km, highly coincidental meeting). Getting married next month.

            …Also congratulations!

            1. Kdansky says:

              There are more than 6’000’000’000 people on this planet. Chances that two of them are similar enough so that a handful of sentences fit aren’t actually that low. If you speak German, you can find my old blog talking about my experiences over there on blogspot. I’ve got a new one now, which is about something else entirely.

              1. krellen says:

                We just hit 7 billion, actually. Or 7 thousand million, for you Europeans.

                1. Zukhramm says:

                  I’m pretty sure we say billion over here too. Though the Swedish word biljon does mean trillion.

                  1. krellen says:

                    Somewhere (the UK, perhaps?) “a billion” means 1,000,000,000,000, not 1,000,000,000.

                    1. Nyquisted says:

                      Technically a British billion is a million million, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how many people use that over the American version.

                    2. Soylent Dave says:

                      We in the UK officially gave up and started calling 10^9 ‘a billion’ last week.

                      I still think it should be 10^12 (but NO, that’s a trillion. APPARENTLY.)

                      Some of Europe still use the long scale.

                    3. AyeGill says:

                      We do this in Denmark, too. We use “milliard” for 1,000,000,000. This is called the Long Scale

                2. Sekundaari says:

                  7 milliard.

                  1. Mephane says:

                    Yeah, it is weird, and I don’t know which system is the most true or pure or whatever, but there is a parallel naming system for big numbers, used for example in German, too (those are typically not country-, but language-specific).

                    Basically, for every larger -ion number, e.g. million, there is an additional step in the scheme, where 1000 million = 1 milliard, 1000 milliard = 1 billion, 1000 billion = 1 billiard and so on.

                    Even professional news editors sometimes mix them up, translating news from the US talking about a number in the billions, and instead of interpreting those as 1000 million, as a million million, i.e. milliard.

                    The difference is really confusing, and I would happily adapt to either system so long as the other one is scrapped completely (unlike the metric system, which I shall defend to the teeth, inch/foot/yard/mile is just stupid imho).

              2. Sumanai says:

                The chance also goes up when you consider that similar people are more likely to frequent similar websites.

                1. decius says:

                  And it goes down again when you consider only the number of people that frequent the same websites I do. It’s still rather unlikely that any given description matches with any viewer, but nearly certain that at least some of them do.

  9. Rats says:

    As the story is fairly wrapped up in this post, I’ll say what I’ve wanted to say for the last few years of your personal posts.

    Thank you, Shamus, for taking the time to write, and share, your story with everyone here. Its been an interesting take on life, and many lessons there for those of us who haven’t got as far as you.

  10. Adam P says:

    I can remember when that casino was being built. I asked my teacher, “what’s a casino?” The other kids in the class looked at me with that look of, “are you stupid or something?” The teacher gave me an answer something to the effect of, “casinos are evil.”

    I felt no shame in asking the question, or from the looks of disbelief on the faces of my peers. How can I know what a casino is if I don’t ask? It’s like a story my mom told at Thanksgiving dinner last year, how the teacher (kindergarten or first grade) had given her a call expressing concern about me. The teacher had told my mom, “I think your son might need special education.” The reason? I didn’t know what an iron was. My mom stayed at home and my dad was a blue-collar worker. I had never seen an iron or clothes be ironed.

    It’s a shame that I had to learn what a casino actually is from SimCity 2000.

    1. Shamus says:

      This happened to me ALL THE TIME. Eventually I stopped asking questions, because it generated so much negative feedback. (And after insulting you, they STILL don’t answer the damn question!) Instead I developed this conversational trick where I would mention the mystery item in conversation and see what people said. I’d do this with several people, and eventually their responses would give me enough ancillary information that I could reconstruct the whole.

      In the Vo-Tech competition, I remember everyone kept telling me you could win a “scholarship” by winning at state. I knew this was something you got at or from college, and I knew it was a good thing to have, but I didn’t know what it was or how it worked. So I went around talking about the Vo-Tech thing and mentioning how you could win a scholarship, just to try to get people to give me hints on what it was.

      It was a terrible way to learn, but it was preferable to being laughed and told I was stupid and ignorant because I wanted to know things.

      (Looking back now, Did I even know what a scholarship was when I walked out of the test? I can’t remember now.)

      1. delve says:

        Terrible way to learn? Sir, what you did is nothing less than re-inventing proper detective and reporting work from basic principles. True, you ended with knowing less about the subject than you might have otherwise but I submit that you learned vastly more about gathering knowledge than you would have if everything had been handed to you. A pet peeve of modern ‘education’ is that we’re so set on rushing kids up through the knowledge ladder to the things that are ‘important’ that we never let them experience real learning where you engage your mind instead of your memory until that innate skill has atrophied into uselessness.

        But back to the point, your years of practicing proper sleuthing on mundane topics (which you could have instead looked up in the library’s encyclopedia) trained you unwittingly to do all the learning you accomplished at Activeworlds.

        1. Shamus says:

          A very interesting way of looking at things. Thanks.

      2. Meredith says:

        Funny, what you accomplished through conversation I always got from books. Extra bonus: you don’t have to talk to anyone. :D

        1. Yup, same for me. The thought of actually attempting to have a conversation with someone in order to learn something was terrifying. On the other hand books are awesome, gentle, and never treat you like an idiot or call you names.

          1. krellen says:

            My solution is to try very hard to never make anyone feel like an idiot for asking me a question.

            1. Sumanai says:

              Been trying that for years. In the beginning I unintentionally gave answers that no-one understood and seemed to make people think they are idiots and that the subject is too complicated. Unless they knew about it, in which case they thought I was wrong and gave a rephrased version of what I just said (at least in my eyes) and were more often understood.

              After some time I started oversimplifying my answers and/or trying to get others to explain it for me. Which lead into situations where the person who ended up explaining the thing thought I needed the explanation and sometimes thought I was an idiot. Which didn’t really bother me and as a bonus the one asking didn’t get thought as an idiot.

              I remember one time that the explainer got a confused look on his face when the original asker thanked him instead of me thanking him.

              Now I don’t know what I do. I think people have stopped asking me things. I guess that’s what incoherent babbling does.

              1. krellen says:

                I am very good at explaining technical things in terms non-technical people can understand. It is the skill that makes me so valuable at work.

        2. Kdansky says:

          Yeah, I had a huge selection of science-books when I was a kid, and read any GEO or DER SPIEGEL or PM (some German monthly or weekly magazines, with at least a science section) I could get my hands on. I could recite pretty much anything well known about Dinosaurs and Astronomy. When I get kids, they will certainly have access to books like that again. Pretty illustrations are enough to make learning fun at that age. Actually, that’s still the case for me:

          1. Methermeneus says:

            I’ve discovered that oblique questions work best: “What do you mean by ‘casino?'” for instance, would net me some details on what a casino is by way of explaining what aspects of a casino this one will have, and what aspects it won’t. (Of course, the “never you mind, all casinos are the same, and they are bad” answer is on occasion unavoidable, but it helps keep the other kids from looking at you like an idiot, and you can be assured that that answer generally comes from someone who is bad to ask questions from in general, so move on to someone else.) I’ve gotten very good at faking more knowledge of a subject than I actually have, and by doing so gaining knowledge from those I talk to. This was actually kind of a stupid thing to do when I was younger, but today it gives me a wonderful base to later go and look up all of the details online.

            And the reason I put my response in this part of the thread is that everything I know about Germany, I know because my German professor introduced my class to Der Spiegel (“The Mirror,” for non-German speakers). I love that periodical. The science sections are particularly good for providing a non-American viewpoint on science (since American periodicals tend to be either scared or sensationalist when it comes to scientific discoveries).

      3. DanMan says:

        My solution is now Google…

        1. Kalil says:

          I feel like part of my brain has been amputated when I don’t have access to Wikipedia.

          …of course, I went into a career that involves spending large quantities of time in the middle of the biggest nowhere bar Antarctica, so I have that lobotomized feeling quite a lot.

      4. I was always arrogant enough that I could make people assume I was smarter than they were even if I was asking them the kind of question they might want to mock me for not knowing the answer to. The attitude I projected was along the lines of “Yeah, I’m so smart I’m never afraid asking will make me look dumb. This is how I got smarter than you lot, by finding out the stuff I want to know. Envy me, b*****s!”
        Of course half the time the questions I asked were the ones everyone else wanted to ask except they were afraid of looking stupid. In university people were actually happy I was around asking the question so they could find out. In high school nobody cared about the answers to those questions, so they didn’t value someone finding out for them.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Let me thank you on behalf of your teachers. Unless you’re the kind of teacher who does not care at all about what your students are learning, there is nothing worse than a roomful of unasked questions. Hurray for those who bite the bullet.

          1. Mari says:

            The bad part of that is that I’m the sort who always wants to impress teachers so I basically ignored the entire lecture trying to come up with an insightful and cutting question to ask at the end of the period to blow the prof’s socks off.

    2. Mrs. Peel says:

      I had similar experiences, except in my case, I didn’t know what “ecstasy” was (well, I knew what the word meant, but I could tell from context that I was missing something), or what a “rave” was, or what “South Park” was.

      1. Dave says:

        Well, my almost 5 year old son saw the picture of the South Park movie on Netflix last night and called it “the one with the beach balls”. I told him it wasn’t a kid show and that ended that discussion. :)

    3. Mari says:

      LOL I mentioned on Facebook last night that my nearly 14-year-old daughter had just figured out that you can put a Pop Tart in the toaster and heat it. It was news to her. I find it amusing but how was she supposed to know? I wouldn’t eat the things hot on a bet and the hubs won’t touch ’em at all. Honestly we never even had Pop Tarts in the house until they came home begging for them all the time after visiting grandma. But the kid had never been exposed to hot Pop Tarts so she had this amazing revelation about them that other people would look at and go, “Wow. That kid has an exciting future in a career with her name on her shirt…”

      1. Simulated Knave says:

        It *is* on the box. And mentioned in the commercials.

        1. My mom never kept the boxes and we didn’t watch tv so I wouldn’t have known if my mom didn’t burn ours all the time. :P

        2. Mari says:

          We haven’t had TV since they were in preschool. And yes, it is on the box (even moreso in this case because I usually buy generics that go under the revealing product name “Toaster Pastries”) but how many people do you know that read the boxes? Well, aside from compulsive readers like me who can’t see written words without HAVING to read them?

          1. pffh says:

            Wait you mean reading stuff just because the words are right in front of you isn´t normal? Huh how do people avoid reading the words I mean they are right there do they have some kind of weirdness sensor against words…

          2. Freykin says:

            I have that compulsive reading problem myself, I know more about food packaging than I probably should. It even gets me in the shower with shampoo/conditioner bottles.

            1. Methermeneus says:

              Reading is just more ingrained in some people than others. It’s problematic for linguists because for some people the written word acts like a language (where you can’t help but take meaning from exposure), and for some others, it’s an obvious conversion process from shapes to language. For slightly more than half the population, glancing at words without paying attention is similar to having music on while you’re daydreaming: You can tell that your sensory organs are picking up something with meaning, but your brain isn’t in a mode in which it can interpret that meaning. My pet theory is that it’s related to how much exposure to reading you have during the L1 (initial language acquisition) period. Obviously you begin such exposure later than spoken language by a year or more, but a child who is a voracious reader is more likely to pick up words at a glance later in life than one who doesn’t much care for books. The precise connection is probably better-known by experts, but I always specialized in L2 acquisition (particularly how L1 affects L2) and the formation of language constructs rather than L1 development, so don’t take my word as truth on this subject.

              Since the average reader/commenter on Shamus’s blog appears to be more well-read than average, it seems to follow that the population would be biased in favor of those more likely to treat the written word as an aspect of their L1 language.

              1. TSED says:

                … Is your first language, by any chance French? And you are fluent in Spanish as well?

          3. Simulated Knave says:

            She could see commercials somewhere else with a TV.

            Though thinking on it, I haven’t seen a pop tart commercial in ages.

            And I always read the boxes. And the instructions. It is the source of so much of my power.

    4. Hal says:

      Eh, mine was in 8th grade physical science. I don’t even remember the context, but in the middle of class one day I had to ask him what a “mosh pit” was. Apparently I was the only 14 year old in 1996 who did not understand this critically important concept.

      1. TSED says:

        I had to explain what a “mosh pit” was recently in a class of mine, to all but a tiny handful of the class members.

        As a college student.

        In 2011.

        1. Mephane says:

          I don’t see the problem. I guess there are dozens hip-hop related terms that I have never heard of either and don’t need to know, so I think it is totally ok for someone not to know what a mosh-pit is, either.

  11. For what it is worth, I’ve had better experiences with being educated, though I share a lot of your frustrations with the system as well.

  12. Raygereio says:

    Didn’t we already had the home-schooling topic on this site?

    Anyway: I’m somewhat curious as to your experiences during the bubble. Or were you one of those many people who just got caught in the tidal wave and spend the majority of the time looking around, scratching your head and going “What the hell is going on?!” and as a result don’t have any interesting stories?

  13. Uscias says:

    A happy ending to what was probably the best series of posts this website has ever seen :D

  14. Alan says:

    Wow. That is quite a big thing.

    When you say that David Purchased Goliath, I am facinated at how a small company could not only get a deal to buy out a company, but also turn it around and make it profitable.

    I can’t remember what post it was, but somewhere you said that if you had your time again, you would make more or less the same choices, and end more or less in the same place.

    Does that still hold true?

    1. Joshua says:

      I know that despite all of the poor choices I made, I’m not sure I would go back and change anything in my life because they have made me the person I am today.

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        Yeah, I have done many stupid, horrible things, & have had many stupid, horrible things done unto me. But I now have a lovely wife, a wonderful son, & a steady job that lets me pursue my hobbies in relative peace. I wouldn’t change a single thing, no matter what, because to have altered those bad experiences & actions for the better would risk what I have now, & I am more than content.

      2. Jarenth says:

        This is my life philosophy.

        1. MrPyro says:

          Mine too.

          In my last year of university I ended up in an incredibly destructive relationship for about a year; the last few weeks of it and the first couple of post-breakup weeks were really unpleasant.

          But the whole thing forced me to re-assess a whole bunch of things about how I was living my life and my attitude to various things; if that hadn’t happened then I think I would be a much less happy person now.

          Everything that happens in life is a lesson.

      3. krellen says:

        I’d change several things, but that’s because I’m not particularly satisfied with my life at the moment.

        1. Deoxy says:

          I have to agree with that.

          Going through crap and getting to something great makes it feel like the crap was worth it.

          Going through crap and getting to more crap… eh. Fun times.

      4. Patrick the overly Caffienated says:

        There are many ways of dividing up people. For the sake of this pont I will make one simple division:

        1.Those who would go back and change their decisions.
        2.Those who would not.

        The reasons for the people in group number 1 could be any number of things, almost limitless number of reasons.

        However, in my opinion, there are only 2 reasons why the people in group 2 would NOT want to go back and change things:

        1.They never,ever did anything fun or exciting and have lead a fairly dull and boring life.
        2.They have been very, VERY lucky.

        1. Shamus says:

          This changes when you have kids.

          Heather and I always talk about how we wish we’d married sooner. We were both idiots while we were dating, and we’d have been much happier much sooner if we’d just have tied the knot instead of dragging things out.

          HOWEVER, you can’t really entertain scenarios like this because getting married sooner would mean having different kids. So if I made a wish to change something I did in 1996, I’d also be wishing my kids away. (And replacing them with other kids, probably.) Once you’re a parent and you understand the chaos of conception, it’s pretty hard to think about changing anything.

          1. For sure. Although in my case, similar things hold even before that. If I had done a few things somewhat differently back a fair number of years, I probably would have gone to grad school, become an English professor just before everyone ended up part timers with no tenure track, and be doing rather better financially and in terms of social status than I now am.
            But, I wouldn’t have met my wife. In theory I suppose it’s likely I would have met *someone* and fallen in love with them and ended up happy and all that. But it’s hard to process such possibilities–I love my actual wife, a lot; I can’t imagine deliberately choosing to have done things in a way that led to not getting together with her (Well, OK, I can imagine it because my imagination has few limits, but I wouldn’t actually do it).

            1. Falcon says:

              That’s pretty much my sentiment. There are things I’m not happy with, I had a terrible, lonely, rut for most of 2004-2010. Things sucked pretty hard there at times. That said I did many things, met several great friends, been the best man twice, seen many more friends married. Most importantly I met my fiancée. Sure plenty bad happened, but there was plenty good. I wouldn’t change my past because I’ve learned from it, I’m a better person for it. It may have been painful, but life can be.

              Who’s to say changing things to avoid those mistakes wouldn’t have led to other, more painful ones.

          2. Mephane says:

            Enter the mighty grandfather paradoxon. Really, whatever you might wish to change in the past, remember it might very well involve some people not being born at all. Wouldn’t even have to be your own kids, but just a tiny change might have you accidently spoil someone else meeting their future wife etc.

            Sometimes I think Back To The Future gave people a completely wrong idea of what time travel and changing past events actually implies.

        2. Mari says:

          I’m in the “wouldn’t change things” category for a wholly other reason: I like where I am RIGHT NOW. The road to get here was crap and nearly killed me or left me a drooling vegetable more than once but every one of those crummy choices I made got me to where I am now and I’m pretty happy with this place. If I went back in time and, say, kept myself from doing that one thing that led to the 10-year cycle of self-destruction I might not end up where I am right now. The ten-year cycle itself wasn’t a happy place to be and in an abstract way I wish I could have avoided all the unhappy lessons it imparted to me, but I think they were integral to getting me to a place where I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of sustaining the life I’m living at the moment. Make sense?

          1. DanMan says:

            Yes very much. I had some terrible problems in college. If I were to have the ability to go back and change HOW I did things but not their outcomes, I would definitely do that. I was miserable in college.

            However, I am now in a great job that I love, I own a house with my wife and dog. I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up, even though the way to get here may have been rough.

          2. Jarenth says:

            Again, my life philosophy. I’ve done some pointless things too (though nothing as drastic-sounding as what you’ve written), but for better or for worse, I like where and who I am now. I have great friends, a good job, and I’ve learned to express myself on the Internet, leading to more friends.

            Yeah, there’s things I wonder about. But would it be worth the gamble? I choose to believe it doesn’t.

          3. Patrick the overly Caffienated says:

            Perhaps I should I have put in the very important detail of, “…knowing what you know now….” as in, you could achieve the same level of contentness you are in right now without all the mucking about. Kind of skip the nasty bits and all.

            Imagine going to an all you can eat buffet, filled with every possible food imaginable. CHoices are limitless. Yummy.

            Despite what your Mother tells you is a nasty allergy to shellfish, you decide to indulge in some shrimp. Because one, who the hell is she to tell you what you can’t eat, You never rmeber this bloody allergy. And two…well the shrimp do look awfully tasty.

            Turns out you do have a rather severe allergic reaction to the shrimp. And due to the fact that these were also undercooked and ill-prepared shrimp you also pick up rather nasty and mean -spirited case of food poisoning. You spend ten years mucking about trying to recover, all the while your mother is inspipantly mentioning that she told you so. At the end of then years you manage to recover fully, and YEA you lost ten pounds! Now you can fit into those awesome jeans you havent fit into since freshman year! All is good.

            Now…if you could go back….KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW… would you still eat the shrimp?

            1. Soylent Dave says:

              Most of the things I’d want to go back and change are so that I don’t know what I know now, to be honest.

              Although a solid enough blow to the head would probably have a comparable effect… hmm.

            2. Mari says:

              I still wouldn’t change. Most of the things I “learned” I already kind of knew on an intellectual level but I needed to experience them to truly understand. I mean, any of us who lived through He-Man and GI Joe and those doofy fried egg commercials knew that drugs were bad, right? But for some of us it was an abstract knowledge that required experimentation to become meaningful.

            3. Garci says:

              I wouldn’t say I lead a dull life (then again, most of us wouldn’t, but still) and I still wouldn’t change a thing. The variables are too many as to consider what would have happened had I chosen something else, so thinking about doing stuff differently would probably affect me in more ways than one. For example: I lived in Germany for a year, as an exchange student, and loved the experience, but I don’t think I’d change any of it, even the little things. Sure, I didn’t do a lot of things I wanted to do (visit Munich, Hamburg, go to London) but maybe the time I spent not-doing those things enabled me to do other stuff. A few days spent not-travelling might have helped me made progress with people at school that perhaps would have been lost otherwise.

              My point is: maybe not kissing that girl at that party spared you from sinking 2 years in a pointless, time-consuming relationship. Maybe eating that shrimp prevented you from going somewhere or doing something you’d otherwise have done had you been healthy. It doesn’t ammount to “getting the good stuff whilst knowing what you know”, it boils down to the infinite branching possibilities of our choices, and how we learn to live with them.

              And yes, I do love the Chaos Theory.

        3. Kevin says:

          When I was younger I thought the same way as Joshua above. My life wasn’t perfect, but I liked who I was and didn’t want to change anything.

          Now, I little older and wiser (I hope) I sometimes wonder, what if? Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and family and great things have happened in my life. But, I was very timid and cautious when I was younger. Looking back I would have done some things that now, are difficult to do with the responsibility of a family.

          It is neat to look back on your life and see how the butterfly effect of small decisions have led you to where you are. Makes me think I should be a little more conscious of the actions and inactions I take each day.

        4. Tizzy says:

          I don’t buy Patrick’s description: what lands you in the group who would go back and change versus keep everything the same appears to be a lot more about personality and outlook on life rather than what has actually happened to you.

          I mean, isn’t it *obvious* that how you perceive what happened must be at least as important as what actually happened? Isn’t the world peopled with ungrateful whiners who have no idea what lucky hand they’ve been dealt, as well as tons of people who blame themselves when they’ve plainly had perfectly rotten luck?

    2. Presumably they bought it for what it was currently worth at that time (which is to say, very little due to its inability to get customers who would pay for its services) rather than a price reflecting all the money and effort that had been poured into it.
      That would allow them to use the fairly useful technologies the company owned for much less ambitious things than the company had had in mind, and still turn a profit.

  15. noahpocalypse says:

    Best series of posts ever.

    (And, aside from webcomics and DND, the longest!)

    Man. as Michael G said up there: very close call. You walked on the edge of a dagger- stray but a little, and you would have fallen.* I’m happy you had a nice ending.

    You know, this explains a lot. Why doing Hex and Frontier and all didn’t seem so daunting to you…

    *LOTR quote for the win?

    1. Rosseloh says:

      Not FTW, but only because you had to point it out. Come on, we’re all nerds here.

    2. Mom says:

      * I'm happy you had a nice ending.
      This reminds me of a joke. “I plan to live forever. So far so good.”

  16. Bubble181 says:

    Thanks for the great read, as usual :)

    On a completely different topic: in one of your previous posts, there was a link to your Google+ (though I don’t remember whether it was you or another commenter who posted it). Is it a private account, or is it public and to be followed for interesting news?

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s public, but I don’t use it very often.

      Facebook = Family & real-life friends
      Twitter=quick thoughts
      Google+ = long thoughts

      Almost everything worth putting on Google+ is worth making into a blog post, so I mainly use it to follow other people.

  17. Sydney says:

    “It doesn't occur to us to take a single picture.”

    This is the most touching, romantic thing I’ve read or heard in months.

  18. Frank says:

    Hi Shamus. I don’t comment very often, but I just wanted to let you know that I greatly enjoyed reading this series, and I’m almost sad to see it finished. Your site is my favourite blog of all.

  19. James says:

    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading the autoblography. I see a lot of my life in yours. How you have come to terms with some of your struggles has helped me come to terms with mine.

  20. Skyy_High says:

    Wonderful series. I know this is probably still a raw subject for you, but are we getting the story about how/why you aren’t working at ActiveWorlds anymore? I imagine it’s probably still too close in terms of time and people for you to talk about it openly, but I just thought I’d ask anyway.

    1. Shamus says:

      Oh, that story isn’t painful at all. Here’s the deal:

      The company isn’t exactly gobbling up the market. Things were tight even before the economy went bad. At the same time, I had kind of lost my zeal for the job. There just wasn’t much left for me to do short of wiping the slate clean and starting over. (Which is kind of needed at this point, and maybe even something they’re working on, I don’t know.) The technology is really long in the tooth. The graphics engine was last overhauled in 2000 or so.

      So I was technically laid off, but the decision was pretty mutual. They wanted to save some money, and I wanted to try my hand at writing and do some other programming projects that had been in my head for the last few years.

      We parted on warm terms, and Rick even mentioned that there’s some contract work available if I want it. Probably the job they have listed, actually:

      1. tengokujin says:

        That’s quite touching, actually. :3

      2. Skyy_High says:

        Aw, well that’s good then. It just bugged me to leave the story at a point where you seemed so happy, knowing that you’re not working at the same place anymore, and not knowing what happened in the interim. I’m glad it was a mutual decision and a happy ending to that chapter of your life.

      3. SolkaTruesilver says:

        And then you got swamped with business propositions :-D

      4. Cuthalion says:

        As others are saying, I’m glad you parted on good terms with them! I had also been wondering why you weren’t working there, and if something unpleasant had happened that you weren’t allowed or willing to talk about yet. So I’m relieved (yes, I’ve gotten that into the story and appreciated twentysided that much) it ended fairly well.

        Perhaps add a bit about this in an edit or the next entry, since we’re probably not the only people curious?

        Also, thank you for all your bloggery! It’s my favorite (and most time-consuming) stop on my comics-and-blog-reading routine.

      5. SW Chris says:

        The people at that company are really great people, pretty much down to a person. As a user of AW’s public universe for a long time, that matters. The thing is, you’re right, it’s old tech and it shows. And they never quite did get the community interaction thing down. That’s always been rough. But if JP is as sound a businessman as you say, then they’ll pull through.

        There has been talk by Peg about different engines and testing them and so on, by the way. It’s not imminent, though.

  21. Mephane says:

    Redundant redundancy is quite redundant, but I have to say I wholeheartedly agree that it was an absolutely fascinating read.

    What I loved the most was the relationship between you and Heather, which held strong against all odds. To me it felt as if all the rest was just context for that story to unfold, the hard times just thrown in to provide further proof for yourself (and now also us readers) that this is simply perfect.

    1. From the tone of the posts, I suspect Shamus would agree that she must love him a lot to have stuck with him, clueless dweeb that he was during key portions of their relationship. Having someone with you who loves you that much is a wonderful invaluable thing.

  22. lazlo says:

    It’s amazing how important that one business lesson is. The other important lesson is that loyalty should always be to people, never to organizations. Over the last 20 years or so I’ve worked for I think 15 different companies. Between them all, I’ve had 4 bosses, all of whom I’m still friends with.

  23. I just want to say that Heather is really pretty.

    And at the age of 45, I desperately wish I could find work that matched my skill set the way you have, Shamus. I’m STILL looking.


    1. Shamus says:

      I wish you could have found it at BioWare. Best of luck as always, Leslee.

  24. Meredith says:

    I just wanted to say thanks again for writing all this and sharing it with us. I’ve really enjoyed reading your history and the conversations it started. I’m glad things worked out well for you after all that, and of course that you found a way to channel your creative energies to a place where we can all enjoy them. :) Now if only I can work out that part for myself…

  25. burningdragoon says:

    I would like to add another mark to the ‘thoroughly enjoyed the series’ tally.

  26. Grampy_Bone says:

    Hey Shamus, I’ve been wondering. I apologize in advance if this is out of line. You can freely tell me to stuff it.

    But seriously dude, why the *hell* aren’t you working for a game developer?

    1. Shamus says:

      Pretty much because of this:

      The games industry is run by monsters and idiots who don’t understand the product or the people who make it. I would pretty much have to go indie if I ever wanted to make a game, because I will never love this work enough to tolerate months of crunch time, all to make something bland and forgettable that just ends up being the bait for a load of DRM hassle for the consumer.

      Ah. Games industry. I’d fix you if I knew how.

      1. krellen says:

        I can’t imagine Valve works like that.

        1. Shamus says:

          True. I’ve thought about Valve a lot. I think I’d REALLY fit in with their “cabal” system, and their freewheeling innovation factory is exactly the sort of thing I’m good at.

          Then I think, “Man… Seattle! That’s 3,000 miles away from the family.”

          I do play with this idea now and again. It’s not off the table.

          A lot will depend on how this book thing turns out. If it’s a disaster and I sell 100 copies, then Valve and Stardock will probably start getting love letters from me. I’m trying not to get my hopes up or get set on any particular path.

          1. krellen says:

            Speaking selfishly, you should go work for Valve so you can make them release Episode 3.

            1. Nick says:

              Shamus isn’t a miracle worker! :P

            2. noahpocalypse says:

              Consider Bungie. They have an excellent employee atmosphere and awesome forums- they hold a yearly competition among employees with the sole goal of making friends with each other. It probably has the most complex and amusing mythology out of any company to date. They’re also hiring right now. If I was legally able to work for them, I totally would. Best. Job. Ever.

              Unfortunately, they are also in Seattle. Fortunately, if you can convince them to work together with Valve on a project, you could create a game highly functional on the PC as well as best selling on the Xbox. (and PS3; Bungie is seeking to get into that.)

              Also, they signed a 10-year contract with Activision. They still have intellectual rights over what they create, though.

              1. noahpocalypse says:

                They also established Bungie Aerospace, a program to help indies. Something to consider.

              2. Sumanai says:

                Since we’re listing companies it seems/seemed that Double Fine is/was hiring. Don’t remember where they are though.

          2. Fenix says:

            I bet Bethesda could use a good programmer ;D
            And they’re only one state over.

          3. Wes1180 says:

            Does the half life 2 series of spoiler warning count as a love letter to valve? :P

            Loved the autoblography series been really interesting, so thanks for sharing :)

          4. Mephane says:

            Shamus, just imagine your name being mentioned in the credits of something like Portal!

          5. Kdansky says:

            Moving isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just take your whole family zerg with you.

      2. Dnaloiram says:

        What about Valve? They have openings, and from what I’ve heard, a nice work environment. Plus, you get to eat at their legendary cafeteria.

        [Edit] Well, shucks, looks like I should have reloaded the page before I posted that. I suppose there’s nothing for it.

      3. xXDarkWolfXx says:

        I only think of 3 companies that dont pull that kind of crap

        Bethesda Softworks (the Elder Scrolls part of the company)
        THQ/Volition (pretty much the same thing since THQ owns Volition)
        And Valve

        Once upon a time i wouldve dropped Blizzard in this list to but me and Blizzard havent been on good terms since the way that Diablo 3 would work was announced.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          THQ? I’m sorry, I must’ve missed wwhere they changed and became one of the good guys. You might want to talk to Iron Lore programmers before praising them too much. Not even allowing the programmers to make a patch on their own free time because It’s Your Code doesn’t get you many brownie points over h ere.

        2. Nick says:

          Yeah, I miss when Blizzard was my favourite games company

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Ditto. Oh well. Corruption and mediocrity are like fungus. They consume the best along with the worst.

  27. Lintman says:

    Shamus, where did you live in the Boston area? I lived in the area for a long time. Did you like it there?

    1. Shamus says:

      I was really unhappy in Boston because I was so far from my parents and siblings. (It’s probably obvious that we’re pretty close.)

      We lived in Amesbury. Here, actually:


      Which is really near where 95 and 495 meet. It was a nice enough place, but I never got used to Boston navigation. It’s very challenging for outsiders.

      (It was worse for me because I needed glasses and didn’t realize it until we’d lived there for a while. I couldn’t read signs from far away. It happened so slowly I didn’t realize there was anything wrong with my eyes. Silly.)

      1. Lintman says:

        Wow, you were practically in Maine!

        I know what you mean about Boston navigation. It’s actively unfriendly. Motto: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t belong here”.

        One time my parents came up to visit and we tried driving to the Science Center in Cambridge. We ended up spending an hour stuck in a loop circling around up and down the Cambridge and Boston sides of the Charles River, trying to find that damn place.

        1. We were practically in New Hampshire– did all our shopping there as it was closer and cheaper.

          1. Lintman says:

            Yeah, definitely cheaper. I lived almost due west of Amesbury in Derry NH for a while. The tax-free shopping was one of the few nice things about being up there. When I moved back to MA, I did a big “final buy” of stuff. Then I was telling one of my friends about saving on all the clothes and shoes I bought, he pointed out MA didn’t have sales tax on clothes. Doh!

      2. Sumanai says:

        I have a friend who found out a few years ago that he needed glasses. From what I gathered he had it pretty bad but still didn’t realize it.

      3. Al Shiney says:

        Finally get the chance to catch up with this after getting back from vacation and I find out that Shamus and I both lived in Amesbury, MA. I was born in Newburyport and lived in Amesbury for 7 years before my family moved us to Vermont. I still have aunts, uncles, and cousins there. However I wouldn’t exactly call it Boston.

        Also, thank you for this series Shamus. It was a great read and I look forward to being able to purchase your book. I hope it will be available for the Kindle, but if not, I’ll go against my nature and purchase the paper version. :)

  28. PAK says:

    Thanks for this, Shamus. Your willingness to be this vulnerable in a public forum is admirable. I’m glad it has been cathartic to you. Mass communicating in a one-to-many way like this, where you don’t really personally know much of your base, has got to be a very strange thing for you at times. While you may not know us, especially those like me who have never been prolific commenters, I’m sure I speak for many longtime readers when I say we feel we know you, and are glad. (I often refer, by name, to things you have written lately when speaking to friends and family.) We return not just because of your insightful and humorous analysis, but because the flashes of the man we have occasionally seen have been so likeable. This series adds that much more of a rounded, dimensional view of who you are, and makes me, at least, that much more inclined to keep returning day after day.

  29. MaxDZ8 says:

    This chapter reads really fast! Must have been intense!

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      It’s like the chase scene in Snow Crash. He’s spent all this time building up the background for his desire (to program computers). So at this point all he has to say is “After that it’s just a chase scene.”

  30. Aanok says:

    For all that is worth, I’d also like to thank you so much, Shamus, for having shared your life story with us! I’ve learned much from it and I’m really happy that it has been good for you as well. I hope that you will do a catch-up in some years from now ;)

  31. Methermeneus says:

    And so we near the end. This has been a fun ride, and seeing you overcome far worse problems than I have and ending up both successful and happy gives me hope for the future! Looking forward to the last chapter, as well as any of your future projects.

  32. MrWhales says:

    Shamus, I am continually amazed at how small this world is. ActiveWorlds is what got me into games in the first place, and what eventually led to me becoming social with people. You helped me become who I am by just doing what you love. Thanks :)

  33. Dasick says:

    Thanks Shamus. Really great read, and I appreciate you telling your life story to an audience composed of complete strangers.

    Reading the series though, I have to say, I can’t help but wonder how you learned to write like this. I vaguely remember you mentioning that you learned how to write just by keeping this blog, but… it’s hard for me not to call shenanigans.

    Speaking of writing, I understand it it, much like gaming, a subject dear to your heart. Are you ever going to have a post delving deep into the different aspects of writing, much like you do with games?

  34. Oleyo says:

    So I am just one of “a few people” you have trained!? That stings, Shamus!

    Well I guess I can let it slide since I “eventually surpass you as 3D artist” :)

    Seriously though, the couple years that you worked out here were the best times, Shamus. I miss those days. After hours System Shock 2 LAN co-op with the lights off and cubicle intercom communication FTW!

  35. I found your blog a while back and, as a former ActiveWorlds citizen, I’ve been looking forward to the day when you’d write up a post like this.

    Very interesting read.

  36. Trishia o says:

    Shamus, thank you. I spent 7 years in Aw as a GateKeeper. You were always talked about as a nice, bright founder of Aw. Now I understand as to why. Thank you for that and your time there.

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