Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Links!

In case you missed the Grey Cup last Sunday, here's a fantastic highlight package. The CFL always looks like more fun than the NFL. Next, and I agree 100%, it's George Harrison Is Still Classic Rock’s Best-Kept Secret.

From Rob Funk, and this is an epic read: The Last Unknown Man: He appeared out of nowhere. He had no name, no memory, no past. He was the only person the FBI ever listed as missing even though they knew where he was. How could B.K. Doe remain anonymous in the modern age’s matrix of observation?

From Steven Davis, and this is quite a story: Saving Classic Mickey. This must be watched: Medieval helpdesk in English. This is an excellent story from the wayback machine: The Office on the Move: Portable & Pocket Typewriters. This is terrific: Earth's History Plays Out On A Football Field.

From C. Lee, and what a bizarre story: The Medical Mystery Behind America's Best-Selling Hair-loss Drug. This is an entirely fascinating read: The real secret to Asian American success was not education. Boy, this is discouraging: For the ‘new yellow journalists,’ opportunity comes in clicks and bucks. This is stunning: Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it.

From Wally, and the title of this video is somehow hilarious: Don't Build a Mini Metal Foundry Until you See This First. This is a fascinating read: Who First Farmed Potatoes? Archaeologists in Andes Find Evidence. This is very interesting: A Brief History of Copyright in the United States. I had no idea: The Fire That Inspired 'Smoke on The Water'. Next, and this is remarkable, it's How the Expansion of Paris could Start with an Abandoned Radiation Bunker.

Here's a fantastic link from David Yellope: The True Story Behind Nintendo's Most Coveted Game.

From Roger Robar, and this is quite interesting: Disney's teenage princesses have always been voiced by adult women. Until now.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Fighting Eleven #10: Extracting Convincing From Real

One of the biggest challenges I'm facing for this game is how I create verisimilitude without drowning in the details.

I have a database of all D-I signings for the last ten years. It's about 10,000 players, a huge amount of raw data.

It's a giant puzzle, really, and for the game to work, I have to understand how the pieces fit together.

What's the ratio of five, four, and three-star recruits for a five-star program? What percentage of players sign in-state, or from an adjoining state? Those are the kinds of questions I need to answer to be able to put a slice of that into the game.

The 100% way to do recruiting would be to have all schools recruit every year, incorporating their team style, program status, program strengths, and location.

That's always my first instinct, to go way, way overboard, but that's not an efficient way to do this.

My job is to not go overboard. I need to give the user a sense of reality with as few AI rules and programming as possible.

Here's an example of trying to extract a slice of realism, which is all that the user sees. I'm not generating a huge database of fictional recruits each season. Instead, I'm generating 4 recruits that the user can recruit for each graduating player. So if 3 players need to be replaced, there will be 12 recruits available (4 at each position that needs to be replaced).

I use the real database to create 15 fictional recruits that should plausibly be interested in the user's program. This sounds easy, but it's much more complex than you would image. What star level for the recruits? Where do they come from? Why are they interested (I have to generate their priorities for the recruiting mini-game)? Also, what other schools are interested in the recruit, and why?

Now, because the user will play the same teams in conference play every season, those teams will actually have their own deck of player cards, and I'll replace graduating players with appropriate recruits for that program. So instead of doing recruiting for 120 schools, I'll be doing it for about 10.

When the user plays in-conference teams, he/she will recognize player cards from previous seasons, instead of just playing against a random deck. So I go in-depth with the teams the user will play every season.

My goal is to come up with 10 rules for the AI. 10 rules that will create a realistic recruit, and bonus points if I can do it in 5 rules. I'll let you know next week how I've done.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fighting 11 #9: On Campus

Have a look:

That's not art from the game. It's just an image I found (Middlebury College, from the Veritas Forum) that shows the perspective I want to use.

The campus view of the game is where you can upgrade facilities, which will increase your program's desirability to recruits. There are four major upgrade areas: Academics, training facilities, stadium, and a fourth one I've forgotten for now. 

If you upgrade your program, you'll get more recruiting badges for that area, so you can get better recruits. 

Users gain general upgrade points for campus facilities by winning games and exceeding expectations, be it on the field or in recruiting.

Instead of talking about the nuts and bolts of all that today, though, I want to focus on presentation. 

Here's how I envision this working. The screen is going to be divided into four equal sections, and each one represents an upgrade area. In essence, there will be four big buttons on the screen, and clicking on one takes you to the upgrade screen for that area. 

That's easy to create, but of course I don't want it to be easy. 

I want to make a "sandwich" of elements, with a transparent button on top. So there would be a background image (just the landscape, essentially) for each season. 

That's the base layer. 

The second layer consists of trees and buildings, and they're individual elements that can be placed anywhere on the background layer. Then the top layer, which is transparent, is a button control--one for each quadrant.

There are some strong advantages to this approach. For one, individual buildings can change their appearance when they get upgraded, so if you upgrade an area, you're going to see your campus change in appearance as well. 

It also lets me create custom presets that would produce different looking campuses, so if you play through multiple dynasties, you won't have to look at the same campus every time.

The best part about this, though, is the tinkering. 

I really enjoy games where I can do non-directed tinkering. It doesn't even have to reward me in the game, because the tinkering is the reward. 

Want to make your campus look different? Well, you can. You can go into a campus construction screen and place individual elements where you want. All I have to do is save the coordinates for the element locations to reproduce them in-game. 

You won't have to tinker if you don't want to--the presets should look very nice--but if you want to do everything down to the last detail, you can. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

No Man's Sky

A big update for No Man's Sky was pushed out last weekend.

RPS has a nice summary here, and even though there are many people who drank so much haterade they can't get it out of their systems, this is a substantial update which points to even better things down the road.

Not communicating at all was still a huge PR gaffe. They could have just said "We're working on the game and won't have an update for a while", along with a sentence or two every few weeks. That would have been much better in a PR sense.

However, much to their credit, they're improving the game, and not trivially.

A Multimedia Extravaganza Worthy of Off Off Off Broadway For the Holiday Season

Please look at this image while listening to this.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold, With a Side of Peruvian Cheese And a Most Curious Tea Set

This story is from yesterday, so I'm out of sequence now, because I still haven't finished the Philadelphia story.

If you remember, Eli 15.4 was in Detroit for 12 days last spring, trying out for a Tier One team.

He played great, was clearly the best goalie in the tryout (out of 12), and was the final cut.

It was the worst night of my life as a father. When Eli found out, he made a sound that was like an animal in terrible pain, like something had broken deep inside him.

Something broke in me, too.

Then, because we had no choice, we recovered.

It still hurts, though.

Well, he played that team on Sunday, the one that cut him.

They're having a tough season. Eli's team is in the top twenty nationally, but the other team is in the fifties.

The game was supposed to be at 11:30 on Sunday, but on Saturday night at 9, we found out it had been moved to a different rink--oh, and it was going to start at 9. So we had to leave home at 5:30 Sunday morning to drive down.

Eli has been struggling a bit with a borderline sinus infection (on medicine now, thank goodness), but he didn't care. "They're not scoring," he said, with a big smile. "Nothing. I don't care how I feel."

They didn't.

He left halfway through the game with a 7-0 lead. They only had 8 shots against him, but he was still in command. He's developed a kind of confidence that I don't think he had when we moved up here, and at this level, a goalie has to have that kind of confidence.

His team wound up winning 9-3.

We stopped at our favorite mall on Earth--Laurel Park Mall in Livonia--and went to California Pizza Kitchen for lunch before we drove back home.

I ordered a salad, received a different salad, and didn't care. This new, unordered salad had feta cheese.

"Do you like feta cheese?" Gloria asked.

"It's okay," I said. "Really, though, I prefer my cheese to be from the great Midwest--cheddar--or from the passionate Latin regions--pepper jack."

Eli started laughing. "Oh, Dad," he said.

"What? Have you never heard of Peruvian cheese mines?" I asked. "Sweaty, dangerous work, mining that pepper jack."

Eli was laughing and sort of waving at me.

"I think he needs a minute," I said.

"Maybe he's delighted," Gloria said.

"Delighted is NOT the word," Eli said.

After lunch, we went to the parking lot. Gloria started the car and began backing out, then stopped before she'd even gone three feet. "What is that sound?" she said. "Are we caught on something?"

No flat tire, I thought. No flat tire.

As it turned out, though, it was much stranger than a flat tire.

I got under the car and looked carefully. "We appear to be driving over an ornate tea set," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"A TEA SET," I shouted. "In a plastic bag. It's sturdy."

Logically, this was impossible. While we were inside, someone had to carefully put this bag under our car, because it was well underneath.

Impossible it was, yet true. Here is the curious tea set in question:

It was undamaged, remarkably, and I did my best setting it up with the care deserving of a fine tea set before we drove away, entirely forgetting to take a picture.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: Human Population Through Time. This, though, is even better: The Banach–Tarski Paradox. If you want more information, it's here: Banach–Tarski paradox. Next, and I've always wanted to understand this, it's How streets, roads, and avenues are different. Okay: A Perfume that Smells Like Poop? This is very, very strong for you music fans out there: The Art of Recording.

Here's a link from Simon Gardner (also written by Simon Gardner), and it's a terrific read: Do Polygraph Tests Actually Work?

From D.F. Prosser, and these are excellent reads:
Hollywood and Hacking: The 1980s - kid hackers, nerds and Richard Pryor.
Hollywood and Hacking: The 1990s - Techno, virtual reality and Steven Seagal’s Apple Newton
Hollywood and Hacking: Into the 21st Century - Real life hackers, computer punks and Hugh Jackman dancing

From C. Lee, and it's a Mark Twain kind of link: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Say What? Says Who? Next, and I had no idea, it's Tools to Help Japanese Schoolchildren Find Balance: Unicycles.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


First off, on this Thanksgiving, I appreciate that you guys have read whatever I write for so many years. When Eli 16.0 rolls out this summer, I'll have been writing for fifteen years.

I know that has to end, eventually, but not now.

I didn't post yesterday because we drove to Detroit in the rain (2+ hours), Eli 15.4 had a goalie lesson, and we drove back in the rain and much worse traffic (2+ hours). I can normally do that just fine, but when we finally got home, I was fried.

Since Black Friday is tomorrow, let's talk about 4K televisions.

I've wanted a 4K OLED television since the first day they came out. Actually, since the day they were even mentioned as a possibility.

They were staggering expensive, obviously, but eventually, they'd come down.

Everyone has a different price range that's acceptable to them when it comes to televisions. For me, it's about $2000. That may be higher than quite a few of you, but I still remember the days when the first 480p plasmas cost $10,000.

In the last two months, the prices on OLEDs has plummeted.

Now, the 55" model I was waiting on has dropped all the way to $1799. That's basically free, as far as I'm concerned, to get the best television ever made. It's ridiculous.

I still haven't bought one.

Why? For once, the lack of content is a stopping point for me. Even though a huge number of 4K LCDs have been sold (and quite a few 4K OLEDs as well), the amount of 4K content is very, very low.

Worse, there's essentially zero sports in 4k right now. That would be a huge driver for me to upgrade, and it's just not available yet.

4K in hockey? I'd upgrade tomorrow.

We have a Panasonic VT50 plasma, which was one of the best plasmas ever made, so it's not like I'm suffering. I had it repaired once, and probably wouldn't do it again, but for now, it's good.

Once the upgrade bug bites you, though, the itch is constant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Story, Delayed

I thought I would have the story from the Philadelphia Showcase ready today, but too much is going on for me to have time to do it properly. So I'm putting it off by a day or two.

It was quite a weekend, though, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you.

Car Window Art

My car window was artsy this morning (click on it for a larger version, which is quite striking):

I Really Don't Think There's Any Way This Can Wait Until Friday

Cheetos unveils $20,000 jewelry for the holiday’s

One of the items comes with a $20,000 price tag for the one-of-the-kind Eye of the Cheetah 18 karat yellow gold ring and earring set from the Chestora Collection. It has 190 black and white diamonds.

If you love the smell of Cheetos you might want to try their Cheeteau Perfume. It actually has a cheesy scent and warns wearers not to stand next to anyone hungry.

For the classy Cheetos lover try the Chester Cheetah’s Cheesy Cuff-links for $69.

The best part of this is that the perfume is named "Cheetau".

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stick Sighting Solved

That stick, apparently, signals the snow plow service that you're a subscriber. There are a ton of different snow plow services, and they all have their own unique stick.

Draft Day Sports

Gary Gorski e-mailed and said that Wolverine Studios has released two new games: Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball 2017 and Draft Day Sports: College Football 2017.

Gary has been making quality sports simulations for a long time, and these new versions look like they will continue the tradition. Hit the links for more information and plenty of screenshots

There's Been A Stick Sighting

There's a red, white, and blue stick in our yard. I know nothing of this.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Links!

Welcome to a highly compressed edition of Friday Links.

From Steven Davis, and this is terrific: A Chair Fit for Dancing. Also, and this is quite incredible, it's Smart Coatings: On Land and Sea. Here's the utterly droll link of the week: A Collaborative Duo Pokes Fun at Plein Air Painting Through Photographic Series. Next, and this is quite awesome, it's 8 Things You Might Not Know About Vowels.

From Wally, a military analysis of The Battle of Pelenor Fields in Lord of the Rings. Next, and I've had thousands of these, it's “FOR SCIENCE!”: EATING DORITOS ROULETTE. Next, and these are always amazing, it's Nature Photographer of the Year Contest 2016. This is an utterly delightful commercial: John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 - #BusterTheBoxer. This is a very, very interesting read: Video Games Are Boring. Incredible: The Disastrous Cordon Sanitaire Used on Honolulu's Chinatown in 1900. So awful and so wonderful, and we can use the comedy relief right now: A HA - TAKE ON ME - SHITTYFLUTED.  One more, and it's entirely stunning: We Couldn’t Believe Our Eyes’: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found Archaeologists have found more than 40 vessels in the Black Sea, some more than a millennium old, shedding light on early empires and trade routes.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: What Tickling Giggly Rats Can Tell Us About the Brain. Next, and this is a terrific read, it's Why the Avocado Should Have Gone the Way of the Dodo. Next, and maybe potatoes belong in Australia, it's Horrific Tales of Potatoes That Caused Mass Sickness and Even Death.

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