Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Card Dungeon Interview (Part 2)

Here's part two of the interview with Fredrik. Screenshot first:

5. What kind of options for character progression exist in the game? Is it limited to better loot/gear, or can hit and mana points be increased?
Well, every third level there is a little merchant that wanders around the level somewhere. Ryan asked me how a merchant could live with all those monsters without getting murdered, so I came up with this idea of this little buddhistic, portly, fellow who has learned how to live peacefully with the monsters. Again, it made me chuckle, so into the game it went. So when you encounter him you can spend the gold you collect throughout the levels to upgrade your health and / or mana. Not exactly Buddhism, but oh well. I have tried to balance the game in such a way that if you completely miss the vendor more than 2 times, the game gets VERY hard, but if you are careful and find enough gold for a couple of upgrades, the difficulty stays about the same throughout the game.

We also have a system where more powerful cards are only given to you at the higher levels. Each card has a rating from poor to elite and the elite cards will drop more frequently at the later levels. So that coupled with the character upgrades gives the player a sense of progression / getting better / stronger.

6. What is the single most powerful card in the game?
Ohhh.. that's a tough question. I have tried to give every strong card a drawback that can be lethal if not properly managed. For example, Lords Finger kills most enemies in one hit, but the mana cost is so steep that it drains you after one use. Of course this can be mitigated by equipping magical items that allows you to regenerate mana faster. And of course all cards degenerate at the same rate, so even the most powerful cards you find will eventually disintegrate and leave you vulnerable. Summoning cards are very powerful as they draw fire away from you and help you with attacking monsters. The drawback of those is that their health degenerates with 2 points every turn, so they don't last for long, and you have the cast them again which uses them up pretty quickly.

Oh, and it also depends on if you have a weapon equipped and what bonuses that weapon gives. If you find a melee based weapon that gives a great fire bonus, for example, that weapon is useless if you are just have ranged cards in your hand because the bonuses for the melee weapons only apply on the cards that are adjacent based.

It also depends on what kind of monster you are facing. Certain monsters are better to stay away from and others you want to get as close to as possible as fast as you can.

Yeah. Difficult question. I do like me a good summon card, though.

7. What plans do you have for the game post-launch? Any plans for additional content or possibly even outdoor levels?
Post launch I am sure there will be bug fixes and tweaks to monsters and cards. As we do that, we are looking into porting the game to Android and Windows phones and tablets. Long term plans I have would be different characters to chose from that have their own traits and unique cards to find. The map is still pretty open so more levels wouldn't surprise me. We haven't set in stone what new features are going in after launch.

8. When did you decide to have a single hero with no accompanying party? Does that present you with any creative opportunities that a party-based game might restrict?
From the early paper versions we knew it was going to be a roguelike and they are classically one lone hero against the odds. It's been one of those itches that I needed to scratch for awhile now. We never really talked about party based systems because we both knew, after having worked on it for awhile, that it would just be too much work for 2 people. In a party based system we would need unique skills for each class, probably an inventory system and more. Also if there's a party I would assume some form of multiplayer option would be available and I am just starting to sweat thinking about that.

I think, creatively, it actually gave us the opportunity to create one of the nicer things about Card Dungeon, which is that you don't play the same class for very long (or at least if you want to survive). It's just fun to switch from being a melee based warrior to a trap casting summoner to a fire mage to a ice mage to a healer all within the same level. It helps keep the mundanity of being a murder hobo at bay.

9. If someone has played Card Hunter, which also uses table-top role playing games as its visual foundation, what separates Card Dungeon from Card Hunter? Why should they pay for Card Dungeon when Card Hunter is F2P?
Hmm... why should you pay for Card Dungeon? Well, there are no ads, no in app purchases, no up-sale or locked content for you purchase / unlock. Buy the game once and the game is yours. I am sure that I'll be losing out on revenue because I didn't do F2P, but I don't like most games that goes that route. Card Hunter is a great example of F2P done right, but honestly I don't know how to make a successful free game.

Card Dungeon offers something unique, a different gameplay experience, than other games on the mobile market today.

[Thanks to Fredrik for this interview, and if any of you guys have additional questions, please e-mail me!]

Monday, September 29, 2014

Card Dungeon Interview (Part 1)

Card Dungeon (iOS, coming this week) recreates the experience of sitting around the kitchen table, playing board games, and if you ever played Heroquest (have a look at the game here), then you'll already be familiar with the atmosphere. It's a roguelike that has you control one hero battling through a series of dungeons, and I think it's a terrific game. Plus, it's funny. Really funny.

Here's a screenshot:

Now, part one of an interview with Fredrik about the game.

1. Card Dungeon has a very tabletop feel to the gameplay. Even the visuals evoke playing around a kitchen table. What kinds of tabletop games did you play growing up? How did they influence your sense of how games should play?
I knew of Heroquest and Dungeons! and the others from seeing them in stores when I was younger, but I don't exactly come from an affluent family, so they were always out of our price range. I played them with friends who had them and I always wanted to have them. It's the last decade or so that I have really started to go back and play those older board games I lusted over back then. A friend of mine have a copy of the original Heroquest and I was blown away by the little miniatures and tokens and all that card board. I also picked up Dungeons! to play with my kids, which is a straight up Card Dungeon in board game form. I guess I am reliving my childhood through my own kids, but now I can actually buy those games that were out of reach for me back then.

What we did have, though, was dungeons and dragons and a few other role playing games like Shock and Mutant and I always played those games since I was a kid. I initially wanted Card Dungeon to be have more puzzles and traps and be more like a digital version of Gygax Tower of Terror, but it was just too much work for us. Maybe I'll get to patch those puzzles and deathtraps in later.

2. When did you first thinking about the concept of Card Dungeon? How long have you been working on the game?
I think it was a bit over 4 years ago when the idea first popped into my head. It was supposed to be this simple little dungeon crawler where you had a draw deck of cards that were your actions, so that's always been there. Once you used a card you would draw new cards up to 5 from the draw pile. Once the draw deck was empty it would reshuffle and start again. I think I have the files for the paper prototype still.

This was something that we were going to knock out in a couple of months, but after finishing the first paper prototype and testing it with some friends, and seeing that the idea actually worked really well, the game just grew and grew and grew into the monstrosity it is now.

As we developed it we discovered that the randomness that works in board games doesn't really work in digital games. The player doesn't feel in control and can't plan his moves when he doesn't know what cards are coming up. We played with all kinds of ideas regarding the cards in your hand. We started with a new random card everytime a card was used, went into a collection based game, then had this crazy roulette wheel idea there for awhile, until we both started thinking that simple is better and said 3 cards, new cards must replace one on your hand. It's simple strategy, but it works on mobile where the attention span is counted in single digit minutes instead of hours on a PC platform. Once we hit on the idea that cards degenerate we found the balance that we were looking for.

The dropping down of the tiles is straight from the exploration of tile based board games like Mage Knight and Archipelago where when you hit an edge, you put down another tile from a stack of them. Ryan then had the idea of dropping everything down from the sky like people putting tiles down on a table.

3. How many people are on your team? Did you form a new team just for Card Dungeon?
Just two people, me and Ryan Christy. We did hire a musician, Ian Dorsch, to make the soundtrack for the game, and I am so happy we did. Good music really brought out the dungeoneering of the game to another level.

4. What influenced the whimsical humor that is always in the forefront? The slightly-anxious hero reminds me very much of a Monty Python character. 
Honestly, I don't know. Whatever makes us laugh goes in the game. I grew up on Monty Python and other comedy of that sort, so I guess it's built into me. And if it can make me laugh maybe some other people will chuckle. There's not enough humor in games today. I think my favorite is the mole shark. I am so happy we took a week to implement his behaviour. His goofy grin and sudden appearances makes me laugh everytime.
[I can 100% verify this. The first time I saw the Mole shark I burst out laughing.]

Tomorrow: Part Two

Games Week Featuring Card Dungeon!

Fredrik's new game Card Dungeon launches this week, so it's going to be all games this week. Going old school, so to speak.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Links!

Lots of podcast and video links early on in the list today.

From Brian Pritchard, and this is a fascinating subject: The Sound of Sports (designing the soundstage for live sporting events, including--when necessary--the addition of fake sounds). Here's another, and it's the story of the undergraduate student who saved the 59-story Citicorp building from certain collapse): Structural Integrity.

Both of those links are from the 99% Invisible podcast, and it's outstanding in general.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and boy, this is eccentric: Inside the World of Longsword Fighting | The New York Times.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: Clive Bowen 'Born, not made' - film about British slipware potter (the finest slipware potter in Britain).

From Dan Willhite, and this is quite amazing: A properly licensed gallery of Alex Wild’s amazing insect photography.

Here's a fascinating update about my very favorite bear (along with Paddington, obviously): Winnie the Pooh was based on a real bear that participated in WWI.

I still miss Phil Hartman, and here's both an excellent explanation of why he was so funny and (this is the best part) a 10-minute audition tape for Saturday Night Live: So Normal It Hurts: The Triumph And Tragedy Of Phil Hartman.

From Marc Klein, and somehow I'm not surprised: Larry Ellison Bought an Island in Hawaii. Now What?

From Craig Miller, and this is an incredible story: BILL WEAVER SR-71 Breakup.

Ending this week, two very haunting space stories. One, and this is just mesmerizing, it's Short film: The alleged story of the cosmonaut who burned in space. Two, and I've written about this before: Cosmonaut Crashed Into Earth 'Crying In Rage'. It's an incredible story, and a stunningly haunting recording.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Saw That Years Ago

The guys who did the entertaining Hatchet Job podcast have a new project (suggested by their friend Martyn Darkly) called "I Saw That Years Ago." They basically sit down and watch a film they saw years ago (but don't remember), then immediately record their impressions. Cleverly.

The podcasts are about 20 minutes long, and if you want a sample, I highly recommend the most recent episode, which discusses "Xanadu" (boy, that brings back some bad memories).

Here's the link: I Saw That Years Ago: We Watch The Old Movies So You Don't Have To.

Fortune's Tavern

I saw this description on Kickstarter yesterday:
Fortune's Tavern is a real-time, fantasy, tavern-simulator where you take on the role of Mathias Gambridge, the latest in a long line of owners of the notorious tavern. It's your job to rebuild and renovate the ailing tavern against the backdrop of a fantasy world at war.

...If you can struggle through the wars and the paranormal and still turn a profit, then an epic adventure awaits as you delve into the depths of the taverns 'endless' basements, with hired heroes to protect you, to discover the dark and terrifying secret of the tavern's founder, Xavier Fortune. Will you succeed, or like your predecessors, will you be driven into madness, poverty, and an early grave?

That entire description, when translated in my brain, says "IMMEDIATE BACKING REQUIRED."

The game has a very modest funding goal (£2800) and it's a very small team (3 1/2, including the developer's seven-year-old son), but the game looks terrific, and it's jam-packed with interesting ideas.

Here's the Kickstarter page (the trailer is excellent): Fortune's Tavern.

Card Dungeon!

Fredrik has a new game coming out October 1 called Card Dungeon.

It's very, very tough to get decent media coverage for an indie game, but the indispensable Pocket Tactics has a story about the game today, along with screenshots and a link to the trailer.

I'll have much more about Card Dungeon next week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Double Fine And The Disaster of DF-9

We all have fond memories of Tim Schafer and his games: Grim Fandango, Full Throttle,  Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and more--it's a long list of memorable experiences.

Schafer formed Double Fine Productions in 2000, and while his games have often struggled commercially, they were still unique and interesting to play.

Double Fine went the Steam Early Access route for their latest game, "Spacebase DF-9." It was an extremely ambitious game, seemingly, described in some places as "Dwarf Fortress in Space", and had an incredibly ambitious development roadmap in October of last year.

Well, that's absolutely the kind of substantial project people are willing to buy into for Early Access, even at $24.99.

The problem, though, is that Double Fine pulled a a bait-and-switch.

Last week, Double Fine announced--out of nowhere--that development was winding down. The alpha version was going to get one last coat of paint, get renamed to "1.0", and there you go.


Oh, and here's a forum post by Double Fine designer JP LeBreton (since deleted, but cached here) from only a month ago to address user concern:
DF JP LeBreton - 19 August 2014 06:47 PM
Double Fine is not a random fly-by-night indie dev and we are not going to silently pull the plug on Spacebase or any other in-development project.  Doing so would be disastrous for our reputation and it would kill us emotionally ;____;

What has happened lately on Spacebase is that we’re trying something different with regard to communication.  Our hypothesis is that short, regular, relatively low-value updates (things like in-progress screenshots of new UI) don’t really serve much more purpose than telling people “we’re not dead!”  The time cost of doing those is pretty small, but our team has been 3-4 people since Alpha 1’s release and I wanted to see what the impact would be - both on our side and on the player side.

...Regarding Alpha 6 specifically… hmm, what should I say?  When we DO have something to say, you’ll know it!  We don’t have Valve’s resources so don’t expect lush animated shorts for each update, but we do have a surprise waiting in the wings for Alpha 6, and you’ll hear about it pretty soon now.  We want to tell you a story, we want to make you curious about things.  Please be patient for a little while longer.  Thanks so much for your continued passion and support.

That was less than five weeks before Double Fine pulled the plug.

Here's Schafer's explanation, and be warned, it's garbage:
"We started Spacebase with an open ended-production plan," writes Schafer, "hoping that it would find similar success (and therefore funding) to the alpha-funded games that inspired it. Some of its early sales numbers indicated this might be the case, but slowly things changed, and it became clear that this was looking like a year and a half of production instead of five or so. With each Alpha release there was the hope that things would change, but they didn't."

...Obviously, spending more money than we were making isn’t something we can afford to do forever. 

Here's the problem, Tim, and it's a big one: when you enticed people into paying for Early Access, you put up a hugely ambitious development plan, and there was no big asterik that said "this development plan only happens if the game is wildly successful." You made a pitch, and based on that pitch, a lot of people spent a lot of money. They trusted you. Then you yanked the rug out from under them with the game still far, far short of what you promised.

This is crap.

Even worse, less than a week before the announcement that development was ending, the game was part of a 50% off sale on Steam. Knowing that the game was going to be released in a state that was far short of player expectations, trying to pump sales just before the public announcement that development was ending was disingenuous, at best.

At worst, it was slimy.

What I always appreciated about Tim Schafer was that he seemingly held himself to a higher standard. It's too bad that in this case, he didn't.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Wait Is (Almost) Over

Daniel Willhite sent me the following quote:
Atman Binstock, chief architect of Oculus, quite succinctly summed up the biggest challenges facing Oculus and virtual reality in general: “actually delivering compelling experiences and not making people sick.”

That actually describes my dating days very well.

I broke down and ordered the Oculus Rift last week. DK 2, which is the last developer's version before commercial release in 2015 (supposedly).

Why now?

There can be a delay of several months before receiving the DK2 after ordering, and Elite: Dangerous is releasing late this year. I am required by every law in my brain to play Elite: Dangerous with a virtual reality headset. There is just no other option.

This time, after so many false starts over the years, virtual reality is going to be a big, big deal. And I think Elite: Dangerous is going to be one of the games that demonstrates why it's such a big deal. So even though DK2 is not a consumer-ready experience, I'm willing to put up with the rough edges.

I also can't wait to see what Eli 13.1 thinks.

Tom Chick: This Sucks

Tom Chick, a landmark figure in gaming journalism and criticism, announced on the most recent Qt3 Movie Podcast (around the 1:20:00 mark) that he has Stage 4 hypopharyngeal cancer.

In case you're wondering exactly what that is, here's a description from Wikipedia:
Hypopharyngeal Cancer is a disease in which malignant cells grow in the hypopharynx (the area where the larynx and esophagus meet).

This is a particularly difficult and dangerous kind of cancer, both because of its location and because it's rarely detected early. Tom says in the podcast that his doctors said his treatment regimen has an 80% chance of a cure, but it's not like a board game where you'd take those odds every time because it would all even out in the long run. He has to make the roll or there is no  long run.

This is stunning news for everyone. Tom is a gaming legend, both for his long and distinguished writing career as well as his creation and curation of Quarter to Three, which is one of the most intelligent gaming communities in existence.

His treatment is going to be arduous and expensive, and a Fundgate project has been set up if you would like to donate: Tom Chick Beats Cancer.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Train Wreck

Eli 13.1 had a scrimmage out of of town last weekend (his team outshot 48-10, he had 45 saves and they lost 4-3 in a shootout), and while we were gone, I caught some kind of respiratory virus. So I felt like crap today, then at 1:30 Eli called from school and said he was sick, too.

With something entirely different. What are the odds?

At about 4 p.m., with Gloria holding down the fort, I decided to go get some chicken soup for dinner, and Chic-Fil-A was the closest place. I drove up and here's what I saw:

Seriously? So that's been my day.

Eli and I have this very odd synchronicity about illness, and we've had it for years. I don't get sick very often, but when I do, he's usually sick with 36 hours. It's never the same illness, though. I know he's not faking, and he's often more sick than I am, but it means I never get enough rest when I'm ill, which is exhausting.

So no additional posts today. I'm going to get what rest I can and hopefully be better tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this is an unsettling, fascinating read: The Online Legacy of a Suicide Cult and the Webmasters Who Stayed Behind.

From J.R. Parnell, and the unexpected implications of genetic testing continue to interest: With genetic testing, I gave my parents the gift of divorce.

From Dan Willhite, and yes, this is fantastic: 20 Fun Grid Facts (Hex Grids).

From Steven Davis, and this is both unexpected and tremendous: Images of the Leonid meteor storm of 1833. Also, and while is a bit longish (25 minutes), it's excellent: What's in a Ballet Shoe.

From Dan Rowland, and this is hilarious: Our Ancestors Wore Babies Into Battle.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is the future, it's A War Photographer Embeds Himself Inside a Video Game.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is terrific: 365 Paintings for Ants with Lorraine Loots.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is certainly one of the greatest headlines ever: SHERIFF: BURNED ARMPIT HAIR LED TO IDAHO CAR CRASH.

This very short film is entirely wonderful: Practice!

DQ Reader My Wife sent this along, and these images are stunning: Finalists Of The 2014 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Competition Will Leave You Wanting More.

The incredibly Laura Shigihara's new game, Rakuen: Paradise Found, has a new trailer.

One more, and art forgery never fails to fascinate (me, at least): Talking With America’s Best Art Forger and the Man Who Tracked Him Down.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

If You're Curious

If you're a non-UK reader who is curious about the Scottish independence vote (which has already happened earlier today, with results about to start tricking in), this looks like a decent spot to follow what's happening:
Scottish referendum results - live coverage of the independence vote.

It's All The Rage

Gloria is in the kitchen, some small something appears to be broken, and she's putting gloves on.

"I've just accepted that I can't use super glue without getting it on my hands, so gloves," she said.

"That's a good idea," I said. "Plus, if you don't use gloves, you have to be super careful if you need to make a vag adjustment."

She looks at me.

"Well, guys need to make crotch adjustments," I said. "That could be a disaster in a super glue retention situation."

"We do not make VAG adjustments," she said. "There's nothing to adjust."

"I got you," I said. "I just like saying the word. Female comedians have this hip thing now where they combine "vag" with something else to make new words, and it's hilarious."

"I'm glad you enjoy that," she said.

"Plus, it's easy," I said. "I bet I can do one right now." I pause for a few seconds, thinking. "Okay, here's one: what do you call an all-female city?"

"I'm afraid to even guess," she said.

"A Vag-opolis!" I said. "See?"

"I am not going to encourage you," she said.

Questions I'd Never Considered, #3 In A Series

This was on the menu of a restaurant we went to Sunday night:

I looked at Gloria and said, "I wonder how long they have to scrape the seal?"

Summer intern wanted. Must be dexterous with giant tongue depressors and large marine mammals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As A Counterbalance To All The Depressing News Lately

We'll be having Very Silly Thursday tomorrow.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson (NFL star) hit his four-year-son repeatedly with a switch.

The switch left "welts" on his buttocks, as well as lacerations on his thighs and hands. Plus one laceration on his scrotum. The pictures are difficult to view, and they were taken a full week after the incident.

Adrian Peterson, in his carefully worded public statements, always brings up that his own father beat him with a switch. That's how he was raised, he says.

Adrian Peterson is 6'1", 217 lbs. His son, if he's of average size (and he doesn't look big for his age), is 3'6" and about 40 lbs.

If Adrian Peterson forced an adult to take his/her clothes off, then beat her or him with a switch, leaving multiple, visible wounds, it would be a crime, and a serious one. How can there somehow be circumstances where physical abuse from an adult--that would be a crime were it done to another adult--can somehow be considered acceptable or even appropriate when done to a child?

This is very, very sad.

Ray Rice (your e-mail)

Ian Tyrrell sent this in last weekend:
I just wanted to point out that when you say that female->male domestic violence is considerably rarer than the other way around, you may hurt any of the male victims who read your posts by belittling their experience.

In Australia it's called 'family violence', which I think makes it feel worse (rightly so) than 'domestic violence', but over here, and I'd assume it would be similar in the US, the rate of male victims is actually around 1 in 3, or even higher [in the U.S. it's roughly 1-6]. There's some interesting reading about it here: http://www.oneinthree.com.au/overview/.

I used to think that violence of this type was purely enacted by men, but after having interacted with some male victims, I can see that I was completely wrong. But I imagine that my response was fairly typical when first hearing about it. What would your first thought be if a friend told you his wife had hit him?

I'd love it if family violence of all types was a thing of the past, but unfortunately it's definitely still a reality now, and it is very much not relegated to men beating women. 

This was certainly not my intention.

While men are, on average, larger and stronger than women (and we generally have much higher testosterone levels), that's not to imply that women never hit men, or that men can't be injured as a result. Statistics do not matter when you're getting punched in the face.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #122: Marketing and Ideas

I've gone through about 800 of the 1200 entries in the Game Youtubers Megalist, which is a massive list of YouTube gaming channels.

I've learned some stuff.

First off, only a tiny fraction of these channels play sports games. A slightly larger fraction play indie games, but slightly. Minecraft is staggeringly popular, though, as is Nintendo.

Out of the 800 channels I've checked, I've found 16 that might be appropriate locations for a Gridiron Solitaire inquiry. Yes, that's 2%.

If even 1 out of 5 are willing to make a Let's Play of the game, or even mention it, that would be a nice outcome. That would be a final hit rate of .4%.

Such is marketing an indie game.

That's okay, though. Like I said last week, I'm okay with the long haul.

Gloria was in Dallas Saturday night, and Eli 13.1 was spending the night at a friend's house, so I was by myself. I had a list of things I was going to do, but at some point early on, I tried to remember the last time I was alone in the house and wasn't working on something.

For the life of me, I couldn't remember. Four years, at least.

So on Saturday night, I sat on the couch and watched football, reading when the commercials came on. Played NHL 15 on the PS4. Consciously did nothing that could even resemble work (even though, funny to say, it was hard).

On Sunday, I had a wild idea out of the blue that I immediately loved, even though it's highly unlikely that it will ever make its way into the game. What if those "big images" shown in the game were "big animations" instead? So instead of an image of a receiver catching a touchdown pass that displays for 5 seconds, there would be an animation of a receiver catching a touchdown pass. It would display for the same 5 seconds, but there would be so much more energy coming from an animation than a still image.

There are lots of practical objections to doing that, though, and like I said, it probably won't ever make it into the game. It's a sexy idea, though.

I talked to DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles last week, and he asked if I had ever considered adding a college variant of the game.

I have, actually. I've thought about adding a 32-team college version and integrating it with the existing "pro" version, with a relegation mechanic that would shuffle two teams a year.

The relegation mechanic in soccer is fantastic. It's entirely fascinating, and as a game mechanic, it would be just as good.

This would be set up so that if you won the college championship, you'd have the option of taking your team to the pros. You wouldn't be forced to play at one level or another, though. It would be entirely flexible.

Structurally, I think that works very well.

What doesn't work well is that I have no way to distinguish the gameplay of the college version from the pro version, and without that, there's no reason to consider doing it. College football has distinct gameplay from the NFL--faster, higher scoring, and more wide-open offensively, and I would have to capture that same feeling for there to be a reason to add the college structure.

So far, I haven't, so for now, it's an interesting but ultimately unworkable idea.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Notch sold Minecraft today.

He put out this statement, and here are a few excerpts:
I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.

...I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.

I was sitting in my "satellite office" (P. Terry's) reading his statement, and the song playing in the background was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" (one of my very favorites). So I was reading, but I also heard this:
Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

I know this is going to sound odd for someone who just sold a game for 2.5B, but I've always felt a kind of sympathy for Notch. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik created Penny Arcade, and it's become so vast that it's hard to even conceive, but it happened over a period of years. The relative speed was tremendous, but not so great that they became unmoored. Minecraft, though, was different. Notch created a tiny thing that became so vast he was almost entirely swept away.

There are certainly people who court fame, who desire everything it brings. For someone who never sought it, though, fame can be incredibly destructive. If anything I did ever became remotely "big", there is no way I could handle it properly. I'm too furtive to stand in the center.

I wouldn't walk away. I would run.

Here's another part of his statement:
I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn't understand. 

A few weeks ago, someone who said they were a long-time reader of DQ wrote to me. In elaborate detail, he told me that I used to be good but now I sucked, and I wasn't worth reading anymore. I understood that--actually, I share his feeling to some degree, and I've written about that before--but his anger was so personal, like he wanted to punish me with his words.

This was just one e-mail, but man, his intensity shook me. I accepted that when I decided to make a game (seriously, how did that ever work out?) the blog was going to suffer, but I didn't want to stop, so I didn't. I still don't want to stop. I'm just going to write and people can read what they want.

That's a long way of saying that to be in the public eye, even in a very small way, requires a kind of armor that some people don't have. I don't think Notch has it, and I think he was smart enough to understand that and get out before it destroyed him.

I'm not talking about Minecraft as a franchise, or what it means now that Microsoft owns the game (well, here's a one-word comment: ick). I'm just talking about one guy writing code in his apartment late at night, thrilled by what he's creating, not realizing what is going to happen to his life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Links!

We're light on quantity this week, but extremely high on quality.

I'm leading off this week with a very serious link from Jim Bradley that some of you might find disturbing, so please be warned. Here's a description:
A video released online by the family of a man killed in a crash is gaining traction for what it’s doing for motorcycle safety awareness.

38-year-old David Holmes was killed in a crash in England. He was wearing a helmet cam when he crashed his bike into a car. He was going 97 mph hour at the time.

Holmes’s family has released the video in hopes to warn both bikers and motorists will be more attentive when driving.

Here's the link: Family’s emotional video shows shocking fatal crash; Goal is to raise awareness.

And now, because that was a disturbing video and very difficult to watch, I'm going to follow it up with the silliest link of the week, just to even things out: Lil Baby Bear Has Itself A Good-Ass Time On A Golf Course.

From Sirius, and this is a spectacular find: Dreadnoughtus: The Behemoth dinosaur that makes the Tyrannosaurus rex look puny.

From C. Lee, and this images are fantastic: 48 Unexpected Views Of Famous Historic Moments.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is fascinating: The 100 Books Facebook Users Love. Also, and these pictures are amazing, it's Striking Aerial Photos Show the Unfathomable Hugeness of Industry.

From Marc Klein, and this is a terrific read: The Simple Technology That Accidentally Ruined Baseball.

From Jonathan Arnold, and sadly, this is no surprise: Just Six Months After the Olympics, Sochi Looks Like a Ghost Town.

This is the longest title ever, but it's a great read, and the title explains it all: The Escape Artist: West Virginia frat boy, hippie expatriate, big-time drug dealer, prison escapee, millionaire mortgage broker—Jim Sargent was many things before he arrived in the idyllic Hawaiian town of Hawi and established himself as a civic leader. But it was only a matter of time before his troubled past would catch up with him.

Ending this week, from Steven Davis, and this is a long and utterly brilliant article: JEFF HENRY, VERRÜCKT, AND THE MEN WHO BUILT THE GREAT AMERICAN WATER PARK.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The iWatch

I don't get it.

I haven't worn a watch in fifteen years, at least. I have a phone. It tells the time. It does all kinds of nifty things. Why do I want another device that performs a subset of functions of the device in my pocket?

People send e-mails explaining why the watch is cool. I read them very carefully, and when I'm finished, I immediately say, "I don't get it."

Fitness tracker? Why do I need a fitness tracker? I know that when I've reached a certain level of fatigue in a workout--fatigue that is easy to fell--then I've had a good workout. I'm a big data person, but do I need minute by minute data about my workout? No.

If I want to know how I'm recovering from workouts, or whether my workout routine is working, all I need to do is take my resting pulse when I wake up in the morning. That gives me every piece of information I need.

Notifications? Doesn't my phone already do that?

Can it replace my phone? No way. And if it can't, all it does is riff on the existing functionality of my phone.

If Apple (or anyone else) can sell a smartwatch in volume, then they can truly sell anything. This is the ultimate test case for marketing and brand over functionality.

Through the Front Window

I'm probably not going to write about this anymore, but here's a very easy way to see what's really happening in the Ray Rice/NFL situation: read Peter King.

Peter King, even though he's a respected journalist, is a mouthpiece for the NFL, and whatever the NFL wants to present, he will do it for them.

You have to read a bit between the lines, though.

Here's how you interpret what King writes: whatever he says, that's the desired position for the NFL. It's the NFL establishing its borders. So a few months ago, he said that the NFL had seen the tape, and he used it in the context of finding support for a two-game suspension of Rice.

A few days ago, he changed his tune, and said he had been "told by sources", not the NFL, that the tape had been viewed, and that couldn't actually prove it had been viewed. This was to support the NFL suddenly going from a two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension.

Here's what King wrote today:
The sense I got after talking to six prominent team executives Wednesday night was that Goodell’s job would be in trouble only if he was found to have participated in a coverup of the Rice investigation, or if he lied about never having seen the videotape of the former Baltimore running back’s assault of his then-fiancée Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator last February. 

What he's writing is not exactly what it means.

What it really means is that the NFL is hoping to draw a line with the public that it's reasonable to retain Goodell unless he participated in a cover-up. That's not what the NFL would have said two days ago--Goodell's possible removal wouldn't even have been mentioned--but the news yesterday that a "female NFL executive" had left a voicemail indicating that she had received and viewed the footage moved the borders.

Here's the most important takeaway, though: NFL executives are now acknowledging a potential situation where Roger Goodell would be damaging "the shield", as they call it. In the NFL, damaging the shield is unforgivable. This clearly means that his support right now is very shaky. He may survive, but he is clearly at high risk here.

One other thing: the phrase "domestic violence" needs to go away. It's such a sanitized term. It's almost as if the term itself was created to neutralize an emotional response to men beating women (and, in considerably rarer cases, vice versa). Maybe this would be more important, and the legal system's responses more appropriate, if the words used to describe "domestic violence" incidents were more visceral.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Shocking News

Well, to absolutely no one's surprise, the NFLs transparently obvious lie has blown up in their faces today. Details: Report: NFL Received Ray Rice Video in April.

Of course they did. To somehow believe they hadn't, we'd have to believe that one of the most ruthlessly efficient organizations in the world was--just in this one case--incompetent buffoons, investigating the case with all the skill of the Three Stooges.

The next domino, since there's very solid evidence that an NFL executive did see the tape, is that someone below Goodell will take the fall and resign.

This isn't going to go away, and it shouldn't.

Optomap (your e-mail)

I wrote last week about the Optomap, a device that takes a high-resolution image of your eye. The next day, I received this e-mail from Chris Price:
I’m all for the Octomap. My wife is Type 1 diabetic and needs to get one of these every year. I typically didn’t bother ($30 is $30), but she encouraged me to get it done a couple of years ago.

Note, this is after the exam, and like your experience, I was told I didn’t need to be dilated with it. I remember my Doctor looking a the image, and repeating all the questions about floaters and flashes that she’d asked 20 mins earlier during the exam. 

Intrigued, I asked what she’d seen and she showed me a picture that clearly had a large blister in the lower left. The poor Doctor was a little freaked out and sent me immediately off to a Retina specialist. They took one look, take a bunch of their own pictures and shoot a laser into the back of my eye - thanks…

Turns out it was a retina schesis (one of the things on the poster)--textbook case and unusual size. Over the next year, I end up being dilated every quarter and after a weekend of being pulled behind a boat on a lake, the schesis grows and needs another bout of Star Wars “pew pew”. 

The next conversation with the retina Doctor is a “When your retina detaches”, not an “If” and we decide to fix it once and for all. Do a search for Vitrectomy for the details - but it’s where they suck the gel from your eye and place a gas bubble in for a while. It took 3 months for the gas to dissipate--for a while it's like looking through a fish bowl. Part of the recovery was to keep the eye dilated 4 times a day for a month--now that was a pain in the arse.

Anyway, all is good now - vision returned to 20/25 as my pupil doesn’t contract as well as it should. I’m told it’s because they’re blue and it takes a little longer.

Long message to simply say that the Octomap is well worth the money. The regular exam completely missed the problem and I’d be at risk of a sudden detachment without it. I’d recommend any of your readers to get it done.

So this is definitely a thing, and it may catch problems that otherwise might be missed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The NFL and Ray Rice

Really, this makes me so angry that I don't even want to write about it. I think there's a point to be made, though, that other people don't seem to be making.

If you don't live in the U.S., here's a quick summary. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was in an Atlantic City casino with his fiancee. They argued outside an elevator. They stepped into the elevator, continued the argument, and Rice knocked her out with a straight left.

Until yesterday, the public had seen the video outside the elevator, but not what happened inside the elevator. What was particularly incredible, maybe even more so than the punch, was that after he knocked his fiancee out and she's unconscious on the floor of the elevator, Rice doesn't pay any attention to her. He's not checking on her condition, even though she's unconscious. It's horrifying in every conceivable way.

When this video broke on TMZ yesterday, the NFL was very quick to take action. The Ravens cut him, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL also issued a statement saying that when they issued the original two-game suspension to Rice, they had never seen the footage inside the elevator, only the outside footage.

This is 100%, absolute bullshit.

The NFL has a security operation that would make the FBI blush. Actually, quite a few of the operatives in that operation are ex-FBI agents. They would clearly have had a longstanding relationship with local and state police in one of the most prominent casino cities in the country. They are 100% hooked up.

So when the NFL says they "asked for all relevant footage" and weren't given the video, that's an absolute lie. Roger Goodell is a control freak. The NFL is a bulldozer when it comes to these kinds of investigations. There's no way they would decide that their investigation could be completed without that footage.

Rice's defense attorney had a copy of the footage, but the NFL didn't?

It is entirely implausible to think that the NFL didn't see the footage. Of course they did.

What IS the most plausible scenario? It's not complicated. The NFL, in collusion with other parties, attempted to bury the video. They were certain that the footage would never be seen. Then TMZ blew them up yesterday, and they had to take action.

If Roger Goodell saw this footage--and in all likelihood, he did--he should resign. That probably won't happen, though. What will most likely happen is that some underling will suddenly admit to having seen the footage, not sending it further up the NFL food chain, and he will resign instead.

The fall guy.

This entire episode is just sickening.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #121: Marketing

1.2 was released Thursday afternoon, and the response has been very positive. Difficulty was reduced on Rookie level, plus a custom difficulty option was added, and that should make it possible for everyone to find the right degree of difficulty for them.

I made a mistake in putting 1.1 together. I wanted to make the game more realistic--and I did--but I also inadvertently made it less playable for some people. Bad move. So with 1.2, the high degree of realism is still there for people who want it, but for the non-hardcore players, it's much more accessible.

Plus, the new changes and features are a nice addition. Goal line stands are much more possible now, presentation has been improved with the halftime/end of game "TV style" box score, and the new team museum is interactive and absolutely full of information.

There are still a few minor things I'd like to do (adding selectable weather profiles when a user changes a default team name, for one), but essentially, the game is complete. It's done. Instead of building out content, I'll be doing maintenance updates to fix all reported bugs, and really, the number of bugs is very small.

So let's turn our attention to marketing.

Quite a few of you e-mailed me since the game launched and wanted information on the marketing process, but hell, I had no information to give you, because I wasn't actually marketing the game.

Well, that's changing now.

GS is a unique game, and it has extremely long-term play value. Instead of making a game to fit a certain market, I just made the game I really, really wanted to play. In any kind of economic sense, this was insanity, but I also have an affection and commitment to the game that I wouldn't have otherwise. So even though I really don't like the marketing aspect--at all--I'm going to work at this. Hard.

Here's the order I'm going to work with:
1. YouTubers
I know how popular and important YouTube is for getting a game attention. And I have a terrific list of just about everyone (thank you, Brightside Games), but I don't want to spam these guys. So here's a request: if any of you have watched a YouTube gaming channel and remember seeing them talk about sports games, would you please let me know?

The list has about 500 channels, and I'm going through them and seeing if any of the posted videos refer to sports, but it's going to be slow going.

2. Gaming websites
I'm not exactly sure how to do this, but I figure a polite e-mail asking for consideration, along with a Steam code, can't hurt. Plus there are a few sites I've read for years (like IndieGames and Jay Is Games), so I do have a few in mind to start with.

3. Advertising
I'm not going to do much of this, but there are a few places (like Football Outsiders) that have very inexpensive advertising rates. It won't cost much (under $500) to do a few test ads and see if anything happens.

Here's the cold, hard reality about marketing, and I wish someone had explained this to me: I have to be as methodical and patient about marketing the game as I was about making it. It could take years to develop a sizable player base.

On my side, though, the game isn't time-dependent in terms of content. Nothing will be obsolete six months from now.

Also on my side is that I am very, very patient.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Friday Links (supplemental)

Boy, this is a fascinating story: The Stubborn "Nail Houses" That Refuse to Get Demolished.

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is both very funny and very true: Be Good To Each Other, Folks. Because This Could Happen. Also, and this is a terrific idea: a translated fiction blog. See it here: Words Without Borders. Next, and this is a wonderful story: Grandma and the jogger. He's still going, and this story is discouraging: Is there a creativity deficit in science? If so, the current funding system shares much of the blame.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is entirely fantastic: The Most Symmetrical Objects in the World.

From DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh, and the link title says it all: Insane Blue Angels Footage Takes You Inside the Cockpit.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and the amount of time it took to create this must be staggering: Destiny Interactive Map.

From Allen Varney, and fortunately, "A killer bear seeks Scotland's Loch Ness Monster" has been topped many times here: Summary Bug.

From DQ Reader Me, and I find these paintings entirely wonderful: Cool paintings show the everyday life of a post-futuristic world.

From Marc Klein, and I have no words, but this is a crazy read about a huge retirement village: Seven Days and Nights in the World's Largest, Rowdiest Retirement Community.

From Guy Byars, and this is a heartbreaking, beautifully written opinion piece: When a Child Kills: Reflections on a Shooting Range Death, From One Who Knows.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire 1.2 is Live

Okay, the NFL season starts in three and a half hours, so I made it. Barely. For those of you who are playing the game, thanks very much and I hope you enjoy the new version. With custom difficulty, I think the game will be more accommodating to players of all skill levels.

Streets of Chaos

Derek DiBenedetto of SimProse Studios sent me a note that his new game, Streets of Chaos, has just been released. Here's a description:
A unique strategy/board game hybrid where you become the leader of a rising resistance in a world gripped in crime and anarchy.

Recruit randomly generated members of your posse with 7 different stats forming their skills, equip them with weapons and armor and send them on missions of various types, hire lawyers, bribe judges, and more, all in a totally randomly generated world. Features full original music, an attractive and intuitive interface and tons of strategic options and paths to victory. Take over a randomly generated city using your gang, deal with vicious HQ attacks, make side deals with rival gang members, and more! No two games are ever the same.

I've played this, but because I've been working so hard on GS 1.2, my time with the game was less than an hour. However, I liked the interface and the board game feel, and there's a demo you can download. Just hit the link at the top of this post.

Carving Out The Light

Owen Faraday (of the indispensable Pocket Tactics) put up a piece this week that I can only describe as masterful. It's an interview with Eric Sabee, who does the card art for Ascension, and it's a revealing and rewarding read (alliteration!). You can read it here: Carving out the light: Eric Sabee, the artist of Ascension’s weird, wonderful world.

A Hall of Fame Kickstarter

If every Kickstarter I back from now until the end of time blows up, I don't care. It was worth it, to get this:

Yes, it's a two-volume, encyclopedic guide to Glorantha, Greg Stafford's wonderful and legendary fantasy world that was used as the setting for King of Dragon Pass (which I have happily written about on many occasions).

The two volumes are 800 pages in total, and the art and information is absolutely stellar. Here are a few more images:

I was having a lousy day on Wednesday, then the doorbell rang. A minute or so later, Gloria carried in a box that was clearly quite heavy and said it was for me. A big smile broke out on my face, because I knew immediately what it was.

I knew this would be good--very good--but it's far, far exceeded my expectations.

Here's the funny thing: I don't think I've read a physical book in at least three years. It actually feels strange to hold the book in my hands instead of a tablet!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Why the exclamation point? Keep reading.

[I'm listening to Rodriguez's album Cold Fact while I write this. I demand you purchase this album immediately, as it is one of the greatest albums of its or any time.]

I went for my eye checkup today.

I always dread this, because getting your eyes dilated is a giant pain in the butt. Driving home with black sunglasses because your eyes are so sensitive to light, not being able to work for a few hours, and just the general strange feeling in your eyes is definitely not anywhere on my bucket list.

Today, though, it was completely different.

My ophthalmologist had a new device called "Optomap". It's a machine that takes an ultra-high resolution picture of your eye.

Previously, the standard technique your ophthalmologist would use involved seeing your eye in sections. My doctor said it was like using a flashlight to look in a darkened room. He saw a 10%, rectangular slit of my eye, then he had to move the "flashlight" to another section. Plus, all these sections were upside down as he viewed them. So to get a complete picture of the eye, he had to visually assemble ten different images in his mind. It was as much art as science, and he said it takes quite a lot of experience to do it well.

Now, though, he can see the eye in one image, at a higher resolution. And he can even separate the image by layers.

Here's the picture he took of my right eye:

He could zoom in on any part of this image and see it in much greater detail. It was amazing, and he even showed me a few pictures of eyes with macular degeneration. He also said there were two kinds of macular degeneration--"dry" and "wet". "Wet" degeneration is caused by leaking blood vessels, and there's a treatment for that now that is remarkably effective. Since it's new blood vessels that are leaking, a drug is used to stop those new blood vessels from forming.

Great, right? Well, here's the downside: it requires a monthly injection. Into your eye. Agghhhhh.

Even with this new technology, there are certain situations where dilation is still required, but it wasn't for me, and walking out of my appointment much sooner than normal, without pupils the size of basketballs, was a real pleasure. So if your eye doctor has this available, you might want to check it out.

Oh, and I took a picture of a poster in his office that shows images of different types of eye diseases as seen through Optomap images. You'll need to click to enlarge, but it's very cool (sorry for the reflections):

You can also do a Google image search on "Optomap" and see all kinds of interesting images.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Eli 13.1 and the Leveling Tournament

I know, I haven't finished Detroit yet, but the leveling tournament was last weekend and it's fresh in my mind.

Before we left for Detroit, Eli found out that he was going to be on the second team this year, not the first. The two kids chosen ahead of him are both 50+ pounds bigger than he is, and they're both very good.

Are they better? I don't think they are, but like I said, they're very good. Eli is immediately at a disadvantage against them in a tryout situation, though, because they look very imposing, and he doesn't. He's a technician, and he's unbelievably quick, but he's not big.

This happens quite a bit down here, with team composition constantly changing, because we don't have birth year teams. So one of the goalies is a year older than Eli, but since Eli moved up to Bantam, they're in the same age group for a year.

In good news, though, the other goalie on Eli's team moved here from Indiana, and he's both an excellent goalie and a terrific kid, so they're quite a funny pair together. Plus, Eli likes the kids on his team. Some of his best friends are on the team with him, and that's great.

The tough part is that about half the team is made up of the better House kids, which means--for now--they're quite a bit behind the existing travel kids in terms of skating ability and general skills. The coaching staff is phenomenal, really first-rate, and I think kids will improve very quickly, but for now, our defense is very leaky.

At the leveling tournament, they throw every Bantam team, regardless of whether they want to play in "A" or "B" league, into the same group. We're a low to mid-B team right now (we'll get better, like I said), and Eli's two games last weekend were against a high "A" team (that finished second out of nineteen teams), and another team that is a mid-A team.

This represents an enormous difference in team levels. And our defense, for now, isn't good.

Eli faced 113 shots in two games. We had 15 shots.

If you're wondering, 70 shots in two games would be "a lot". Plus, these were quality shots from very, very strong teams, because we don't have good defensive coverage yet, so guys were often left wide open.

We lost 6-0 and 5-1. I don't think I've ever been more proud of him.

He made far superior teams scratch and claw for every goal. The second game, in particular, was the best technical game he's ever had, because every shot was either trapped for a faceoff or directed safely into a corner. Zero rebounds in scoring position on 52 shots.

He gave up 11 goals, and every one was the result of a major defensive lapse on our part that gave the other team a shot from point-blank range.

Never got upset with his defense. Kept encouraging guys, directing them, working with them. And even though our skill level is limited right now, they played hard in front of him. Very hard. And we're going to be good, eventually.

Both games felt like wins, staying so close to far superior teams.

All summer, Eli has been doing an extremely difficult off-ice workout two days a week (in addition to all the other activity he gets). And it paid off big-time, because in both games, he was as strong at the end as he was at the start. Never got worn down, even with all that frozen rubber flying.

We didn't talk much about it, because his level is so high now that he wasn't surprised. He just played like he expected himself to play. While we were in a convenience store getting drinks after the last game, though, I put my arm around him and said, "That was very, very tall. Strong and tall."

I didn't need to say anything else.

A Fine Film

Our DirecTV receiver is old and very slow.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through the Program Guide, and it was going to slowly that the description of movies sometimes overlapped. The first sentence of the guide was describing one movie, while the other sentences were describing another movie entirely.

I believe this can successfully be used as a random plot generator, because for a moment, I saw this:
A killer bear seeks Scotland's Loch Ness Monster.

That movie would be day one, appointment viewing for me.

DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy in the World Ben Ormand, please feel free to use this idea whenever you can secure funding.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #120: Windows and Sound

First off, the window panels for the Team Museum are finished. I showed you a couple last week, and here are two more. First off, for the "desert" stadium, we actually went with a landscape view:

Resident Annoyance John Harwood noted that the area behind the bookshelf was very bare if a player didn't have season books yet, so Fredrik added that terrific league logo to give it some life.

Next, and this one is actually my favorite, the dome stadium:

I really like the curve of the stadium itself in the background. It makes me feel like the museum is part of a larger stadium complex.

That floor is still pretty bare if there are no championship trophies to display, so there's more life on the way. Fredrik is drawing a security guard that will actually be a button, and he will be interactive, with sound effects and speech bubbles that vary depending on how the team is doing.

I've been particularly bothered by a crowd loop that sometimes dipped in volume for no discernible reason, along with two particular sound effects that would sometimes play way too soft. The new sound code I wrote last week didn't fix either of those problems, but today I hunted both of them down. I'm looking forward to testing it tonight and seeing if the crowd is as dynamic and realistic as I'd always hoped, with no oddities.

I was hoping to released 1.2 today, but that's clearly not happening. It will still be before the NFL season starts, though, which is on Thursday.

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