Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Truly One of the Most Moving Speeches Ever

This speech is remarkable and incredibly powerful:
Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments.

President, General, Spy

A geopolitical simulation where there are only three units: President (diplomacy), General (military), Spy (espionage).

One action per turn with one of these units can be taken. Actions might last several turns, some actions can be linked with others, and new actions can be initiated while others are still ongoing (but only one new action per turn).

Both regional and global levels of play, with the regional modeling historical conflicts involving 4-8 countries.

Individual countries start with asymmetric ratings in the following categories:
--government stability
--military power
--diplomatic ability
--espionage network
--food supplies
--relationship level with other countries

This is a very, very small subset of what I want to do, but I've purposely limited scope right now in order to get a nasty looking prototype up and running by next weekend. The prototype will only have 4 countries.

The objective is to model both regional and global conflict with a smaller learning curve than current geopolitical sims, but with a deep AI.

If you're wondering about the AI, I feel pretty strongly that I won't have problems with that. There is a surprising amount in common with the Gridiron AI, believe it or not.

Actions available to the player in the prototype, based on unit type:
--ask for food
--give food
--visit country
--propose alliance

--build army
--reduce army

--gather intel
--defend from sabotage

All actions have positive and negative consequences.

Gridiron was, at its heart, a situational management game, and that's what a geopolitical simulator should be--a situational management simulation.

Okay, there's lots more, but that's enough for now. Just let me get a prototype up and running, and then we can really get to work.

A Question of Ownership

I have a laptop, but it's not mine.

I'm at the rink while Eli 15.10 is working out with his trainer.  It's an hour workout.

That's the perfect length of time to write about President, General, Spy. I was looking forward to an hour of uninterrupted concentration.

Then Microsoft started installing f-ing updates. Not downloading, just installing.

Twenty-seven minutes later, they were done.

I'm not kidding when I say that I spend more time installing updates on this laptop than actually using it for something. It's just an update kiosk, basically.

Oh, and then there are the Dell updates.

The perfect PC for Microsoft: a computer that will only install updates and allow purchases. No actual productivity is allowed, because while you're producing, you can't be buying.

After I get home, I'll try to write up the PGS post.

Monday, May 22, 2017

President, General, Spy

Coming tomorrow. Please wonder.

Well, This Is Surreal

It was only 14 months ago that Eli 15.10 was playing for the Texas "A" Championship in hockey.

Last weekend, he went to an invitation-only USHL Futures Camp with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

He belonged, too. He didn't get get an invitation to the main camp, because a 15-year-old who's 5'11" 3/4 and 137 lbs. isn't physically viable in major juniors, but his level of play was very strong.

Just needs to keep working and getting better, and I think he might actually get a chance in a couple of years.

Plus, his team this upcoming season is looking downright beastly. Four kids made it to Nationals, and two others were drafted by the USHL.

Crazy times, for sure.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off, this is an entirely fascinating read: Terrifying 20m Tall Rogue Waves Are Actually Real. Also, this is an incredibly powerful story: My Family’s Slave.

From Steven Davis, and this is a terrific video: 1953: Who Wouldn't Want to be a Miller? Next, a Grammer Nerd Alert! 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice. This is fascinating: How British and American Spelling Parted Ways. This is a great story: Strong Coffee, Stronger Women. These are simply astonishing: The Incredible Sand Sculptures of Toshihiko Hosaka.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: Why You Should Re-read Paradise Lost. This is a great read: The X Factor of Ancient Athens. I still love fried chicken: A Fried Chicken Bender in South Korea. Next, and this is concerning: Sullied seasoning: Sea salts come with a dash of microplastics.

From Theo Halloran, and this is an absolutely phenomenal article: Riding the Bus with Jagr.

From Wally, and this is unbearably witty: NOS Lucas Replacement Wiring Harness Smoke Kit. Well, this is certainly something: The boss who lives as a medieval knight. If you ever want to know why you should drive a newer car instead of an older one, here you go: ANCAP crash 1998 Toyota Corolla in to 2015-built counterpart.

From DQ Live Advisor Garret Rempel, and this is essential information: Origins of 'eh': How 2 little letters came to define Canadians.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is incredible: 3-D printed ovaries produce healthy offspring.

Closing out this week, from Christopher Scott, and mole rats are amazing: Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Manhattan Project (of tennis)

Well, it's come to this.

I beat Eli 15.2 6-2 on Monday, but my time is running out. I just softballed him and he kept making errors, but that crap is not going to work all summer. I'm going to get my head handed to me if I keep doing that.

An aside: I'm hoping that at some point in the summer I can say to him, "If you come at the king, you best not miss." Best line ever.

So, in order to beat back the marauder for another few months, I'm doing something unthinkable: I'm working on my serve.

My groundstrokes and volleys are solid. Very solid, for an old man, at least. My serve, though, has always been terrible, from the time I was 15 and had just started tennis.

Forty. One. Years.

That's a hell of a long time to do something wrong. My terrible serve spans five decades and two centuries.

Now, though, the competitive imperative demands that I stave off defeat as long as possible. So I'm now taking secret lessons from Eli's tennis instructor, much to his delight.

Here's how this goes. About every eight serve or so, it feels something vaguely like it should. In rhythm. Comfortable.

Or maybe it's every tenth serve. It's not very often.

Plus, I've been trying to practice this in a freaking hurricane. Today there were 25+ winds steady, with gusts to 45. I'm trying to hit a knuckeball with a tennis racket, basically.

Do that 100 times and it wears on you.

That's okay, though. This is the one time I could see this through. If my arm doesn't fall off, this is happening.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two Stories In One Picture

Story #1: Please refer to the cake on the plate. 

"The cake totally crumbled," Gloria said after she took it out of the oven. "I don't know what happened. It just fell apart."

"I call this the 'Land War In Asia' cake," I said. 

Story #2: Please refer to the flowers. 

Those flowers are not hidden--they're protected. George loves to eat flowers, and I had to improvise a wall to keep him away until Gloria got home and she could safely position them. He sat by the paper towel holder for half an hour, just looking. 

Also of note: the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection is both historically significant and far too weighty for a cat to push out of the way.

A Fine Fellow (Eli 15.10 before Prom)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fighting 11 #21: Malaise

Well, this is going poorly.

It's not going poorly because of lack of interest. I'm still interested in what I designed. I think it's interesting, and looks like fun.

Still, though, it's going worse than Gridiron Solitaire went at any point, and this week, I think I figured out why.

I've been struggling for months (years) with the notion that I want to develop games as a career and not a hobby. Lots of people can make one game, working part-time as a hobby. Far fewer can make multiple games and turn those games into a legitimate career.

What I realized this week is that I'm going about it all backwards.

Everything I do starts from ideas that turn into designs. Big, complex designs.

The single most important element of the design, if I want this to be a career, is time. Which is the one aspect I never consider.

Doing a multi-year project to move three thousand units is absolutely not credible in a professional sense. Doing a multi-year project that's a sports game is even worse, because indie sports games have exactly zero traction. That audience isn't going to grow.

So why am I doing it that way?

I think a big part of the answer is comfort. Even though GS was a very unusual design (and extremely niche), I knew I could make it realistic, because I have a fairly deep understanding of sports, particularly the stats aspect. I contributed AI to several projects in the distant past.

In order to succeed, though, I need to stop being myself and become more like Garret.

Garret isn't a one-idea person, and he's not particularly wedded to any of his ideas. They can all be prototyped quickly, he sees what works, and he moves on. What works gets refined and turned into a commercial project. What doesn't work isn't totally discarded--there are usable pieces that can be used in something later.

THAT is the way to be a successful designer and developer. Many ideas. Rapid prototyping.

Expandability, too. I want a modular approach to content so that the game can be expanded as long as it makes financial sense to do so.

Right now, if you release a game on Steam, it disappears almost within minutes. The one-time release approach is usually suicide. There's a much higher chance of success with a game that gets regular content updates and can develop an audience over a period of months or years instead of a few days.

I think Early Access is great for something like this, to develop an audience to shape the game (and promote it) while it's still in development.

To do all this, though, I have to radically change my approach. I know I need to, but that doesn't mean it's any easier.

It's Been A While

I'm almost certain that's an EGA monitor.

Monday, May 15, 2017


"We have to walk across the blue bridge," Gloria said. We were downtown.

"We do?" I asked.

"It's kind of a thing," she said.

"Okay," I said, and we started walking. When we reached the end of the bridge, we turned around and started walking back.

"That was it?" I asked.


"I guess I can mark that off my 'Didn't Know To Do' list," I said.


We walked past a restaurant that was downright raucous, and through the glass, every person I could see had gray hair. "Those over fifties are tearing the shit out of that place," I said.


"Didn't she date an astronaut?" I asked.

"She did, but it ended badly."

"Doesn't matter," I said. "When you can name drop dating an astronaut, that's next level."


"This must be what it's like to play tennis at The Masters," I said. 

Yes, it's that sloped. Incredibly. Four inches from left sideline to right sideline, at least. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Links!

From Christopher Scott, and this is a fascinating read: Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria.

From Tim Lesnick, and man, this is just incredible: Brain Mapping Tech Inflates Tissue 20x to Reveal Remarkable Detail.

From Dan Willhite, and this is substantial: Microsoft’s bid to bring AI to every developer is starting to make sense.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating; How the British Library Digitized One of the World’s Largest Books. Next, and I had no idea that awesome manhole covers were a thing, it's Manhole Covers: Drainspotting Adventure & Factory Tour ★ ONLY in JAPAN. This is both quite funny and strangely mesmerizing: Tire ski jump. This is remarkable: India Is Winning Its War on Human Waste.

From Meg McReynolds, and AC/DC really sounds tremendous on bagpipes: Bagpipes AC/DC "Thunderstruck" with flames Bad Piper.

From Wally, and it's a Maine lobster roll red alert: Get used to paying $20-plus for a lobster roll. Next, and odd WWII stories never seem to run out, it's The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste. I had no idea: The man who salvaged Hitler's toilet: Vast collection of Nazi and military memorabilia used in Hollywood blockbusters. This is  remarkable: Effective guardrail is effective.

From C. Lee, and this is so witty: Why the 'I Hate to Cook Book' Stands the Test of Time. Intriguing: Why Do We Eat Eggs for Breakfast, Anyway? Informative: What All of the "Cage-Free" Stuff on Egg Cartons REALLY Means. This is both interesting and amusing: How Tube Stations Got Their Unusual Nicknames. This is an excellent read: The Greatest Music Teacher Who Ever Lived. This is very cool: The History Of The Pocket Knife. I'd never heard of this before: The History of Maldon Salt, the Stuff You Already Put on Everything.

Finishing off the week, from Brian Brown, and it's fascinating: A 750-Year-Old Secret: See How Soy Sauce Is Still Made Today.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rakuen (2 hour impressions)

Well, this is a delightful little game.

I had a post-it pad next to me while I played the game, and here are the words I wrote down:
wonderful dialogue

If you only had seven words to describe Rakuen, those are a solid seven.

People have substance in this game. The dialogue makes it feel like real people are talking to each other, and when characters aren't people, they still have distinct personalities. They have troubles, they have frustrations, and they're just trying to get through.

I've burst out laughing several times. It's a gentle game, but that doesn't mean it can't be funny, because it is, and quite often.

The world is full of thorough and rich detail. There are so many small details in the opening setting (a hospital) that meticulously create a sense of something that is real.

Another layer to this game is the sound, because it's spectacular, both the music and the sound effects. the music, in particular, is exceptional.

It's a relief, really, with how crazy the world is right now, to play a quiet, warm game like this.

I don't want to say more, because I don't want to spoil anything, but Rakuen is very much worth your time. Here's a Steam link: Rakuen.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

AI And Who It Comes For

I've seen several articles recently about AI being developed to replace people.

Management sells its salaried employees on automation and AI with pure greed. If fewer people are employed, then the firm makes more money, and if the firm makes more money, then an employee's stock and options will be worth more.

It's a simple equation.

Sure, people are going to lose their jobs, but you won't. And breaking eggs for omelets, amirite?

This time, though, the AI being developed is expressly to eliminate managerial positions, even middle managers.

I think most expected AI development to be a limited, controlled event. Compartmentalized. If they weren't entry level employees, the AI and automation were all good for them.

AI isn't like that, though. It's not a discrete event. It's a long, long carpet, and it's unrolling.

It's not going to stop unrolling.

Unless we have a greater awareness of how it impacts people, and actually care about those outcomes, we have a societal tragedy in the making.

Don't get me wrong--I think AI is awesome. It's incredible. But there have to be ethical considerations, and right now, that doesn't seem to be happening.

Rakuen is Out

Rakuen launched today, and I just downloaded it, so I will have impressions for you in a few days.

Here's the Steam link: Rakuen.

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