Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eli 11.8 And The Relaxed Schedule Of A Man At Leisure

Eli 11.8s schedule this week and next:
Friday-Track Meet
Saturday-Track Meet
Sunday (morning)-Tennis
Sunday (afternoon)-Band concert
Sunday (evening)-Soccer
Tuesday-Soccer tournament
Thursday-Soccer tournament (semis, hopefully)

Hey, at least it's mostly only one sport a day. And yes, he's in band, playing the trumpet. He does so with gusto and fairly consistent skill, given that it's just his first year.

If he can just survive until next weekend, things finally begin to level off. No more track or soccer, just hockey and tennis.

If you remember last year's post about this time, he placed 5th in the standing broad jump (6'8") and 5th in the fifty-yard dash (8.12) in the track meet, which as kids from 20+ schools. This was as a fifth grader in the fifth/sixth grade division.

What a difference a year makes.

This year, he's jumped 7'1" and run the fifty in 7.54. Both of those would have won his events last year, so he's hoping that he has a chance to win. Plus he could place in the hundred yard dash as well, and his 4x100 relay team has run faster than the winning time last year.

So it could be a big weekend for him, but it's different. Track isn't a sport where he practices regularly--he mostly just shows up and runs--so he doesn't have experience and preparation to draw upon. We worked on his start, and I explain what I can, but there just hasn't been enough time to be thorough, which is unlike how he (and I) usually approach things.

In his favor, though, very few kids his age are serious about track. It's a loosely organized spring sport, and most of the kids he's running against don't have any more experience than he does. And also in his favor, he had certainly handled enough pressure in other sports where he might benefit here.

His soccer team is 4-1-2 now. They've tied their last two games, one without Eli (sick), and the game today without their goalie (also sick). But they're still in second place in their league, so they have a chance in the tournament (they have a chance to lose in the first round, too--it's a tough, close league).

Meanwhile, I just try to hang on until all this settles down. There's so much going on that it's hard to get my own workouts in, although "Ginsburging" is now a thing in our house.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #53: Playability

The second beta test is going well. I'm down to three bugs (eight were reported, none of them game-breaking or crashes), and I think I can fix them all by the build tomorrow night. There are also requests for feature tweaking, and I have a list of those as well.

It seems like a good sign that most of the feedback this time is related to feature modifications/enhancements, instead of things that are outright missing or broken. By next week, I'd like to have all the bug fixes and feature tweaking completed.

This week, I want to talk about playability.

Game mechanics are a Catch-22. Designers want a game to be immediately accessible, but they also want it to have longevity. It's hard to do both.

Here's the issue I'm having, and it's going to be tough to solve. Gameplay on offense is relatively self-evident: just call a play, match cards, and press Big Play if you want to try to extend the play. On defense, though, even though the gameplay is far more interesting (to me), it's not as transparent. A player has very limited resources in the form of Big Play presses. On each play, he/she has to decide how and when to use those limited resources based on down/distance and whether the max possible gain on the play is 15 (if he matched the CPU playcall) or 30 (if he didn't match).

In terms of gameplay, it's far richer, and it's more challenging. Starting out, though, it's easy to get your ass kicked. It takes 3-4 games for everything to settle in, and in the meantime, you may have decided to go play something else. You might just decide that defense ruins the game.

If I don't get you to play a few games, you won't realize that there's a home field advantage (+3 BP presses per half). You won't know that there are weather effects. You won't know that there are all kinds of dramatic moments in the text events. You won't know that the team ratings really do matter. Here's an example (this is an e-mail from one of the beta testers):
I like how the personalities of the team teach you about the game. I didn't invest in Special Teams in the offseason because it seemed like the least of the Lobster's problems. Then I played a team with awesome Special Teams. 

I was ahead by ten in the fourth. They got a touchdown, onside kicked and recovered. I was able to hold them: they tied it with a 55 yard field goal. I got the ball in OT, had to punt, the punt returner got though and scored a touchdown for the win. I love that my opponent was able to win it with a masterful special teams performance.

The code doesn't force something like that to happen. It just adjusts probabilities based on ratings, and it makes it possible for outcomes like this. What I like, though, is that this was unlikely, even with a big special teams rating gap. It's not likely--it's just more likely. So a player isn't going to see it every time, or even frequently. Which, to me, means that they'll be more likely to remember if if they do.

The realization that the game has gripping, exciting moments that will keep you playing is Point B. A new player is at Point A.

The conundrum: going from point A to point B requires playing the game for X minutes. I'm not going to artificially create drama in the first game, because that's a crap approach. Anything I can do to narrow the gap between A and B, will increase sales.

Another beta tester e-mailed me about my concerns, and he said that maybe Gridiron Solitaire would be like Papers, Please: a game that some people strongly identified with, and that other people would decide wasn't for them. I don't think that would be a bad outcome.

I still have some time, though, to try to thread the the needle for a better outcome.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I posted Friday links just after midnight on Thursday, not Friday. So just go down past yesterday's posts and it will be there. Sorry about that.

Don't Starve (five hours)

All right this is a DEFCON ONE alert on Don't Starve (that's the highest level--War Games had it backwards). This game must be purchased by everyone reading this sentence, and with haste.

This is the most interesting game I've played in years. It is funny and serious and odd and creepy and heartwarming and murderous and farming and what the hell are those big beasts that leave manure?

I said there was a bit of Tim Burton in the game, but there's also quite a lot of Dr. Seuss as well. I feel like I'm peering into a secret, perfect world.

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield is the perfect combination of funk, soul, and R&B, at least for me.

I've been listening to The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield for weeks now. Mayfield, wrote quirky, intense songs with tremendous beats, and here are a few examples:
Freddie's Dead

Those songs are also all on the Superfly soundtrack, which is fantastic in its own right (and more funk-oriented, which is never a bad thing. Ever.)

CGS and Penny Arcade

From the Carolina Games Summit:


RALEIGH, N.C.(April 16, 2013) -- The Carolina Games Summit will host ShootMania Storm, Gears of War: Judgement, and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier benefit tournaments at the East Coast Game Conference with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Child’s Play Charity.  The Conference is being held April 24-25th at the Raleigh Convention Center in North Carolina.  The tournaments will be held in the Exhibition Hall and will span both days of the event.  Registration for the tournaments is free to all conference attendees however a small donation to Child’s Play Charity will be required upon arrival. Tournament registration is currently available at www.CarolinaGamesSummit.com/tournaments.php and will continue on site at the Child’s Play booth in the exhibition hall. 

The ShootMania Storm FFA Royal and 3v3 Elite tournaments will be held on Alienware x51 desktops with BenQ XL2420T 24” LED displays and Plantronics GameCom 780 7.1 Channel headsets, the official computer , monitor, and headset of the Carolina Games Summit.  The Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Guerilla Mode score tournament and Gears of War: Judgement 4v4 tournament will be held on XBOX 360 consoles with BenQ XL2420T 24” LED displays customized with FPS presets and Plantronics GameCom X40 headsets.

Full color custom made plaques will be awarded to the first place winners in all tournaments along with prizes from the developers of the games, many of whom are attending and speaking at the East Coast Games Conference and will be available to talk with tournament participants at various times during the event.  Prospective attendees must purchase their East Coast Game Conference passes from www.ecgconf.com.

If you are unable to attend donations are accepted online via the official Child’s Play donation widget here: http://bit.ly/10a8Pe3.

I'm just waiting for the day when one of these places has a tournament with Farming Simulator. Even better, that should be in the Omegathon one year.


The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff berth for the first time in nine years.

I sent congratulations to a friend of mine who's a Leafs fan, and he sent me a tweet he'd seen (don't know if it was from one of his friends):

It's been a long time.

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a link I just stumbled across, and it's one of most bizarre and fascinating stories you'll ever read: Pain & Gain.

From Sirius, and this is totally cool: Children's Drawings Transformed Into Stuffed Toys. Also, and this is remarkable, it's Hyundai’s flying car, manned hexadecagon.

A slew of links from Michael M.: High-Resolution 3D Sonar Images Taken Of US Navy Ship USS HatterasHow Animals Eat Their Food (this is hilarious), Amazing Water & Sound Experiment #2, and Carlsberg stunts with bikers in cinema. Oh, and one more, and it's a doozy: Russian bears addicted to aircraft fuel.

From Greg B., and this is fascinating: How NASA Might Build Its Very First Warp Drive. Also, and this is absolutely spectacular, and it's a must-view: gorgeous visualization of Kowloon’s Walled City.

From Steven Davis, and this is mind-blowing: SmartInversion – airborne geometrical band with inversion drive. Also, and this is very cool, it's The Reinvention of the Wheel. One more, and it's amazing: Journey to the Center of the Earth: An Incredible Glimpse Inside an Active Volcano.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is quite an archaeological find: King David Era Find "Buried" By Authorities For Political Reasons.

From J.R. Parnell, and this is a fascinating look into Disney history (including the sneakily subversive part) and present-day policy: Why For does Disney think that "No Nudes is Good News".

From Matt Anderson, and this is fascinating as well: How Tax Cops Killed Italy's Supercar Market.

From Kez, and this is quite fantastic: A collection of intriguing and quite useless maps. Next, and this is quite a collection of images: Humans of New York. One more, and it's a terrific comic: The Loneliest Unicorn. Finally, and this is an amazing short film: Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I've mentioned before that we're big fans of the Dallas Stars. Eli 11.8 played with head coach Glen Gulutzan's sons and daughters in the Austin youth hockey program, so we adopted the Stars as our second favorite team (behind the Penguins, of course).

The Stars probably have the third or fourth worst talent in the league (although they have some very promising young players, some of whom practiced with Eli before they were called up), and Coach Gulutzan has done a phenomenal job of keeping them in the playoff hunt the last two years. Last night, they played at San Jose, and with a win (or even a loss in overtime), they would control their own destiny with two games remaining.

I don't normally watch late games anymore--too old, and too tired--but I stayed up for this one, even though it started at 9.

A playoff berth would almost certainly mean a contract extension for Coach Gulutzan, and he'd be a "made man" in NHL coaching circles. Even though he's one of the youngest head coaches in the league (41), a two-year extension would give him four years of head coaching experience, and if he ever worked at the assistant level again, it wouldn't be long.

There are plenty of possible courses for a career, but a contract extension is definitely the fast track.

This was all on my mind as I watched the game. And, like most NHL games, it was gripping. The Stars, in one of the toughest arenas in the league, played with an incredible amount of effort, and had a 2-1 lead with only six minutes left in the game.

At this point, I'd been watching with gradually rising anxiety for about two hours. The game was almost over, though, and I could see so many good things on the happy path for Coach Gulutzan. It made me feel good that someone I know as a grounded, gracious person was going to be rewarded, and his family (also gracious and grounded) as well.

Just six more minutes, which is several lifetimes in an NHL game.

Then, in 30 seconds, the Sharks scored twice. The first goal caused a sinking feeling; the second, a plummeting one.

The Stars went, in 30 seconds, from having control of their destiny to having no control. They must win out and have plenty of help as well to make the playoffs.

There's no question in my mind that Coach Gulutzan deserves a contract extension. The Stars have played far above their talent level, they have over $15M in cap room, and their AHL affiliate (our hometown Texas Stars) may win the AHL this year, so the future looks bright.

What struggling franchises sometimes do, though, to generate excitement in their fan base, is hire a "name" coach who is older and more experienced, even if he might not be as good.

Sport is both fantastic and cruel.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Don't Starve Also Available at GOG

Thanks to Jim Riegel for the tip. The game's page at GOG is here: Don't Starve.

Don't Starve Impressions (three hours)

Don't Starve is entirely wonderful.

It is whimsical and darkly humored, an unhinged sandbox, and it's full of weird, deeply enchanting moments. I would say the visuals are inspired by Tim Burton, and maybe vaguely they are, but it would be a disservice to Klei Entertainment, because this is a unique, fantastical world that owes no debt to anyone. It stands on its own.

I'm purposely not going to tell you too much about this game, because it's so much better when you know as little as possible starting out, but here's a description from the game's website:
AN UNCOMPROMISING WILDERNESS SURVIVAL GAME FULL OF SCIENCE AND MAGIC. Play as Wilson, an intrepid Gentleman Scientist who has been trapped by a demon and transported to a mysterious wilderness world. Wilson must learn to exploit his environment and its inhabitants if he ever hopes to escape and find his way back home. Enter a strange and unexplored world full of strange creatures, dangers, and surprises. Gather resources to craft items and structures that match your survival style. Play your way as you unravel the mysteries of this strange land.

I tend to favor games that have deeply designed, intricate worlds, and Don't Starve certainly qualifies in this regard, but it's also designed in such a way that your actions are easy to manage. You might starve (or get eaten), but it won't be the fault of the interface, which is clear and well-designed.

It's easy to play, but it's not necessarily easy to succeed. I like that.

Don't Starve is also funny, darkly so, and it serves as the perfect compliment to the distinct visuals.

That's all I'm going to tell you, besides that you have to play this game. Immediately. Here's the website: Don't Starve. It's also available on Steam.

Correction (LEGO City: Undercover)

LEGO City: Undercover has turned into appointment gaming in the last week.

We're playing in sandbox mode now, and it's just brilliant. There things to do absolutely everywhere, so all we need to do is get a car, drive around, and look for opportunities.

What I like to do most is climb. I'll find a huge building, then look around for some kind of access. There are all kinds of goodies on the way up, and when I reach the top, I might just jump off, or sail down a zip line, or use a jetpack.

At some point yesterday, it hit me: this is not Grand Theft Auto: LEGO. That's not the vibe at all. I wasn't playing GTA LEGO.

I was playing LEGO: CRACKDOWN.

Crackdown was a top five Xbox 360 game, maybe even top three. It was over-the-top fantastic, even with its mistakes. So imagine a game that has a better and longer mission structure and even more imagination. That's LEGO City: Undercover.

What stands out most for me is the sheer amount of exhilaration I feel while just running around having fun. Eli 11.8 and I take turns playing, and the game is so interesting and crazy that it's fun to watch each other play.

I basically had two games in this category, until now: Crackdown and Just Cause 2. It's a very small club. Now there are three games, because LEGO City: Undercover just got admitted.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #52: Anniversary

It was a year ago that I revealed the game for the first time.

Like everything else about this process, I was naive. I thought I was much further along than I actually was, and kept thinking that until the first beta test, which quickly dispelled my illusions. I was overwhelmed with what people wanted in terms of features, surprised by the bugs they found, and poorly equipped to deal with either.

Because of that, the first beta must have lasted three months. I fixed and fixed and fixed, and added and added and added, and at some point, the Boethian dunking wheel relented. I still had a list, but it was manageable.

Before the first beta, I was so overconfident that I didn't think anything could go wrong. Before the second beta, though, I was so lacking in confidence that I didn't think anything could go right. I was delaying starting because I had a small list of very minor issues.

At some point last week, I got over it. And the second beta started on Saturday.

There are fifteen people in the second beta, plus about five that are holdovers from the first. I braced myself for a flood of e-mail, but this time, much to my surprise, there was no flood. There's been one issue reported--which I've seen before, but could never hunt down--and I found it and fixed it this morning, I think.

The headline code still isn't accurate enough. And there have been some very minor issues. Other than that, though, its been surprisingly smooth.

I had an idea for the original stadium late last week. With the three new stadiums having so much personality, the original, big design suddenly seems lacking. The idea is that the stadium will be a horseshoe shape, with the right corners and sides taken out. In their place will be a sloping hillside as a framing device, and on the hillside will be the team name, using a stone font that hasn't been decided on yet.

There are several colleges and universities with horseshoe-shaped stadiums (Ohio State, Missouri, SMU, and Harvard), so it's an accepted design, and I know Fredrik will make it look distinct.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Links!

Leading off, a slew of excellent links from Michael M. First, and this is spectacular, it's Exclusive: Inside the Lego Factory. Next, and this is very cool, it's Crossword Puzzle Maker. Next a science site--for kids--and it's terrific (here's an example): Stem cells: The secret to change. One more, and it's fascinating: While Pigs May Never Fly, Squids Sure Do!

From Sirius, and this is excellent: The True Shape of Snowflakes. Next, a most unusual fire that wasn't as unusual as it seemed: The Fortean Vodka. Next, and these are quite beautiful, it's Droplet Collisions at 5000fps - The Slow Mo Guys. Finally, and this is quite droll, it's How Fast Does the Grim Reaper Walk?.

From Brad Brasfield, and this is simply amazing: A general technique for automating NES games (seriously, you need to watch the video and listen to the explanation).

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is lovely, it's Alchemy: A Beautiful Time-Lapse Video About the Ever-Changing Nature of Earth. Also, and this is the best story about art you'll read this month (at least): Black Gold: Thar's Oil in Them Thar Hills. Also, and this is a bizarre story, it's Weird 1972 Experiment In Marijuana Use.

From David, and these images are spectacular, it's Phenomenal Photos of Japan's Recent Volcano Eruption.

From Steven Davis, and this is a remarkable piece of technology: Touchscreen interface for seamless data transfer between the real and virtual world.

From C. Lee, and these are fascinating looks at the history referenced in BioShock InfiniteA BioShock Infinite Primer, plus A BioShock Infinite Primer: Pt. II.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Papers, Please

Well, this is brilliant.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun had a story earlier this week about a game in beta titled Papers, Please, where you play as an immigration inspector. Here's a description:
A Dystopian Document Thriller. 

The communist state of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin. 

Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission's primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.

That may sound quite mundane, but the appeal of the game lies in its ability to wring a surprising amount of tension and stress out of a life where you inspect documents all day. There is terrorism, and fraud, and pleas for help, and you also have a family at home who depends on you to survive, but your income is tied to how many applicants you can process during the workday. If you make a mistake, you can be fined, but if you don't work at a steady pace, you won't be able to make enough money to feed your family.

It's stark and depressing, and I mean that as an absolute compliment.

There will be a wide divide on this game. Some of you will play it and think it's the most original, intelligent game you've played in years. Others will try it and absolute despite it immediately.

I also consider that a compliment.

The beta is publicly available, and I don't think there's ever been a game quite like this one.

George Orwell would have highly approved.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eli 11.8 Hits the Court

Eli 11.8 has been playing quite a bit of tennis with me lately.

I played for two years in high school, and beat someone regularly who played #5 singles at my college. It was a small college.

I still play well. And when I play Eli 11.8 now, I hit the ball as hard as I can. He hits it back just as hard.

We're having 10-15 shot rallies on a regular basis, and he's learned how to build points. He's not just hitting the ball back randomly, trying to put it anywhere in the court. Every shot has a purpose, and he's hitting clean winners after long rallies because he's sequencing shots to get a specific opening.

It's scary, in a good way.

Plus, he likes to volley, which is something very unusual for kids. When he gets a short ball, he doesn't hit it and run back to the baseline--he hits an approach shot and comes in.

The one part of his game that isn't mature yet is the serve, which is always tougher to learn. Plus, it's tougher for me to teach. It's easy for me to explain everything else in a way he understands, but the serve is so much more complex than it seems (or, at least, it always was for me). So we didn't focus on it at first, which was probably a mistake, and now that the rest of his game is so advanced, I'm trying to help him catch up.

The biggest problem for most people with the serve is that they think too much while they're serving. They know how to hit a serve, but their brain gets in the way (you know what I mean). They get tight. I tell Eli to be "clear" when he's in goal, and it's the same principle--you know what to do, so just act and react. Don't think.

"Let's try something," I said, while he was serving his way through a bucket of practice balls. "Put a number on the ball."

"What?" he asked.

"Think of a number when you're about to toss the ball," I said. "Then, see that number on the ball when you serve."

He giggled.

"You toss, and I'll call out a number," I said. He tossed. "Eight," I said.

He hit the serve about ten feet, then started laughing. "Did you see it?" I asked.

He broke up laughing. "No, Dad," he said, "because THERE'S NO NUMBER ON THE BALL."

"There is if you put it there," I said.

He laughed again. "You are a mad scientist," he said.

"See the number," I said.

He couldn't do it. He tried, but he just couldn't see a number on the ball. Then, though, he had his own idea.

"Try calling out a math problem," he said. Very clever. Same principle.

"Okay," I said. He started to toss. "Eight plus five," I said.

"Thirteen," he said, and hit a perfect serve. He looked at me. I looked at him. We both started laughing.

"Again," he said.

He tossed. "Eight plus nine," I said.

"Seventeen," he said as he hit the ball. Again, it was a perfect serve."

"Oh my God," he said, laughing. "This actually works."

"It keeps your conscious mind busy so that it can't interfere," I said. "It stops you from worrying about what can go wrong."

"This is the goofiest thing I've ever tried," he said. "And IT WORKS."

I'm sealing my own doom, because he'll be beating me in another few months, but it will be my best loss ever.

LEGO City: Undercover (Updated)

We finished the main story in the game this week, clocking in at nearly 20 hours of play time.

I know I was initially positive with my impressions a few weeks ago, and I'm even more positive now. This is a beautifully designed, clever, funny game. The story is very well-developed, incredibly well written, and the voice acting is superb.

We've also spent a few hours in freeplay mode, and it's tremendously fun as well. It seems like there's something to do every fifteen feet, and it's all interesting.

Eli 11.8 also gives it a big, big thumbs up.

Xbox 720 (Durango)

I haven't commented on the recent avalanche Xbox 720 rumors because the signal-to-noise ratio is impossible to determine, but Jeff Pinard has a very thoughtful point about the "always-on" requirement, if true, in regards to hospitals (and hospitals for children, in particular):

The trickle down effect would be pretty staggering.  Child’s Play might have to make a decision to forgo the Xbox720 and subsequently ALL of the games on that platform a possible no-go.  

We have the best Pediatric Hospital in all of Western/Central Michigan, with people from Indiana who come here as well since the Indiana system isn’t all that hot.  There are twice as many beds as Internet spots, and the Pediatric Hospital has even less at peak times as wifi/gaming is set to the lowest priority when there is a spot to login.  This is not a negative against the hospital, but the reality of having a massive hospital with everything digitized and major data loads, and extraordinary levels of security on their networks.  The smaller county hospitals don’t even have wifi/Internet access.

That's very shitty for kids who use gaming as a distraction in a terribly difficult situation. And can you imagine the PR nightmare/blowback for Microsoft?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Estonia in Spring

Vahur Teller sent in a striking picture of Estonia in spring:

I'm writing this on Friday (writing a bit in advance to be able to work on the game for longer stretches this week), and it's supposed to be 79F today. After I pick up Eli 11.8 from school, we're going to play tennis. It doesn't seem fair, and I'm sure that's what the cow is thinking.

This beautiful picture was photographed by Henn-Hillar Kalkun in Haanja Parish, Estonia.

Oil (your e-mail)

Jason Cox sent this in, and it needs no introduction:

There is something this nearly former gamer wishes he could say to the videogame industry in regards to your post on oil.
This well is tapped.
I used to spend easily $3,000 to $6,000 a year on various videogames, systems, peripherals, etc. I routinely spent a considerable portion of my annual income on videogame related purchases. Even though my income has increased if you looked at my purchases over the last year I would be surprised if it broke the $1,000 mark, including DLC purchases. If you only look at brand new "AAA" games, somewhere less than $300 if I was hedging.
I predicted that all the major studios going for a "AAA" only strategy was like playing a four way game of chicken. Everyone is going to lose. As a consumer, all I have been offered is a series of rehashes that have no interest to me. For example, I see no difference between the various Call of Duty games, so I stopped buying them. Why bother? What do I get for my money? I know they only care about the multiplayer community, but at some point that well will dry up to.
The real point that concerns me for the future of the industry though is that I don't think the next generation is going for this strategy either. When I was a kid I saved up every birthday and Christmas to get the games I wanted. I mowed lawns or did whatever I had to do over the summer. My kids have no such interest. I let my teenage son play Call of Duty but when I told him he'd have to spend his birthday money to get the next version, he opted out. He was really interested in the franchise until he had to start paying for it. Same thing with Halo 4. If someone hadn't bought it as a birthday present we wouldn't own it, though my impression of it was "More of the same" despite the rave reviews.
How many kids are really that invested in these popular games? I'm a gamer dad so my kids often reaped the rewards of my hobby. As I've spent less they haven't felt the need to spend their disposable income on games either. My oldest doesn't care about the next XBox or Playstation, he'd much rather upgrade his smartphone or get a new tablet. I know this is anecdotal, but most of his friends are the same way. When these kids hit the point where their videogame habit is not subsidized by their parents will they still pay $60 for a new game? I just don't see it.
I firmly believe we will always play games. We like to be distracted and entertained, so I don't think the industry is "dying". What I do see is the inevitable fall of Activision and anyone like them because the market they are trying to exploit appears much shallower than they seem to realize. 

Eli's friends are an interesting mix when it comes to video games. Some of them certainly play Call of Duty/Halo etc., but they seem to play a very limited selection of games. What's interesting, though, is that there really is no "gamer" culture per se--every kid I know plays games, whether it's on a PC or console or tablet or smartphone. It's 100% penetration, but it's split into multiple channels.

Ironic, isn't it? Instead of having 100% of a limited market, consoles now have a very limited percentage of a 100% market.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #51: Stadium Evolution

If you don't remember the original stadium, here's what it looks like when it's empty:

That image doesn't scale down very well, but you can click on it to see it at full resolution--it's very precise.

It's big, designed to be like the Rose Bowl or Estadio Azteca, and the crowd basically fills the entire screen.

Fredrik told me months ago that he thought more stadiums were needed, but I resisted. Creating the crowd was quite complex (for me), and I wasn't creating any more individual crowd "panels".

I finally realized, though, that he was right. Multiple stadiums would add so much flavor to the game.

Two weeks later, we have three new stadiums. What I want to show you today is the process by which a stadium goes from a very rough idea to a finished product. I'm going to show you the process that went into completing the "neighborhood" stadium.

This also is going to involve quite a few images, so apologies in advance if it shows down the loading of the page.

Here was the very first version of the neighborhood stadium:

It wasn't much, really, because I hadn't given Fredrik anything to work with, just a request to remove part of the stands and put some trees outside the stadium.

It was different, certainly, but in this form, it was "not the big stadium", and that was all. It had no personality of its own.

I asked Fredrik to add trees, and make them symmetrical, and this was the next version:

Well, that's a little progress. Then I mentioned that he might add some cars:

I thought the cards would be a nice addition, but something didn't look right to me. It's hard to explain, but quite a bit of this process is just feel.

I asked for walking paths:

The color of the paths didn't seem right, but I liked them.

Understand that all this prototyping is happening in a very compressed period of time. I would look at an image Fredrik had sent me, request a few changes/additions, he'd give me a sanity check on what I was requesting, and he would have a new image back to me within the hour.

Now, balloons:

At this point, I'm starting to understand that good stuff is happening. The balloons aren't quite right yet--they need to be bigger--but there's something about them that I love, because balloons are deeply evocative and symbolic of fun.

I didn't like the left/right symmetry, and finally realized that there was an opportunity to increase the size of the crowd, which led to this:

There's this odd moment when you're trying to create something. You go through all these iterations, whether it's writing or music or art or whatever, and if you're fortunate, there's a moment where you see everything at one time, where you go from something incomplete to something very complete in one moment. I looked at this stadium for a few minutes, and suddenly I saw everything else. It was like a little gear turning in my head that suddenly clicked into place.

That gear clicking into place was this:

No cars. Trees lined up precisely. Double balloon arches. Lighter image overall. It's a stadium I'd look forward to walking into in real life.

All in all, Fredrik created eleven versions of the stadium before we agreed it was complete. It was tremendously fun, too, rapidly going through these versions and working through it together.

Here are the other two stadiums, in finished form. First, the "mosaic" stadium:

If you click to see the larger image, you'll see that those mosaics are images from the drive meter on defense, and Fredrik made them look amazing. The theme behind this stadium is that each of those mosaics is central to a plaza where fans can gather.

The last stadium has a coastal theme:

It's possible that we might revisit this stadium later, because the other stadiums have this extreme sharpness in the graphics that this stadium doesn't have (blending of water/sand/vegetation is a little smudgy on purpose). I'm the one who wanted it this way, but I wonder if it's somehow dissonant compared to the other stadiums, so it might get modified.

So now there are four stadiums, not one. Teams are assigned a stadium, but the user can change the stadium assignment for all teams if he/she wishes.

I couldn't be happier with how these look when they're filled with fans. They're so much more dynamic and personal than the original stadium. And since you're probably already wondering: yes, it's possible that we might add more stadiums. If I can just come up with appropriate themes that are distinct from the other stadiums, I'd like to add four more.

Right now, though, the priority is getting all this put together so that the long-delayed second beta can start by Thursday. I had a wheel come off last night (headline text clipping--argghhh), so I've got to get that 100% working, then fix a few small things, and we should be ready to go.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Links!

From Vahur Teller, and this is quite fantastic: Extreme kayaking: street style Zegul.

From Chris Pencis, and this is tremendous: Clouds Over Cuba: The Cuban Missile Crisis and What Might Have Been.

From Frank Regan, and this looks stunning: "Agafia's Taiga Life".

From Sirius, and you don't want to wake up with this on your face: New face-sized tarantula discovered in trees in Sri Lanka. Also, and I prefer chocolate, it's Stargazey pie. Also, and this is fascinating, it's Giant Dinosaurs Got a Head Start on Growth.

From Aaron Ward, and this is very slick: This New Camera Stabilizer Could Change Cinematography Forever.

From Vahur Teller, and this is simply spectacular: NASA | Earth from Orbit 2012.

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and this women is Badass of the Week: Johanna Quaas, 86-Year-Old Gymnast. Also, and this is very moving, but it's also incredibly sad (Crying Alert for DQ Reader My Wife): The Battle We Didn't Choose: My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer.

Here begins the depressing Sports Assholes portion of Friday Links. First, from Zy Ho, and instead of an asshole coach this time, it's an asshole athletic director: Oregon's Arsalan Kazemi alleged racial discrimination while at Rice.

Next, a reminder from C. Lee that asshole coaches are everywhere, and in Japan, it can be awful: Judo federation apologizes for abuse: 15 top female athletes were harassed, struck by head coach. Also, sadly, Violent coaching rooted in militarism.

Now, to leaven that out, here's a very touching story sent in by Chris Pencis: The Good Hurt: How Ray King Lives and Plays Basketball With Cancer.

And here's one more, about a very special moment in the Nebraska spring game: Jack Hoffman with a 69 yard touchdown in the 2013 Nebraska Spring Game.

From Chris Prouse, and this is a beautiful data visualization (please note: not trying to make a political statement here, just an appreciation for data): U.S. Gun Deaths in 2013.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is quite a discovery: Ernest Hemingway Interview.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is amazing: People Who Have Converted Their Homes Into Imaginary Worlds.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


This is the "I was at Eli 11.8's school most of the day and I'm too tired to write" post.

In a side note, Fredrik has finished one of the three new stadiums for Gridiron Solitaire, and he's really outdone himself this time. I can't wait to show it to you on Monday, and a second one should be finished tomorrow.

I saw this when I went to Einstein's for breakfast earlier this week:

What I liked so much about this is that there was no reason for it to be here. It was just on a wall at the edge of the parking lot.

Next, our cat George likes flowers:

Those were Gerber daisies, in case you're wondering.

Next a highly specialized market that I had no idea even existed:

That's right: just below the heart with the pink wings, it clearly says "Lower Back tattoos." And there's 12 to collect, so persevere.

Last one:

Yes, of course Eli immediately spotted that below "1 Side Guacamole, it said "ASS APP."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


It seems like there's bad news for the gaming industry almost every day now.

Electronic Arts. Square Enix. LucasArts. The number of studios who have either been shut down outright or seriously downsized in the last year would fill half of this screen.

I've been thinking about this for weeks, trying to find a simple description for what's happening. I think I may have found it this morning.


Let's look at the evolution of gaming, from a business perspective, using oil.

What does oil represent? Us. Gamers.

In the beginning, computer games are created with one or two-man teams. Costs are almost zero. So are returns, because a computer game might only sell a few hundred copies.

I don't know what the first hugely successful computer game was, but let's use the Ultima series. Consider that Spindletop.

Now, people understand that gaming could be very lucrative in a commercial sense. More people start making games. Most of them are still one or two-man teams (like wildcatters, trying to find new wells), but larger companies start to form, trying to develop production on a more significant scale.

This works out well, because there is plenty of oil out there. Lots of people realize that they enjoyed playing games, so there are plenty of untapped deposits, and you can drill in plenty of different places and strike oil.

More drillers get in the game, and more companies form. The existing companies buy some of the wildcatters who found big deposits, and so they get bigger.

The oil companies start buying equipment. They build infrastructure.

Now, fixed costs are creeping up. Whether that equipment is being used or not, it has to be stored and maintained.

No problem, though. There's plenty of oil out there.

Fixed costs continue to creep up. A new piece of equipment comes out that can pump much more oil out of a well, but it's 10X more expensive than the old equipment. Most of the rest of the equipment gets replaced in a similar fashion.

There's so much expensive equipment and infrastructure in place that drilling a new well, unless it's a huge, known reserve, just doesn't make sense anymore. Wildcatting a well for a low cost isn't even possible anymore, because these big oil companies only have incredibly expensive equipment tailored to pump out massive amounts of oil. Plus, they need so much revenue that the little wells are just a waste of time.

This is a critical mistake, because geologic reports can be inaccurate. Sometimes, huge reserves can still be found in places where the big oil companies aren't surveying.

The oil companies look at their business, which is suddenly struggling, and realize that they can make plenty of revenue to support operations if they just focus on proven reserves. It's efficient, it matches the scale of their infrastructure, and it's focused.

This goes well, at least at first. Then a proven reserve is discovered to be smaller--quite a bit smaller--than what was previously projected. Then another.

How does this oil company adapt? It can't. It has no new wells that could have larger reserves than estimated. It's fixed costs are enormous. As soon as the proven reserves have dried up, they have nothing left.

What about an existing well, though? Could it turn out to be much larger than estimated? It could, except the reserve was probably over-estimated to begin with. No one makes money under-estimating reserves.

There's still plenty of oil, but the economics of production for the large companies has made that oil unavailable to them. So they  have no choice but to scale down. That will work, right? Just cut costs until they match revenue, then go forward.

Dismantling infrastructure to reduce costs is incredibly difficult, though, because infrastructure never operates the way it looks on an organizational chart. It's a complex web of dependencies and relationships that have developed over time. Dismantling it always causes unexpected, collateral damage.

Still, they try to survive. They buy wildcatters who have substantial proven reserves. Buy success instead of doing the heavy lifting themselves. The problem with buying proven reserves, though, is that the bidding is highly competitive, and to secure a reserve, they have to overpay.

Some of these wildcatter's wells pay off. Many more, though, turn out to never be profitable, because the oil company overpaid to such a degree to acquire the well that it never paid back the original investment.

It's a vicious, downward spiral.

Meanwhile, far away, the wildcatters have a bonanza of opportunity, because the big oil companies have abandoned plenty of smaller and even medium-sized pockets of oil. With extremely low costs to drill, if they find even a small amount of oil, they can make money. And if they keep costs low, they can do this again and again with every little risk.

The wildcatters are in position to drill for the rest of their lives, if they want to.

What should the big oil companies do? They don't know. Neither does anyone else.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


Eli 11.8 is captain of his school's fifth/sixth grade soccer team. They play in the highest division, and they won 6-2 in their first game last week.

Eli, to his disappointment, is a sweeper this season. It's tough for him, because he can be such a dominating midfielder, but his coach wants the assurance of knowing he's the last line of defense, and Eli responded. In their first game (up 6-0), the coach moved him to midfielder late in the game, and his team gave up 2 goals in 10 minutes.

Eli plays his position as well as you'd expect, but what he does best is organize the team from the back row. He gives clear instructions to the three defenders in front of him, making sure that they stay together and play as a unit.

So it's not the position he'd hoped for, but he's strong in his role. The coach also made him the team captain, which Eli takes very seriously.

Tonight, they played their second game, and immediately, it was clear that this was going to be a different game. Instead of dominating position, they were being dominated, and attack after attack came Eli's way, because the other defenders just couldn't physically match up. He stopped every early attack, including a host of situations where he was the last line of defense with no help in sight.

This team could run. Eli's team runs well, but this team ran better, and Eli was the only one fast enough to stay with them. Plus they had a kid who was at least 5'9" (Seriously? How freaking tall can kids get these days?), and he had excellent ball skills.

In other words, it was clearly an uphill battle.

Still, it was 0-0 when the other team scored on a corner kick, a strong left-footed shot that deflected off another defender and into the net.

At halftime, Eli's team was down 1-0, but they were playing hard.

In the second half, the game was slightly more even, but on another corner kick, one of Eli's teammates--who was at least fifteen yards from the goal--deflected the corner, and it took a crazy bounce right to the foot of an opposing player in front of the net. Easy goal.

It was pretty clear at this point that Eli's team was going to lose, but he still tried to marshal a comeback, encouraging his teammates and trying to pick them up. And he made three or four more terrific stops on defense, saving his team again and again.

Then, on a long ball, Eli, his goalkeeper, and an opposing player all arrived at the same time. The goalie reached for the ball, but it slipped out of his hands, and Eli grabbed it.

Goalie instinct.

It was a penalty shot, and they scored again. Final score: 3-1.

After shaking hands with the opposing team, Eli walked off the field with his head down. I put my hand on his shoulder. "Look at me," I said, and he did so, reluctantly. "I know you accept responsibility for that one second, but you also have to be willing to accept responsibility for how you played the rest of the game. You were tremendous." He gave me a little smile, then we all walked off together.

On the way to dinner, I made a tentative conversation probe. "So do you understand why those bad bounces kept going against you guys?" I asked.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because they had possession two-thirds of the time," I said. "It's just like hockey. When you have the ball most of the time, good things will happen for you. But they immediately challenged possession every time you guys touched the ball, and they generated a ton of turnovers. What did you see out there?"

"We didn't attack the right way," he said. "Against that team, you can't attack with a series of short passes, because you won't control the ball long enough. We needed to chip the ball in and go chase it with pressure."

That's dumping the puck in, in hockey terms.

"Dad, I'm going to read, okay?" he asked, pulling out a book that he was reading as a homework assignment.

"Sure," I said. We drove the rest of the way to Chipotle in silence.

After I parked, we got out of the car and started walking toward the restaurant. "Well, I guess I'll have a handball sandwich with a side of handballs," he said. I burst out laughing, and he did, too.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #50: New Stadiums and the Domino Effect

Putting something into the game, even when it seems simple, has a ripple effect.

Putting in four new stadiums? Major ripple effect.
--change the TeamInfo file to have a new field: "stadiums".
--change the team load information to include a default stadium value. Since there's a stadium on the edge of a lake/ocean, make the water stadium assignment geographically appropriate.
--change the team customization screen to include stadium selection. This is important, because a user might like/dislike a particular stadium, so there has to be an option to assign the stadiums as the user wishes.

Here's what that screen looks like now:

The new layout looks easy, but doing the layout and the supporting code took about four hours.

--the new stadiums need a differently-shaped away crowd shape. Copy an existing home team rectangle and change all the assignments for color (this requires quite a bit of work in XAML, believe it or not, because the colors are dynamically assigned when the game is loaded).
--rework all the crowd animation code to included "if visible" checks, because with different stadium sizes in terms of crowd blocks, not all crowd shapes will be visible in every stadium.
--along with that, the positioning of every crowd element has to be revised for every stadium, then assigned when the game window loads.
--rewrite the stadium assignment code when the main game window loads, because instead of 3 possible stadium images (standard/rain/snow), there are now 4x3 possibilities.

Holy crap. So this is an enhancement that takes one second to describe ("new stadiums") and 15 hours to implement. It's almost done, though, and it's a good use of time, because the different stadiums will give the game a more distinct feel.

This is going to be in by Friday (Thursday, I'm hoping), and come hell or high water, the second beta is starting this weekend. I've been resisting because there are still outstanding items, but that's a trap, because I need the additional feedback. I'm seeing an occasional display issue that I can't duplicate on either of my machines (dev machine and crappy netbook), so I need to get more instances to narrow down the cause.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Friday Links!

Leading off, from DQ reader My Wife, perhaps the most excited video subject ever: Aleksander Gamme, Norwegian Explorer, Is Incredibly Stoked To Find Cheez Doodles In Antarctica. The guy is a stone cold badass, too.

From Matt Solomon, and damn, the ArenaNet guys are creative: Guild Wars 2 Super Adventure Box. Seriously, you have to see this video.

From Matt Anderson, and I'd love to see this actually happen: Iain Duncan Smith Urged By Petition To Show He Can Actually Live On £53 A Week.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is quite powerful: Caldera. Also, and this link blew the mind of Eli 11.8, it's Distance to Mars.

From Michael M., and it's a follow-up on a link from last week: This Is the Most Detailed Picture of the Internet Ever (and Making it Was Very Illegal).

From C. Lee, and this is an entirely wonderful interview: X-COM to XCOM: 20 Years of Turn-Based Strategy, Alien-Killing, and DREAD.

From Chris Pencis, and it's tremendous: How hard would a puck have to be shot to be able to knock the goalie himself backwards into the net? Also, this is an excellent rabbit hole in itself, it's Hockey Robotics: The Leader in Hockey Stick Testing.

Not a link, but a fun fact from reader Vahur Teller: Estonia had 11 hours of sunlight in December. Their historical average for December is 20 hours. Incredible.

From Eric Lundquist, and this is outstanding: An NHL Ice Rink Broken Down.

From nin, and this says it much more cleverly than I did: BioShock Infinite is Insanely, Ridiculously Violent. It's a Real Shame.

There's a breed of domesticated cat called the Savannah, which is a cross-breed of a domestic cat with a serval. They're incredibly athletic, and by "incredibly" I mean go to :40 in this video and hold on to your jaw: Waking Up Andreas.

Ending on a down note, here's quite a bit more detail on d-bag Mike Rice and what happened at Rutgers: The coach, the assistant and the AD.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

On Definitions

I was going to write a wistful post about the death of Rock Band and LucasArts (and the collapse of Square Enix), but it's my birthday, so screw that.

[thanks to those of you who posted on my Facebook wall today. I never check my page--it's an ecosystem unspoiled by my presence--but they send me e-mail notifications.]

Instead, given the other subjects this week, I'd like to talk about Eli 11.8's goalie coach.

He's a no-nonsense fellow who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Pro Hybrid style of goaltending. He taught himself the craft as an engineer would, even though he's never played the position himself. Given his lack of experience, he is unexpectedly brilliant as an instructor.

While he can be stern, he rewards both effort and inspiration with the highest respect. Eli 11.8 is full of both, and they get along famously. Eli would skate through a wall for his coach, and from all appearances, the feelings are mutual.

Eli wrote a note for his coach today, which he does at the end of every season. Before he started, I wanted him to understand something he might not have thought about before. "Do you know the most special thing that coach has given you?" I asked on the way to the rink.


"Dreams," I said.

"Dreams? What?"

"You dream about playing pro hockey," I said, "but you wouldn't have that dream if coach hadn't been with you from the beginning. He taught you to do everything the right way. He pushes you forward and always challenges you. Who could give you something bigger than a dream?"

He was quiet for a moment, then he started writing. "I never thought about that way," he said.

"Neither did I," I said. "Until now."

I thought about Eli's coach today after reading all week about his polar opposite: dirtbag Mike Rice. Here's another gem:
In the summer of 2010, Murdock joined Rice at a summer camp attended by children ages 10 through 12. A few kids came into the gym late. "So now [Rice] feels he has a need to embarrass these kids in front of other campers," Murdock says. "And then he noticed that they have on flip-flops. So he looks down, and he said, 'Flip-flops are for f----ts. Flip-flops are for f----ts.' I mean, in front of 10-year-old kids."

It's entirely remarkable--in this country, at least--that the unlimited anger and bullying of coaches is somehow considered necessary and essential to the personal development of boys. People say that it turns boys into men.

If that's true, then perhaps we should change the definition of what it means to be a man.

Great Strides

DQ reader Ken Dean has a request, which I am happy to pass along. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

For the 4th year in a row, I will be walking in the Great Strides event here in Sacramento on May 18th, raising money and awareness for the CF Foundation. As a participant, I have committed to raise $2,000, with our team goal of $5,000.

As you know, my son, Ethan has Cystic Fibrosis. I fund-raise in hopes of a cure and for research to better enhance how they treat his disease.

Today, I am asking you to help me reach my goal by making a contribution at my page: Ken's Great Strides Page.

They Have Officially Run Out Of Movie Titles

I just saw a listing for "Hobo With a Shotgun."

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Eli 11.8 has progressed to the point that he tells me as many interesting things as I tell him.

Today, he told me about the origins of two nursery rhymes.

I'd never heard of this one, but he said children sang it during the 1918 flu pandemic:
I had a little bird
Her name was Enza
I opened up the window
And influenza

He also told me the origins of this classic children's rhyme:
Ring around the rosy 
A pocketful of posies 
Ashes ashes 
We all fall down

His explanation was that this was in reference to the era of The Plague in Europe. "Ring around the rosy" was walking in circles around the roses on a grave. People put posies in their pocket to mask the smell of the plague. "Ashes ashes" refers to the burning of bodies. "We all fall down" is in reference to everyone dying.

As it turns out, he was right on the first, but wrong on the second. There's a fascinating history of Ring Around the Rosie at Snopes, and while the plague is a popular origin explanation (and one that seemingly fits quite well, and cleverly), it's not correct. Here's an excerpt:
The more likely explanation is to be found in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century, in Britain as well as here in North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the "play-party." Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment.

Both of these were discussed at school, by the way. Sixth grade is apparently much more interesting in his day than it was in mine.

Unbelievable (Update)

Mike Rice just got fired.

Not because of what he'd done, mind you, but because the video leaked and everyone could see what he'd done, forcing the Rutgers Athletic Director's hand.

Rice gave what sounded like a heartfelt, sincere, 90-second statement this morning (sorry, I heard it on the radio and don't have a link), and he said all the "right" things. He apologized to everyone--well, everyone except his players. I thought it was very telling that he didn't apologize to the players.

I was talking to a friend of mine who played college basketball at a high level, and he reinforced something I had noticed yesterday. "Did you notice this players didn't turn him in?" he asked. "That's because they've all been coached like that before."

That may be the saddest part of this mess. Kids are so used to getting abused by their coaches that while a bunch of them transferred, none reported Rice for his behavior.

Based on how the athletic director originally acted, it wouldn't have done them any good, anyway.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Well, They Cared Enough To Put Up The Sign


This kind of garbage makes me sick: Rutgers' Rice Berates Players at Practice.

In several dozen hours of video of Rutgers men's basketball practices obtained by "Outside the Lines," coach Mike Rice is seen hurling basketballs from close range at his players' heads, legs and feet; shoving and grabbing his players; feigning punching them; kicking them; and screaming obscenities and homophobic slurs.

...In addition to Rice's physical actions seen in the practices, Rice calls Rutgers players "f----ts," "m-----f-----s," "p-----s," "sissy b-----s," and "c---s," among other epithets.

Rice is described as "fiery" and "intense", and I am so sick of abusive bastards being described as "fiery".

It's not fire. It's an emotional disorder. Mike Rice is broken and disturbed.

It's not coaching. It's abuse.

This video has just come to public light, but Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was shown the video months ago. So what happened to Rice? Pernetti--as big a dick as Rice, apparently--suspended Rice for three days. It's incredible.

Here's what Rutgers President Robert Barchi said last year:
At a remarkable time of challenge for higher education, Rutgers has the opportunity to be a leader for the nation, and I am excited to be able to contribute to that work.

Yes, you can contribute, Mr. Barchi. You can contribute by firing your Athletic Director immediately, then firing your basketball Head Coach and replacing him with someone who can act like a human being.

In America, our standards for coaching behavior are broken. Utterly broken. Coaches shouldn't be able to say anything to an athlete that a regular faculty couldn't say. It's ridiculous to pretend that sports are somehow "different". They're not.

They never were.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #49: New Stuff

After a long and contentious discussion with some people who know much more about development than I do, they convinced me that always-on DRM is the only reasonable way to prevent piracy of Gridiron Solitaire.

Oh, hell. I can't even type that without bursting out laughing. It's April Fool's Day, remember.

Everything from here on forwards, though, is real.

Item number one is save games. For a long time, I thought there should only be one active game, period. Eli 11.8 brought up an excellent point, though, which is that if anyone had a league going and their kid wanted to play, they couldn't start their own league.

That was a winning argument. So I'm putting in save games--up to four--and everything should be done by the end of this week.

Item number, two, which is bigger. Fredrik has been trying to convince me for months that we needed more than one stadium. I was concerned about crowd placement, though, as well as any kind of domed stadium being unusable because of the graphics layers and how they're prioritized.

I e-mailed him yesterday, though, and said we should take a crack at it again, and sent along a few collegiate stadiums as examples of stadiums that weren't fully enclosed. He sent back three images that I really, really like, and while they're very much preliminary (there will be trees, etc., in the open spaces, here's a look:

That's the field surface for rain games, by the way.

So there will be four stadiums now instead of one, and as part of team customization, you'll be able to pick the stadium you want for your team (or any other team as well). Once the crowd is added in and the backgrounds are created, I think they'll be a nice addition to the atmosphere.

I'm also working on a "stretch" feature this week (lighting), but it's early enough where I have no idea if anything I'm trying will work. I'll have more for you on that subject next week, though.

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