Whee fun

Wednesday, 20 May 2009 11:18
This week is crazy; something happening every day to bust up my schedule, and with layers of crisis on top of that. Cannot complain because there are exciting opportunities afoot too, but it's frustrating not to be able to commit much time to implementation, especially since I still feel like I just got home from abroad.

I didn't do any work-work over the weekend because I needed to de-stress after the vacation, and I did this by producing another Jmac's Arcade. I haven't had the time to actually upload it anywhere, which sounds silly, but I wanna do it right and redesign arcade.jmac.org first. The site looks kind of terrible in the wake of the most recent jmac.org redesign. It'll get done soon enough, and you will like it.

Here's a couple of things I may attend this week:

I'll go to Post Mortem tonight if I can put a bit of a buffer between me and the enormous 8-ball rolling behind me, rumble rumble. (Feeling kind of pessimistic about this now. Boy I sure do love writing LJ posts. LA LA LA.) An upcoming opportunity on the Appleseed side of things encourages me to stir the local-game-doodz networking pot, but it's not like I can't do that anywhere else.

I am planning on attending the next Information Superhighway shindig at Harvard Square, this coming Saturday night. I had a lot of fun at the last one, and this one apparently has guests and speakers involving both homemade TV and the board game Diplomacy, both of which are relevant to my interests right now.

Feeling pitchy

Thursday, 23 April 2009 01:15
Hello, my social network,

Tell me: do I know anyone who is involved in the TV industry, or who might be able to comfortably introduce me to colleagues who are? (Note: have already dispatched pigeons to the Gameshelf's crew members. Y'all are the second ones to hear this question.)

No need for me to be coy here: it struck me earlier this evening that there's no good reason for my complete ignorance about the world of commercial television. So long as I'm in the dark about it, I also lack reasons why I've never even thought about making The Gameshelf a part of it. I can imagine plenty of good reasons it's a ridiculous and dismissible notion - even ones that have nothing to do with the quality of relevance of my show - and wouldn't be a bit surprised to discover that any or all are true. But I don't know.

What I do know is that when I turn on TV38 and I see The Phantom Gourmet, I point at it and say "I would not hate it if my show worked like this." And as it happens, I feel that my show actually is really relevant. I could totally make a pitch on the basis that we're entering an increasingly ludocentric world, and we need a TV series that intelligently examines the history, culture (hi [livejournal.com profile] radtea!), and criticism of games across all media. Something far broader and deeper than your typical G4 game-of-the-moment review show.

The two episodes we produced in 2007 were really awesome, and were I so motivated, I would feel perfectly comfortable cutting a demo reel around them. The thought of shooting a whole honest-to-god season of The Gameshelf with a budget, even a very small one, makes my toes tingle. It's a fragile fantasy right now, but now that it's bit me, I've got to know more about it.

Planbeast stuff

Friday, 3 April 2009 19:54
Cool Planbeast news: Earlier this week I wrote the producers of one of the games that inspired me to create Planbeast in the first place, saying, "Hey, your game helped inspire Planbeast. We should work together, and I have an idea how to do it." Conversation follows, and reception to this proposal has so far proven a complete success: not only are they interested, but they have been offering me plenty of constructive criticism from the perspective of commercial game producers. We might be a lot of things, but storied publishers we are not, so information like this is gold for this project. Very exciting.

I have a pretty obvious path to take: do this more. Find more producers that could use a little Planbeast in their operations, and make the pitch. Because I'm me, this is hard to focus on. My natural neophilic inclination is that, having one success, it's mission-accomplished time and we can move on to something else. This is OK to an extent - I've scribbled out a couple of pages' worth of ways that we can improve the planbeast.com experience for our own users - but we've found something that works with this take-it-to-producers strategy, and I've got to stay on the road.

Google Ad Fu

Tuesday, 14 October 2008 17:33
Spent the greater part of the afternoon tuning Google AdWords campaigns. I have four distinct ad-groups running now, covering the spread of (local | national) and ("I'm a Perl hacker" | "I'm a software consultant").

Running many variants of ad-haiku, but they all go something like this:

Web consultant for hire
Clean design, robust software.
SaaS, Perl our specialties.

Budgeted one V-note per day for the whole deal, and put some Google Analytics goodness into the Appleseed site as well. Trying to not be addicted with reloading my stats page now, which is already showing results. Lemme give it a day, at least.
On Monday [livejournal.com profile] daerr and [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia joined me for a larkish lunch at Diva. The bill was covered by a Ameriprise, a big ol' financial-consulting outfit who sponsors local put-your-business-card-in-the-bucket-and-get-a-free-lunch dealies. I allowed them to reel me into a free consultation later in the week, on the why-not principle.

That was this afternoon. I enjoyed tripping out to Charlestown for it; don't have reason to go there much. Also enjoyed talking to them and seeing how my current situation fit into their comparative chart of financial hairinesses. Basically "Low Complexity" on all fronts, but naturally they were quite pleased to offer me a year of consulting for their lowest annual fee, and how did starting first thing Monday morning sound?

After I got home, [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie, who is, uh, a professional financial consultant hey, wait a minute suggested that I have better things to spend my money on, seeing as how I have little enough of it as it is, and my most immediate targets (mostly debt-related) are very well defined, and large enough that any finanical plan rather writes itself for the immediate future. So I just sent em an email telling them no, thanks. Maybe when I get hairier.

I have to say, it was also good, as an independent consultant, to objectively observe a couple of experienced and besuited consultants on their home turf pitching at me. The conclusion of the meeting was almost literally "So, do you want to hire us?" "I'll have to think about it." "Of course. How's Monday?" "Okay." Very nice.

Post post mortem

Thursday, 12 June 2008 12:33
Had a decent time at Post Mortem last night; I think I'm going to make a monthly habit of it. An open but passively advertised event (I honestly don't recall how I originally heard about it), it's much less crowded and stressful than certain other pub-based nerdly events I could name. Arguably its industry focus helps keep the number of attendees down, but it's not like they ask for proof of employment at the door. The fact it's out in "the boonies" of Waltham probably helps more.

I ended up spending not a dime on the whole adventure, which is always nice. The commuter rail ticket-seller ignored me during the trip out, as sometimes happens, and a collision of events at the venue led to two drink tickets and a free buffet of hot pub food for all comers. I would end up bumming a ride home from a Gameshelf crewmember I bumped into there.

(OK, I did drop a couple bucks on tips. I think I was in the minority of people who were actually tipping the bartenders as they surrendered their drink tickets. WTF, people.)

Didn't write a company name on my nametag, which was an error, because evocative company names can act as a great conversation starter at events like this. People will either see a name they recognize and want to talk to you for that reason, or see a strange name and want to talk to you for that reason. Next time I'll just write "Appleseed". Though that's not the name of either of my game-producing personas, it is the name of the one thing I consider "my company" right now, and makes for a fine conversational lead-in.

Introduced myself to the event's organizer and asked if he knew anyone doing anything with Live Arcade. He didn't, which surprised me. I said, "Well, you do now, ha ha ha," big deal. The organizer is a cool dude and a great host, anyway; he makes a point of attending with an easy-to-find bright orange shirt on, and makes a point of drifting around and making sure everyone's happy to be there. He's done that at every Post Mortem I've attended off-and-on over the last couple of years.

Bumped into my Gameshelf friend and a friend of his, who has created games in the mobile market, a topic always interesting to me. Through that conversation, we drew in another indie game developer in a situation much like mine - writing the code for a casual game, contracting out the art & sound work, and looking for a publisher. Key difference is that she's going to shop around a finished and ready-to-publish product whereas I'm just shooting for a get-the-point-across prototype right now. Looking forward to following up with her.

Talked to a guy writing a book having something to do with game culture. I said I had a handful of angles he may be overlooking and would follow up with him as well.

The formal presentation was about selling "virtual goods", those little one-dollar images you can buy as gifts for people on Facebook (or indeed here on LiveJournal), or bonus clothing to spruce up your avatar on an online game, or what have you. Right, that thing that you probably look at and go Arrghh people are stupid that's the one. I decided that it didn't have much to do with the kind of downloadable, add-on content that, as a hopeful XBLA publisher, I'm interested in. But it was interesting to learn about nonetheless.

Project X report

Monday, 9 June 2008 10:06
X is chugging along nicely. The skeleton of the logic library is complete, and I'm now fleshing it out through writing a whole mess of unit tests, making sure all the muscles twitch just so. It's hard to imagine a time when I didn't make a habit of test-driven development, even though I started only a couple of years ago. Seeing the panel of lights glow green after adding code is a happy thing, and seeing some turn red is happier, in a way, because I know that here are errors I wouldn't have caught until much later without the tests handy.

I'm champing at the bit to start working on the UI, partly because it terrifies me. But I'm not letting myself do so until every class (or at least every class of class) has at least a couple of tests attached, and there are a lot of classes. There's probably another two or three full work-sessions of test-writing in front of me, and when I do start building the UI I know I will be on my knees thanking my past self for having the patience to do them first.

Moreover, it's past time to seriously engage the game's rights-holder about what they expect to see on their end of the licensing deal. I made a gesture towards this over email last month, and they acknowledged receipt, but we need to have an actual conversation. I've been putting it off because it's less fun than working on code by myself, but I have long since proven to myself that I can accomplish the technical end of this task. Time to refocus long enough to TCB.
Holy crap!! You all have to check out this press release that [livejournal.com profile] chocorisu stumbled across. It's describing a pep rally for an apparently Amwayish patent-medicine company's "sales associates", and is filled with gems like
"I've been in network marketing for 17 years, and I've never seen anything like this in my entire life," said Jimmy "the Butcher" Smith from Westchester, Penn., at the conclusion of the event. "This event was the no. 1 event I've ever attended."
and
"We haven't made a million dollars yet, but we have a million dollars worth of friends," said Paul Perkins, from Layton, Utah.
Really, practically every paragraph is a jaw-dropper, and the whole thing is utterly sincere.
I launched the Appleseed Blog. Yes, another blog from me. But really, running a technology business's website without a blog attached is a poor idea these days.

It look so long because getting Mason and Movable Type to play together was a little rough, but (with [livejournal.com profile] daerr's assistance) I got it going, and ended up learning a lot about all technologies involved. So I call it a win, even though none of it's billable time.

Anyway, I'm going to use it both to make public updates about Appleseed as well as occasionally pontificate on Appleseed-relevant technology. And, yes, the neglected jmac.org blog is still running as a separate thing. I still need to hack a way to crosspost consistently between that and this LJ, since I've discovered that I can't just give this up.

Ouch.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008 21:30
prog: (what_you_say)
I don't have all my docs yet to confirm the final figure, but it looks like I'm going to come up with around 10 grand to cover my 2007 taxes, after business-expense deductions.

This is the final ouchie from the trouble I got into last year, but it doesn't make it any less ouchy. At least I know I can survive it.

Yes, I contend that ouchie is the noun and ouchy the adjective, OK.

A day

Thursday, 20 September 2007 00:52
I had two very good meetings, in two very different roles - in one I was like arr I am a good leader and in the other I was like arr I am worth what I'm paid.

Bought two books. One is "How to Start a Business in Massachusetts" by O'Neill and Warda. Ha ha, horse before the cart, yes, but it's a smartly written summary and I've already learned a lot. I got it mostly to learn more about how the state recognizes a proprietorship - self-employment, basically - and get advice on customizing and maybe growing it.

The other is a collection of 365 NYT crosswords. Yes, it is September and it's time to start seriously training for the mystery hunt. Crosswords and recognizably crossword-like things are only a small part of the hunt, but word puzzles in general make up the majority of its busywork, and being able to chop quickly through crossword-style clues is a crucial skill.

I'm sure to enjoy these with [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie, who is at least as much a crossword lover as I, and who will join our team in January. To me, this is another reason to look forward to the hunt, what with yet another awesomely smart and creative hunt-mastering team, and IIF more pumped to win than ever. Hmm. I don't like phrases like "I can't wait" because holy crap there's a lot I need to get done by January, but... next year's hunt is going to rock.

Hay, teammates: whatever became of our "Gluttony" bracelets from last time? Did they get received and distributed? I never saw one!

Oh, what else. [livejournal.com profile] dangerforce called from his new pad in LA with a tech support question, and we yakked about TV stuff. He gave me a nice location lead I may use later. And I wrote a Gameshelf script! I will say nothing else about that yet.

Been descending into illness. Played a lot of RE4. These are not connected. Probably I caught a cold from one of the hands I shook at the breakfast yesterday. Blecch. Wasn't I just telling someone in person that a freelancer in the information sector doesn't necessarily need to physically network much to get job lead? There you go, then. It actually makes you sick when you even try. Hackers beware!

LinkedIn

Thursday, 3 May 2007 11:22
I was bored last night so I took up an invitation to LinkedIn that [livejournal.com profile] jtroutman sent me in January, and set up a profile there. I ignored the invitation initially, figuring that LinkedIn was just another Orkut-like thing that some segment of my nerdy adult friends were having a microfad over - see how many pokemon experience points connections you can collect! - but since the start of the year I've gotten the impression that the site has actually earned a fairly decent rep as a useful resource for professionals, especially those who do need to network at least occasionally.

I commenced to bombard invitations at people until I was too sleepy to keep at it. If you didn't get one and wish to be part of my scintillating business network just say so. (Or invite me via the thingy.)

Oh, right. Taxes.

Thursday, 8 March 2007 12:29
I got my first more-or-less Jmac's Arcade fan mail today from the fellow behind a video podcast called Coin-Op TV. I've so far only watched the most recent episode, which features interviews with stuntmen and T-shirt vendors at a J-pop convention. Scrolling down the page I see a lot of more game-related stuff, though. Wow, there's an interview with PONG's creator?! Cool. I shall watch it more later.



Feeling really deflated today. I'm objectively aware that there's interesting stuff for Volity on the horizon but right now all I can see is business crap that nobody told me about, until it happened to come up in conversation recently: oops, yes, I probably should have distributed tax information to people a month or two ago, eh? At least I'm on it now instead of a month from now, but I could still hear our accountant's eyes rolling at me over the phone yesterday. I am going to meet with him next week, which I predict will be me saying "Dude, whatever. You do it. I'll pay you." repeatedly. I loathe this shit.



One of the horizoney things: I'm tentatively scheduled to present about Volity at the April 10 Boston Perl Mongers meeting, at 7:15pm at MIT, E51-376. I'd love to see some familiar faces there! I haven't been to a Boston.pm meeting in years, but will probably attend next week's (Tuesday, March 13, same time & location) to get a feel for it.

Weird

Thursday, 14 December 2006 16:01
A lady just called me and asked if I had any Stoner Fluxx in stock.

"No, we don't", I said, wondering if maybe she was a Looney person that would then respond with "Wanna buy some?" but instead she said "OK, thank you though!" and we hung up.
prog: (tiles)
I've got a new idea for a simple invention. It's a mass-manufacturable, store-sellable artifact this time. A consumer item. It could be big.

It may be worth patenting, and starting a company around.

I'm going to leave my door unlocked tonight, and would appreciate it if one of you would just sneak in and suffocate me while I'm asleep. I've seen it done it movies; it doesn't look very hard.
I'm thinking about ditching my cable TV again.

I'm not sure it's worth ~$60 for the convenience of a massive amount of programming firehosed at me when I watch far less than one percent of it. This becomes even more true when you consider that that I which I do watch I can get over the Internet, dump on my iPod, and then watch on my TV set.

In some cases, I can even get the shows through whiter-than-gray channels like iTunes, negating any guilt about dropping out of the Nielsen game. (They'd cost two bucks a pop then, but I don't watch 30 episodes of anything in any month.)

Any counter-arguments?



I also have a consumer-political agenda here, since I'd like to become more active in agitating for the death of schedule-based broadcast television as the dominant medium for quality video content, be it fiction or anything else. (Though I'll be the first to admit that it's the surge in damn good SF shows over the last couple years that's driving me here. And the heartbreak and stress at knowing that they're trapped and suffering in a delivery/business model which they can and should outgrow.)

(And yes the entrepreneur in me is adding his voice to this. Just as a hobby, mind you.)

Volity hooray.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006 11:00
After months of work, I met my goal of making the revenue stuff code-complete last night. No immediate general rollout plans, because there's nothing on the system that anyone would want to pay for right now.

But there is real value in being able to shift the tense of another swath of verbs in our business description from future to present. We now have this system that we've been blowing smoke about since Origins. And we can start generating some clever plans to (literally) capitalize on this.

I came up with a doozy last night that got me really excited about the immediate future. It'll take some work of both the hackerly and social varieties but it's pretty clear-cut in both cases. Beyond this, there's a lot of tech stuff I wanna put back onto the front burner, starting with that sXBL card-game library that I had to toss in back so I could finish the damn revenue system.

I feel great, and back in the game. Sadly, I'm also way behind in ITA work, and gotta catch up now...

Bummer

Monday, 30 October 2006 15:44
I just learned that Bank of America bought MBNA in 2005; it took a while for the change to work its way down to the customer-interface level. (I acquired an MBNA credit card last year, apparently just before the purchase happened.)

My first thought was "there goes a big chunk of Maine's GDP" and lo according to this page I was right. BoA hurriedly set about shutting down most-perhaps-all of MBNA's Maine call centers, shifting work to various locations in South America. Sucks.

OTOH they gave me a promotional 2% APR on the big rent-paying balance transfer I took out last month, so, um, yay.

(no subject)

Wednesday, 27 September 2006 11:24
I saw [livejournal.com profile] colorwheel for the first time in 999 years last night and according to [livejournal.com profile] tahnan there was international espionage afoot but our cover story is that I was paying her back for bagels.



I have been helping a friend with a secret project. It is fun to play the role of beta tester for once, instead of begging it out of others.



Cave Story is a charming game, a free 2-D platformer/adventure designed, programmed, and artwork'd by, if I understand correctly, a single Japanese hobbyist who goes by the pseudonym "Pixel". An excellent English fan-translation is available, but it's unfortunately hard to get get going since you have to download the Japanese-language app and then download and run a separate program that patches the first app with English. Because I am incredibly lazy, weeks passed between [livejournal.com profile] rserocki first recommending this game to me and my finally setting it up.

The game structure is oddly reminiscent of the "Ratchet & Clank" series for Playstation, in that it's a platformer where you advance by unlocking new worlds to explore and gathering an ever-growing collection of ridiculous firearms that you can individually power up through several levels. It's entirely different in presentation and personality, though.



Had an incredible game of Gnostica at [livejournal.com profile] dictator555 and [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie's equinoxical thing last weekend. It was hard to get into because two players were newbies, and one of the newbies was also one of the hosts and kept having to get up. But the newbies were very smart and caught on quickly and after a couple of hours (!) of confusion we had a couple more hours (!!) of frantic, violent fun. Things went back and forth so much that we actually attracted a crowd. Whenever someone new came to see what everyone was watching, there'd be this conversation:

New person: "What are they playing?"
Person who has been watching us for a while: "I have no idea."

It was also the first Gnostica game I've played since I don't know when where I didn't need to look at the rulebook once. I definitely want to play this game more.



Had a nice Volity meeting Monday. I feel we're done with the first half of the rev system construction. Onward.

I have been ignoring the rest of the Volity world while working on this. It can't be helped. The success or failure of Volity Games as a commercial venture is absolutely bound to this system, and until we launch it nobody knows. I want to collapse the goddamn waveform already.



Visiting the company again tomorrow, on my seven-week anniversary of my first interview with them, to talk with more people. I told the person who mailed me that I look forward to it but added that I've started looking elsewhere as well. My friends within the company heard about this from the company's internal rumor mill, except it had it that I already had a start date established. Huh?! Kind of sad.



Gameshelf shoot tonight! Werewolf, if enough people show up. I'm a little nervous about this... never before have I attempted to herd so many cats. I have an Plan B if too many people flake, but I'd rather go with Plan A, thanks.

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