Sunday, 29 October 2006 11:00
I just played a Clubhouse Games round of Hearts against the currently #1-ranked worldwide player, one MISS MARPLE (caps hers). It was pretty brutal. CG apparently makes little attempt to match you against players of similar rank; I'm like #333 or something. The final score was like 108 - 30 - 5. (Middle score was "Henry", who was also quite good.) Then again, I doubt many people are online and playing the same game at once, at least compared to WiFi Tetris or Mario Kart.

I can fend off most computerized hearts players, but watching a human master of the game play is stunning, even whilst they are schooling you. They really play like magicians. If they're not leading, they never have the led suit, unless it's safe for them to take the trick, in which case they shall. As leaders, they always have exactly the right rank to force you to take the black queen and all but one of the hearts.

I seriously don't know how they do it.
Thursday night I invited [livejournal.com profile] daerr over to help me eat pizza and brainstorm about Volity. But jmac, it was a Thursday night! You promised yourself not to think about Volity on the three "ITA days" you have scheduled every week! Ah, you are almost correct. I refuse to think about the business known as Volity Games between Wednesday and Friday, in exchange for ignoring ITA on the other days. But the open Volity project is fair game!

And it's been months since I have thought about the actual game technology, so consumed have I been with launching the moneymaking part of the business. As innovative as that is, working on it is still far more similar to any other sort of "e-commerce" (spew) web programming than anything that even remotely has to do with games.

Furthermore, as I have written, that's lonely work right now. I'm the only person putting a significant amount of effort into core Volity development these days and it's depressing. I hunger for a sense of parallel work again, and of leading something good. So, I shall aim to give the volity.org crank a few good turns and see if it can't keep itself going for a while.

There is a plan now, and it will take a little while to set up, but it will be Good and You Will Like It, and it will be fun for me in the meantime. The first thing that must occur is my grokkage of sXBL (spew, but only on that awful eTLA). WIth this, I shall sketch out the beginnings of something Volity's needed for years: a library for easier UI development. It won't be super-general: it will focus on 52-deck card games, inspired by how Clubhouse Games on the Nintendo DS does various things. But it will be elegant, reusable, and (I hope) popular and ultimately inspirational to others.

Once I have a skeletal version complete I shall turn to the community and encourage direct input, also setting up Subversion repositories and other goodies that we've already learned to take advantage of.

I'm really excited about this! And that means it will actually get done! It will be a good thing to work on during my four weekly "Volity days" when I am tired of slogging through payment system code (which I must also keep foremost in mind, yes).

New DS games

Thursday, 19 October 2006 01:43
I don't actually have any money from ITA yet, but I have been passing in invoices, and therefore have money futures. So I bought a couple of new DS games.

Point Blank DS: Impulse buy. Port of a gun game I fondly recall from a Waterville arcade. The single-player mode is kind of boring and runs out of stuff to do pretty quickly; a "brain massage" mode that is a transparent attempt to ride the coattails of Brain Age / Big Brain Academy doesn't help much.

I was hoping that two-player mode would be better, but they totally screwed it up with abysmal load times, which were each as long as the actual minigames that they preceded. It managed to kill the fun entirely.

Clubhouse Games: A whole bunch of public-domain board and card games, and a handful of dexterity games, with Internet play. You know I had to get this one. I've only played it a little but it seems like a winner so far. I've tried it with a local friend and was happy to see that, as with Tetris DS, it has a fully-functional Download Play mode, instead of letting you play only a subset of the games or otherwise limiting things. Cool.

Recent news events have risen my baseline anger level to the point where I can't play any of the dexterity games, like an otherwise fun bowling sim, against a computer opponent. I probably wouldn't do well with them in Internet play, either.

Steve McQuark

Saturday, 19 August 2006 13:01
Recent stupid video game achievments:

• I finally beat Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. I had put it down several months ago when I got stuck on one of the Giant-Clank missions, the one where you have to destroy the flying saucer that's vulnerable only when it lands to spew nasty little killbots at you. But last night I wanted to play a video game, and decided that I had stored enough of whatever mysterious force it is that lets me do better at a game after I've put it down for a long time, so I sat down and burned through this one.

• Unlocked R.O.B. in Mario Kart DS. I am unfortunately one slot away from having gold in every cup at every difficulty level; after three tries I can't get better than silver in Special Cup at 150cc Mirror. Stupid Rainbow Road.
Whee it's me getting beaten up by Nintendo DS fans over my objections to the name of the upcoming game "Final Fantasy III", which bears no resemblance to the classic Super Nintendo game "Final Fantasy III", published in the 1990s by the same company.

It's actually kind of an interesting thread as far as that goes, modulo all the kids shouting duh don't you read the game news you dum-dum?! after I said that I don't read the game news.
prog: (coffee)
Didn't sleep much last night for no particular reason, so up early and at the Diesel. I know I'll regret coming here once I start to head back home; it was already pretty hot when I walked here at 8 a.m. I allegedly came here to work on job applications but I think I will leave once I am done with this post, and this tea. Not looking forward to puttering around the square to take care of my mailing and banking chores... that's how bad it is out.

Visited [livejournal.com profile] kyroraz last night with [livejournal.com profile] daerr and Bob. (Is there really only one guy in my mid-range social sphere named Bob? That seems weird. Make more Bobs.) Was fed pasta and then we went nutso with the DSes. Four-up Tetris is a fine thing, as is New Super Mario minigames, but Mario Kart DS was the highlight of the evening. I have never played MKDS with more than one other local human, and oh my goodness is it a heck of a good time with four players. We must have laughed and shouted for a good hour, chasing each other around the track and pelting each other with shells and bananas and ghosts n shit.

It's all been said before, but much of what makes the Mario Kart games so wonderful is their ingenious of negative feedback, using power-up distribution and other tricks to reign in lead racers and boost trailing ones. They manage to keep the game fun enough so that newbies and experts can race together and still have a roaring good time, and yet avoid seeming like they're is throwing too much weight in the newbies' corner. That's a really delicate balance, and these games nail it.

It's too bad that, if people without their own MKDS cards are playing, you're limited to only eight of the game's 32 tracks. But that doesn't keep me from wanting to go ahead with an even larger DS event at Volity World HQ sometime soon...

Eight people signed on for the werewolf game tonight. That's wonderful, though it occurs to me that I really should have scheduled an earlier game of something just to make sure that the scheduling system works outside of the jmac-and-Andys range. I've already moved on to other sub-projects in the meantime; [livejournal.com profile] daerr and I spent hours kicking butt on the forums before gaming last night, and they're now nearly done (insert standard wards against jinx-fueled code gremlins here). I look forward to steamrollering on to tackle my end of the revenue model.

Despite all this time and BS&T poured into it, and all my recent bitching about wanting to do other things, coding for Frivolity and volity.net is still one of my favoritest things in the world.

Two notes to myself:

• There needs to be an RSS feed for scheduled games. ([livejournal.com profile] daerr?)

• When the forums go up, I should make a post to that "wibuddy" page that you see whenever you connect to the Diesel WiFi network. And then plaster ads in Your Move Games, already, sheesh.

If I might make a post-mortem sort of statement, despite the fact that nothing is dead (despite our best efforts ho ho): we really weren't thinking like businessmen, in assigning our order of work priorities last December. While I certainly don't regret any of the work we put into the games, Gamut, and the website, I do think that with more foresight we could have recognized the importance of getting the revenue model built and functioning early. But we are hackers before MBAs (chortle) and so didn't know that our lack of a revenue stream (even a potential revenue stream) would seriously hobble our arguments to professional investors.

It seems stone-cold obvious when I put it this way, but for a whole year our thinking was more or less We have all this really cool tech! Look, look, you can play games right now!! As it turns out, that does not matter, if you are making no money. Well, we have a totally awesome moneymaking plan! That's nice, kid. I have a plan to turn purple and fly to Mars next month. What do you think of that?

(To give ourselves due credit: it's clear that our tech is in fact sufficiently cool to wedge our foot in as many investment doors as we did. But with no hard evidence of cashflow, our follow-through stunk.)

We are making some pretty good headway with our first potential game development client, enough so that I'm starting to have concerns about legal protections we'd need to set up if we land the contract - that is, what sorts of things would go into that contract. I have no doubt that we can meet all obligations vis a vis the game itself, but we must keep in mind that we would provide both a deliverable and a service, so it would behoove us to make some signable statements about uptime/downtime ratios and AUPs and so on. And I really don't want to mess this sort of thing up.

DS census

Wednesday, 19 July 2006 16:02
Who amongst you owns Nintendo DSes at this point? I knows a lot of you were drooling over the DS Lite, which came out a while ago...

Am having an off-the-cuff DS throwdown at the office tonight, where I shall attempt for the first time to have more than two DSes in play in my presence. So many DS games have great many-player modes and I have never been able to see them before. There will be Tetris and Mario Kart and Super-Mario minigames and I don't know what-all.

(Do I actually know any lady DSers? I'd do these things more often if there was any chance that it wouldn't have to be a sausage party every time.)

Dan Rather part 2

Wednesday, 28 June 2006 13:26
Going to the airport soon after the Andys get back from fetching [livejournal.com profile] daerr's new DS from the FedEx depot.

It's a good thing I gave up magical thinking for Lent or I'd be pretty upset that my ticket number at the place I got my breakfast bagel this morning was 911.

Should I not land at Columbus, you may blame the New York Times first, but blame Au Bon Pain second.

At least the flyers printed up real nice, though they was ass-expensive. I took [livejournal.com profile] woodlander's (and [livejournal.com profile] queue's) advice and asked Rob to remove the linebreaks from the phone numbers, email addresses and URLs. This meant I had to stress over getting them printed this morning instead of yesterday, but it's worth it; they look great. Thanks!

(And I can't remember who said you can hand Kinko's a URL and they'll grab the file and work with it, but: no, at least not at the Harvard Square Kinko's. Dude told me they weren't allowed to download things. I had to take a CD-R, go upstairs, and spend an extra $10 on buying computer access to download the PDF, burn the CD, and hand it to the guy. At least he didn't charge me for the CD...)
prog: (coffee)
Wide awake at 5 a.m. due to caffeine withdrawal backlash. I hadn't blogged about it yet, but an interesting thing I started doing a week or two ago was to successfully cut my coffee consumption down to one big cup a day (first thing in the morning) and keep myself on an even keel the rest of the day by guzzling green tea. This has actually worked out very well. I still gets my caffeine, but not enough to give me jitters into the afternoon or evening, and without all the gut-churning acid that comes with high coffee consumption. I haven't had any all-day crippling stomachaches since I started this regimen, which is wonderful.

Yes, up until now I've been suffering from occasional all-day crippling stomachaches for, oh, a year or two. I don't think I ever mentioned them here, probably because I didn't want to face up to the fact that this was almost assuredly a decade of massive coffee abuse catching up with me. But then it came to pass that earlier this month I was playing Wario Ware: Touched! on my DS and was messing around with a minigame that involves a cartoon Japanese grandmother drinking green tea and I thought to myself hmm, green tea, what a good idea. True story.

Yesterday, though, I needed to refresh my home tea supply but saw that Shaw's didn't seem to have any of the stuff I liked, so experimentally got an inexpensive mint-flavored green blend. It was dreadful, so today I didn't bother making any tea. And so it came to pass that I became dead tired at 1am, which sounds pretty good, except that I was woken up at 4 by a headache and an arm-ache. Yes, my right forearm hurt on the inside, on the blood or bone level. Or so it seemed, anyway; I theorize that the headache was actually reaching down into my neck and right shoulder, and in sleep-deprived confusion I wasn't sure what was hurting. Once I could think straight I figured I was probably dehydrated and, sigh, suffering from withdrawal, so I used two glasses of water to wash down two Excederins (these being caffeine-and-aspirin pills). And I think I was on the money because I feel fine now, but the pills roused me to full wakefulness, and here I am.

Long and short of it is that I today - well, yesterday - proved by accident that I have reduced my coffee habit, which is great, but my caffeine dependency remains strong. Still, I think I have made a net lifestyle improvement. Just have to be more mindful about it.
Five dollah coupon for Nintendo DS games at Toys R Us. Is there still one over at Fresh Pond? I have a vague memory of it closing...

Speaking of which

Tuesday, 13 June 2006 12:06
I think at least a few of you are in line for DS Lites, yes? They're in stores now, I am told. If so I would like to point again at my WiFi friend codes.

I am always up for Mario Kart- or Tetris-related shenanigans.

Two cynicisms

Tuesday, 13 June 2006 11:35
I think that "References in Fiction" sections are a blight on Wikipedia. I guess I can't reasonably write a manifesto calling for their systematic deletion, since they actually are useful in intent. But, once a topic's list of above-the-fold media references has been exhausted, the section proceeds to overflow with utterly unencyclopedic pointers to obscure anime, video games, and webcomics. Fancruft. And I am very hesistant to delete it because I don't want to catch fancrud.

Come to think of it I have never seen a line in an article's history log that read "Deleted unencyclopedic fancruft" or something similar. And for some reason this makes me want to start doing so.

Subscribed to [livejournal.com profile] nintendo_ds coz I wanna have a better handle on what-all's going on with my favorite video game system, and am reminded why I don't belong to more LJ communities. Too many posts have been sincere but foolish, mostly young people asking questions that are answerable with one word, that being either "eBay" or "Google". I don't actually say that, though, coz it would sound awfully snooty, so I just leave them be.

I normally love answering questions (and seeing questions answered well by others) but some questions are so broad and flat that you just know that the person hasn't even bothered with other of these two First Sources. The posters' evident youth makes it even less forgivable in my eyes, coz it's not like they have decades of life without Google to adapt away from.

Maybe they don't teach Google in school yet, the teachers being mostly old enough to have themselves been students pre-Web? This is my hypothesis.

(no subject)

Wednesday, 24 May 2006 01:00
It's been nearly six months since my last haircut. People have started to notice. No less than three female friends have spontaneously offered compliments on my hair; I note this because it has historically been women who dictate the shape of my hair, and therefore this is a major reason why I haven't hit the barbershop.

I need to shave more often this way. It took me a while to get up to speed with this. With short hair I can let some stubble grow and look vaguely manlier, like that one Dr. House LJ icon you have. With longer hair and stubble, though, i look like some sort of dirty clown. Picture Ronald McDonald with three days of growth on. Hi kids.

Should I cut it back down to size before all these business meetings and mixers I have coming up? Probably I just think too much about these things.

[livejournal.com profile] rserocki looked up the correct gesture for using the magnifier in Trauma Center — you need to draw a "C" around the bit to magnify, not a circle, even though your dumb nurse tells you to draw a circle. I got through the operation pretty easily with that information.

Actually, I can't help but notice that your nurse isn't depicted as wearing a mask during surgery (even though the player-character is) and also you have to visually find and pick up all the tools yourself, instead of just holding your hand out and saying what you want like we've all seen 'em do on TV. Stupid nurse, spraying mouth-cooties into my patient and not handing me things!

However, I did figure out tonight that the protagonist's name, Dr. Stiles, is probably a play on "stylus". Clever. (And it spells "DS" too.)


Monday, 22 May 2006 02:07
I finally finished Emily Short's Bronze. It took me several hours, spread over a few weekends. It is good; you should play it. Fans of fairy-tale reconstructions may especially like it, and IF newbies may also like it since it has a tutorial mode and a hint system, but I did not use these so I cannot speak for them. The manual is very nice, though.

J lent me Trauma Center: Under the Knife for DS tonight. I played it a little after finishing that last angel application. It's quite clever: an updated version of the old Mac game Life and Death (iirc), where you use the stylus as a variety of medical tools to deprive people of their tumors and polyps and so on in a semi-realistic OR setting.

Unfortunately, one of the tools (the magnifier) didn't really work as advertised; worse, it worked about 10 percent of the time, and the rest of the time only made a rude farty noise while the patient's vitals dropped and I cussed out the cute little doe-eyed anime nurse scowling at me. Probably I'm using it wrong and there's something in GameFAQs about it, but it's really too bad that all the hardcore slicey-sewey tools were easy to figure out but a stupid magnifying glass tripped me up because they had to get cute with the interface.

(no subject)

Friday, 31 March 2006 20:44
My Tetris friend code is 519310566343. Also I just totally beat someone with an ELO over 6000 and now mine is above 5000 again. Like that'll last.

For all my personally generated hype in anticipation it I actually haven't played Tetris much in the 10 days or so that I've had it. I don't think I've even played online enough to warrant an exit from the probationary ranks, assuming that Nintendo uses the decreasing-K style of ELO (and I believe that they do).

I started putting together a DS fan-page type thing on jmac.org.

I don't feel like doing any work today.

This has felt like a nice, long month, with lots of content. I'll take a couple more, please.

(no subject)

Thursday, 23 March 2006 02:29
Quick thoughts on Tetris DS:

They improved the WiFi setup over Mario Kart's in many ways. Most notably, all players have visible ELO ratings. Yay. They also print messages on the screen telling you in plain language that running away from a game will make you lose and guarantee injury to your rating. I hope that this discourages twits from quitting, a problem I see in Mario Kart all the time; it's not clear in that game that quitting = losing (though I suppose that after a while you'd notice that your loss record was oddly steep).

I haven't tried it yet, but it seems that you can directly invite friends (that is, people with whom you've exchanged friend codes) to join you for a game. This too would be scads better than Mario Kart's rather crappy friend system, which was simply the game's standard four-player matchmaking engine with a friends-only filter on it. There, if you had only one friend on-line, the system would pair you up and then stupidly sit there spinning for a minute or two, waiting for two more of your nonexistent friends to appear before giving up and letting the two of you race.

Gone, however, is Mario Kart's "Rivals", option, which matches you with people at around your skill level. There is simply a "worldwide" button that throws you in an arena with some random folks. I am holding out hope that a "rivals" button will appear after I've played enough to make my rating meaningful, since that is after all how ELO is supposed to work. (As it is, my rating quickly dropped below the starting figure and has remained there. And everyone else I've played so far is above it. And yea, I've been beat up a lot. I don't care; it's Tetris! It's a blast.)

It hasn't occurred to me before how Tetris makes rather cruel use of a positive feedback loop: as you do worse, the game gets harder, since you have less time to maneuver a piece into position when the stack of blocks is higher. Looking at it this way, I might prefer the mechanics of a similar-but-different game like Meteos. In that one, it's also dangerous to let the pile get too high, but since you can slide around blocks anywhere in the stack this is offset by the fact that more blocks gives you more degrees of freedom.

Boy I sure like Meteos. I wish that had WiFi.

(no subject)

Saturday, 18 March 2006 00:28
Why isn't there a "Sonic Screwdriver Missions" game for the Nintendo DS yet? The interface is bloody perfect.
I finally came in first (as Luigi) on the razzen-frazzen rainbow road at 150cc (despite sailing clear off the edge of the track once) and have unlocked the mirror mode courses. Which I promptly started to suck at, but that's beside the point.
So yeah, the Nintendo DS is finally starting to gain some traction among my local friends (though nobody "in-tribe" yet). I am nuts about this little system and you should be too.

Continuing to enjoy Mario Kart DS, but ultimately kind of disappointed at Internet play.

It can be great fun, and I love watching how some online racers discover ways to communicate in the very limited language offered by a vocabulary consisting entirely of cartoon characters driving in circles. For instance, the other day, a grueling four-race match ended with my rival pulling out way ahead in the end due to a very good shot with a green koopa shell. Instead of roaring across the finish line, however, he sat on it, and inched over it right before I crossed it myself.

Though what I said may have been "Oh-ho-ho you little fucker!" while giving the finger to the screen (and now those of you who were in the same room at the time know what was going on), I was actually giddy with glee at the statement this person managed to make with the action. (Which I take to be some combination of "You are a worthy opponent" and "PWN3D!!") Browsing a message board about the game yesterday, I saw some players write that they enjoy purposefully driving in reverse or keeping pace with their opponents when it's clear that they're beginners (or very young children), just to make it more fun for them. I think that's great.

However, it really really needs a reputation system. I've lost (in the "misplaced" sense) more than one winning race because the person in last place disconnected after hitting a wall or falling in the water or whatever, and then the next-to-last person quit, and then the sole remaining opponent quit too. Rather than let me finish the race alone and claim a victory by default, the game just calls the whole thing a wash and dumps me back to the main menu.

Volity will not work like this.

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