Memories o’ the ride to school

So back in the days o’ my childhood we had one of the worst bus routes ever. It took us about 45 minutes to get to elementary school (an hour and 5 to get to middle school, an hour and 20 to get to high school…we were about a 10 minute drive to elementary) since we were one of the first to get on the bus. And on the ride home it was around half an hour to 45 minutes depending. Consequently, doing the math, at least 20% of my days usually were spent on the bus.

Which may explain some of my back problems….but that isn’t the point I’d like to make.

The point I’d like to make is that we always listened to either the country station, or on the later bus (we transferred at least once), a contemporary music station. I remember liking the song ‘Sit down you’re rocking the boat” by Don Henley quite a bit back in the day when it received a LOT of heavy radio play. Well, I got to thinking I should look it up. So I did. Here it is:

Either my tastes have developed somewhat, or the song was much better when sitting in uncomfortable seating (much like a boat) and imagining being knocked off the bus. Regardless, it just doesn’t hold up for me.

Programming Blitz

I’ve not felt this rush in ages (probably about 10 years)…the rush to program, a clear idea for what needs to happen, how it will happen, and just the necessity to learn the lingo to make the program do what I want it to. This game I’m setting up has hit my programming blitz spot. I really want to do nothing else but focus on getting this process up and running.

I’ve been hit by this bug prior to this, and it usually results in about 4-5 days of solid programming before it wears off. Back in the day when I programmed Risk for my 4-H project, when I programmed in basic and then learned the basics of assembly language work for games on my TI-85 (and admittedly skipped school to do so), when I programmed games/test programs for the comp sci graphics class…all of these woke this part of me up.

Programming blitz is similar to when the writing bug hits, but it lasts all day as opposed to writing which I can do a couple times a day for an hour or so each time before the brain busts. Programming though? It deals with a different area of my brain, apparently.

Most of my web work has been involved with shorter programs (This needs to call this and then display this there, there’s a spam issue that needs to be solved, how to fix this issue here), and usually has the unspoken pressure of “the sooner the better.” There’s an art in programming, one that is evident only when you’re programming and solving problems. Webwork tends to be short term as well, it isn’t nearly as involved…it’s over almost as soon as you start (for most web apps that I’m brought in on). It’s been quite some time since I’ve had something to sink my teeth into. The closest I can describe it is like dancing…and you’re a dancer.

The longer the dance can sustain itself, the better…you feel the art, you feel the rhythms of the program, you feel the steps you go through to troubleshoot. It’s a participatory artform…sure, others can appreciate the final form of the art, but they’ll never understand how it feels to create and live within an esoteric and unknown part. I imagine it’s similar to sculpting, or throwing clay. The end result is appreciated by someone else, but they can’t know the craft. They are outsiders taking only a part.

Ok, I’m done waxing poetic now. I need to grade so I can take advantage of the blitz while it’s here.

Another project, Another poker in the fire

Whiteboard Programming

This time we’re returning to the ol’ roots. I want to make a game for a mobile platform (that can also be played on my Windows 8 machine) that brings out the most enjoyable things for me from these games: Taipan!, Sid Meier’s Pirates, and Wing Commander: Privateer.

The game will be space exploration mixed with settlement mixed with trading. I’m getting the programming together (as you can see by my whiteboard) of the mapping system, and will be working on the game setup in bits and pieces as time continues. I want a game, like Taipan, that’s open ended and you can continue as long as you can keep up your ship (or you can retire at a certain point), I want a game like Pirates where you’ve got a variety of things to trade over quite a bit of space and a relatively easy mapping system for travel, and I want a game like Privateer where you can make your money in a variety of fashions (bounty missions, merchant trading, exploration).

Yes yes, I realize Chris Roberts (the guy behind Wing Commander games) is already doing something similar with Star Citizen, and I am certain I will heart that game to death just like I heart privateer.

However, I think that having a mobile/Win8 platform to game on is important. And as far as my game is concerned, it’ll be something that’s pretty easy to play on a mobile device. Also, it’ll be something where you can take a few turns then take a break. Good for a 15 minute work break, a half hour subway ride, or a 5 minute toilet break. It won’t be graphic intensive (though I am going to be relying on Keith to get images up and ready for various things).

More interesting to me will be the random galaxy mapping (for each new game, a new system is mapped), more story than any of the above had as far as new systems are concerned or bounty missions are considered, and an easy turn based action that isn’t too complicated to learn, but has enough action and options in it to be fun to play.

The bottom line is I want to play Taipan, but my current Apple Emulator doesn’t work on Win8 and my Apple 2GS is out in my storage shed.

Finishing Video Games

I remember the first time I beat an NES game when we had rented the system, it was Monster in my Pocket and it was defeated the day we had to return it to the store. It was awesome. I also recall staying up later than my parents playing Mega Man 5, trying to beat it prior to having Dad bring it back to the store the next day. I am somewhat convinced that they let me stay up that late simply because it was a rental and they didn’t want me wasting their money in not beating the game. I also remember the disappointment that I could not beat it…I finally went to sleep with Wily’s hideous mocking laughter in my ears.

Time has changed since then, obviously. Now I’m grown up and I can no longer spend an inordinate amount of time playing video games. Something about growing up, responsibilities, and the fear of bill collectors. *shrug* Y’know, unimportant stuff.

I finally beat Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn again yesterday, and that fills out my need for Fire Emblem games for the time being. I’d still love a 3DS to play the newest one, but I’ve got that list to play through, so no new games for me.

This last play through was on “Easy” mode, so it was a good deal less irritating than the first time I played it when it came out. It is by far the most annoying implementation of the series. You start with one group, then to another, then to another…you don’t really get to play with a solid set of characters through the entire game like in the other games. Consequently, on Easy mode, it was still annoying, but it was manageable. I beat it without losing a character, unlike the last time I played it.

This whole “easy” mode thing is something that likely would have irritated me back in the day. I mean, I played Goldeneye on all three difficulty levels all the way through to unlock everything! I played Castlevania 3 through so I could see all endings with the different characters (this was an extremely challenging feat). Yet I am reduced to playing games on easy mode. I’m ok with it, though.

I made this realization back when I played Dragon Age: Origins when it came out. I like my games just challenging enough that I may die, and will die through carelessness (kind of like life). I don’t have the time or energy to get infuriated because I simply die because I’ve been ambushed by three lesser creatures. I don’t have the time to constantly repeat sections until I pass them. Part of it is because I get fed up with doing so, the other part is that most games make you sit through cinematics before you get to the challenging part again.

Compare this to Mega Man 2: facing the dragon or gutsman bosses at the end, you died…where did you start over? Right in front of the boss fight! You went straight back to it. Games like that I can still play ad infinitum (I play the mega man games A LOT) because if I fail, I can continue practicing until I finally beat it. There’s a sense of satisfaction to that skill improvement.

Compare to, say, Bioware games. You die, and where do you start? The last time you saved, which usually means since it’s a major boss fight, a few cinematics back. Or compare to Resident Evil 4 (the knife fight scene, amiright?)…you died there, you had to sit through the cinematic again to start punching randomly assigned buttons at specific moments in the cinematic. There’s no skill when it comes to situations like that, it’s a matter of simon says. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.

And Fire Emblem is a lot like that, so as I said, I don’t really mind playing on Easy mode to make the game more enjoyable.

Well, here we go again…

New blog design, back to the grind.  This is the 5th iteration of the blog.  I like the design and how it looks, I’ll not lie.

I plan on writing here a lot more often now.  I post to facebook quite a bit and have for the last 5 years or so…coincidentally matching with the decline of the original blogs.  Likely causing it, actually.  So, whatever I was going to post to facebook, I’m going to post here instead.

A few things that I like about blogging that I’ve missed:

1. In depth discussion

2. Non-commodification of intellectual work

3. Control.

The first about discussion is an important point to make here.  Facebook, in its “news feed” tends to weed out any effective and workable discussion about any topic whatsoever.  People are given only a tidbit to respond to (and then they have to click to “continue reading”) and that leads to very poor, very fast, and very ill-considered discussions.  The format of Facebook does not allow the discussion to rise very far above the “nuh-uh, you’re wrong!” back and forth.  A lot of it has to do with the way that links are also displayed, undercutting any desire to read them in order to be “the first” to respond to a point.  It is a very effective system for discussing what breakfast foods are the best, not for any in-depth discussions of weightier issues.

The second point has to do with my ideas and my work and my responses to things…they are just that, mine. They are my thoughts and ideas. I am uncomfortable with the way that Facebook is cataloging things and selling the information to outside companies in order to satisfy their profit margins.  The biggest issue has been happening in a couple last months…you no longer can access every thing you’ve posted.  I post quite a bit to facebook, but I’ve noticed I don’t get to see everything I’ve worked on in the last couple months.  This is unacceptable.  I write things for review by others as well as for review myself as time goes by, just so that I can see how my ideas/thoughts/opinions have been adjusted over time.  Facebook is blocking my abilities to review what I’ve done.  Then I realize that this was one of those things that I really appreciated about my blog.  Not to mention the third thing: control.

I control what is seen, what is saved, what is adjusted, what is edited.  I control who responds to it and what is acceptable.  This blog is not run by a mob, it’s run by me.  It’s not run by profit hungry search engines, it’s run by me.  Yes, I realize that my audience is going to be cut drastically because people won’t do the transfer.  But y’know, that’s something I’ll have to live with.