The Great Echochamber, or Why the Internet is Bad

The other day, I was looking on a forum for HTC Eris users about whether we were going to get an official Froyo (Android 2.2) install.  The top post on that topic was a link to an announcement, somewhere, and the user’s inference from that that Froyo would be rolled out to us.  The following four or five comments were mostly hopeful, with one person arguing disbelief, but also hope.

The next comment after htat was from the original poster, again linking externally to an article which supported his original claim. A respected blog had confirmed that there were rumors of HTC Eris getting Froyo.   This was excellent news! The very next post was someone else saying that the source for that article was the very forum topic we were all reading right now.

That was somewhat disheartening, and the final post in that topic was the original poster wryly lamenting the fact.  Since there were no other sources, perhaps it was even less likely. [ref]And it looks completely unlikely now.[/ref]

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Basic Update

It seems whenever I do these post-a-day commitments, there’s always a day that I can’t make it. Part of that is that I have a huge essay that’s easily 3 times as long as a typical day’s post here (or where I try to keep it, anyway).  Part of it is that my work has moments of quiet, and moments of intense activity and today is one of the latter days.

I always feel better about the intense days than the quiet ones, even though it doesn’t give me the space to write like I’d like. I could post my monster essay today, but I want to sit on it another night, and make sure I’m sure.  It’s not games writing, so I’m more nervous about it.

I also want to write a short commentary on Enslaved, which I played about halfway through on Sunday. And I need to talk a bit more about Aspects.  That’s coming for the rest of the week, but today I’m tapped out.

Crowd-Patrons of the Arts

One of the joys of the internet is that it connects and levels things.  Enough amateurs can be as right as an expert, and uniquely strange loners can find all the other strange loners just like them.  I know I did, anyway.

That connection, and that collective action can be put to good use, and one of the websites that is attempting to put that to  good use is Kickstarter.  While it’s not a requirement (I don’t believe), most of the projects on Kickstarter are artistic projects of one type or another.  It means that those of us who cannot support a creative person as their sole patron can instead be part of a group of patrons.  Personally, I think the patronage model may be one of the best ways to get art that isn’t specifically commercial, and I want that kind of art, and those kinds of games.

As such, I’ve already donated to two successful projects:

Heather Logas is making a web-based choose your own adventure game that sounds interesting.  Dierdre Kiai is making an adventure game called Life Flashes By.  I’ve played Dierdre’s work before, and very much enjoyed it. Plus I’ve got a nice postcard to show for it.  I look forward to playing these games, and watching their development as the projects continue.

But those are closed projects, and I want to call your attention to two other projects that I’ve donated on, and which haven’t closed or met their funding yet.  I believe in both these projects, which is why I donated to them.

The first project is Addicube by Corvus Elrod and Charles Berube.  If you follow this blog, then you know that I’m heavily influenced by Corvus’s ideas about games and narrative. I’ve played several of Charles’s games as well, on his Wasabi Project website.   They are about 2/3 funded, and have about 1/3 of their time left. Actually, it’s just 20 days now.  I have faith that the two of them will turn out something unique and different, and really want to see it.  So I’m urging you to take a look at it, and consider funding them.

The last project is not a game, at all, it’s a comic. Or more rightfully, a web comic site. Patrick Farley of E-Sheep comics is trying an experiment.  He wants to see if he can get 3000 people to give him $1 a month to allow him to do nothing but draw and post comics.  Some of his comics are pretty amazing, his Death of a Jain was amazing, and I was really struck by Delta Thrives (although it seems to be offline).  Those with more pokemon knowledge than me may enjoy his last-revelations take on it, with Apokemon.  I only donated $2 to his project, as its an attempt to get $6000 in two months.  He’s only about 35% funded, and also has 3-4 weeks to go. Take some time to look at his comics, and decide for yourself what they are worth.

I have hope that both these projects will be able to succeed.

Disarray

Well, I did spend two hours of my weekend working on the Klik-n-Play Pirate Kart, but when I finally sat down to do it, I discovered that I’d saved none of my refactored map code.  On one hand, that code was confusing and not very good, on the other hand, it was nearly done.  Well, the new code is much better, but took me an hour and a half to put together, most of it spent tracking down a stupid error.

Most of my code errors these days come from syntax errors, and a few come from overall logic errors.  A very very few come from not understanding something about a new library. The former are caught by Chrome’s developer panel, the logic errors are pretty obvious: things where a character moves left instead of right (this actually happened).   The latter error can be really hard to fathom, as it’s something not in my code, per se, but in my understanding. I couldn’t get a graphic to display, and didn’t understand I hadn’t callled startGame() yet. Which is required by the library.

Otherwise it just quietly does nothing, exactly like I told it to.   And that’s a minor example of coding under a timeline.  I was going to come back to it, but I wound up working on some other things, and generally feeling kind of stupid about it. I’ll work on the game (I think it’s an interesting, if not revolutionary idea), but I was annoyed, and my computer is acting up according to plan.

I think, above all, that’s what’s bugging me today.  We’ve been money tight since January (and isn’t everyone a little tight around Christmas?), so I haven’t bought the copy of win7 to replace my release candidate. My computer will shut itself down sometime tonight.  While I have more than one computer, and beyond PC Games, there’s not much I use it for, it still has the power to make me grumpy.  We’re going to try to buy the OS next payday (which isn’t far, since I get paid weekly).  Still it made me not want to sit at my computer and do things like program games.

Feh, I say. Feh!

I did get my DresdenFiles RPG Origin’s game sent off to the proper folks.  I got my linux machine back online (it used to run this blog, but no longer).  I have some gaming plans for that, but they’re still working out.  I need a really long USB cord to run from that PC to my couch — anyone know how long a USB can be before degrading?

I’m a bit rambly this morning, I know.  I played a bit of Overlord II this weekend, and got White Knight Chronicles from GameFly.  I’m still formulating my thoughts about this one, but expect a First Impressions post soon. Borderlands, hopefully, will be here later this week; Girl and I are going to try out the co-op modes on this one.  Hopefully they’ll work well on the couch.

I’m feeling that bit of winter blah today.  It snowed again this weekend, but this week i’ll be warm enough for that stuff to start melting, and I’ll get a bit of color back in my world.   That probably explains the tone of my post today.  I owe you a self-indulgent character diary from Friday, so maybe I’ll do a couple of those this week.

I’m feeling the need to tell stories.

Quiet or Technical

So this week, I’m either going to be quiet or technical. I do have some things to write about inFamous, but I’m focusing on coding htis week. So, I’ll either be quiet, or writing code gobbledygook. (So, for some of you, technical is essentially quiet. Or you wish it were;)

Well the 371-in-1 Klik’n’Play event at Glorious Trainwrecks looms kind of close. I’m not as far along as I want to be, honestly, but a decent map and tile class will be good enough, I think. I’ve settled on jQuery and a game library written for it, called gameQuery. The latter seems to mostly handle animations (which I’m not using a great deal, but any Tile class I use should be able to handle it). The other issue is that jQuery isn’t very object oriented (like Prototype and Dojo, which I’ve also worked with). That’s not a problem, but I’ve been doing OO programming for so long, it’s hard not to think in those ways.

One thing I’m thinking about is Map tiles. Normally you’d mange it with a flyweight pattern, and load a tile image that would be split up in tile-sized bits, and used to build your map. One image is one internet connection, and you only have the image one place, except when it’s being drawn. This is a pretty good pattern and a standard way of writing a map, but I got to thinking about it — browsers already do this. So long as the graphic url is the same, it pulls it from cache or downloads it once from the internet. Let’s not over do things and do what the browser is going to do already.

So I’m not going to worry about loading and drawing graphics. I’ll just set the URL on any of the map tiles, and keep a buffer around the map so it scrolls prettily. And part of this shortcutting is that I have a week or so, and I don’t want to dawdle over the right way to do something, I just want to get it done. If it’s successful, I’ll fix it later. If it’s not, then the time wasn’t wasted.

OTOH, and since I’m second-guessing myself like crazy, having these as canvas objects means I can do cheap color animation, and that sort of thing, by redrawing the graphics. So I dunno. Maybe there’s an easy way to duplicate dom entries in jQuery, so that so long as it looks like an image, I can use it as a tile. Too bad almost no one supports animated pngs ;)

Of course, part of the issue i’m having is graphics themselves. I shouldn’t be worrying about it, but I am. I need some basic stuff, and I can’t draw–nor am I going to have time to draw. I just need to commit to the idea that my games are going to be about polygons doing polygonal things in a polygonal world. Dangit!

So, now i’m working on the classic map game that I always write to do this: concentration. There’s a sample out there, and I’m liberally copying, but hey I’m learning. As always, you can access these (and read all of the code, of course) at my games website.

President’s Day

Well, I’d normally talk about my weekend gaming, but my weekend isn’t over yet, thank to some of the more famous American presidents having birthdays near each other.  Or something like that.

I did pick up both Bayonetta and inFamous at the GBox this week, and have spent a fair amount of time this weekend playing both of them.  It’s getting to where one of the pieces will be more than a first impression, but I’ll have both of those this week.  Also: the next bit of Chelon’s diary on Friday.

Girl and I started watching Enterprise this weekend — neither of us had ever watched it, despite having seen most of the other Star Trek canon. Trek started losing me in the Voyager/DS9 era, and I hadn’t really been back until the Abrams’ reboot.  One could argue that Enterprise is the only bit of canon that remains after that movie.  Although the MMO takes place in the original continuity, after the destruction of Romulus (or so I’ve heard).

I’m seeing more CSS issues on the site, not sure how I missed them, so I need to prioritize fixing them.  I’ve also got only a couple more weeks to prep for the Klik-n-Play thing, and I didn’t get much work done on that last weekend, although I’ve been looking at a jQuery based game engine called gameQuery.

It looks like it mainly deals with sprite classes and does animation.  He also chose to move things using CSS positioning, and I have to admit my own experiements show that Canvas drawing, while cool, is too slow, particularly on handhelds.

I’m thinking of extending his work, however, and adding a map class that should work with my game ideas.  Also, I need sprites that I can use, since drawing isn’t really my forte.  I may just make some basic stick figures and use them over and over.

Anyway, that’s the plan for this week, barring emergencies.

Pen and Paper: DFRPG

Earlier this week, I volunteered to run the Dresden Files RPG at Origins.  This morning, I got email inviting me to a group that has gotten me a copy of the playtester’s Alpha.  Beyond normal work, and working on tomorrow’s self indulgent character journal, I’ve been reading it.

Skimming it mostly, as there’s a lot there to see.  I hope to look at it more tonight. My first impression is that it’s very well put together. Professional quality, good graphics.  There are margin notes between Bob the Skull, Harry himself, and Billy the werewolf (who ostensibly is the one writing the game system.)  The art is cool, and there’s just tons of information, examples, and stuff there that it’s hard to absorb on first blush.

I’ve been following the development of this for years, since I was playing Evil Hat’s games long before they started making ones for real money, because they made a variant of FUDGE called FATE which, essentially, made FUDGE a bit more useful.  Both Spirit of the Centuruy (which I got last year at Origins) and Dreseden Files use FUDGE and FATE as it’s base — and those who’ve known me for awhile know I have had a liftetime love affair with FUDGE. (Certainly longer than I’ve been writing on line.)

It’s lightweight, and not very crunchy, and it’s primary downside is that it uses weird dice.  But it’s intended to be a bit more cinematic and freeform, which was a welcome change from D&D and GURPS (the latter of which is way way way to crunchy and detailed for me).  FATE just kicks that up a notch, and my reading of SotC makes me like it even more, as the players are rewarded more for more interesting characters.

So now I need to absorb enough information to put together a plan of action, in order to put a suggestion in to Origins as to what I’ll run for them.  I’m not sure what that details, but I’ve only got a couple of weeks.  Right now, I’m thinking of doing something very much based in Columbus and perhaps tied to the Modern/Fate2.0 game we played several years ago.

I’m hoping to have something to test out with the folks at PAX East, as well, if they’re interested in playing a bit of Pen and Paper. I’m pretty stoked about it, as you might could tell.

Snow

It’s feeling like the natural thing for a Monday is weekend updatery and planning. So, that’s what you’re getting. I even made a tag for it! And I just noticed tags aren’t being displayed on the site. Well, then.

This week I guess I’ll be adding tags to the site, and fixing the ugly informational thing that appears at the bottom of my posts.  With all the javascript I’ve been doing over at CotT Games, I need to do a bit of PHP to keep from getting rusty. If you were sitting here beside me you’d hear me laughing — I’ve been writing PHP since the early 90′s. If I forget it now, I’d be surprised.  Actually, if you were sitting her beside me, I probably wouldn’t be laughing. Probably greatly depends on who you are. Anyway.

Update: tags are appearing, evidently.  But it’s still ugly.

Update2: Title of the post is because we got a metric buttload (over 6″) of snow this weekend. I meant to mention that, but I forgot, so, err. Yeah.

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January Wrap-Up

Well, here we are, the last weekday in January.  At the start of this month, I wasn’t sure I’d get through it.

We’ve had a lot of local drama here, financial stuff with Tam and I, and Girl’s next-door-neighbor went off the freaking deep end.  She’s moving today, to a nicer duplex that also happens to be closer to my busstop, and still in walking distance of where I live.  This makes me happy.

Also, today, Tam and I make it through our own financial mess that had left us strapped for most of the month.   We’re not totally caught up on everything, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel well enough to know it’s not an oncoming train.  We’ve got our PAX East tickets, and that vacation is mostly planned for, and will be budgeted, etc, within a week or two.

I’ve spent some of my time this month — at least when I wasn’t furiously writing blog posts — learning Python, and working with pygame.  That’ll continue in the next month, although I may try to finish my AIF before I do that.  I have some thoughts about that, as you may have noticed.

Many years ago, I kept an online diary, I wrote about 1K words/day, usually about whatever I was doing that day, or had done. It was very personal, and maybe sometimes had some more thought to it — but not often. The writing I’ve done here in the past month has some of that personal flavor, but I feel like I’ve been able to apply it to the game thought that is largely what Cult of the Turtle has been about recently.

One nice aspect of having such an aggressive schedule is that it’s forced me to narrow my focus and accept some imperfection in what I have to say.  It makes this whole blog feel like a work in progress. I’m not writing essays, but developing ideas in a public and open way.  That may come back to bite me someday, but I’m human, and I’m still alive, so my ideas are still developing.  Just because I said something three weeks ago doesn’t mean I’ve not refined or moved on from it.  Still, it’s a good process.

Which is why, despite the original challenge now fulfilled, I’m going to continue it.  I need to work on other creative projects, particularly both games and my fiction writing, and I’m sure that’ll color what the posts here are about. Like my discussions of Amaranth, the posts here may be about my progress from a design or technical standpoint.

Certainly I’m not done with liminality or transgression, and these both inform what I want to do about games, and my goals there. I don’t know if I’ll be successful at implementing my ideas, but unless I try I won’t know.  And maybe my work will inspire others who can take it further.  As long as there’s life, there’s growth, right?

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed it — I know I’ve liked and enjoyed the feedback that I’ve gotten, and look forward to more.  That’s the primary way I’m “paid” for what I do.  So, as I go forward, I hope I’ll interest you enough to keep the feedback loop going.

Thanks to everyone for a good month in this new year, and hopes for more to come!