Tag Archive for idea

Playing Games – Man vs Wife

I had an idea. What if I convinced my wife, who doesn’t generally like games, to play games with me, or rather against me, and I documented each one in a blog series? So I posed the idea to her, and she was lukewarm on it, but over time as I mentioned it now and then she began to like it more.

But what would we call it?

Man vs WifeOh, she didn’t like the name much. But it had actually been the jumping off point for the whole idea for me. I’d seen those shows, Man vs Food and Man vs Wild and the rest, and I thought to myself, “What happens when you take a man who loves gaming and he marries a woman could take it or leave it? Man vs Wife!” And it works for me, as both a play on those reality TV shows and as a play on the ends of wedding vows when the officiant pronounces the couple “man and wife”.

And so it begins. We’ve played one game already and I’m working on writing it up (we actually video tape the session so I don’t have to take notes), and we have a pile of board games and video games. Hopefully I’ll have the first one up within a week. After that I make no promise as to a schedule.

Anyway, that’s it. Just a minor announcement of future content.

Writing Prompts

Going to be running a little project over at Google+.  On Mondays and Thursdays I’ll be posting a writing prompt to a select circle of people (if you want to be in that circle, here is me on Google+, put me in a circle and ask me to put you in the writers’ circle.

The idea is that I’ll post the prompt and then over the next couple days people will post what it prompts them to write. Then people can criticize or congratulate each other, or whatever. If I write anything particularly awesome, I’ll try to remember to cross-post it here.

Not Quite Radio Days

Old RadioThe other day I was thinking about when my family used to go on vacation.  The topic came up because someone else was planning their vacation and booking flights, and I asked if they ever considered driving.  They immediately shot down that idea, not wanting to be “trapped” in the car for long stretches with their kids, or taking multiple days to get somewhere.  I’m sure that my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, but I look back fondly on our vacations when I was a kid.  Of course I remember some of the fights too, but there were so many good things that came out of them.

Early vacations with both parents and three kids in a regular car were a bit tight, but in those days our vacations were shorter.  We lived in Florida and drove to other places in Florida, like Disney or the beach, or north to Georgia to visit family.  When we moved to Pennsylvania though, and trips to Georgia and Florida and other destinations got longer, the family bought a mini-van.  It had two bench seats in the back, my older brother taking the front one, while my younger brother and I took the rear.  In order for us both to be able to stretch out back there, we’d put a sleeping bag on the floor.  It turned out to be the best place to nap because down on the floor you avoided most of the light that came through the windows.

The key, however, to long term survival in the car for our family was the purchase of three Walkmans.  It is hard today to imagine the impact that portable tape decks that ran for many hours on a couple of AA batteries had on the world, but it was huge.  Suddenly we kids weren’t fighting with the parents for where to tune the radio.  And while music tapes had their place, for me, for vacations, there was something better.  I have no idea how I got it, but I imagine it come from my older brother, through some friend of his, but I wound up with a tap of Dr. Demento’s radio show.  It wasn’t a real tape, it was copied – maybe from a real tape or maybe from the radio.  But it had songs like Fish Heads and Another One Rides the Bus and more, as well as other comedy bits and longer stories.  This, along with a couple of Bill Cosby tapes would end up being the things I listened to most… until we wandered into the Cracker Barrel one day.

If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, it’s a restaurant with a gift shop attached to it.  The shop is full of candy, folky art and decorations, and a random assortment of toys.  We’d been there many times, and I’d often perused the tape rack, which tended to contain the works of John Denver and a variety of country singers which after I discovered MTV I just wasn’t into anymore.  But one day I was spinning the rack and found a tape that had two “radio dramas”.  I asked my mom what they were and she explained it to me.  I don’t remember who bought them, but we ended up with three tapes.  War of the WorldsThe Shadow and The Green Hornet.  I played those things so many times, I’m surprised they tapes didn’t break.  I’m pretty sure if I look around, here or at my dad’s house, I could find those three tapes.

Many years later, after the Walkman had been replaced by the Discman, I found a radio show style recording of Stephen King’s The Mist.  I love movies and I love TV, but there is just something special about putting on headphones, sitting back, closing your eyes and letting the audio wash over you while imagery explodes in your mind.  It’s like reading a book but without the reading.  In fact, I’m pretty certain stumbling onto those tapes decades ago actually affected how I read, because I let the words sink in and I build the scenes visually within my mind.  The downside is that I read slow.  The upside is that I remember what I read very vividly.

We're AliveAnyway… despite loving those things and them being an integral park of my growing up, I admit I don’t keep track of what’s going on in the world of radio shows.  I mean, yes, I’ve been lusting after the Dark Adventure Radio Theater set for quite some time now, and I run across things now and then, but I haven’t actively sought things out.  But recently I’ve discovered (years later than most) podcasts.  While I tend to hate most talk radio, I’ve been enjoying a few podcasts, mostly entertainment or comedy related like The Nerdist.  It’s actually through that site that I’ve found We’re Alive, which is just awesome and one of those “Why did I not know this existed?” sort of things.  (Mental note: make sure the Apocalypse Rising track knows about this for Dragon*Con.)

So now I’m looking for more.  Know any good radio show podcasts?  I don’t want people just sitting around and talking (but if you say it’s completely awesome I’m sure I’ll try it out).  I want radio dramas, mysteries, horror, adventure, whatever.  Point me in their direction…

G+N

Trying an experiment this evening.  Should have posted this yesterday, but, alas, I did not.  Anyway, the idea goes like this:

Google Plus Netflix: a bunch of people watch the same movie at the same time though Netflix Instant and run a live text commentary on Google Plus.

This could be awesome.  This could suck.

My main impetus for doing this is the idea of the commentary, but in such a fashion that it was “recorded” but not a podcast, and possible so that if someone watches the movie later they can read the commentary on roughly the same pace.  Also, using a text medium like this means that there is no limit to the number of participants, so I’m hoping we get lots of voices, from the funny mocking tones to the knowledgeable remarking on production values.

Of course, the latter may be in short supply since I chose Birdemic: Shock and Terror as our inaugural film.

If you want to participate, go here.  The movie will start at 10 PM Eastern.

Be Prepared

Not only is “Be Prepared” the Scout Motto, but it’s also a really good idea.  Or to quote Nathan Muir from Spy Game:

When did Noah build the Ark?  Before the flood.

When disaster strikes, it is too late to begin planning for disaster.  So, obviously, the answer is to be prepared.

Zombie Banner from the CDC

The CDC agrees, and last week they published Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, which I have now permanently added as a link over the right hand side.  They aren’t the first to utilize an undead plague to illustrate proper planning.  A group called the Zombie Squad has been doing it for some time.  The main idea being, if you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for anything.

While the CDC article and the materials provided by the Zombie Squad are good, the key element to disaster preparedness to understand is that you are not a priority for anyone else, and that includes the government.  In the event of any disaster you should be able to survive on your own for at least 72 hours.  That’s three days.

Let’s just say, for example, a hurricane comes tearing through your area.  The first job of the government is not to rush in and rescue survivors.  What would it do with them?  No, the first job is to set up hospitals and aid stations so that survivors who can come to them can be taken care of.  They will work on re-establishing communications and power, and only once they’ve gotten themselves firmly dug in will they begin ranging out to find stranded survivors.  If they ran out and got people first they’d simply be dumping them all into an unprepared cluster without power, communications or medical treatment.  Not to mention that if they rush in they could be putting themselves in great danger.  They are “slow” for a reason, and that is because when they get to you, you will be saved, not just temporarily reprieved.

Even more than that, however, is that by being able to help yourself, you free up resources for people who cannot help themselves.  If you have food, water and shelter for three or more days, then the rescuers can leave you alone and spend their time finding people who have been injured or are trapped or who didn’t plan ahead and have no food or water.  By being prepared, not only are you helping yourself but you are indirectly helping others.

The best thing about being prepared is that it doesn’t cost very much.  A few dollars and a little time will put you leagues ahead of those who don’t.  You probably have many of the things you’ll need in your house already, and if you don’t a quick trip to Wal-Mart will solve that.  Then you just need to pick rally points.  Your home, just outside your home, miles away, states away.  Make sure everyone knows where to go and how to reach each other.  Just like that, you are better off than you were before.

It’s so easy that there is no excuse to not be prepared.  If you aren’t, do it now.  Do it within the next week.  Pick a day and get it done.  Because after the zombies come, it’ll be too late to prepare.

Infinite Dimensions

Previously, I wrote about there being two kinds of time travel.  More specifically that there are only two kinds that work and make sense without leaving giant gaping holes in the stories.  Now I’m going to spin-off into an examination of dimensions…

The Big Bang

If you ignore the faith-based beliefs that the Universe just sprang into existence when a deity willed it to be, then you pretty much have to accept the theory of the Big Bang, that everything exploded out of “something”.  For a while, science and science fiction grasped on to the idea that eventually at some point down the line, the Universe would stop expanding and would begin to contract.  People really like this idea because it lends itself into a nice loop.  Everything racing back together, getting faster and faster, exceeding the speed of light, warping back in time billions and billions of years and then exploding again.  The end is the beginning.

Assuming a warping of space and time, it isn’t hard to jump to the idea that when the Big Bang happens again that it doesn’t have to be exactly the same.  In one way of looking at it each version of the Universe is happening in sequence.  The end of Universe 1 is the beginning of Universe 2, and end of U 2 is the beginning of U 3, and U 3 to U 4 and so on.  Thanks to the warping of time and space, however, you can get to the idea that these Universes are also happening simultaneously but somehow out of phase with each other.  This conjures up the idea of wonderful strangeness, like in our Universe there are nine planets (Pluto, I’ll never let you go) but in one of our neighbors, X-1 or X+1, there are ten and due to some sort of anomaly, that tenth planet occasionally influences or even crosses over into our Universe.  Your keys weren’t sitting on the table the whole time you were looking, they had actually slipped into X-1 but found their way back eventually.

Now we have evidence that the expansion of the Universe isn’t slowing, and may even be speeding up.  It’s hard to tell what is going on with all the dark matter out there and whatnot.

Echoes

But how does an examination of dimensions of this sort relate to time travel?  You have to stop thinking so three dimensionally.  What if the Big Bang wasn’t just a simple explosion, but instead ripped right through space and time.  Now you have Universe 1 beginning, and then a tiny fraction of a second later Universe 1 sub 1 begins.  A tiny fraction later Universe 1 sub 2 begins, and U 1 sub 3 shortly after, and U 1 sub 4, and so on.  And infinite number of Universes trailing behind us through time.  And since we are just as likely to not be the first Universe as we are to be it, there are an infinite number of Universes extending out in front of us as well.

Now, when you travel through time, you aren’t really.  You are simply jumping to another copy of our own Universe.  Jumping forward in time by one hour is actually sliding to a Universe that began exactly as ours did but an hour out of alignment.

The very first time that I thought about this was when I was watching the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  In it, Rufus explains to them that no matter what they do or where they go, they have to keep an eye on their watch because the time in San Dimas is always moving forward.  This is because the phone booth isn’t actually travelling in time, it is sliding between dimensions where the intended time is happening “right now” and when they return to their own dimension if they’ve been gone for an hour it will be an hour since they left.  Time marches on, so to speak.  The only real problem with that theory as far as the movie is concerned is Rufus’ stated reason for being there.  His mission would appear to be a closed loop (he’s going back in time to help them with their report because he did go back in time to help them with their report that they almost failed), but then you get the paradox of how that loop got started.  It would have to be that a Rufus (or someone) from a Universe that didn’t have a successful Bill & Ted pinpointed the need for them to pass the history exam 700 years prior (or however long they needed) and traveled to the appropriate world to fix it, then returned home to live in his unacceptable world (or maybe he didn’t go home).  In that world, 700 years later, Rufus climbs into a time machine in a perfectly excellent world to go back 700 years to ensure it still happens… or rather, that it happens for someone else.  So either lots more cross Universe communication is happening, or only one world every 700 years gets to be excellent.  In a manner of speaking.

Of course, the second movie completely throws that out the window with all the jumping forward and backward and delivering items to themselves.

But assuming the Echoes theory is true, it means that you can’t change your past or future.  You can only change the worlds offset from your own, and in order for your world to change an offset you needs to be the instigator of change.

No matter what, thinking about time travel this much will probably give me an aneurysm.

Help me design: Part II – the Fontinating

So, after browsing through the many fonts on dafont.com, I have select 14 possible fonts.  Which do you think looks best?

I’ll also take suggestions on other fonts, except for a couple outliers I think this selection gives an idea of where I’m leaning…

Rethinking Tanking

Getting back into traditional fantasy MMOs has of course led me to thinking about their flaws and my desire to correct them.

One of the long standing issues with the genre since EverQuest is the holy trinity of design: damage taking, damage prevention/recovery, damage dealing.  And while games continue to try to include crafting and other non-combat elements, the vast majority of people actually want to kill things, so combat remains, and will remain, at the center of most game design.  In this trinity mold, you end up with a tank, a healer, and then assorted damage dealing classes.  Fighting runs the same, tank taunts to control where the damage goes, the healer heals the tank, and everyone else tries their best to make the tank’s job very very difficult.

Right now, tanking is all about hitting taunt abilities to focus the attention of the target on to the player and keep its damage output in one place where it can be measurably tracked and dealt with.  As games have advanced over the years, taunt abilities have become more varied and interesting, but at their base they are about manipulation of the aggro list (the priority in which an NPC “hates” players) to put the tank at the top.

What I’m considering, and by no means is this a finished idea, but one that needs discussion, so please, discuss, is to replace taunt with a cover system.  If Monster A is attacking Player B, rather than having Tank X target Monster A and click a taunt ability, saying “Hey stupid! Come get me!” (which always just seemed idiotic to me, from the stance of someone who enjoys role playing in games), you instead have Tank X target (or secondary target, or target of target, or whatever) Player B and click one of his new protection abilities, putting himself between Monster A and Player B and taking the damage.

This appeals most to me because it eliminates taunt, which from a role play and logic standpoint has always been broken.  Why would a monster ever stop beating on the healer just because the invulnerable turtle is calling him names?  Nope.  Healers first, then those pesky damage dealing people who are killing me and lastly I’ll deal with the invulnerable turtle when he’s a little less invulnerable.  On the other hand, the idea of a monster going after the healer and the invulnerable turtle stepping in between them, now that has merit.  Effectively, we are taking away the roll of tank as we know it, and turning him into a healer type who utilizes shield/rune spells, preventing damage but not recovering it.

The main downside I see with this is the creation of the new role of DPS Tank.  That’s where the player with the highest DPS becomes the defacto tank by virtue of doing the most damage while the healer heals him and the old tank protects him.

Thoughts?

As an aside, this is ironic because over at Big Bear Butt, he recently posted about giving everyone taunt and eliminating healing.  Which just goes to show that this is a problem with many solutions.

Dealing with your designer

Design in business tends to be a collaborative effort.  Mainly this is because nine times out of ten the person with the idea doesn’t have the ability, and the people with the ability aren’t often focused enough to have the ideas.  Not to offend either set, but creativity and business sense appear to be, in most people, diametrically opposed.  That means the more of one you have the less of the other you have.

So, if you are the idea guy, you take your thoughts to someone else.  You’ve laid out the parameters and explained what you wanted.  The designer has gone off and done what you asked and is showing it to you.

The first thing to remember when entering a design process is that until you’ve actually released, you can change anything.  Even after you release you can probably still change things.  So when your designer brings you the first pass at implementing your idea, the first thing out of your mouth shouldn’t be pointing out how they totally screwed it up.  This is a first draft, this is the collaboration part where the designer is trying to understand what you want, in his medium, and you help him.  Until you learn to literally project your thoughts into someone else’s head, you have to realize that what you dreamed up and what you put on paper as specifications are not remotely identical, and the translation from your brain to paper and then from paper to the designer’s brain is going to cause variation.  That’s why the two of you need to work together.

Don’t put your designer on the defensive and lead with criticism.  Look at the work and begin by talking about what you like.  What elements appear to be going in the right direction.  And then, when you are done, begin being critical, however, remain constructive.  If you don’t like the format of something, don’t just say, “I hate that. It’s ugly.”  Try instead something like, “The words are right like I specified, but I’m not loving the font you chose. Can you show me a few others?”  If you don’t understand something, ask — the designer is likely happy to explain where he started and how he got there, and if he’s off the mark you should correct the error in his path and help him get to where you want.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you sit in the designer’s work space and tell him how to do his job.

Just keep in mind how you would react if someone came along and told you how stupid your idea was versus them telling you it’s a good idea, promising, but there are these one or two details you might want to reconsider before you get in too deep.  In other words, the Golden Rule.

Movie Round-Up: December 17th, 2010

How Do You Know Black Tron Fighter Yogi Swan: Bear LegacyYogi Bear: (official site)

I suppose it was inevitable.  Hollywood is either remaking, updating or finally bringing to the big screen every idea someone else already had.  Watching the trailer for this movie does not make me want to see it at all.  I suppose if I had kids my view might be different, but I don’t so it isn’t.  If I ever see this movie it will be on accident or under heavy protest.

Tron: Legacy: (official site)

It’s about damn time.  That’s right, after I rail against Hollywood not having any new ideas I’m going to applaud them for finally making a sequel to Tron.  I don’t have rose colored glasses on.  I know the original was silly, plagued with bad dialog and the special effects might have looked fantastic to an eight year old kid but were actually pretty awful, but the fact remains that it was deeply influential to me.  I mean, I grew up to be a programmer.  It was the shell of the idea of Tron that was so good, that something special was going on inside computers, and I’m excited that it is being revisited.  I worry, however that it might be too late.  No, we haven’t invented full-on virtual reality yet, but unless the movie is hiding some big surprises it doesn’t look to have advanced much further than the 1982 shell of the original: there is a world inside the machines where programs fight for survival.  But ultimately it doesn’t matter.  I’ve been itching for a sequel to Tron for so long that there is almost nothing that will stop me from seeing this film.  Not rain, nor sleet, nor bad reviews.  This weekend, Tron: Legacy will be seen.

How Do You Know: (official site)

Paul Rudd is one of those actors that I’ll see practically any movie he does.  Reese Witherspoon too.  The only thing this movie has against it is Owen Wilson.  I just can’t stand him.  Nonetheless, this movie looks pretty good.  Since I’ll be seeing Tron, I doubt I’ll make it to see this movie this weekend, but I’ll gladly see it later on at some point.  If you aren’t seeing Tron and you aren’t a kid, this would be a good movie to spend your $10 on.

Black Swan: (official site)

Someone I know, after seeing this movie, described it thusly: I love it when people get tricked into seeing a horror film.  For people who don’t watch trailers to avoid spoilers, this description fits because on the surface the film is about a ballet dancer who is getting older (but by no means old) who is struggling with possibly losing her place in the company (and more) to a younger dancer.  But if you’ve seen the trailer, then you know that isn’t the whole story.  The thriller and horror elements are what draws me to Black Swan… well, that and I’ve been told there is a hot sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.  Since I’m unsure I could drag the wife to see it in the theater, I probably won’t, but I’ve already put this in my Netflix queue.

The Fighter: (official site)

I’m a sucker for underdog sports films, and this one looks to be real good.  With so much else fighting for my box office dollar, I doubt this will be something I see in the theater, but I’ll happily see it later on, and I’m sure that I’ll wish I’d seen it sooner.