Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Seething

As I've gotten older, I don't say this about people very often anymore, but Peter Molyneaux is a real shit.

He did a softball interview with Glixel (really, it's awful, as if the interviewer was sitting at his feet while he blessed him with knowledge), and there was this jewel:
Did Bryan Henderson, the player who was supposed to become the "god of gods" in Godus for finding the inside of the Curiosity cube, ever get his prize?
That was a real problem. The only thing to say is, Yes. You'll remember that Godus is a free-to-play game. And while 33,000 people are playing the game, 33,000 people aren't spending money on the game. So in terms of pure profit, actually Godus has not quite even broken even. We got Kickstarter money of about $1 million. After you're done with the pledging and all that stuff, that works out to about $400,000. But Godus cost about five times that to make. We really struggled, at times, to finish Godus. I'd love to pay Bryan money. It would be insane to do it just for a publicity stunt, because that's what it would be.

"It would be insane to do it just for a publicity stunt." Peter, your career at this point is a publicity stunt. You didn't seem to mind the publicity stunt on the front end, when it got you an insane amount of attention.

Bryan Henderson is the perfect metaphor to describe Molyneaux's games right now. He clicked and clicked and clicked and opened the cube--and there was nothing there.

Godus is a shit game that cost $2 million to make, allegedly, and wasn't nearly finished when it was abandoned. But somehow Molyneaux positions himself as the victim in all this, which is staggering.

Molyneaux has become a cover band of himself at this point--wait, that's not right. It would actually be okay if that's what he was, because he'd be churning out the same games that we loved twenty years ago. He can't even do that anymore.

He can't play the instruments.

A Schedule

I had a different schedule today.

Eli 15.11 is in Austin right now (yes, working out or on the ice every day), and Gloria flew down today. To get her to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight, we needed to leave the house at 4:40, so I got up at 4:15.

I dropped her off at the airport at 5, and I was working out at the YMCA by 5:15. Long workout, then went to hit serves about 6:15 on the way home.

I still had to wait a few minutes for Subway to open at 7.

Up here, though, it's light outside incredibly early (not much later than 5:30 it seems), so it feels totally reasonable to be working out by 6.

I just don't plan on doing it again.

I have five days alone, believe it or not, and I'm spending most of that time working on becoming familiar with Unity. Which is a much sexier engine than I ever imagined. So many things that require many hoops in WPF applications are just done automatically in Unity, and boy, I like that. Plus, on the scripting side, the work I did in learning some of the rudimentary details of C# is rewarded now.

George is snoring right now on the table next to me. Loudly.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Kerfuffle This Way Comes (part two)

No matter the answer or reason for the loan, two more things are guaranteed to eventually happen (I'm guessing in the next year):
1. Chris Roberts will make an urgent plea for more money from the public, saying that they are in critical financial distress. This distress will be, in fact, much greater than the public could ever fix, and whatever additional crowdfunding or in-game sales they book, it will only serve to help rearrange deck chairs on the you-know-what.
2. Within six months of #1 happening, it will be tearfully declared that the game is dead, Jim.

Why am I so negative? Well, let's have a look, and before I go on, let me make clear that I have nothing against Chris Roberts. He provided me with some of my fondest gaming moments (Super Wing Commander on the 3DO was absolutely riveting), and it would make me very happy if Star Citizen was completed.

I will not, however, be very happy.

Bad metaphor time, but it will serve its purpose.

A game design is a steam train. What fills the cars of the train is the game content.

What drives the steam train forward? Steam, with heat produced by a firebox full of burning coal.

That coal is cash.

How long is the Star Citizen train? Dozens of cars long. How much coal does a train this long require? An almost incomprehensibly massive amount.

Both of these things are true:
--They have an incredible amount of coal
--They do not have enough coal

But don't worry about the size of the train, you say, because people are throwing coal at the train as it drives by, so they will have enough coal to stoke the boiler.

The problem, though, is that thrown coal is not dependable.

Look, there was an almost guaranteed successful way to get this train to town. When the initial, staggering supply of coal was finally seen, it would have been entirely prudent to say "We're going to keep at least 25% of this coal in reserve, in case loading the train takes longer than we anticipated".

Ah, tiresome metaphors. Even I'm tired of it now. Off to bed with you.

No game developer, no designer, no producer on Earth has ever brought an original project of this size to completion. Yes, there have been a handful of games that cost more to develop (COD: MW2, GTA V, and Star Wars: The Old Republic), but those all had enormous, existing companies behind them.

If, incredibly, Star Citizen were ever finished, it would take at least another 3-5 years. Their burn rate must be $2M a month--at least--given the number of employees involved (and all the outside studios).

Even with the conservative 3 year estimate, that's another $72M dollars.

I'm sorry, but it just can't happen.

It's very easy to see how this game can't be completed. What's impossible, though, is to take the other side, and argue how it CAN be completed.

Prediction: this game gets developed until it has to ship (because there's no money left). It will be shipped and called complete.

Please let me be wrong.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Kerfuffle This Way Comes

This weekend, an article about Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games taking out a loan set the Interwebs ablaze.

If you want to play along from the beginning, go read this NeoGAF thread (or rather, the first couple of pages).

No one knows the acutal amount of the loan. No one really understands why they took out the loan. It seemed off, though, that a company with $150M+ in funding for a game was taking out loans.

To help sort through what's/what's not, I turned to you guys.

Management consultant "Ricky S" (who gave me additional details establishing his bona fides) looked over the documents and sent back this:
I've gone through to the companies house site and looked directly at the charge notice and can pull out the following points:

--Coutts is a pretty respectable bank - they're the rich man's/private investment arm of National Westminster (NatWest) - one of the biggest banks in the UK and no loan shark.
--Those 'charge' notices are essentially the same as a mortgage - but for a company. A bank is unlikely to loan a small, new company millions of pounds without some form of security. This is just the same as them not loaning hundreds of thousands of pounds to people without a charge on the house they're buying.
--The bank doesn't own the company/rights etc (just like they wouldn't technically own your home when you have a mortgage) but will get first rights to the named assets if the company becomes unable to pay its loan. If it comes to this the company is already pretty much dead, and these charges are there to soften the blow for the bank.
--The rights to a game aren't very useful unless that game is actually published. So the bank has a shared interest to see the game progressing and published.
--As to why the developers have had to get a loan - that is a more difficult question and any answer I gave would just be speculation.
--For the Kickstarter backers - there are a few scenarios:
Scenario A - the game gets published, money comes in from more sales. The developers pay their loan and everyone is happy.
Scenario B - further delays in development mean that the publisher goes bust:
                 With the loan - the bank takes the assets, tries to sell them on for cash (banks don't want to be stuck with intangible assets)
                 Without the loan - the assets may try and get sold on by the receiver for cash to pay any other creditors.
                 Note that either way it isn't much different for the Kickstarter backers who get nothing if the game fails to get released. There isn't any guarantee that another company buying the rights to the game will honour the Kickstarter agreement (although that would be the honourable thing to do).

I hope this helps. 

It certainly does, Ricky. Thanks.

This became enough of an instant controversy that Cloud Imperium released this statement to clarify:
We have noticed the speculations created by a posting on the website of UK’s Company House with respect to Coutt’s security for our UK Tax Rebate advance, and we would like to provide you with the following insight to help prevent some of the misinformation we have seen.

Our UK companies are entitled to a Government Game tax credit rebate which we earn every month on the Squadron 42 development. These rebates are payable by the UK Government in the fall of the next following year when we file our tax returns.  Foundry 42 and its parent company Cloud Imperium Games UK Ltd. have elected to partner with Coutts, a highly regarded, very selective, and specialized UK banking institution, to obtain a regular advance against this rebate, which will allow us to avoid converting unnecessarily other currencies into GBP.  We obviously incur a significant part of our expenditures in GBP while our collections are mostly in USD and EUR.  Given today's low interest rates versus the ongoing and uncertain currency fluctuations, this is simply a smart money management move, which we implemented upon recommendation of our financial advisors. 

The collateral granted in connection with this discounting loan is absolutely standard and pertains to our UK operation only, which develops Squadron 42.  As a careful review of the security will show and contrary to some irresponsible and misleading reports, the collateral specifically excludes “Star Citizen.”   The UK Government rebate entitlement, which is audited and certified by our outside auditors on a quarterly basis, is the prime collateral. Per standard procedure in banking, our UK companies of course stand behind the loan and guarantee repayment which, however, given the reliability of the discounted asset (a UK Government payment) is a formality and nothing else. This security does not affect our UK companies’ ownership and control of their assets.  Obviously, the UK Government will not default on its rebate obligations which will be used for repayment, and even then the UK companies have ample assets to repay the loan, even in such an eventuality which is of course unthinkable.  

Well, that's that, then, isn't it?

Not exactly.

Tomorrow, I'll explain why.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Question

I'm looking for someone who can analyze financial/loan documents. Bonus points if you're familiar with the UK in this regard. Please email me if you could take a quick look at something. Thank you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Friday Links!

EDIT: Well, this posted a little early, but not too much.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is stunning: A 100-Year-Old Church in Spain Transformed into a Skate Park Covered in Murals by Okuda San Miguel.

From Wally, and this is cuteness overload: This is What Happens When You Teach an AI to Name Guinea Pigs. This is an interesting read: One Award-Winning Chef--and His Surprisingly Cheap Eating Habits.

David Sedaris is a very, very funny man: Leviathan: Ways to have fun at the beach.

From Steven Davis, and this is very funny as well: Making a Marriage Magically Tidy. This is a fantastic video: Pictorial Webster's Inspiration to Completion.

From Jeremy Harder, and this is fascinating: Killer whales are stalking boats and stealing their fish.

From DQ VB.Net Advisor Garret Rempel, and this is an utterly incredible story: Freak snowstorm doesn't stop 4 who complete Yukon-Alaska bike relay — by unicycle.

From Meg McReynolds, and these are adorable: Disney Illustrator Imagines A Life With A Pet Octopus.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and this is amazing: Japanese robot sumo wresting is incredibly fast.

GameTek

This is from Geoff Engelstein, longtime DQ reader and outstanding game designer:
I do a segment on The Dice Tower podcast called 'GameTek', linking games, math, science, and psychology.

2017 is, incredibly, the tenth anniversary of GameTek, so to commemorate that I've put together a 300 page book with my favorite essays.  I think that you, as well as DQ readers, would enjoy it.

If you'd like to check it out:
GameTek: The Book.

I'm in.


Another Observation

Handling this new phone is like trying to wrangle a small seal at a fish rodeo.

Observation

Based entirely on a one-afternoon survey, every salesman in America wears shorts and offices at Panera Bread.

The March of Time

Efficiency at 26: going out with two women on the same day.

Efficiency at 56: icing your elbow while you mow the lawn.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Stuff and Other Stuff

I was serving at the YMCA today and there was a very tiny person (under five) tennis class going on two courts down. While they were picking up the large red and yellow balls, I heard one kid shout "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!", and three other boys, with absolutely no hesitation, started running like mad.

When you're four, that phrase apparently requires no fact-checking.
***

Gloria's new bag has a face.


I may have added the eye.
***

There are a few foods here that terrify me. I draw your attention to the following offering:


When I see the words "fish" and "dip" together, I'm reminded of two other words: "human" and "suffering".
***

It was 78 yesterday (sorry, Phoenix!), and while I took this picture a few weeks ago, it still looks the same: a lovely day in Grand Rapids.


Also, I activated my phone today and it appears to be working fine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Limbo Phone

I've had my Droid Turbo for almost three years, and I've written about it (positively) several times. It's a terrific phone with an absolutely massive battery.

Now, though, it's really been showing its age, and what was cutting edge is now driving in the slow lane. Plus, I've been having trouble transferring videos over to my PC, and since those are almost all video footage of Eli 15.11 in goal that he wants to review, that's a dealbreaker.

I've looked around for a phone for at least six months, maybe longer, but couldn't find anything that felt right in my hand. Nothing.

Last week, though, I bought the HTC U11.

It's fantastic, and the camera (according to DxOMark) is the best cellphone camera they've ever tested. Snapdragon 835 processor, etc. Killer specs, and it feels great to hold.

It's been almost a week and I haven't activated it yet.

The phone is an unlocked version, but it's certified to work with Verizon (according to both HTC and Verizon), so there shouldn't be a problem, with the operative word being "shouldn't". Verizon is notoriously awful about unlocked phones, though, and this is no exception.

[An aside: phones should never be locked to a particular carrier, and kudos to Canada for ending all that nonsense. Consumer protection: not actually available in this country.]

People trying to activate their phone on Verizon's network have reported a litany of troubles, and while some of them have been sorted out in the last few days, I want the damn phone to work with no problems when I activate it, so I'm still waiting.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The Manhattan Project (of tennis) #2

A month ago, I wrote about how, after forty years of failure, I was going to finally learn a proper tennis serve.

So I've gotten instruction and hit serves. Maybe not every day, but 28 out of the last 31. In winds that have been utterly ridiculous, doubling as soon as I get out of my car. My instructor knows I've showed up for a lesson when the trees start bending.

My elbow hurts. My arm hurts in general. I have to warm my arm up for 5-10 minutes to even be able to serve.

Still, I serve.

50-100 serves, day after day. I go about a week between lessons, locking the motion in, but getting feedback before I develop bad habits.

How much can 2,000 serves change your service motion? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

I still have a hitch in my motion, but it's much smaller than it used to be. All kinds of other issues have disappeared entirely. I hit grooves where I serve 10 balls in a row and they're all the same--same motion, same contact point, same landing point.

Eli's coach told him last week that he's hitting about 115 MPH on his first serve now. His serve is like trying to return a flaming meteor. But if I keep improving, maybe I can still win matches for a few more months.

There's an Elizabeth Kubler-Ross process I'm going through, sort of the Three Stages of Tennis Death. Stage one: he's never beaten me. Stage two: I can still beat him. Stage three: I used to beat him.

Flint

I haven't written about Flint and the water crisis, because I get so mad about it I can't even write coherently, but if you want to see a bunch of people who should go to prison, here you go:
A Guide to the 15 Powerful People Charged With Poisoning Flint.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ugh-Oafmatch pricing error (mine)

Good grief. Operating at well below capacity yesterday--apparently--I put in the wrong price for Oafmatch. It's $5.99, and quite a bargain.

Friday Links!

From Meg McReynolds, and this is just amazing: Patek Philippe Pocket Watch, ca. 1914. And a follow-up: Patek Philippe complicated pocket watch.

From Steven Davis, and this is just nuts: A 19 year old freerunner takes on the ‘World’s Largest Parkour Course. It's large: Bigger Than T. Rex: Spinosaurussave. This is amazing: Gaudí’s First Built House Opens to the Public for the First Time in its 130-Year-Old History. This is remarkably clever: The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways Imagined as a Subway Transit Map. Quite random: Sandwich Bag Fire Starter.

From Wally, and it's quite interesting: Why All of Upstate New York Grew Up Eating the Same Barbecue Chicken. The last one is classic: 20 of the Worst PC Setups – May 2017.

From C. Lee, and this is not encouraging: What Gets Stolen From Restaurants? Everything. This is a fascinating perspective to understand world population: What Would the World Look Like if There Were Only 100 People? This is discouraging: The Konami exodus.

From Lummox JR, and this is brilliant: MIT Has Developed Colour-Changing Tattoo Ink That Monitors Your Health in Real Time.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is stunning: Bird caught in amber 100 million years ago is best ever found.

From Brian Witte, and this is mind-blowing: Scientists got an image of a person’s face just by scanning a monkey’s brain. This images are just stunning: Every summer, men head into the Siberian wilderness to hunt for mammoth tusks.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's very clever (as a revenue stream for the company who makes them): Japan’s Bizarre Anti-Crime Orange Balls – A Unique Way to Stop Crime.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Undiscovered, Unappreciated, Unknown

I have a strange affinity for match-three games.

I don't know why, other than that Puzzle Quest was a unique, highly entertaining piece of work when it was released. So I like these games now, and occasionally run across one (like Ironcast) that turns into an unstoppable compulsion for a few days (or weeks).

Right now, it's a game called Oafmatch.

It's a pretty standard mix of battles, monsters, spells, and equipment, but boy, it does all of them well. The battles have a substantial amount of strategy to them, and the entire package is just extremely well done.

It's also a good example of how difficult it is for solid games to get publicity on Steam. Game gets released, game is on the front page for a few hours, game disappears without a trace. Tough environment.

Enhanced Steam says the game has sold between 2-3k copies in the month since launch. It deserves much better.

Here, check out a couple of screenshots:



Nice right? The visual style is both amusing and very pleasing, and the music is almost disturbingly catchy.

So if you like match-three games, this is a good one to try. $5.99, but with the Steam Summer Sale coming up late next week, you might be able to score a copy for a bit less.



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