Wednesday, September 02, 2015

NBA2K: It's A Miracle

I've never been able to play NBA2K for long.

It does many things very, very well, but players slide across the court in so many animations that visually, it just looks like gibberish to me.

I don't care if the cheerleader boobs bounce realistically, or if the player tats are raised off the skin within 1/128 inch of the real tattoos. Could guys just run around on the damn court without looking like they're at an ice rink?

Today, I saw this: Improvements to gameplay for NBA 2K16. In the video they discuss a new foot-planting "system", and in all the gameplay footage I saw, it looked fantastic.

No sliding.

After a decade+, it's a miracle! Now if we could just get rid of all the Madden code from the 1990s and before...

Marketing Avoidance, But Fun

I'm so sick of staring at website lists that I took a break this morning.

In the Steam forums, someone created a real NFL teams file for Gridiron Solitaire that you could use to have accurate ratings, team colors, styles, etc.

That was pretty inspiring, but what I wanted was a team file for my most vivid memories of football--the 1960s. Even though I was born in 1961, I remember all those teams fondly and remember watching every single game that came on t.v.

So I created a 1966 season file. All eight AFL teams in their own division (although I put Miami, which didn't start playing until 1967, in place of Buffalo), plus eight NFL teams (Baltimore Colts, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Detroit Lions).

I found stats on both leagues for that season and was able to assign accurate ratings, too.

If you're playing the game and would like a copy, let me know. It's simple to use and I really enjoy seeing the old franchises and team colors.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Painter's Guild

After working through giant website lists for hours, I decided to take a break and saw a story about this game over at RPS: Brushing Up: Painters Guild Comes To Steam.

It's quite a little gem.

It's a management game, but it's tremendously charming and entirely addictive. Managing a guild during the Renaissance is quite fun, as it turns out, and there are a ton of real historical events added into the game that add considerably to the flavor.

It's $7.99, and it's money very well spent if you like these types of games. Oh, and excellent music, too. Here you go: Painter's Guild on Steam.

Gridiron Solitaire: Marketing, cont.

I dropped the price of Gridiron Solitaire to $7.99.

This is probably not a smart thing to do, since demand for a card-based football simulation is almost entirely inelastic. However, the game has been out for over a year, so a price drop seems in order.

I also activated one of my product update visibility rounds in Steam, so I'm showing up on the front page of Steam in the "recently updated" category for a few hours.

I'm having a very strange reaction to sending out press releases and asking for coverage, though.

It's more of a paralysis, really.

I have the press release written, and I've gotten good feedback on content. And I have a second list of 700 websites that is giving me a higher (worth e-mailing) hit rate than the PAX press credentials list. So I'm up to 100+ websites that seem like reasonable places to send the press release.

I don't want to send out e-mails that are totally shallow, though, and that's hard to do when you're trying to market a product. I've received tons of them over the year, and most of them are crap. They're 100% phony and ass-kissing and I really don't want to do that to someone else.

I'd like to write something simple and honest. Maybe I'll get less coverage that way, but I'll feel better about the coverage I do get.

One more complication: Eli 14.1 has a hockey tournament this weekend, so if I send out all these e-mails tomorrow/Thursday, it will be difficult to respond to any questions people have.

So here's the coward's compromise (that seems like a decent name for a book, really): create a ton of e-mail drafts, save them, and them fire them out Tuesday morning. The NFL starts next weekend, so the timing is decent, and if anyone needs anything, I can respond promptly.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Tremendously Interesting Writing Project

DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel is basically good at everything, as far as I can tell. Remember, he's the one who drafted blueprints and built a wooden playscape for his kids. And he's a great teacher, based on all the things about VB.NET that he's taught me.

Well, he's also a writer, and he's working on an experimental writing project that is tremendously compelling (I've read what he's written so far, which are the first three chapters). And he's publishing as he writes, which is far, far braver than I've ever been. You can read a description below, and it is well worth your time.

Scientists at a particle accelerator research facility are working to unlock the mysteries of non-causal communication, sending information and objects backwards through time. At the apex of their ultimate experiment, a nuclear explosion rips through the facility laying waste to the region and killing tens of thousands. TIMESPLICE is a sci-fi mystery that unfolds the trail of physical evidence tied to those scientists as they navigate through the time stream of their own experiment. Following and using the clues sent to them by their future selves, they rush towards a tragedy in their past that has not yet happened.

TIMESPLICE is being published online for free at with new additions every Monday morning. The complete Chapter 1 is already available. And if you would like to read ahead, TIMESPLICE has also been submitted to a contest sponsored by Nerdist ( at Inkshares ( The top 5 pre-ordered books will be published in hard copy. By signing up for an account at Inkshares you get a $5 credit towards a pre-order (which are $9.99) and like Kickstarter, if the book doesn't get funded you don't pay anything. Members who pre-order TIMESPLICE ( will get access to advance chapters, long before they are published on my website. And if the book gets fully funded you will also get a physical copy of it when its done too!

I hope you enjoy this work, it is not written in a traditional narrative, but is presented in a manner similar to evidence exhibits at a trial - allowing the reader to consider and construct their own narrative of events that fits the evidence much as a prosecutor or defense attorney would do for a judge or jury.
 GARRET REMPEL graduated with a Bachelor of Mathematics in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo and has been a Technology Consultant with MNP ever since. He has been an avid computer nerd since his parents brought home an Amiga 500 when he was six and has never looked back. He has been a voracious reader since he was a child, with a keen interest in fiction, science, technology, and current affairs.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gridiron Solitaire Press Release (for review)

Okay, I've put together a press release and I'd like feedback, please.


Austin, Texas - August 25, 2015 - Gridiron Solitaire major release 1.3

Inspired by classic games like TV Sports Football, Front Page Sports Football, and Fairway Solitaire, Gridiron Solitaire combines football strategy with a solitaire-style card game for a new sports experience.

This is a card game for all kinds of players. Fans of casual games will enjoy a 15-minute experience full of excitement. More hardcore fans will appreciate the use of real NFL data and the excellent A.I., as well as the ability to generate realistic stats.

A full tutorial assists new players, who will be up and playing in about five minutes, thanks to game rules that are not complex but lead to a wealth of strategic decisions.

The new release features multiple card decks to choose from, as well as all-new interface screens, along with revisions to defensive gameplay and the in-game announcer. It all adds up to the best football experience you'll have this fall!

• A game world with almost unlimited depth. Create a 16 team, fully customized league, then play for up to 30 seasons.
• Guide your team through a 15-game regular season and playoffs. You can choose to play or sim each game.
• Unique gameplay combines football strategy with card play, and includes thousands of possible events to influence the action.
• Behind the scenes is a quality sim. Real NFL data is used in every aspect of the game.
• Experience roaring crowds and dynamic sounds in a true football atmosphere with 8 hand-crafted, vibrant stadiums.
• See a customized newspaper headline after every game you play, based on your performance.
• Offseason draft gives you a chance to improve your team ratings.
• Visit the team museum to review past seasons and see all-time franchise leaders.
• Custom difficulty levels let you tailor your experience from casual to the ultimate challenge.

“Gridiron Solitaire is a marvel: an elegant design with deep and intricate underpinnings. It’s the most straight-up fun I’ve had with a football game since Tecmo Super Bowl.”
--Phil Scuderi, Red Door Blue Key

Gridiron Solitaire is $7.99 and available for purchase on Steam, the world's leading digital distribution platform:

Bill Harris


So there's going to be a price drop to $7.99, as you can see. And every time I send the press release to a website, I'm going to e-mail it to someone specifically and include a Steam code. 

Here's the list of websites/youtubers I've identified:
10 Dollar Gaming
Armless Octopus
Blue's News
Brutal Moose
Buy Some Indie Games
Casual Game Revolution
Colony of Gamers
Extra Guy
Game Informer
Game Jolt
Games for Gamers
Gamers Temple
Gamers With Jobs
Gaming Illustrated
Geeky Hobbies
Hookshot, Inc.
Indie Game Reviewer
Indie Games The Weblog
Indiegame Magazine
Indie DB
Indie Games Searchlight
Indie Impressions
Indie Game HQ
Indie Love
Indie N
Jay is Games
Los Angeles Times
Official RTV
Operation Sports
Out of Eight
PC Gamer
Pixels for Breakfast
Rock, Paper Shotgun
The Escapist
The Game Jar
The Married Gamers
The Video Game Backlog
TIG Source
Tradition Sports Online
True PC Gaming
Wraithkal's Indie Gaming Corner

If you know of someone I'm missing here, or you have recommendations for a specific contact at one of these websites, please let me know. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and what an incredible story: From Nigeria to Burma’s jungle: courage and compassion in the war with Japan. Also, and this is just incredible, it's DNA sequencing suggests why octopuses are so smart. Also, and this is quite interesting, it's This interactive map shows how ‘wrong’ other maps are. One more, and it's mind-blowing: Carbon nanofibres made from CO2 in the air. Last one, and it's a terrific read: Meet the American Who Joined Mao’s Revolution.

From Craig Miller, and this is amazing: Video: Check Out This Moving Mini Paper V6 Engine. Also, and these are wildly entertaining, it's 15 Mesmerizing Science GIFs, Explained.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is one of the finest pranks in history: The Bestseller Book That Didn’t Exist: how the author of a beloved Christmas classic pulled off the Hoax of the Century. Also, and this is just fantastic, it's Video explains the world's most important 6-sec drum loop.

From Steven Davis, and this is fantastic: Mission impossible~Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra. Also, and this is remarkable, it's Art of the Marbler. This is fascinating: The Linguistics of Writing an Email Like a Boss. This is quite amazing: Ferrolic: A Clock with a Liquid Face Powered by Magnetism. One more, and it's quite fun: Three quirky sleight of hand illusions by Richard Wiseman.

From Brian Witte, and this is fascinating: The brains of people who speak this whistle language of Northern Turkey do something very surprising.

From Paul Drager, and this is a sad little story: We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life.

From Craig Miller, and this is entirely ingenious: Real Life First Person Shooter (Chatroulette version).

From Jeff Fowler, and this is utterly fascinating: 1905-1930 The Seattle regrade: Moving mountains to build a city. Also, and this is outstanding, it's Adorable 4-year-old swags out with gunshot batflip.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Darryl Dawkins

Darryl Dawkins passed away today at the age of 58.

Dawkins was a colorful, larger-than-life person, both physically and his personality. One of the greatest athletes to ever enter the NBA, he did so straight from high school.

He was the first player, to my knowledge, to shatter a backboard with a dunk in an NBA game. He destroyed a backboard, more accurately, and I still remember the Sports Illustrated article the next week mentioning that one of the players had found glass--at midcourt.

He also had one of the greatest dunks I've ever seen, backing down Bill Walton in the post, then dunking on Bill Walton while still facing away from the basket. He didn't even look, just dunked right over him. Incredible.

As befits a larger than life character, his nicknames were tremendous. Chocolate Thunder. Dr. Dunkenstein. He named his dunks (the Rim Wrecker, the Go-Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Yo-Mama, the Spine-Chiller Supreme, and the Greyhound Special (coast to coast).

Thanks, Wikipedia, for the dunk names.

Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:
At one point, Dawkins claimed to be an alien from the planet Lovetron, where he spent the off-season practicing "interplanetary funkmanship"... 

There will never, ever be a better phrase than "interplanetary funkmanship." It's just not possible.

Yes, he didn't play up to his potential, but anyone who saw him play in the league remembers. He was unforgettable.

Make Better Decision: Uh-Oh Edition

You don't want to wind up here (click on the image for a bigger version):

Also, I didn't know that the bustling city of Carlos Ruiz even had a baseball team:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Well, This Just Figures

I've been following the Ashley Madison hack with bemusement.

I am obviously not a fan of people hacking company databases, but man, what a sleazy company, and the entertainment value has been incredibly high. It's been popcorn-worthy almost every day.

Today, though, topped them all.

You might want to have a read, if you missed it: Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site.

Short version: in the AM database, there were 31.5 million registered male users and 5.5 registered female users. Over 20 million men (of 31 million, remember) had checked their mail messages after creating an account. 1,492 women had.

Yes, that's not a typo. Just a shade under fifteen hundred.

They also had some kind of instant chat system. 11 million male users had used it. 2,409 women had used it.

Again, not a typo.

So it certainly appears that AM had people creating buckets and buckets of profiles, just for their male users to have profiles to scan. Over 99% of the female accounts had no activity once they'd been created.

P.T. Barnum was an optimist.

Yes, It's A Complete Madhouse Around Here

Fredrik is finishing the new trailer in the morning. He's been working on it almost all day.

I found a pixel player running in the wrong direction tonight (long story). Fixed a few very small bugs today. Actually created the build, but now I'll have to create another one when the pixel player image points in the correct direction.

So 1.3 will go out sometime tomorrow morning.

All the Steam marketing materials have to be replaced with the new versions. Then I have to finish the press release and write personal e-mails to 700 websites. Not exaggerating the number of websites, either. If I can do 50 a day, I can do it all in two weeks.

Oh, and I'm dropping the price to $7.99.

Marketing? Yes, I learned my lesson. I'm going to go at it very hard.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gridiron Solitaire 1.3

It's hung above the chimney with care, so to speak.

So 1.3 is done. New card decks, all new background screens, big new scoreboard, and changes in the way text events are presented. Lots of good stuff.

It's not released yet, because I'm trying to sync up with the revised materials for marketing, but I'm probably letting it go tonight. It would be helpful to build up a few forum posts about the new version before I make an aggressive push for press.

Ha. "Aggressive push for press". "Aggressive" and "push" are not really part of my personality--not anymore, at least.

There's one other change to the game that I want to mention, and discuss. Defensive gameplay has changed, and after about 20+ games with the new rules, I think it's significantly improved.

The basic principle of defense has been that the opposing team starts with a gain, and you play cards to "rewind" (reduce) the gain. I have always strongly believed that the right approach, conceptually, and still do.

The details, though, have been difficult.

In the old system, the max possible gain for the CPU was based on whether the player matched the CPUs play call. It still works that way, but the details are different. Here are the old yardages on Veteran difficulty:
Run/Pass match = 15 yard max gain
Run mismatch = 30 yard max gain
Pass mismatch = 35 yard max gain

Once the max gain was established, card play could then reduce the gain (2 yards at a time). However, in practice, the play call was much more important than the card play, because missing the play call was so punitive in terms of possible max gain. If you missed the play call, you needed 15-18 " card matches" to get down to 0 gain. If you matched the play call, you only needed 8.

Such a large disparity in max gain meant that it tended to result in a few fairly predictable situations after 1st down. Match the play call on 1st and 10, and it was going to be 2nd and 30 (roughly). Miss the playcall, and it was going to be 2nd and 10-15. The full range of down and distance situations wasn't represented.

I've spent so much time on tiny things in the game, things that almost no one will ever see or notice, and yet this major gameplay element wasn't working nearly as well as it should. So I desperately wanted to make playing defense more dynamic and robust.

One day a couple of weeks ago--after thinking about this almost non-stop for several days--I wrote down all the mins/maxes and the reduction per card play and started watching a movie. I've found in the past that sometimes thinking about a problem as part of multiple streams helps me, particularly when I'm trying too hard to solve something. In this case, watching the movie made defensive gameplay a background task.

I don't know why that works, but it does.

Early on in the movie, I was looking at giving 3 yards per card match instead of 2. Definite benefits there: fewer cards to play, more sense of progress on defense, etc. But there was still a straight line problem with how many card matches were needed for matched/mismatched play calls. It was still too punitive to miss a play call.

A while longer watching the movie, and then it just kind of hit me: why not give different yardage credits?

To me, that's absolutely counter-intuitive. The more I worked on the details, though, the more it made sense. I started playing games, and it worked better than I could have even hoped.

Let me cut to the conclusion and show you how it works.

Now, if you match the CPUs play call, the max gain is 20 yards, not 15. And you get 3 yards gain reduction per play of cards.

If you miss the play call, the max gain goes up to 35, but you get 4 yards gain reduction per play of cards.

The math: if you match the playcall, it takes 7 card matches to get the gain to 0. If you miss the play call, it takes 9.

Why does this work? Because previously, I was double-penalizing the player for missing the play call. The max gain was 2X or more, AND they had to play a ton of cards. In a gameplay sense, that didn't work.

The penalty for missing the play call is still there, but your players (the cards) can more readily recover and reduce the gain. However, if you don't manage to play cards, the max gain is still punitive compared to the gain if you matched the play call, and that's as it should be.

Because of the changes in max gains and credit per card play, the full spectrum of down and distance is represented now. The formerly predictable down and distance situations don't happen nearly as often. It makes calling defensive plays more challenging, and more interesting.

It also makes the game more dynamic as a whole, with a wider spectrum of game types and scores. I'm very happy about that.

It's funny how I thought this game was "complete" when it shipped. Like a novel.


PROTIP: when you buy something at Walgreen's and use a debit card, you get asked a cascading wave of questions after you put in your PIN #. It's incredibly annoying. However, once you put in your PIN, when you get asked the first question, just hit the red X in the upper right corner of the keypad. It will skip all the rest of the questions and you'll be good to go.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The 13th Doll

Here's an interesting Kickstarter: The 13th Doll: A Fan Game of The 7th Guest.

It's interesting both because it's been developed on and off for over a decade, and--in quite a twist--this happened:
We were contacted by the owners of The 7th Guest, and offered a licensing deal! If we can fund this Kickstarter, thus proving we can market the game and build a community around The 13th Doll, they will allow us to sell the game commercially. 

That's remarkable, and I still remember how amazing The 7th Guest was for its time.

A Text

My beautiful and sleek Honda Accord is in the upper parking lot, high school kid. 

High school. Imagine that.


"Did you hear that some team in the Little League Softball World Series threw a game last night?" I asked.

"I did," Eli 14.0 said. "More important question: will they do an ESPN 30 for 30 about it?"

"Hmm, they'll need a title," I said. "How about 'Resurrection: The Redemption, Patriotism, and Courage of the Central Iowa Girls Softball Team'?"

"No way," Eli said, laughing.

"Come on!" I said. "I hit every inspiring American buzzword!"

"Try this," Eli said. " 'Thrown'."

"Too good," I said. "I've got nothing."

Context is Everything

"They have an elite medical corp bringing Milky Ways to concussed umpires."

It Just Depends On What Kind Of Music You Like

I've been wondering for a while why I buy highly rated mobile games and wind up not liking most of them.

Today, I realized why, and I can describe it in terms of music.

In the sixties and seventies, rock music focused on the album. Yes, singles were released, but the focus was primarily on the album. Most of my favorite albums told stories. They were journeys.

They were substantial.

Interestingly, many of the most popular bands of that era were also the best in terms of quality of music.

Today, rock music is floundering. Most of what we'd think of as "rock" music is crap, really. And because of digital distribution, the focus has shifted from albums to songs.

Now, think about games.

When I started gaming, playing games like Ultima IV, the games were epic. They were journeys.

They were albums.

They weren't all albums. There was plenty of crap put out back then. But it was the objective of so many developers to put out something substantial.

Today, with the rise of phones and tablets as gaming devices, it's forced a change in gaming design. With mobile devices, the essential gameplay element is the tap. Tapping on the screen.

That alone would simplify games for developers who want to put out a product across all platforms, but mobile devices are also perfect for playing games for a few minutes at a time.

The length of a single song.

So the mega-hits in mobile gaming aren't albums, generally. They're songs. Hell, they're riffs--not even songs.

Fortunately, some older games have been ported--like King of Dragon Pass--and they're certainly epic albums. And a few, rare developers (like Luca Redwood with You Must Build A Boat) have somehow managed to create a hybrid game that is almost an EP in music terms--not as long as an album, but packed full of quality and entertainment.

I'm still finding plenty of terrific games to play, but really, it's an indie rock kind of situation now. Except for one or two big titles like MLB: The Show, almost everything I play is by smaller developers.

People who still make albums.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Card Dungeon Sale!

Gridiron Solitaire artist Fredrik Skarstedt has his own delightful game, Card Dungeon, and it's on sale today at Green Man Gaming. Add the voucher code GRAB20-PEROFF-NOWGMG and you get the game for 33% off! Here you go: Card Dungeon Sale.

Site Meter