Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Links!

We're a little light this week, but there are some very strong links.

Leading off this week, and man, it's an incredible story: Revealed: How VW Designed the Greatest Scandal in Automotive History.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: How the CIA Hoodwinked Hollywood. Also, and this is excellent, it's A peek into Naughty Dog game creator Neil Druckmann's creative process.

From Mark Lahren, and this is both hilarious and terrifying: Conspiracy Theorist Cruise.

From Wally, and this is an interesting, obscure note about WWII: Il Duce’s Blitz? — Italy’s Role in the Battle of Britain. This is twenty years old and still very funny: The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord.

From Steven Davis, and this is an amazing video ("In this theater the dance of a puppet, destructured in time and space, shows us the mechanisms that pulls the strings."): OSSA.

From 3Suns, and watch out, everybody: Hacker shows Reg how one leaked home address can lead to ruin.

Finishing off this week, and it's a terrific read, it's How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology. Wait, here's one more: How To Summon The Bird That Guides You To Honey: In a rare case of specific communication between humans and wild animals, the Yao people of Mozambique have a special call for attracting the greater honeyguide.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Geforce GTX 1070 (EVGA Superclock)

I mentioned last week that I was getting a new videocard to replace my Geforce GTX 970, which has been a terrific card.

The one thing the GTX 970 couldn't do, in a fair number of demanding games, was maintain a smooth framerate at 2560x1440.

In some games--like Just Cause 3, which ran incredibly well--it was fantastic. In quite a few others, though (Witcher 3), it just didn't have enough oomph.

"Oomph." A highly technical term.

There's nothing I can throw at the 1070 that even makes it breathe hard. Plus, it's silent. I've never heard the fans come on even once, because I've never gotten above about 65C.

Oh, and the reason there hasn't been much going on this week in general is because I woke up at 5:30 Monday with a stomach virus that completely knocked me on my ass. I'm fine now, but I spent a good part of the week in bed with my entire body hurting.


Only Two Complaints

Considering how many complaints I normally have about anything, this is a very small number. 

1. There's too much damn Pepsi up here.
Eli jokingly says that Pepsi's slogan should be "Is Pepsi okay?" because no one really wants it instead of Coke. 

However, in Michigan, Pepsi is huge. So much so that I'm going to Subway fairly frequently just to get Diet Cokes. 

2. Entrance ramps of death. 
There are a few highway entrance ramps (I'm looking at you, Hall St. and 131) that are the shortest I've ever seen, with no usable shoulder of any size. Very, very scary, and I'm trying to figure out ways to avoid all of them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

So I Almost Had It Right

After yesterday's squeaky floor post, Kai sent in this article: Nightingale floors: The samurai intruder alarm system Japan’s had for centuries.

Here's an excerpt:
The specially constructed floors were called uguisubari. Literally translating as “bush warbler guard watch,” uguisubari are more commonly referred to in English-language texts as nightingale floors.

In installing nightingale floors, planks of wood are placed atop a framework of supporting beams, securely enough that they won’t dislodge, but still loosely enough that there’s a little bit of play when they’re stepped on. As the boards are pressed down by the feet of someone walking on them, their clamps rub against nails attached to the beams, creating a shrill chirping noise.

So this house wasn't training ninjas. It was protecting its owners FROM ninjas.

A Television Sensation

"Oh man, they really brought the hammer this episode," I said.

I was speaking, of course, of our new favorite show: Knitting Daily. 

It's on once a week on the Grand Rapids PBS station, and it's incredibly soothing. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for grownups, really.

No one yells.

It's a welcome change from the real world, where everyone seems to be yelling.

I know nothing about knitting, and neither does Eli 14.11, but we have a season pass.

Oh, and by the way, the crocheting scene in Kuwait City? Thriving, according to the most recent episode.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Kentucky Route Zero Act IV. That's a very nice surprise.

A Feature

Our new house squeaks.

Seriously, every board squeaks. It's incredible, really.

We've decided that this house was previously used as a ninja training facility. That seems like the most plausible explanation.

And Now...the Rest of the Story

I linked to a video Friday about Northlandz, a 52,000 square foot model train world in New Jersey.

The fellow who created it (all of it!) is Bruce Williams Zaccagnino.

What I didn't know--until Mike Gilbert e-mailed--is that Zaccagnino had a long and pretty distinguished career in PC games (Solitaire's Journey, The Perfect General, The Lost Admiral).

Northlandz is in New Jersey, and I think Eli's team makes one trip to New Jersey this season, so maybe we can stop by.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Donkey Wheel

I was driving us home from the rink.

"I'm not turnin' that donkey wheel," I said, taking an alternate route as I saw traffic stopped because of a wreck up ahead.

"Donkey wheel? What?" Eli 14.11 asked.

"Common expression," I said. "Used to describe a difficult situation caused by stupidity."

"So that's a thing," he said.

"It's a thing," I said, and continued to drive. We sat in silence for about thirty seconds.

"It's not actually a thing," I said.

"It should be a thing," he said. "It sounds like an actual thing."

"I think we can make it a thing," I said.

"It's a thing," he said.

Donkey wheel. It's a thing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Links!

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and I thought I understood this (but didn't): Why Do Students Get Summers Off?

From Paul, and this is a bizarre and fascinating read: The ‘gay cure’ experiments that were written out of scientific history.

From Dan, and this is quite a tradition: Cars fly on the Fourth of July.

From C. Lee, and this is Hall of Fame stupid: Microsoft’s attempt to recruit interns is a barrel of cringe.

From Steven Davis, and this is quite a patent: Adhesive paint: Another Smart Coating. Eli 14.11 will be interested in this article: Dime After Dime: A Gripping History of Claw Machines. Here's a wonderful video about obsession (in this case, model trains): Some Kind Of Quest.

From Roger Robar, and this is both a great headline and a very funny Twitter war: The nations of Denmark and Sweden had a Twitter fight involving moose and sperm banks.

From Ken Piper, and this is incredible: The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it’s like a 1960s time capsule.

From Wally, and these are terrifying: 24 Absolutely Horrendous Vintage Recipes. Next, and these are remarkable images, it's Photographer sneaks into Fukushima 'Red Zone'.

From Marc Klein, and this is quite a craze: The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

One Hot Mess

There's lots going on--all good--but I'm not managing event flow very well.

Eli 14.11 is getting weekly goalie lessons and private workouts that are really challenging him in the best ways imaginable. We're also playing a huge amount of tennis, which is wearing my body down a bit, but man, it's fun.

Fighting Eleven looks like it might have a fighting chance now with the new recruiting mechanic. What I want to create is a game world where anything you touch has an influence somewhere else in the game world. So you have the direct influence of your actions, but there are also layered effects beyond the obvious. Discovering all these relationships will be a major (and hopefully, very fun) part of the game.

I have a new video card coming tomorrow: the Geforce GTX 1070. I really, really wanted to get a 1080, but holy crap, those are incredibly expensive. I managed to get a 1070 for about $250 less, even though it's still a huge upgrade from my existing card.

Getting ready for No Man's Sky, obviously.

Plus all the other great games coming soon: Rimworld (July 15), Starbound (July 22), Quadrilateral Cowboy (July 25), and of course No Man's Sky (August 9).

That is a pretty amazing list of games in the next month.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fighting Eleven #3: Recruiting

Man, going through a period when you have zero ideas is tough.

I've been working with recruiting for at least a month, but it hasn't been going well. There's a standard recruiting model that's been used in college football games forever, and it mirrors reality fairly well.

The problem, though, is that at least a dozen games (or two dozen) have done it almost exactly the same way. If I do it that way, there's no point.

The standard model has always been recruiting "points" that can be allocated each week during the season in pursuit of a recruit. Different "actions" (phone call, recruiting letter, in-person visit, etc.) all have a cost associated with them, so recruiting is balancing how many points you want to spend on each recruit, all the time checking how other schools are doing.

There's nothing wrong with that, but like I said, I didn't want to just copy what everyone else has already done. Plus, I want recruiting to play out in one period of time, not make weekly decisions during the season.

Yesterday, I suddenly had an idea.

I want battles.

What if three other schools are interested in a player, so four teams (including you) are recruiting him? What if you create a four-team bracket, based on the player's interest level? You have a mini-game, and if you win the bracket (by winning twice in the mini-game), you get the player?

Plus, the better the recruit, the longer the "tournament" for his commitment. Have a max of eight teams interested--for a five-star recruit, for example--and you'd have to win three rounds to get one of the premium players. For a two-star player, though, you might only have one opponent and one round to win.

I like the anticipation building as you win rounds.

For a while, I went into a ditch after that, thinking that I could use some sort of dice format for the mini-games. There was no correspondence to football, though.

Deep, deep ditch.

Last night, though, I think I figured it out.

A college football program is a sum of individual qualities. Each of those qualities means more/less to recruits, depending on their personality and what they value.

Why not represent that in the game?

Here are a few school "qualities" that matter in the real world:
--available playing time
--coaching quality
--stadium (quality and age)
--fan support
--path to NFL

I have more (about fifteen in total), but that's a sample. Here's how this would work (at a conceptual level, anyway).
--Schools rated anywhere from 1-3 (or a wider range--I don't know yet) for each quality.
--"Badges" are awarded based on the rating. So if a school has a 3-star academic program, they get three academic badges that they can use in battle.
--when a school "battles" another school in a recruiting round, they can play up to 3 badges in a turn-based format against the other school. The recruit's interest changes based on how important a particular badge is to him.
--once a badge is used in battle, it cannot be reused.
--a player will have anywhere from 3 to 6 interests. Schools can see 3 of those interests, but if they play a badge that matches an unknown interest, they get a bigger bonus in terms of player interest.
--At the end of the round, whichever team has more of the player's interest wins that round.
--if there are multiple rounds of battle for a highly-rated recruit, schools with more badges have an advantage in battle, as they should. So having a three-star academic program could be hugely important versus having a one-star program, for example.

I think that's going to work. Lots and lots of balancing issues, obviously, but it corresponds to football and it's interesting (to me, at least). Plus there's very much a strategic element in terms of which badges you want to use based on a recruit's current interest level versus the other team in the battle.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quadrilateral Cowboy

This is an unexpected treat.

Quadrilateral Cowboy, the latest project from the extraordinarily interesting people at Blendo Games (makers of Atom Zombie Smasher and Thirty Flights of Loving), has a release date, and it's soon.

July 25, to be exact.

Here's more info from RPS: Jack In To Quadrilateral Cowboy On July 25th. Plus, the Steam page: Quadrilateral Cowboy.

I see so many games now that are basically copies of other games, but I've never said that about a Blendo game, and I'll be playing this day one.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Doughnut Sketch

This is one of those things that is probably much funnier while it's happening than when I try to explain it a few days later  (very sorry about that). Or maybe I've already explained it once, which would be even more embarrassing, but here goes.

For about five weeks now, Eli 14.11 and I have been mentioning The Doughnut Sketch.

This originated when we were in line at Krispy Kreme, and the man in front of us was picking out a dozen doughnuts in the slowest, most excruciating way possible. He weighed every decision like we were at Defcon 1 and a mistake would cause nuclear annihilation.

In his defense Krispy Kreme has 32 different doughnut trays in the display case, and while there are a few duplicates, there must be at last 20 varieties to choose from.

"So do you know what doughnut shops were like in the Soviet Union?" I asked Eli 14.11 while we basked in line.

"No, what were they like?" he asked.

"There were still all these doughnut trays," I said, pointing at the display case, "but there were only glazed doughnuts."

"In every tray," Eli said, laughing.

"All exactly the same," I said, "but people wanted to pretend they still had the illusion of choice, so if someone was buying a dozen, they'd take just as long to choose as we would. One from tray 7, two from tray 12, and--oh man, only one left--I guess I'll take one from tray 17."

"All glazed," Eli said.

"That's right," I said, "and when he got home, he told his wife that what he loved about that particular doughnut shop was all the variety."

There's some kind of weird zen koan in there somewhere, I think. Or some kind of counterpoint to the koan where the zen student cut down everything in his backyard except one flower, and when the zen master arrived, he complimented his student on his beautiful garden.

So now, if we're ever in a situation where there only appear to be choices, it's called The Doughnut Shop.

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