Monday, January 16, 2017

Dear Chicago

Portillo's is entirely fantastic. Thank you.


Remember the work/gaming laptop I sent back because it was locking up when I started using it?

I ordered through Amazon from EXCaliberPC, and they were great. Took the laptop back with no objections, and refunded my purchase price as well as the shipping charge. Can't say enough nice things about them.

The weekend, unfortunately, was shitty. Eli 15.5 had league playoffs in Chicago, and even though his team finished the regular season 4th out of 23 teams, they were put in a pool with the best team in the league.

That team is playing in the finals tonight.

Eli's team went 1-3, including a very tight 3-1 loss (Eli gave up a goal when the puck was under his pads, trapped, and a kid shoved him into the net). They also lost 4-3 today (not Eli's game) when the other team tied the game 3-3 with .7 seconds left in regulation, then won the shootout.

Yeah, pretty awful.

I have a story about the trip, but I am 100% exhausted and won't be writing it tonight.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is quite embarrassing: Crew Member Pushes Wrong Button, Loses Nearly $5 Million in Weapons. This is almost as crazy as some of the stuff Eli 15.5 and I are doing: HOW TO BUILD A CANNON THAT SHOOTS WIFFLE BALLS AT 50MPH [VIDEO].

From Steven Davis, and this is absolutely fascinating: WHY DALMATIANS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH FIRE FIGHTERS. Next, and this is amazing, it's How do the blind cook?

From Steven Kreuch, and this is both beautiful and somewhat unnerving: GoPro Awards : Frozen Lake Free Dive.

This is an important article, and a thorough piece of journalism, but I warn you that it is a very, very difficult read: The Crimes of Seal Team 6.

This will make you feel better; a wonderful article sent in by Nate Carpenter: R.E.M.’s Peter Buck needed a new label. The one he chose won’t take your credit card.

From Wally, and this is an interesting read: Patriot Naval Exploits. This next link was sent in with a "Doesn't everyone" comment: Man uses unicycle to get to work on snowy roads.

From Les Bowman, and I will be watching this as soon a possible--the Amiga 500 is still my favorite computer ever: People still use the Amiga today, and new Viva Amiga documentary shows why.

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and these images are just spectacular: Your Home Planet, as Seen From Mars.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating (attention: DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand): Walt Disney's MultiPlane Camera (Filmed: Feb. 13, 1957). Next, and this seems both like a good game and quite bizarre, it's Mongolian knuckle-bone shooting. This is quite amazing: Heirloom Tech: The Inlaid Micro Geometries of Khatam.

Finally, and this a long and utterly fantastic article about one of my favorite games ever (thanks C. Lee): Final Fantasy 7: An oral history.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

We Have Photographic Evidence

Get out of the house! It's in the house!


I know, what a surprise.

Whenever I work on a game, I find myself playing other games much less, because I always feel a nag to get mine done.

However, I saw a few things today, and one in particular, that put a big smile on my face.

I've written about Lego City Undercover before, when it was released on Wii U. The entire game is tremendously funny, and there's a very good game underneath all the silliness. It's one of my favorite open-world games of all time, and I saw today that it's being released for XBOne, PS4, and PC this spring.

Oh, and it's also coming out for the Nintendo Switch.

Undercover didn't get anywhere near the audience it deserved, because the Wii U just never made it as a platform, so if you didn't play it the first time, it's a must-play now. Plus, they've added a cooperative mode as well for this version.

Here's a trailer: 

Next is The Guild 3.

The Guild was a janky, broken game that was never finished.

The Guild II was a jankier, more broken game that was never finished.

I'm quite confident in saying that The Guild 3 (this spring) will be a janky, broken game. And yet, I'm still buying it on day one, because how many games are like this?
Europe in the year 1400: The dark middle ages, once dominated by nobles and the clergy, came to an end and a new era begins: the age of free, prospering cities, trading and an open mind-set!

One of the goals in the The Guild series is to create a family dynasty which can last for centuries. While the world around you and your dynasty rearranges itself time and time again – all non-player characters (NPCs) make their own decisions –, you have to prove your skills in artisan craftwork and trading, participate in social occasions and perfect your political schemes and malicious intrigues.

Both of the previous Guild games, while broken, were extraordinarily interesting in their best moments, and had a large degree of charm.

Go ahead, Lucy. I'll kick the football.

This morning, I saw Urban Empire. Here's a description:
Urban Empire is a ‘City Ruler’, pioneering a new breed of strategy game that combines city builder features with political scheming and adds profound social and historical events into the mix, creating a whole new gameplay experience.

Okay, I'll bite. Wait, here's more:
In Urban Empire you take control of a mayoral dynasty and lead your city and people through 200 years of history. Establish infrastructures, plan city districts, debate political decisions at the town council, bribe or blackmail your opponents, empower the democratic rights of your people or ignore them and reign supremely by yourself – the decision is yours!

Beginning in the 1820s, establish your city through five different eras, each with its own threats and opportunities. Master the challenges of the centuries, face political struggles, experience world-changing events and pioneering inventions, and create your own unique Urban Empire!

Hmm, this sounds vaguely like--The Guild. I guess I know what kind of game I'm looking for now.

An Exchange

Today's weather in Winnipeg:
-40F wind chill
Highways closed

Today's email from DQ VB.NET Advisor and Renaissance Genius Garret Rempel:
Don't you hate it when your electrical sockets frost over?

I replied:
Winnipeg: where the weather is a slasher movie.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Previously Unreported Holiday Story

We live in an idyllic little town, where things like this happen.

"Someone has installed candle sacks in our yard," I said to Gloria on the phone.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you about that," she said. "Also, the rest of the world calls them 'luminarias'," she said.

"Semantics," I said, inaccurately. "What do you know about this yard invasion?"

"There was a neighborhood committee asking for volunteers to put them up for the night," she said.

"What next?" I asked. "Underground missile silos? Will we have to feed the technicians? Who has the codes?"

"They come by and take them down tomorrow," she said.

"Okay, never mind," I said.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fighting Eleven #14: The Model

I've been hoping for weeks that analyzing a recruiting database of the last ten years of recruits would enable me to formulize the process.


All recruiting, as has been said about politics, is local. What is the quality of your program? How many recruits do you have in your state, and how many in adjoining states?

So, after research that was extremely interesting, but not fruitful in regards to my original intentions, I realized I was just going to have to use brute force.

In the recruiting model, there are three "rings": in-state, adjoining states, and outside. To decide where a recruit comes from, here is the procedure:
1. Load current rank of the recruiting program.
2. Determine whether recruit is 5,4,3, or 2 stars, based on program rank (dice roll heavily influenced by program rank).
3. Load home state of the recruiting program.
4. Determine whether recruit is from program home state, adjoining state, or outside (dice roll based on actual school recruiting history for that recruit star rank for last five years).
5. State determination:
--home state
--for adjoining state, identify adjoining states, then determine state (dice roll based on actual school recruiting history for last five years for that recruit star rank).
--for outside, based on total pool of available recruits for that star level outside home/adjoining states of program (dice roll not influenced by school recruiting history).
6. After recruit home state is identified, load available locations in that state for recruits based on recruit star level (all locations from recruits in the last five years).
7. Determine home city for recruit (dice roll based on available locations).

All the user is going to see is a city and a state on the recruit card.

It seems so simple, but doing it right (for me, anyway) requires thousands of lines of codes and a huge Excel spreadsheet with all the recruiting data to set all kinds of things like adjoining state percentages.

My primary concern at this point is now how many lines of code it takes (an embarrassing amount), but that I write the code in such a way that it's easy to debug. As long as code is easy to debug, I don't care how long it is, but I don't want code that I can't troubleshoot easily.

Fredrik doesn't even know this yet, but when I get all this working, I think I'm going to ask him to do most of the art for this module, instead of waiting until all modules are finished. That way, when I ask people to help me test this portion, they're going to be seeing art that's well along in the process. Testing code with placeholder graphics is just not as much fun, and I want people to have fun. So each module is going to be fairly well-polished as the code is completed.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Goalie

It's pretty chaotic here.

There was a Tier One Elite Showcase at Eli 15.5s home rink last weekend. It was the last one of the season before the playoffs.

Eli's team went 3-1, and he was 2-0 in his games, winning 5-2 and 3-1. The 3-1 game was against the #11 team in the country.

They scored on their first shot against him, in the first 30 seconds of the game.

That was it. He was dialed in the entire game, his team dominated (but couldn't score), and it was 2-1 until they added an empty netter with 9 seconds remaining.

It was an incredibly fast, intense game. I was exhausted when it was over, just from watching.

Eli's team finished fourth in the league, out of 23 teams. This is the strongest tier one league in the country, and the teams they finished behind are #3, #4 and #13 nationally. Eli's team is #19, but they finished ahead of 4 teams that are currently ranked higher.

It was a very, very good showing, and I think it's the highest finish in the league for any team from Eli's organization.

He went 7-1 in 8 games and finished tied for 2nd in winning percentage (behind the goalie for the team that won the league). GAA 1.98.

The thing about Tier One, though, is that it never lets up.

This week, league playoffs. Next week, a game in Detroit. Then a huge tournament in Detroit, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh for games against 3 teams in the top 15 nationally.

Eli described this pretty well. I said something about how the game Sunday was going to be a big game, and he quietly said, "Every game is a big game. Same preparation. Same focus."

He's right of course. I said, "Hey, a teachable moment for me," and he laughed.

The difference in good players and great players is that great players are intense for everything. They practice at that level. They play every second of every game at that level. In an important way, the opponent isn't the other team.

The opponent is them.

This is an impossible thing to grasp, for almost everyone, but Eli understands it very well now.  Even if you're doing all the right things physically, and he does, he still has to go to a place mentally that very few people ever reach.

Most people aren't even willing to go there.

He is, and I think he's staying.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is a tremendously courageous story: Tyrus Wong, ‘Bambi’ Artist Thwarted by Racial Bias, Dies at 106. Also, and this is surprisingly interesting, it's Japanology Plus - Toilets. This is a poignant and bittersweet story:  After My Dad Died, He Left Behind Thousands of Hours of Civilization Save Files.

From David Yellope, and wonder about this no more: How light pens and light guns work NES Zapper.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is so well done (WARNING: a few Rogue One spoilers): LEIA ORGANA: A CRITICAL OBITUARY. Next, and these are utterly spectacular: The year's most wondrous space photography. This is a great little time-waster: LAND LINES: Start with a line, let the planet complete the picture.

From Wally, and this is fascinating: WATCH: What happens when a bullet hits an 'unbreakable' Prince Rupert's drop. Here's an endlessly interesting database of traffic fatalities and whatnot. Look at the state level and find the pattern: Car Accident Fatalities by Location. Explore this until you're exhausted: If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel.

From Steven Davis, and this is amazing: A sonata played on the earliest known surviving piano. Next, and this is terrific, it's Yolanda Baker, last of the disco ball makers.

Finally, from Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is a wonderful read: One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die: How B.J. Miller, a doctor and triple amputee, used his own experience to pioneer a new model of palliative care at a small, quirky hospice in San Francisco.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Who Was This?

One of you guys sent me a link to a science fiction collection you'd written, and I fully intended to read it, but I lost the e-mail. Please resend it, and I'll read it this weekend!


How I Came to Manage a Dodgeball League in Japan

We're going way off book today.

If you stay around long enough, though, you'll eventually hear something about almost everything.

DQ Reader and excellent musician Will VanderWyden has a remarkable story to tell, so let's let him. And I have two follow-up questions that he answers at the end.

In 2008 I was living in Los Angeles and playing a lot of soccer at Robbie Williams’ house. He’s the internationally famous British pop mega star who never quite made it big in America, but he lived in the Hollywood Hills and had an outdoor soccer (I should really say ‘football’) pitch overlooking the San Fernando Valley. Not too shabby.

Then one day my coworker found a coed dodgeball group on Craigslist. She invited me to a game, I had a blast, and they told me a league was starting up the following week on Wednesday nights, the same night I played soccer at Robbie’s.

It was a tough call, but I went with the group that had girls.

Before I knew it I had a huge group of friends, lots of parties to go to, and a new sport I excelled at. After every game we hung out at a local bar and either defended our victory or got our revenge over rounds of flip cup. I drank way too much, but it was worth it.

Long story short, dodgeball became a huge part of my life. It was underground yet popular, like our own not-so-secret Fight Club. I came up with our team name, Les Dodge à Trois, and became team captain. I would sit at my desk at work and dream of Wednesdays.

In 2010 I took a leave of absence from my job and traveled around Asia for a couple months. The first stop was Japan and my girlfriend (now ex) and I could not have had more fun. We explored the neon wilderness of Tokyo, the picturesque rivers and temples of Kyoto, and met a lot of drunk salarymen.

Back in LA something felt like it was missing. I started spending a lot of time hanging out in Koreatown and downtown LA, searching for both the excitement of unfamiliarity and the liveliness that only a bustling city can provide, something that LA unfortunately lacks.

I started eating lots of ramen, not the dried noodle packs from the supermarket, but real bowls of pork bone broth aka the de facto soul food of Japan. I read travel journals online as an escape and found a tremendous ramen blog written by an American expat. Each post was packed with fascinating info about ramen, but also with the mundane little details of what life is like in Japan.

Before I knew it my obsessive tendencies took hold and I had a ramen blog of my own. During one of my research trips to LA’s Little Tokyo I passed an advertisement and did a literal double take. Beginner Japanese lessons. I jotted down the web address and looked it up when I got home. It was cheap and started in two days. I figured it would be fun to learn something new.

Six months later when I found time to travel again there was only one option. This time I was in Tokyo alone and as solo travel usually goes I made some friends between copious bowls of unbelievable ramen. Before I knew it the trip was over, but I didn’t want it to be. Some of my new friends felt more real than my real friends back home. Tokyo was just too much fun. And I didn’t even spend much time in the red light district.

I guess that’s when the seed germinated. I had thought about living abroad for a long time by that point, but because I was already in my 30’s I didn’t want to just ship off for a couple years and have to get another job when I returned. Fun, yes, but I’d be right back where I started. If you’ve played Stardew Valley (and remember the intro) or watched the movie Office Space you know what I’m talking about. I had a pretty comfortable job, and I was playing in bands and having a lot of fun in a great city, but I was also spending a lot of hours looking at gray office interiors and pretending to care about things I really didn’t care about.

By this time dodgeball had grown by leaps and bounds and had reached every corner of Los Angeles while adult leagues could be found in virtually every major American  and European city, plus Hong Kong, Singapore, and many more. I took another trip to Japan to see my friends and explore more of the country and that pretty much sealed the deal.

So I put two and two together and in the winter of 2014 I arrived in Tokyo with two bags, one for my luggage and one filled with dodgeballs. It took me five months to navigate through all the Japanese red tape and get access to gyms, then I started hosting open gyms and inviting everyone I knew. Fourteen people came to the first game, now in our third year we average 60 (I have to limit the number of attendees), and have 100 at our Halloween and Anniversary tournaments. On New Year’s Day two couples who met at dodgeball got engaged. Another couple got married earlier this year.

But best of all I got out of the rat race. In Stardew Valley you get a farm. I have a dodgeball league.
My follow-up questions, with Will's answers:
1. How do Japanese people respond to dodgeball when it's first introduced? As casual games go, it's a bit more violent than most, since the objective is to hit people with the ball. Are there any cultural issues with that? . 

Literally every Japanese person has played dodgeball in elementary school. It's part of the official PE curriculum. But they play a different version - theirs has one ball, and when you get hit out you go behind or to the side of the opposing team. You're still in the game and the primary strategy is to pass the ball behind your opponent and hit them from there, or vice versa. (I think this is actually the most common way to play in schools around the world).

We play with 7 balls at once. When you're out, you're out of the game... but when your team gets a catch the first person in the out line gets to return.

This change (especially the 7 balls part) always gets a gasp of amazement whenever I explain it to a Japanese person.

So to answer your question, they're very familiar with the game, just not our style. Most Japanese people loved the game as a kid and ours is even more fun, chaotic, and strategic.

2. What unexpected cultural adjustments have you encountered in starting/running the group? Did you have to change or adjust anything that you didn't expect?

 By far the biggest challenge I've faced is the lack of available gyms. In LA I used to be able to schedule practices for my team at the local rec center (we took it a little too seriously) by placing a call. There was always availability.

In Tokyo space is at a premium. The public gyms are few and prohibitively expensive, plus there are so many clubs and groups trying to use them that you have to book them two months in advance AND win a lottery. I finally figured a way to get access to elementary school gyms, but finding availability at those is hit and miss and it's very hard to maintain consistency. Tokyo dodgeball is pretty big now, but it could be much, much bigger if I could get gyms like I could in LA.

Culturally, the language is the biggest adjustment. When I started dodgeball I could barely speak Japanese, and I would walk into these elementary schools and try to speak with the night guards (invariably old retired men) who would look at my long hair, tank top and huge backpack full of gear--and I'd fail hard. Half of our group is made of foreigners and I think a bunch of us throwing balls at each other as hard as we can freaks some of the staff out a little. So after a year I started bringing a bottle of tea or something to be friendly.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Well, There's a Lot Going On

It's kind of nuts here right now.

First off, though, it was 39F on New Year's Day, and wonderfully sunny, so I did a little scouting and found this:

I'm not sure you can see it in the photo, but one court still had a net. Holiday tennis, a tradition for many years, was on.

We played for an hour, and by the time we were done, I'd shed layers and gloves and it mostly felt like a normal tennis day.

Then it snowed 5+ inches last night and today, and it's not going to be above 25F for a week. Blowing snow, an ultra dark sky.

Today I was driving to the rink in a snowstorm, and when I parked and walked out, I saw an amazing crease in the clouds:

The photo doesn't do it justice.

Eli 14.5 has a showcase this week, and it's here, believe it or not. So they're playing teams from Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, and we got to home after games and sleep in our own beds for a change.

Eli's had two very strong games in a row--1 goal on 62 shots combined--and he needs to keep doing it, because every game is against a very strong team from here on out.

I'm sitting at the rink typing this while Eli is doing a dry land workout, and as a bonus, I'm getting to watch Canada-Sweden in the World Juniors at the same time.

Current wind chill outside: -4F.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Fighting Eleven #13: Progress

Jump-starting development with that five day period turns out to have been very, very positive, because I've maintained the momentum.

Fredrik always laughs at me when I spend time on visuals at this stage, but the visuals create a style and a look that incent me to develop with personality. Card games/sports sims are, in essence, spreadsheets and dice rolls.

Who wants to play that?

I don't. I want to play something that feels alive. So part of what I'm working on are small, dynamic touches. For instance, on the recruiting screen, there will be a waving flag staked out at your home school location. And I'm trying to add as many small animations as possible on these screens, so that it feels like something that breathes.

Now, this is going to look janky as hell, because a bunch of different things are in process, but here's a screenshot of the recruiting screen:

Let me try to bundle this up and explain what's supposed to be going on, even though certain pieces aren't working yet. Plus, click on the image for a larger version. Oh, and obviously, this is 100% placeholder art cobbled together.

You'll come to this screen in the offseason to replace graduating players. The remaining players on your team are listed in the right panel, so you know how many players you have at each position, plus the quality of those players.

In the left panel are the position buttons you press to recruit a player at that position. When you do, six recruits are generated that are appropriate for your program level (those are the green dots). The green dots will be linked with a "shorty" display (basically, the name/stars portion of the player card) that gives you a basic indicator of the player quality. If you hover over the shorty, you'll get the full player info card.

On the left of that card are player data that you'll use throughout his career. On the right side is information related only to recruiting, which will no longer be relevant after the player's recruiting is complete.

There will be a button on the player card if you want to recruit the player, and from there you'll be sent to the recruiting battle screen.

There are still some layout issues, obviously, but what I'm working on right now is generating authentic locations for the recruits. To do it and have it feel real, it takes a ton of tremendously boring research that I'm plowing through right now. When it's done, though, recruits will be coming from cities that mirror real life college football, and that's going to be a big moment in development.

I know. A hundred miles deep on something almost no one notices. I notice, though.

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