Monday, June 30, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #111: Version 1.1, Releasing This Week

My lovely wife Gloria has a milestone birthday today (I can't tell you which milestone because serious sanctions might be involved), so this is going to be very brief.

1.1 (not 1.3--I realized the patch versions I'd used previously were 1.0-something, so 1.1 makes sense) is essentially done. Fredrik even added two new images for passing touchdowns. All known bugs are fixed. I've very pleased with how the game is playing, and it's time to let it go.

I'm going to try and play most of a season tomorrow, just to see if I can find anything else to fix. Then it should be released on Wednesday.

I'm going to force myself to stop development of the new Team History structure for 7-10 days after 1.1 gets released. I need a break, even if I won't admit it. So I can do bug fixes and closely monitor the Steam forum to help people adjust to the new version.

After that, I'm going to need to work hard, and quickly. The new Team History features need to be finished by early-mid August, at the latest, so that the new version will be ready when football season starts.

Then marketing. And more marketing. And still more. Even though it runs very counter to my nature, it has to be done.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this would make a great subject for a Musiquarium (APB on Chris Hornbostel!), a fascinating look at--believe it or not--Michael McDonald: How Michael McDonald, The Affable Captain Of Yacht Rock, Lost His Voice.

From Meg Lawrence, and holy cow, this is fascinating: Your Ears Can Be Fooled With Illusions As Easily As Your Eyes. If you ever wanted to find out about the McGurk Effect, then today is your lucky day.

From Garret Rempel, and this is huge, huge news: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria disarmed with fungus compound.

From Daniel Willhite, and this is a very interesting read: Is YouTube killing the traditional games press? Also, and I have no words, it's Illinois university makes League of Legends a varsity sport.

From Michael O'Reilly, a bit of history that makes for excellent reading: Victory on Lake Nyasa: The opening naval battle of the First World War took place not in the North Sea but in Central Africa in August 1914. It would change the course of the African conflict in Britain’s favour. Also, and this is quite outstanding, it's Crossing Mexico in a home-made 'spacecraft'.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is terrific: My Mom's Motorcycle: My Rode Reel. Also, and this is a fascinating bit of mystery, it's Kayakers discover this 110 year old abandoned ship. One more, and it's entirely bizarre: Nazi Veterans Created Illegal Army. Next, and this is completely wacky: Bounce Below: A Giant Network of Trampolines Suspended in an Abandoned Welsh Slate Mine.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this needs no explanation: Geek Answers: Why do all planets spin and orbit in the same direction? Also, a bonus video: Gravity Visualized.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is both tremendously poignant and very, very sad: Detroit Over Time (using Google street view).

From Aaron Ward, and this may have zoomed right to #1 for the best headline ever: American Student Ends Up Trapped in Giant Vagina Sculpture.

From Rohan Verghese, and this is a very nice tribute to the finest anthem in the world: The Beer Fridge - O Canada.

Winding up this week, and I could stare at this for hours, it's A Mesmerizing Site That Tracks and Displays Real-Time Lightning Strikes.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Crimsonland (PC)

Developer Jaakko Maaniemi asked me to try his game Crimsonland and sent me a Steam key.

This can be awkward. I am very empathetic to indie developers, and I'll try anything, but what if it isn't any good? What do I say that's critically constructive, yet considerate?

Fortunately, I didn't have to think about any of these things, because this game kicks ass. Truly.

The game description the website is "a top-down shooter with a touch of RPG", and that's a fair description, but it's incomplete. It's very old-school, right down to the outstanding play balance and the incredibly responsible controls. I'm playing with the wired Xbox 360 controller, and the controls are so honed and polished that it's extremely impressive. This entire game is honed and polished.

The action is frantic and tremendously fun, with (sometimes) hundred of enemies, and spectacular power-ups appearing at intervals. It feels like a descendant of Smash TV and the best of the Bitmap Brothers, which is high praise.

Steam says I've only played 2 hours, but I've played every day for the last week, because when I have 10-15 minutes of downtime, it's what I immediately think about. And if you like games in this old-school genre, you can't go wrong.

Here's a link to the Steam page, and it's even 50% off during the Steam Summer Sale.

Quite A Watch

Have a look (sorry, you need to click on that image for a better view):

That's a $145,000 watch. However--and this is big--the Amazon discount is $66,004.91. So you're getting it for only $78,995.09. Hell of a deal.

What I most love about this listing is that the watch comes with a "2 year limited warranty." For $145,000? Plus it's water "resistant" to 1000 meters. Nice,

Of course, the best part is reading the Amazon reviews, which are generally hysterical. Here's a link:
Zenith Men's 96.0529.4035/51.M Defy Xtreme Tourbillon Titanium Chronograph Watch.

Thanks to Wallace for bringing this timely news to my attention.

World Cup Notes

I can't believe I'm saying this, but the World Cup has been fun to watch.

Seriously, I'm not kidding. It's always been borderline unwatchable to me--sometimes entirely unwatchable--but there's significantly more scoring this year, and much more creative offensive attack. A team like Greece (who makes drying paint look like the Indy 500) is the exception this year, not the rule.

How different is it this time? Scoring is up almost 50% over 2010. Yes, that's only from two goals a game to three, but that makes a huge difference, believe it or not.

Also, in what must be the curious wager ever, after Uruguay striker Luis Suarez bit (yes, bit) an opponent during a game on Tuesday, it was revealed that certain bookmaking establishments in Europe had offered a prop bet on precisely this matter. It seems that Suarez has bitten players twice before, and the odds on this happening during the World Cup were booked at roughly 150-1. And 40+ people cashed that ticket.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dead Bodies And Such

I was listening to the Dan Patrick Show (excellent) the other day and heard one of the strangest commercials ever.

I'm not going to specifically link to these guys, because the ad was absolutely the worst (preying on fear and paranoia), but the general idea was that you needed to find out if someone had ever died in your house. In fact, the tag line is "Who died in your house?"

This is a thing now?

Allegedly, this can seriously impact home valuation (although in some cities, since people are willing to kill for houses in certain locations, it could get confusing).

What blows my mind is that these guys are advertising on a national radio show. What's the cost-benefit analysis on that?

I actually went to the website. $11.99 for one search. Also, in the "why you must buy this" area, it included this gem:
Looking for former residents who have died?

Asshat Alert!


Eli 12.10 heard a boy who looked to be about five years old talking to his younger sister:
"Get me some water, woman!"

I heard a little boy talking to his mother at the San Diego Zoo. They were walking briskly toward a bathroom, and I heard him say, "I've got about ten seconds here!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eli 12.10

We were playing Lego Undercover and a driver honked at Eli 12.10. "Hey, buddy, I have a horn, too!" he said.

We drove past a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store, which Eli called "Bed, Bath, and Body." Pretty close, really.

Eli has now mastered saying " 'MERICA!" in appropriate satirical situations.

Eli went to see one of his friends, and was introduced to a group of girls (long story). His friend told him later that one of the girls asked him, "Who's the hot kid in the King's hat?"

During the Calder Cup Playoffs, we were there for Game One of the Finals. During a Stars home game, at the point in the national anthem where the word "stars" appears (twice), everyone yells "STARS!" and keeps singing.

Because the final series was against St. John's, we were treated to the Canadian anthem as well, which I think is the most beautiful anthem in the world. We know the words now, so we happily sang along. Then, during our own national anthem, I was singing along (much, much more softly), and muttered "stars" when I actually should have said "stripes."

This was a magnificent gaffe of epic proportions, and Eli started laughing so hard he could barely stand up. After that, at any point he could just say "STARS!" out of nowhere and we'd start laughing.

Three days later, we were coming out of a movie, and he said he needed to go to the bathroom. He walked in, and a few seconds later walked out. "Um, that was the LADIES bathroom," he said, blushing.

"Yes!" I said. "Now we are in a situation of mutually assured destruction." He started laughing, and from that day forward, when he says "STARS!", I just say "HELLO, ladies."

One Sentence Short Stories #1

I waited for you on the square.

Motorsport Manager

If DQ Ideas Man John Harwood kidnapped a software developer and forced him, under extreme duress, to make a video game, it would be Motorsport Manager. Here's an excerpt from the always-excellent Pocket Tactics:
Motorsport Manager is an iOS sim where you play the under-employed billionaire running an auto-racing team... You hire drivers and engineers, build your own test track, and research and improve your car. When race day comes along, you have complete tactical control over pitting and tire choice, and you can even watch each race simulated in real time if you want...

Also in the "buy me" category is the graphics. They use kind of a tilt-shift perspective and look quite amazing. And the graphics are so polished in general that it makes quite an impression.

This is coming out for iOS on July 23. Hit the link for the full preview over at Pocket Tactics, including a trailer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #110: Mr. Smarty Pants

I had a long e-mail exchange with Fredrik last week about an image. He drew it, we went through a series of changes, and I wanted him to go back and make a different branch of changes to the original image. He couldn't do that, and I didn't understand why. We went in circles for a while. Then he sent me this:

Seriously, best collaborator ever.

1.3 or 1.1 or whatever I wind up calling it isn't out yet. We're making a few last-minute changes to art, as evidenced by the comic strip. However, I'm taking the opportunity to stealth in some of the code for the next update, which includes all the Team History revisions (including a Hall of Fame). So I have a ton of additional statistics being tracked in-game, but those stats don't go anywhere at the end of the game yet. The code is working, though, so one part of the next phase is already complete. That will save me time later.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Links!

Have a look at some crazy tornado footage: Raw video: Massive twin tornadoes touch down simultaneously in Nebraska.

From Jeff Fowler, and this hoverboard is mind-blowing (and will supply Funniest Home Video shows with decades of footage): This gnarly aquatic hoverboard defies the laws of shredding.

From Michael Gilbert, and resurrection! Action Park reopens Saturday embracing its ‘Traction Park’ reputation.

From Wallace, and who knew that Tolkien worked on a translation of Beowulf for thirty years?
Slaying Monsters: Tolkien’s “Beowulf”. Also remember those German tanks in WWII? Well, they were less important than these: German Horse Cavalry and Transport.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and these are enormously clever: Signs From The Near Future. Also, and this is quite interesting, it's The designer of the F-16 explains why the F-35 is such a crappy plane.

From Steven Kreuch, and while I still don't always get soccer, this is certainly a nice read about fandom in the U.S.: In This Together.

From Ken, and this is another clever bit of optical illusion: OK Go - The Writing's On the Wall.

From Frank Regan, a lovely tribute to Tony Gwynn, who sadly passed away earlier this week: I Was Tony Gwynn's Bat Boy.

From Dan Willhite, and if the game is even 5% as endearing as the video about the making of the game, it will be fantastic: British dev releases game he spent 13 years making. He also mentions many of the things that I feel about Gridiron Solitaire.

From Meg Lawrence, and this is terrific: Ever felt cow's belly? One man's quest to revive the lost language of the natural world.

Here's a link from DQ Reader Me, and it's an engrossing history: How Bell Labs Almost Put a Videophone in Every Home.

From Glenn Trembath, and this is a fascinating read--about pitching of all things: THE ESSENCE OF VELOCITY: THE PITCHING THEORY THAT COULD REVOLUTIONIZE BASEBALL, IF ONLY THE SPORT WOULD EMBRACE IT. Lots of Caps!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I was at my satellite office--P. Terry's--this morning, and a woman with two small children sat down close to me (I really need a cubicle). As they were eating breakfast, one of the little girls noticed the sandpit outside and became very excited.

"Mommy, mommy, I want to go play in the sand!" Her mother didn't respond, and the little girl repeated this a few times.

Finally, her mom said, "We can't go play in the sand right now. It's raining."

Hearing that, I looked up. I had no idea it was raining. So I looked outside, and it was absolutely NOT raining. Not even close.

That made me wonder if things like "rain", for small children, are dependent on their parent's interpretation of present conditions. At what age, I wonder, can they evaluate that for themselves?

Washington Something Or Others

Also in the "if you haven't heard" category, the US Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the trademark registrations of the Washington Redskins on the grounds that "the team name is disparaging to Native Americans" (see here: What’s Next, Washington?).

The USPTO actually made the same ruling in the 1990s, but it was overturned by an appeals court. Cases like this can take over a decade to resolve, so it will be slow going, but it will be interesting to watch.

Lucy Li

If you haven't heard, there's an 11-year-old girl playing the U.S. Women's Open this week (at Pinehurst), and she shot 78 today.

That's insane.

Even more insane is her swing: 11-year-old golfer Lucy Li qualifies for U.S. Open (go to 1:05, although the full clip is entertaining).

She is also the goofiest, most entertaining 11-year-old you could ever imagine. She gave her post-round interview today while eating a popsicle, and seems (refreshingly) normal. Well, except for that hammer she swings. Have a look: Meet Lucy Li, The 11-Year-Old Golfer Playing This Year's U.S. Open.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crazy Trip Dispatch #3 From Doug Walsh

He's back. Doug Walsh, with his across the universe bicycling adventure. I'm not using italics on this dispatch, but it's all Doug from here forward.

The Atlantic beckons! We're just two days from running out of continent to cross and it still hasn't sunk in. We were sitting in our hotel in Montreal sometime last week when it occurred to me: let's go to Acadia National Park. The plan had always been to spend a few days in Quebec City, which we did, and then head south into northern Vermont. That suddenly seemed very strange.

"Why don't we angle southeast out of Quebec, cross into Maine, and go to Acadia National Park for a couple of days?" I asked Kristin. "We can double back through New Hampshire and Vermont and still go to Cooperstown later."

"Why not? We don't have to be at work on Monday," she replied, using what has become a motto to encourage changing of plans and embracing spontaneity. And so it was settled. Rather than risk life, limb, and a drive-by bronzing while trying to dip our wheels in the Atlantic on the chaotic Jersey shore, we'll pedal along the bucolic coastal backroads of Maine instead.

This little change of direction set forth an interesting cascade of serendipitous events. I'll share one of them with you now: it allowed us to meet Bill. Bill is a retired former high school teacher from the inner city who, with his wife, moved up to northern Maine 24 years ago and carved a gorgeous campground out of the woods. He and his wife closed that campground four years ago, but they're still listed on the maps sold up the road at Bishop's General Store, where you can also buy pre-chilled leftover pizza for a buck a slice. Now Bishop warned us that the campground has been closed for a few years, "But I know they're up there for the summer and got the water on. Go ahead and knock on the door and see if they'll let you camp for a donation. I'd call them for you, but I think they did away with the phone."

So when Kristin and I spotted the moldy campground sign twelve miles down the road and turned in, we knew it was closed, but felt good about being able to borrow a patch of grass to set up our tent for the night. After all, it's still a campground, open or not.

A couple of Labrador Retrievers led the way for a graying, squat, angular man who came smiling out of the front door. Everything from his appearance to his mannerisms to his smile reminded me of Jerry Van Dyke from the sitcom "Coach." Bill was polite, welcoming, and firm in his refusal to allow us to camp. "When you say you're going to stop doing something, you just got to stop. I know you two are good people, but if I let you set your tent up then I'm going to have to say yes to the next person who comes along, and, well, we said we were done with this."

Bill apologized profusely and I didn't try to plead or change his mind. I just accepted his decision, told him we were sorry for interrupting him, and bid him goodbye after listening to his description of two places further up the highway we might be able to pitch our tent. It's legal to camp just about anywhere you want in Maine.

We weren't a mile down the road when a pickup truck slowed alongside and a man yelled for us to pull over. It was Bill. "I just feel awful for saying no to you two back there and it would really mean a lot to me if you came back and camped at our campground for the night. No charge, just enjoy yourself."

I played the politeness game in which I decline his offer, telling him he shouldn't feel bad, and that the other sites he mentioned sounded great. He then countered with promises of hot showers, wood for the campfire, and plenty of drinking water. We accepted. Happily. I couldn't say no to Luther.

Later that night Bill and his wife Holly went for a walk around their old, empty campground, and stopped in for a chat down by the lake, where we set up our tent. It was a treat to listen to their stories. You can go a long time without meeting such warm and genuinely nice people.

Or you can just go for a bike ride and meet folks like this almost every day.

Back in the USA,
Doug Walsh

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Entirely Out Of Context

From DQ XAML Advisor Scott Ray: "Apparently, those are some very angry and aggressive goats."

Screwed: The NCAA

To get up to speed, please read this: NCAA fumbles cross-examination in O'Bannon trial.

That's no surprise, because the NCAA and their position on "amateur" athletics was doomed as soon as the case actually went to trial. It's possible for an organization with tremendous power to be incredibly illogical and indefensible, but only in the absence of confrontation.

Now, though, it's different. NCAA President Mark Emmert has to testify today--perhaps for multiple days--and it's going to go very, very poorly for him.

So are the athletic directors around the country correct when they say that the end of this sham system will destroy college athletics? Of course not, and the wildly exaggerated nature of their claims is a tipoff that nothing they say can be trusted.

I'll post an update later about Emmert's testimony when I see a story.

World Cup Stuff

Every four years, I try to like soccer a little more.

The games so far in this World Cup seem substantially more entertaining than last time, and having the World Cup in Brazil gives everything a special feel.

If you'd like a highly readable introduction to Brazil's history (both political and soccer), then I highly recommend this book: Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy. Now, this recommendation comes with a few caveats:
-the book's purpose is different than mine (a readable introduction to Brazil). It's highly critical of both the World Cup and the Olympics coming to Brazil (and makes a reasonable case).
-the chapters that I recommend are Chapter 2 ("There Is No Sin Below The Equator"), Chapter 3 ("Oh, Lula"), and Chapter 4 ("Futebol: the Journey From Daring To Fear").

There is a TON of fascinating information in just those three chapters. In the "Futebol" chapter, I discovered that Pele is not even considered the best player in Brazil's history, necessarily--that honor is also claimed by Garrincha. I'd never even heard of Garrincha, but after seeing some video, I'm amazed.

In case you're curious, here are some links:
Garrincha - The Genius of Dribble ( Documentary ) Part 1
Garrincha - The Genius of Dribble ( Documentary ) Part 2
Pelé and Garrincha - Gods of Brazil (Documentary)

Something else I discovered is that Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, at one point, had a capacity of 200,000 fans. 200,000!

Even if you don't like soccer in the least, the reading and the documentaries are a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #109: This Week

Two big news items this week.

First, it looks like 1.03 (or whatever I call it) is going to be released before the weekend. The final version is in the hands of the testers. Well, almost final--I still need to add the splash screen for the patch itself when existing users boot up the new version for the first time.

I've been fortunate that all the things I changed and added have all balanced out in the end. The game is more dynamic now, far less predictable, and more challenging in a strategic sense.

Plus, with Eli 12.10 and Gloria going to Shreveport next week for a few days, it looks like 1.04 (which is all the new team history tracking and display) might get released only a few weeks after 1.03. I seriously considered holding 1.03 until it was all completed, but John Harwood argued (convincingly) that 1.03 was a gameplay patch, while 1.04 was a features patch, so it made sense to release them separately.

1.04 only needs a few pieces of art: a new journal cover and page backgrounds (several versions so that they show wear over the years), and not much else. Everything else is code and layout, so this piece is mostly on me (may not be a good thing).

Once 1.04 is complete, the buildout of the game is essentially complete. There's a small, non-connected list of features that people have requested, and I'll add some of those, but the big feature patches will probably be done.

Famous last words.

The last thing I really, really want is a revised card deck. Two versions, actually--one with the new dynamic big image poses, and one with larger numbers on the outside of the card instead of focusing on the jerseys (because some people have a very difficult time doing that). That's kind of a stretch goal at this point.

After 1.04 is done, I will then try to market this game much, much more strenuously than I did at launch.

One thing I didn't even think about was how much revision I'm going to have to do to the game's Steam page. It's going to be a full time job for a few days, at least, as I try to add new screenshots and add patch notes and revise the game's feature list.

Second, I'll be able to give you impressions on the Surface Pro 3, because I pre-ordered one last week. The coolest part about this is that I'll be paying for the Surface Pro out of revenue from the game, which blows my mind. That seems like Candyland.

Even better, it's actually tax deductible. I'm legally a software developer. That also blows my mind.

Sometimes I'm very worn out, and there have been many very tough days, but this is probably the most satisfying thing I've done in my adult life (not including family things, of course). It's been more satisfying than writing a novel, which was a huge deal at the time. Writing a book is like creating a piece of sculpture. Designing and developing a game, in contrast, is like tending an orchard.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Links!

Sorry, very light this week (which traditionally happens when summer starts).

Leading off this week, an absolutely tremendous piece of work from Greg Howard: Can Jason Whitlock Save ESPN's "Black Grantland" From Himself?

One more of my own links, and it's a fascinating story: Unlock the Past: How a 19th Century Lock Pick Changed Security Forever.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is amazing: How to Fight Fires With Decommissioned Jet Engines Strapped to a Tank.

In case you missed it, Bill Watterson returned briefly last week (thanks to Scott Hillis for the link): Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did. I still miss his sense of humor.

Before Rick Reilly became just another hack, he was a brilliant writer. Here are five of his best stories: Rick Reilly Didn't Always Suck.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and these are fantastic: 10 Best Optical Illusions of 2014.

From Sirius, and this is incredible: Dutch bricklaying machine.

From Shannon Blumer, here are the NFL team logos reimagined in the style of soccer team logos: Football as Football. In other news, the first game of the World Cup yesterday was decided by a dive in the penalty box. Soccer, I try so hard to like you!

From Dubious Quality Director Of Vision John Harwood, and this is terrific: 5 Astronauts More Badass Than Any Action Movie Hero.

Finishing off, a terrific story that I'll be reading more about (I bought the book): Meet Griffith Pugh: The Everest Pioneer You've Never Heard Of.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Far Afield (your e-mail part something or other)

First off is Eric Barrett, who is far, far wiser than I will ever be:
I once had problems with a roofing company.  It eventually escalated all the way to the top of the company and the President came out to inspect the issue.  As I was standing outside waiting for him I see this ginormous (it's a unit of scientific measurement) truck drive past my house, then slowly turn around.  I thought, "oh this isn't going to go well."

About 2 minutes later he pulls into my neighbors driveway.  Now this truck was a sight to behold.  The hood of this truck must have been close to 6 feet off the ground.  And it had a custom "ladder" with three steps to climb into the cab of the truck.  The windows were tinted completely black.  And the tires were as over-sized as they were tall.  I'm sure it got about 35 feet to the gallon.  

As I watched the door open, out climbed a guy who must have stood no more than 5' 5".  And every ounce of him was filled with short man syndrome.  It was one of the least professional and least productive conversations I've ever had with anyone.  Contractor or otherwise.  And the whole time, all I could think was "overcompensating."

But being a psychologist has advantages.  I recognized that he was feeling insecure and being a good head taller than him was not helping my negotiations.  So I changed my body language, spoke slower, and took 3 steps away from him, which made me appear shorter.  

Almost immediately he said, "Well, maybe you do have a point..." and we got some resolution to our issue.  

I'm convinced if I stood next to him, I'd still be in my yard arguing!

Human behavior is fascinating.  So many of our theories in psychology are based on the assumption that people are rational.  Yet as GK Chesterton once said, "My problem with life is not that it is rational, nor that it is irrational...but that it is almost rational."

We're all influenced by psychological bias.  Most of the time we don't know it.  We like people because they are similar to us (Similar to Me Bias).  We remember the most outlandish examples of behavior (Primacy) or the last thing to happen to us (Recency).  We judge things based on the order we experience things - which is why old classics rarely hold up as well when we go back to play them (Contrast Error).  Even how we hand out evaluations of games, people, movies etc... can be influenced by whether we're personally lenient (Leniency Error), like everything to be "average" (Central Tendency Error), or are so enamored with a person / actor / director / product *cough* Apple *cough* that we just think everything is great (Halo Error).

I could go on.  But GK Chesterton was a wise man.  We're never as rational or irrational as we appear to be.  And that's what's either fun or frustrating about humanity, depending on your perspective.

Next, Garth Pricer:
When someone is aggressive or domineering, that’s normally as far as it goes as a descriptor. It’s usually only if the person also happens to be below average height that we choose to rationalize those personality traits as being a consequence of stature. In general, men of short stature are caricatured as being less than men. 

Aggressive and domineering people are also generally annoying and disruptive... I think one defense mechanism in dealing with people like that involves unconsciously finding things to diminish them somehow. Mentally characterizing them as a yapping Chihuahua and attributing their temperament to their height is definitely one way, but I’ve also heard people say that the person is probably compensating for anything from hair loss to deficiencies below the belt.

This last bit is from brenty, and it's tremendously thoughtful:
Reading everyone else's responses in your posts about Napoleon Complex got me thinking:

This may be something deeply rooted in us genetically to some extent. I am not short (I don't think -- I'm 5'8" and don't really feel that I'm seen as short), but I do know feeling singled out. 

I didn't know why for a long time, but I was always picked on for being different. I have Asperger's Syndrome, and while I don't think I look particularly different, people have always picked up on the fact that I am and treated me as such. Sometimes this is harmless, but often it is very unpleasant. 

I can only imagine what it would be like to be obviously, visibly different. I have always hated crowds as it is. They make me feel anxious and overwhelmed. And whether in a crowd or not, humans are animals, and there is probably an element of fight or flight involved. No creature wants to be the prey. 

In nature, the sickly or weak members of the group are separated and make an easy target for predators. I've always been an easy target socially, so I can imagine what those who are physically different might go through. 

It's a double edged sword: both being drawn to those of an ideal physique and being repelled by perceived deficiencies works against the outcasts of all species. I don't presume that humans are much different when it comes down to it. After all, it makes sense. And I've been on the business end if that stick enough that it seems crystal clear from my perspective.  

Matt's Microsoft Vision

Microsoft: hire this man immediately.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the consequences of MS unbundling the Kinect, and what it means for the long term value proposition of the system. And I think I’ve come to a conclusion about what MS needs to do to make the best out of the situation. 

The Kinect-less version needs to be extremely core gaming focused. This means that you're basically shuttering any serious ambitions that may have existed for what I like to call ambient Kinect use in core games.  I personally find that to be quite a sad thing, but much like the removal of some of the online only features, it’s a so it goes thing; too much too soon, and not being able to cleanly demonstrate the value in a change adverse market. You focus all your marketing efforts to core gamers around this thing. You only talk about games, and you talk about games a lot in all your gaming centric places. You make sure you have a lot of high value content coming at a rapid pace centered around core gamers.

Meanwhile, you devote a tremendous amount of resources to expanding your value proposition to non-core gamers centered entirely around the Kinect. You invest heavily in kids games, in sports entertainment, in fitness, in multimedia, and in making your platform as app like and integrated with Windows as possible. Once you have some compelling use cases there, you focus on the more expensive bundle in marketing directed to non-gaming related venues; you get more heavily involved in cross promotion for fitness and major sporting events, toy stores and children's tv shows, you push creative kinect apps and every unit is a devkit stuff to hackathons. You build out business apps and demo the value of the Xbox One as a low cost presentation device. You make sure home automation scenarios play incredibly well. You focus heavily on transformative experiences and futuristic feeling scenarios. And you never ever bring up any of it anywhere near a gaming related event. You sell everyone *else* really hard on Kinect, while rarely bringing up gaming, and you keep the gaming community buried under a constant stream of gaming related news that barely mentions Kinect. MS absolutely has the resources to do both at the same time.

This may seem somewhat counter intuitive, selling the less dedicated audience on the more expensive proposition, but there is almost no value proposition to an Xbox to non-gamers or non-core gamers at the moment, and even less without Kinect. So there isn't that much of a difference in selling a 400 or 500 dollar device to the broader market; you need something really compelling to get them interested even at the lower price, and if you have that, the extra hundred probably doesn't matter that much. It's not like there's any competition in most of the areas you can go, at least for now. 

So you simultaneously create two brands, the Xbox for top tier gaming with best in class multiplayer, connected experiences and exclusives, and Kinect for crazy future magic experiences. You frame it as Xbox One for the best gaming (and very quietly you occasionally say, and it’s even better with Kinect), and then for the other group you frame it as Kinect with Xbox One is like being in the future!

Kinect for Windows and universal apps makes leading with Kinect when targeting the broader market even more important. It lets you combine the value for both form factors under a common image; Kinect is the magical thing, and the box you run it on is more a matter of use case and need. It also helps realign the framing for value on the Xbox One; a 500 dollar system that draws immediate comparisons to HTPCs and much more expensive desktops and laptops makes it seem like a bargain, for that broader market. The current frame of it being an excessively overpowered Roku box, which can also play games, doesn't come out so great for it there. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

E3 Catch-All and Big Gaming

I'm not doing a Nintendo "priority list". I thought they actually did a better job than Microsoft or Sony, but it's still a lot of the same blah blah blah.

Man, what has happened to E3?

I've been thinking about this, wondering whether it's my attitude or E3 has really changed, and I think E3 has become--of course--a reflection of the current state of the industry.

Back in the day, I bought a game. That was it.

That CD--or 3.5" disk, or 5.25" floppy--was my entire relationship with the person or team who developed the game. When I bought TV Sports Football for the Amiga 500, that disk (actually two disks) was the entire experience.

There was a bug with TV Sports Football where after a touchdown, and after a cheerleader cut scene, the game sometimes locked up. It wasn't frequent, but when it did happen, it drove me crazy. So after a few months of playing the game obsessively, I actually called Cinemaware. The lady I talked to (no service queue, just someone answering the phone) said "Oh yes, we have a patch for that", and she sent me a new disk.

The patch was a big deal, back then.

So what I bought was an experience, and it was basically complete when I pulled it out of the package.

Today, with big games, I'm not buying an experience. I'm buying a revenue stream. New IP is far less important to big publishers than new DLC. Sequels. DLC. IAP. Sometimes it feels like big gaming has become nothing more than a bunch of shitty acronyms for stuff we don't want.

I'm a cow, and big gaming has their hands on my teats, pumping away. Moo.

To me, that was the biggest problem with Xbox One. Instead of marketing the One as a fantastic gaming machine first, then saying "Oh, and look at all the other cool stuff it can do", Microsoft tried to market it as a Cool Stuff Machine.

Really, though, it wasn't a Cool Stuff Machine as much as it was a Revenue Stream Machine. We all knew that, and it's true of every console nowadays, but marketing a game console has a familiar form factor, one that we're all comfortable with. Microsoft largely dispensed with that, and in doing so, their naked ambition became far too obvious.

There's one e-mailer (Matt Solomon) who has the most elegant, eloquent vision for Xbox One. It's beautifully coherent. The problem, though, is that his vision is not Microsoft's vision. Matt's vision starts with function. Microsoft's vision starts with a revenue stream.

Where the revenue stream overlaps with coherent function, everything's great. But the parts of Microsoft's vision that were muddled were in places where the revenue stream gapped away from the coherent function.

Look, I have a PS4, and I enjoy it at times (The Show is pretty damned amazing). Lego Undercover was freaking phenomenal on the Wii U (and criminally undersold as well). I'm still willing to buy console games. There's just no denying, though, that the "big" game industry has stepped so far away from us as gamers that the experience is--overall--much less satisfying.

There's a however, though. "Small" gaming is better than ever. Much, much better.

Content democratization has happened almost everywhere as the cost of production tools has plummeted. Gaming, though, may have benefited more from that trend than any other kind of content.

Good grief, look at me. The development budget for Gridiron Solitaire was about $20,000, and literally 95% of that was art. Visual Studio is insanely, unbelievably powerful as a development environment, and it cost less than $500.

There's more variety in gaming than ever before. I know we're wading waist-deep through garbage to find it, but that's okay, because at least it's out there. There are so many unbelievable, incredible experiences created by ultra-small teams.

It's wonderful, really, even though I can't get to nearly as much of it as I wished I could.

So E3 is just a husk. Maybe that's a good thing, because it's encouraged new blood flow around the blockage (sorry, listening to a Heart album right now, so it's a natural analogy). Without the "screwyoufication" of big gaming, we wouldn't be getting everything else, and everything else is much better.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One Other Note About Sony

What's happened to "The Witness?" Is it going to slip into 2015?

This game was originally announced in August 2009. Wow.

E3 2014: Sony

Please note the nifty collection of trailers available at Engadget: All the games from Sony's PlayStation event at E3 2014.

Sony's presentation priorities, as expressed in minutes per subject:
9 minutes--Little Big Planet 3
8 minutes--Destiny
7 minutes--Far Cry 4
4 minutes--Metal Gear Solid 5
3 minutes--Bloodborne (Hidetaka Miyazaki. First day purchase.)
3 minutes--The Order
3 minutes--Dead Island 2
3 minutes--Entwind (available now as a downloadable title)
3 minutes--PSN
3 minutes--PSNow
2 minutes--PS TV
2 minutes--Let It Die (Suda 51 yes)
2 minutes--Abzu
2 minutes--No Man's Sky
2 minutes--Second Son DLC
2 minutes--Mortal Kombat 10 (Dear God no, make it stop)
1 minute--Battlefield Hardline
1 minute--Magicka 2
1 minute--Grim Fandango remaster (Yes and Yes)
1 minute--Last of Us demonstration (remastered for PS4, coming next month)

There was also an Uncharted reveal at the very end, but it only lasted a minute or so, since the game won't be out until next year.

The theme of E3? "Not this year." I can't ever remember so many announcements and so few games coming out before the end of the year. That also affects the amount of time given to individual games--something like the new Uncharted will get 10 minutes next year as it nears release.

This year's buzzword: "open world." Thank goodness for that, because corridor shooters deserve to die. In a hail of FPS gunfire.

I think Sony has a more interesting slate of games, but Microsoft certainly learned from last year's E3 disaster. They were far more effective this year than last.

Monday, June 09, 2014

E3 2014: Microsoft

Trailer compilation available at Engadget: All the games from Microsoft's E3 event.

Like last year, here is a breakdown of Microsoft's E3 presentation today in order of how much time they spent on each subject. There's no more revealing method, to me, for finding out what a company is focusing on.

First off, it was all games this year, which was a wise move. Microsoft has stumbled badly to articulate their "connected" vision for Xbox One, and they've been heavily criticized for it, so they pulled in their borders and focused solely on games this year.

Also of note: "first access DLC" and "exclusive beta" are the new "exclusives" in console world. Remember last year when I said publishers couldn't afford to do straight exclusives anymore, because it reduced their post-ship revenue stream (from the inevitable drip of DLC) too dramatically? Microsoft certainly bore out that point today. Lots and lots of "exclusive content" or "first access content".

9 minutes--Call of Duty 75: The Exact Same Game (this title may be incorrect)
7 minutes--Halo remastered (all the numbered versions of Halo on one disc, with remastered graphics)
6 minutes--Sunset Overdrive ("a high-velocity open-world shooter"). This is actually an exclusive and new IP. Release data October 28.
5 minutes--Assassin's Creed Unity
5 minutes--Witcher 3
5 minutes--Forza Horizon 2 and free Nurburgring track for Forza 5.
5 minutes--The Division (Ubisoft)
5 minutes--Fable Legends
4 minutes--Indie game montage
3 minutes--Crackdown (if it's like the original and not the shitty sequel, I'll be very happy). 2015 release.
3 minutes--Project Spark
3 minutes--Scalebound (hideki Kamiya, and it's an exclusive)
2 minutes--Dragon Age: Inquisition
2 minutes--Dead Rising 3 DLC
2 minutes--Ori and the Blind Florest (with Spark. It's exclusive.)
2 minutes--Inside (new IP. 2D game).
1 minute--Dance Central (downloadable only).

Let's all have a sad moment for Harmonix, who have been completely shafted by Microsoft's 180-degree change on Kinect being absolutely necessary to the Xbox One experience. 1 minute? Downloadable title only? Buried.

Interestingly, EA was almost completely absent, so it will be interesting to see if they have a big presence during Sony's presser later today.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Friday Links!

From Michael O'Reilly, and this story wins the Internet forever: ALL IS LOST: IN THE SERIES FINALE OF NBA Y2K, WE BEAR WITNESS TO THE SLOW, MISERABLE DEATH OF BASKETBALL. It doesn't matter if you're not a sports fan, you must read this.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and incredibly Eli 12.10 is going to be able to buy one of these someday:
Google's New Driverless Car Has No Brake Pedal Or Steering Wheel.

From Meg McReynolds, and good grief: You Are Not a Digital Native: Privacy in the Age of the Internet. Also, and this could be useful, it's Emergency Compliment.

From Chris Pencis, and this is fantastic: How does fire spread? How do different forest materials fuel it?

From Wallace, and this is both clever and funny: A Day In The Life Of Everyday Astronaut. ALso, and these are terrific: The Perfectly Shaped Treat: Literary Cookie Cutters.

From Skip Key, and this is incredible: ISEE-3 Reboot project. No spoilers, but you need to go read this.

From David Gloier, and is no surprise (but still somehow amusing): Harry Caray diary tracked every drink, every bar in 1972.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this provides endless entertainment: The 100 Most Important Cat Pictures Of All Time.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is almost hypnotic: The Internet in Real-Time: How Quickly Data is Generated.

From Sirius, and man, this is nuts: How to remove siding from a house.

Here are a few excellent articles I ran across this week. First, and this is a fantastic read, it's The Oakland Way: How the A's continue to thrive more than decade after 'Moneyball' was published. Next the future of SSD: Intel SSD DC P3700 Review: The PCIe SSD Transition Begins with NVMe. Finally, a sad story of the passing of the last Navajo Code Talkers, who played a crucial role in WWII: Chester Nez, last of original Navajo code talkers of World War II, dies.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Far Afield (your e-mail, part two)

First off, David Byron sent me a link to how Houdini felt about being 5'5"::
It is good for me that I am not a tall man. Why? Because I must be quick! and a tall man is always slow. It is so all through the profession. The best men are not too high. A tall man is easy going, good-natured; a short man is sometimes good-tempered, more often not so. All the mean, cunning men that I have known—short! All the keen, eager, ambitious men—short! And for work—the tall man has too much to carry, he is too far from the ground, he cannot lose and recover balance as it is necessary, in a flash.

Also, and some of you already know this, but Napoleon was not actually short, at least by the standards of his times. He was actually taller than the average Frenchman. So there's another twist.

First off today, from Chris Volny:
I don't believe I am/was considered short, 5'10", however, I use a wheelchair which puts my eye level generally at chest level. I do not in any way think of myself as overly aggressive, in fact my people (children, wife, friends) think the exact opposite; sometimes I'm told it is impossible to actually get me to act aggressively even when the need arises. 

I can confirm the interesting study you quoted; when I'm in a crowd I get very paranoid and believe I'm being stared at and dark thoughts are being generated towards me. It takes an effort to remind myself that there are thousands of people moving about in these crowds and it is highly unlikely that anyone is thinking any particular thoughts about me in particular. But it still happens that I feel that way.

I question the validity of that study, however, as fun as it probably was. How does making an average or tall person short indicate the existence of Short Man Syndrome? It strikes me that this is something that would be developed over a lifetime and the individual has no opportunity to ever be other than short. Whereas, a tall person simulating shortness knows that he is not short and never will be. 

When I'm in a crowd, I feel so anonymous that I might as well not exist. Not a bad thing, necessarily--I'd be very self-conscious if I didn't feel that way--but reading about how people feel conspicuous is another facet of this subject that never even crossed my mind. 

C Lee. followed up yesterday's e-mail with an even more excellent one today:
I think you're right that social conventions play a key role in creating these concepts of gentle giants and Napoleon Syndrome. Height is inextricably linked to authority. The linkage can be basic, as in "bigger person must be a stronger person," but there are probably also deeper associations. For example, the British nobility (and I imagine the nobility in most countries) tended to be taller than the hoi polloi simply due to better nutrition. Over time, height equaled power and influence. It's well known that most American presidents are above average in terms of height; obviously you need more than height to become president, but it generally doesn't hurt your image.

And image can be everything when it comes to authority. Remember this photo?
MacArthur and Hirohito

As the site notes, that was the picture worth a thousand words. With MacArthur towering over Hirohito, it was pretty clear who was in charge, and needless to say, it wasn't the shorter man.

So if height=power, then, on the basis of "power corrupts," you wouldn't be surprised if a tall man threw his weight around. A polite, considerate tall person, on the other hand, becomes a pleasant surprise, and hence gentle giants become noteworthy.

We see this sort of thing with royalty or celebrities. What do people generally say, provided they aren't complete jerks? "Oh, he was so nice; oh, she's so down to earth." We expect them to behave badly and are pleasantly surprised when they don't. Conversely, a non-aggressive non-celebrity or non-royal gets no credit for not being a diva; in fact, we would be taken aback if Joe Blow started throwing his weight around. Hence, Napoleon Syndrome, and no "gentle gnomes".

I never even though about nutritional access tied to royalty, but that is a terrific connection to make.

Last e-mail for today, from Jeremy G.:
I work at an insurance broker that has a lot of men in business -- the tall men react to the women, the women are always shorter, etc. etc. , and "short person syndrome" is totally a thing.  I don't think it's gender specific.

It's even more interesting in the gay community.  In New York City, for example, they have a tall-people-only gathering because tall people usually find short people have a lot of hang-ups and other tall people are normally in awe of extra-tall people.   "Heightism" is totally a thing on Grinder, the location-based hookup app:  guys regularly there post  "only guys taller than me" as an attribute they are looking for.  They want to be submissive and perceive tall guys as more dominant.

I think you're right in that selective memory is at play here.  I consider myself a strong, dominant man but am short -- I get labeled with a Napoleonic complex because I'm short.  But if I were a foot taller - then I would be a "strong, confident man".  My boyfriend, for instance, is 6'7", and he's the submissive one in our relationship.  (I say that in terms of our gender roles / relationship roles / sexual roles inclusive.)  Was I attracted to him because he is a gentle giant that totally stokes my Napoleonic complex??   I have often wondered this.

I could go on forever about dominance perception, but I, personally, being only 5'6" have been discriminated against because of my height, never mind the fact that I'm gay.  But I'm also young-looking for my age, something short people have in common, so people might also be confusing it with neophyte syndrome or youth-misperception.  Lots of factors!

This topic has been so interesting that it may run into next week; I can't believe how much it's given me to think about. Thanks very much to all of you who e-mailed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Far Afield (your e-mail, part one)

Your e-mail, as always, was thoughtful and nuanced.

The first e-mail I received was from Jeff Porretto:
I found your post today very interesting. I'm 5'4" and consider myself a short guy. No cut off needed to make that call when pretty much everyone you meet is taller!

I'm fairly successful (in a top 5 position at my company) and I've been told that I typically have a calming influence on most. I've definitely never been accused of short man syndrome, even when I do need to assert myself.  I'm astutely aware of this stereotype and actively try to not live up to it. But here's the thing... it honestly feels like it's difficult to get taken seriously at first by people much taller. I'm guessing it's that way for everyone, but it's almost impossible to feel respected when someone can look literally right over your head to another person.

So I make it a point to stand further away or be sitting when interacting with taller people. I don't think blowing my top is the way to compensate for my height. That just doesn't seem logical to me.

But I will absolutely agree with the "study showed feeling smaller makes people paranoid, distrustful and scared of others." Maybe not to the degree some others would, but when you walk away and hear people laugh, or stand in a circle and no one is within six inches of your height the negative thoughts definitely creep in. But everyone has their insecurities. This is mine. Not really a big deal!

It had never, ever crossed my mind that someone might purposefully stand further away if they were shorter. I asked Jeff how old he was when he started noticing these things:
I thought a little more about it as well. I'm 32 now, and people are naturally more respectful at this age, especially as my position commands a fair amount of respect on its own. But as a kid - once growth spurts hit - it got pretty rough at times. Kids know not to make fun of other races or genders, but fat and/or short was fair game at that age. Luckily, my parents put me in martial arts, which I excelled at and gave me a lot of confidence and taught me restraint/how to stay calm. I only got in one fight in school. It was with a bully who probably thought I'd be easy pickings, but I "handled" it well, and that was one of the last times my height got brought up :) But if I hadn't been able to defend myself well and it continued on or got worse? I can see why some short people could have anger issues!

Next is an e-mail from C. Lee, who has been one of the most consistently thoughtful and interesting e-mailers over time:
The Oxford study was interesting, but I think there’s a potential disconnect there. Suppose we grant that being short does in fact produce mistrust, paranoia, etc. What the study didn’t show was that that necessarily leads to overly aggressive or domineering behavior.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re in a foreign country where you stand out in some way -- perhaps you’re a different color, perhaps your clothes are distinctive in some way, perhaps you have interesting looking hair or piercings. If you get on a subway, you may very well feel self-conscious and the object of stares. If you were to hear laughter in that context or get jostled, you may very well think your oddness is making you a target. In other words, you might react by feeling mistrustful and paranoid.

However, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that you, as a foreigner, would react by becoming belligerent; there is not, so far as I know, a concept such as “angry foreigner syndrome.” In other words, the negative feelings don’t necessarily translate into compensatory aggression.

The Wikipedia article you linked, for example, cites this study from the University of Central Lancashire, which takes the opposite tack.

Full disclosure: I am 5’5”, which I think most people would agree is short for a man. I’ve never been accused of having a Napoleon Syndrome, but then I suppose that’s probably not the sort of thing you would generally say to someone’s face. 

This is an excellent point, and I'll refer again to "gentle giant". Are short people so expected to be gentle that there's no equivalent phrase for them? And why is it surprising that large people are gentle? I find cultural expectations like this entirely fascinating.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Far Afield

We're really going off the grid today.

I was driving home this morning after playing tennis with Eli 12.10, and I have no why idea why, but the phrase "short man syndrome" popped into my head.

If you're not familiar with this, here's a brief description from the almost always somewhat useful Wikipedia:
Napoleon complex, or "short man syndrome", is a pejorative slang term describing a type of psychological phenomenon which is said to exist in people, usually men, of short stature. It is characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behaviour, and carries the implication that such behaviour is compensatory for the subjects' stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives. Other names for the term include Napoleon syndrome and Short Man syndrome.

I've known a fair number of people like this, and they were always in positions of authority. Most of them had a barrel chest, oddly enough.

Here's the thing, though: I think I'm practicing selective memory here, because while I have had experiences with several people fitting this description, I've also had many more experiences with people of shorter stature that were absolutely not like this at all. However, for some reason, the utterly aggressive, loud people stick in my mind more memorably.

So I think there are several interesting layers here, potentially:
1. My memory is selective.
2. The stereotype produces greater attention to this personality type than it would otherwise. When tall people are aggressive, there's no word for that. Tall people have the phrase "gentle giant" to describe non-aggressive behavior, but no equivalent phrase for being extremely aggressive (at least, I can't think of one).
3. This is actually a thing.

If you are a reader of shorter stature (I don't know exactly that the cutoff point is for something like that, but it's your perception that matters more, not mine), I would be extremely interested in hearing your perspective on this. If you behave in a necessarily aggressive manner in certain situations, do you get tagged with this label, and does it affect your behavior? I would also be particularly interested in hearing from non-U.S. readers whether this notion exists in their country as well.

Before all of you send me this link, here's a story from earlier in the year: Short man syndrome really does exist, Oxford University finds:
Short man syndrome really does exist, Oxford University academics have found, after a study showed feeling smaller makes people paranoid, distrustful and scared of others.

Scientists used virtual reality technology to reduce the height of volunteers travelling on a computer-simulated Tube train by 10in (25cm).

The experience of being shorter increased reports of negative feelings, such as being incompetent, dislikeable or inferior.

It also heightened levels of mistrust, fear and paranoia. Height-reduced participants were more likely to think someone else in the virtual train carriage was deliberately staring, thinking badly about them, or trying to cause distress.

I don't think that's conclusive, by any means, but I think their methodology is interesting.

Anyway, this seems like an unorthodox but solid topic for discussion.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #108: Bugs

Before we discuss bug hunting, here's an image Fredrik drew last week for fumbles:

Every time I think I'm out of energy to work on the game, Fredrik will send me some fantastic new image and it will recharge my battery immediately.

I need to make some decisions related to using the drive canvas versus big images to represent an event. The big images have so much pop that it's tempting to use them for absolutely everything possible, but in some cases, that creates a problem.

Sacks are a good example. The drive canvas will show the progress of the pass receiver as the gain is progressively reduced, and when the gain goes to zero, the quarterback is shown with a defensive lineman heading toward him for the sack. With each card play, the position of the player on the canvas changes, so it's almost a stop-motion animation kind of effect.

That's the problem. I have a little story unfolding on the drive canvas, so do I suddenly cut away at the moment of the sack and put up a big image? I'm doing that for human player touchdowns, so I could do that for human sacks (of the CPU quarterback) as well. I just don't want inconsistent presentation that will confuse people.

The real subject this week, though, is bugs.

I was asked by someone how bugs get fixed. I don't know if there's an ideal method, but here's the process I use.
1. Can I duplicate the bug?
This is the single most important question, because if I can see the bug happen myself, I can go into debug mode, step through code line by line, and see exactly what's causing the problem.

If I can't make the bug happen, it's an entirely different situation. Guessing as a programmer is an unproductive road, at least for me. I can generally have at least a reasonable guess of what might be wrong, but if I can't watch it happen and I change code as a guess, how can I verify that I fixed anything?

2. Does the bug happen every time, or is it intermittent?
This is the other big question. Intermittent bugs can be very, very difficult to track down because (for me, at least) they're very counter-intuitive. Stuff that's broken should break every time.

Here's an example of a bug that I'm working on now that is driving me crazy. I added a big image to display when a punt is a touchback (when the punter kicks the ball into the end zone and it's not returned). The most prolific beta tester in history (Tosh) e-mailed and said that on two occasions, he'd seen the big image panel with no image on a touchback. The proper text displayed, but the image area was blank.

I have three "tiers" set up for punting, based on field position. So I set up a grid with each possible tier and direction. Six combinations. Then I tested each situation to see if the touchback image would show.

It did, in all six cases. And I've never seen a blank image on a touchback. So I have a bug that I am 100% sure exists (Tosh has reported dozens and dozens of bugs over time, and he is always correct), but I can't make it happen on my development system.

For now, that's a stalemate.

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