Tag Archive for need

Where is Gaming Headed?

There are plenty of people out there itching for the announcement of Microsoft and Sony’s next generation consoles.  Personally, I’m not.  The graphics of the current generation are quite good, awesome in fact, and I’m not really in need of “better” graphics.  I could try to speculate on where I think things are going, but instead, I’m going to just list out what I would love to see as the next step.  Seeing as my preferred console is the Xbox, I’m going to talk in their terms…

The great thing about technology is that it keeps getting faster and smaller.  I’d love to see the next Xbox be just another revision of the 360.  I’d want it to be a stand alone hand held system, a portable 360.  However, I’d want it to also be a traditional console.  When totally unplugged of all it’s cables, it’ll be a hand held, with a screen and controls, just like current hand helds.  But when you plug in an HDMI cable and flip the switch, it transforms into a traditional console.  Suddenly it’s playing on your TV and through your surround sound system, and those 360 controllers you have sync up with it just like they do today.

Other peripherals, like Rock Band instruments, would also sync up, and things like the Kinect would continue to be a USB addon to the device.  There would have to be a new disc drive addon since you’d have to lose the internal one to make it portable, and you might need to have external HD addons since drive space might be limited in a smaller unit, mostly because the portable has to make room for a battery.

To make things even better, games, all games, should be able to be purchased through the marketplace and re-downloaded at will, as needed, anywhere you are connected to the Internet.

In either mode, the console should support adhoc multiplayer against other consoles in range.

Give me a ping, Vasili.

Over at the Ancient Gaming Noob, Wilhelm discusses briefly his need for a flight sim MMO and then posts about World of Warplanes.  He asks in the title and at the end, “What else do we need?

I’ll tell you what we need: World of Submarines.

688 Attack Sub

Give me a 30 degree down bubble, engines at one-quarter, heading... somewhere over there where you heard the pinging.

The best part of this idea is that it wouldn’t need a high-end gaming system because I wouldn’t want to have a vehicle shooter where you drive around in your sub, strafing as you launch torpedoes at other players.  No, I’m talking about 688 Attack Sub type play, sticking closer to reality.  The player gets the deck of his sub, from which he can get status readouts of his hull and other systems, sonar screens, maps.  The only time “real” graphics would come into play would be through the periscope and if the game is restricted almost entirely to submerged play then all the periscope would get you is a view of other periscopes.  In fact, you could even remove it altogether and include “periscope depth” as just a place to go to get communications and other elements.

Taken a step further, without a new for huge graphic worlds, you might be able to have multiplayer subs, with people connecting together to run various stations.  Sure, you can run a boat on your own, but wouldn’t it be more efficient to have a sonar tech giving you the readings, a driver taking your directions and someone else loading and firing your torpedoes?  Damn right it would!

Someone, somewhere needs to get on this immediately!

The Last Minecart

There is just something great about this, and part of it is that so many people simply won’t understand it at all.

I’ve finally gotten my own Minecraft server running again, and for the first time in about thirty restarts it finally has coal.  I’m working on getting the maps working, and I’m in need of upgrading the RAM on the server.  I’ll post links later once I’m sure it is all in order.

One Cup

So I have decided to make an effort to get into better shape.  I contemplated making a new category for the blog, but realized that making a category would make it feel like an obligation to write, at which point I would feel less like writing on the topic.  I’ll just try to write about it as I feel the need and shove it into the Random Thoughts category…

In any event, part of my getting into better shape is being more conscious of what I eat and how much.  So the other day I decided to read the label on my cereal box.  I ran through the nutrients and it all looked pretty good, perhaps I could do without the sugar, but every time I tried a cereal that wasn’t a sugary kids cereal it tasted like cardboard.  While eating things that taste like cardboard may, in fact, be healthier, putting up with the cardboard taste isn’t worth it.  So anyway, I also notice that the serving size of all this morning sugary goodness is “1 cup”.  I looked at my cereal bowl and wondered if it was a cup… so I got out a measuring cup.

One cup of cereal is a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  It turns out my usual breakfast is actually about two and a half cups, sometimes three.  So I poured myself a cup of cereal and a half glass of orange juice.

It seems until my body gets used to it, I’m going to be hungry a lot.

A Case of the Mondays

To be honest, I do not have a problem with Mondays. I do, however, have a problem with all the people who insist on misusing a Monday.

The weekend, Saturday and Sunday, are time off for most people. They relax, they get away from the office and work. For other people, the weekend is time to get work done that can’t be done while everyone else is working. Programming is like this, especially when you are bug fixing a production level program. You can’t make changes to the underlying database in the middle of the day on a work day. You have to wait for late at night, or the weekend.

In one case you are returning to work and are in need of getting back into a work frame of mind. In the other case, you’ve spent the weekend doing one kind of work and are in need of getting back into the normal work mode.

Mondays, used properly, are great for this. On a Monday I like to wake up late, not too much, but about a half hour or hour late. Then I have a good breakfast, something I often skip later in the week. Next I’ll spend some time going through emails and sending out replies. I’ll pull out last week’s paperwork and merge it with the weekend notes, and make myself an organized task list of all the stuff that is still open and is still my responsibility. Just before lunch, I’ll gather up all the easy tasks and polish them. Most of them are so simple that I find myself actually thinking, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?” With the bulk of quick work done, I go to lunch. If I’m at home, I eat and watch some TV; if I’m at work, I eat and chat with coworkers. But in both places, in the back of my mind, I’m sifting and shuffling, organizing and prioritizing. After lunch, I settle in for the long afternoon. Tackle as much as I can in preparation for the rest of the week which is bound to throw me a curve ball or two. This is when I remember why I didn’t do that easy stuff sooner. By the end of a good Monday, the To Do list is half or more done and the coming week has a nice outline of work to be done.

That is how a Monday should be.

It is a shame that so many people insist on trying to cram status meetings and project planning on to Mondays. No one is ever mentally prepared. They are either still too relaxed, or they are just in the wrong frame of mind. All the meetings really do is to force people to rush into action, instead of easing into the week at a brisk walk or comfortable jog, Monday meetings make people hit the ground running… and its why by Wednesday they are begging for the weekend again. And because of the befuddlement and confusion of a rushed Monday, all those meetings will need to be repeated later in the week in some form or another. A giant waste of everyone’s time.

If you are a manager or project lead or anything of the sort, I beg of you to take this to heart. Hold off on those Monday meetings and rush whenever possible. Let your people, in fact encourage your people to, use Monday as a day of preparation. They’ll be much more productive later in the week, I promise.

QuickTime and iTunes

I love QuickTime. I hate iTunes. Every PC I get I install QuickTime and all the browser plugins I need in order to watch videos both offline and online. I’ve got some really cool videos I enjoy watching once in a while, so I have to do it.

However, my most recent installation, on my Windows Vista PC, is annoying the crap out of me. I want it to automatically check for updates, but basically every couple days a window pops up and tells me there is a new version out… but it is NOT a new version of QuickTime. It is the exact same version of QuickTime that I have installed, but it is popping up a window to kindly let me know that I can download QuickTime+iTunes.

I don’t want f***ing iTunes. Go away.

Anyway… if anyone knows how I can keep automatic updates on but have it ignore the QuickTime+iTunes, please let me know.

A Focus on Graphics

Over at Nerfbat, Blackguard has posted about the need for good graphics in games and its gotten me thinking…

I am one of those people who says that the graphics of a game shouldn’t matter. And to a point, its true. For a really good game, the gameplay should be compelling enough that enjoyment of the game shouldn’t be affected by the graphics. However, as Blackguard points out, graphics are how most people get their first glimps of the game, and advertising is based almost entirely around screenshots with game features coming later more through word of mouth than actual ads.

Where my issue comes in is that I feel that too often the graphics lead the game instead of suppliment or compliment the gameplay. Too many games spend so much time working on realism or fansy shaders and animations, and push the envelope on system requirements, that they lose track of making a game worth playing and that a large enough portion of the public can play. At the rate technology moves, and the fact that game developers keep right up on the bleeding edge most of the time, if you are at all serious about games you probably need to buy a new computer every year, or at least a few hefty upgrades. Of course, not everyone can afford that.

I think one of the major successes of World of Warcraft is that they game runs well on moderate, even low end machines. Personally, I’m running a 1.2GHz Althon with 1GB RAM and a 256MB ATI 9800 video card. It runs very well, except in Ironforge and in open PvP with a hundred or more people running around. I play Half-Life 2 on it also, another success. I tried to play EverQuest 2 on it, and it just died. I got the game to finally run smoothly by turning down the graphics so far that it wasn’t worth my time. 8-bit or Nintendo style graphics I can handle, but fuzzy blobs running around fuzzy blobby landscapes I can’t. City of Heroes ran fairly well. I didn’t have all the highend particles turned on, but not many people do. City of Villains upgraded the graphics engine just enough that I had to tune down the graphics just below the threshhold of “playable”. When the faces lose their eyes, its actually borderline disturbing.

And that leads into another issue I’ve got… why haven’t any companies made a game that actually tunes down? Why isn’t there a slider to reduce polygon counts and use “flatter” textures? Instead, as the sliders move toward the low end, you lose definition and the world begins to look like you forgot to put on your glasses, like a bad runny watercolor painting as things blend and smear into each other.

Perhaps I just need to accept the fact that I need to put in my budget a thousand bucks a year on computer upgrades… no wait, two thousand because I have to upgrade the wife’s PC as well. I can’t imagine having a family and needing to keep three, four, even five PCs up to date. Five grand a year just so the family can continue to game together. It makes you want to go buy some board games

A Few Good Men

“You can’t handle the truth!”
-Col. Nathan R. Jessep, A Few Good Men

It’s sad, but it’s true… there are a great many people who simply can’t handle the truth. And I mean simple truth, not ‘being brutally honest’ (which is more often a disguise for being honest, brutally). I had the misfortune of having a coworker ask about her own performance… Okay, let me back up.

I’m working on a program. And as I finish parts of it, I turn it over for requirements testing. The people who are testing it are also the people who gave me the requirements. More often than not, when they test, they complain about things the program doesn’t do, all of which are things they didn’t tell me it needed to do. As a result, I’m constantly rewriting my programs to include things after the fact. We have marathon email back-and-forths where we argue over the value of certain items. Their most common defense of a stupid business practice is “We’ve always done it that way.” And my most common attack is “We are writing a new program, so let’s take this opportunity to change the way its done and make it better.” And its not like its an alien idea… these are things they think SHOULD change, but they want the new program to work exactly like the old program and THEN change it. More work for everyone.

Anyway… so it comes that we are on the phone, and after we solve the latest fire she asks me how she’s been doing on the requirements and testing. I ask if she really wants to know and she says, “I want the truth.” I give her the truth, as kindly as I can. I don’t accuse her of giving me bad requirements, I instead explain that when working on requiements it would work better if she worked with the existing system for a couple or three weeks and documented every task she performed and later reviewed that log for missed steps or details to avoid the situation we have where daily tasks weren’t in the requirements. I explain that her testing should be testing of the requirements as written and not of desired features, and that things not in the requirements are enhancements for the next version, and if its discovered that essential requirements were missed they shouldn’t be reported as bugs, but should be brought up as requirements revisions. I explain that her testing is testing of my programming of the requirements as written, and when we move to phase two of testing, the user testing, her users will point out the missing details and at that point new requirements or revisions will need to be made. And lastly I say, that all this is for her sanity and mine, because if she’s constantly checking for items that weren’t in the requirements, then she’s going to be very unhappy; while on my end, if I spend every day rewriting my work for items that I wasn’t told about instead of working on remaining items or other projects, I get very unhappy.

In my opinion, I laid things out very clearly and kindly. I never yelled or accused, I just simply pointed out issues with the process she was using and how everyone would be happier if she did things differently. Well… except the users, but they’ll never be happy until we invent the “Do My Job” button so they spend their days like George Jetson or Homer Simpson, pushing one button when its needed.

So later that day I got pulled aside by my boss and told that I should never yell at anyone about how they do their job because its not within my authority as a contract programmer. I tried to defend myself, but he didn’t want to hear it. He only wanted to hear that I would never do it again (despite not having done it in the first place).

That’s my story… people, especially at work, can’t handle the truth… Now I will present you with a bastardized quote of my own:

“Work like you only need money. Love like you’ll never be happy. Dance like everyone’s got score cards. Sing only when nobody’s listening. And lie like your job depends on it.”

I don’t really mean that… but seriously, when someone asks for the truth, try to be sure they really want to hear it. And never ask for the truth unless you can’t handle it. And by “handle” I don’t mean “make them pay for telling it to you”.

The AXE Effect

My fiancee did the grocery shopping this week, and I was in need of deodorant. Normally I just pick myself up a stick of Degree or something, whatever is on sale. But she picked up a stick of AXE. Now, I’d seen the commercials, and I warned her before I used it, but she said it was okay.

Well, the drive to work was fine, but walking from the parking lot to the office I was already fending off the women. I eventually had to break into a run and get inside. The food court area was tough, and I lost my jacket to the mob. And at the security desk is where it finally happened, she wouldn’t let me past until I allowed her to service me.

Zipping up my pants I quickly stepped into the nearest elevator. Damn, occupied. The other two gentlemen with us looked uncomfortable as the woman attacked me. Three more stops just from the elevator to my desk. That’s when the line started to form.

After a while I really needed to get some work done, so I started taking the women in twosomes and threesomes, eventually moving up to foursomes by mid-afternoon. Finally five o’clock rolled around and I stole down the fire stairs. Twenty-two floors just to avoid them.

I got lucky and made it to my car without incident, and once inside with the windows up and the air conditioning set on internal air, I was safe.

Monday’s going to be rough.

(None of this really happened. Turns out the AXE Effect is just smelling like deodorant.)