Category: life

What I learned while on Facebook vacation

Hi. My name is Chris, and I’m addicted to Facebook.

Kinda not seriously, I really am. I use it all the time. I have it on my phone, it’s with me everywhere. I can see what’s gong on with my friends, what’s going on in the world, in various communities that I have interest in, many of them related to my game development career. It’s really great for that.

Last Friday, I decided to act on what I’d recognized for a while to be a problem with the amount of time I spend using Facebook. On a whim, I decided to stop using Facebook, entirely, for two weeks. I didn’t want to disable my account, or delete it, but I wanted to see if I could build a space ship or cure cancer in two weeks if I just quit squeezing Facebooking into every spare moment of the day, and fb-multitasking even in many of the non-spare moments.

Since I didn’t disable my account, I can still receive messages from people. I can still post to FB via Twitter and when I update here the automated promotional post goes out there as well. So even though I’m taking a “Facebook vacation” I’m still not completely out of touch. It’s like “FB Lite” if there is such a thing.

The Experiment

I posted a see-you-later announcement, and removed the app from my phone. Well, I didn’t uninstall it, but I removed it from the quicklaunch screen, to make it harder to access, and made an agreement with myself that I would not launch it unless there was a legitimate need during an emergency to do so.

My see-you-later post announcing my Facebook vacation

Preliminary findings

So I’ve only been on “vacation” since Friday, and today’s Monday. Yet, I’ve already learned a lot. Hence, this post.

Sunday, I cleaned the house. I cleaned all the living spaces. Not the basement, or garage, or the spare bedrooms, but the living room, dining room, kitchen, front porch, bathroom, and main bedroom. All in one day. My place hasn’t been this tidy in probably over a year. I did it by waking up at 9:30, and cleaning all day, until around 5pm, mostly at a relaxed pace, not trying to rush through it, but just not stopping to get distracted by anything going with Facebook. Go me.

OK, so I haven’t read a book yet, but that’s still pretty awesome, isn’t it? I could have guests over. REAL SOCIAL! Without embarrassment!

Everything’s a tradeoff

Like any good addict, I couldn’t actually stay completely away from Facebook. I found that there really are times when I’m not doing anything with my time, and it doesn’t hurt to catch up with what’s happening. If I’m waiting in line, at the car wash, in the bathroom, or similarly tied up but idle, fb is pretty harmless.

The problem is if I get sucked in to fb-land and can’t stop checking my notifications. There’s always one more notification. Responding to notifications generates notifications, and if the person on the receiving end of your notifications responds, you get into a volley, which ends up turning into a [negative] feedback loop.

It’s particularly bad when you’re arguing some important issue with your friends and have to be right. Projecting your opinion feels like a form of power. Like, maybe by winning the thread you can persuade others and change the world a little bit, bringing about the utopia you always knew you could build if only you had godlike control over the universe and its inhabitants. Not necessarily. Maybe you are influencing people, but can you measure it? Is it perceptible?

I’m a sarcastic smart-ass, so I like to chime in with a funny comment on just about anything and everything, often at the risk of coming off like an asshole, even if there’s no real point to it other than to be witty. I’m not really an asshole, but I play one in real life. All the time. I’m hilarious, so I’m told, but I don’t know that it’s worth trading being funny on Facebook for whatever else I could have been doing with the time. Now, unless someone’s paying me to write jokes, I think there’s probably better things I could be doing with the time. Joking around and laughing with friends and being the quick witted guy everyone likes feels good and boosts your ego. But it’s a cheap form of validation. Nothing like a real accomplishment, like summiting Everest, or helping another person who needs it, or building something cool. As a proxy for achievement, it’s a false nutrition.

“Outrage porn”, inspirational memes, the politics of self-righteousness

A substantial proportion of content on my fb wall feed is not directly generated by my Friends, but is Shared content. A lot of it is interesting, some of it is even useful. I’m not sure how much of it is valuable. A lot of it is political stuff in a negative vein: Look how bad $other_party is. Look how bad $not_us is. $Bad_news is fucking up the world.

Politics isn’t unimportant, so political stuff has its place in the discourse of the business we conduct with each other on FB, but I think we’re getting the how wrong. Speech is a weak form of action. It’s powerful only if it inspires strong action: changing your behavior. Information is valuable, but its value remains only potential if you do not act on it. There’s a great deal of information which we can act on only in an abstract manner. I can’t do anything about Fukushima, or Deepwater Horizon, unless I want to completely disrupt my life and physically go there and volunteer to participate in the cleanup. I suppose perhaps that there are some number of people who read the news and then walk away from their status quo life and dedicate the remaining part of it to acting in response to that news story. But such people must be vanishingly rare. I mean, I might be able to write to my government and advise them to be careful with nuclear energy, or maybe suggest that they help Japan in some way. Maybe I’ll think twice about eating seafood. Beyond that, apart from any “human interest” satisfaction I might get from feeling informed about the world I live in, what value does it have? I just end up feeling despair, helplessness, bitterness, cynical, outraged. And I feel like this is how I should feel, as an informed person in a world going to hell at a seemingly exponentially increasing rate. But still — does feeling this way do anything to slow down the hell-goto rate? Does it make me a better person in anything but an abstract manner? At most I think I can say that it changes my spending patterns — slightly. I wish that I could say more than that. Well maybe not even. I wish that I wish that I could say that. But really, changing how I live my life too far out of the comfort zone that the culture I live in has prescribed for me isn’t really happening. I’ll wait like all the others for the crisis to reach the point of no return, and then and only then will we do things — but not because we were inspired by something we read on Facebook — it will be forced out of necessity.

The biggest problem with “outrage porn” is that all of it seems very important, and knowing about it makes you feel very informed. And it is, and you are, but you’re still not actually empowered to do things. Unless you’re the rare type of person who is out there already doing things. But the inertia of the vast majority of us who are living status quo lives will dampen the force you can exert on the world, to almost nothing — at least until most of us die off due to whatever the calamity is that we’re reading about this week. But almost nothing is still something. So, world-changers: as the anchorman said to the weatherman, “keep fucking that chicken.”

Facebook does provide value; whether it’s a net gain depends on you

Facebook does a [pretty*] great job of putting me in touch with people who I met casually one time and turning them into recurring bit players, and sometimes even friends, in my life. It helps me to not feel isolated in my interests, in my values. It helps me stay abreast of the news of the day, at least insofar as it is filtered by the echo chamber of the like-minded people I’ve Friended. It does a pretty good job of giving me a calendar with reminders for my social events.

*I say “pretty great” job because I don’t like the way that Facebook seems to meddle with who’s posts I actually get to see. I have something over 300+ friends, and yet it’s the same 20-ish individuals who I see posts from, or interact with. And for some strange reason they’re not all the people who I considered my closest friends. Over time, they’ve come to know me, and me, them, moreso than a lot of people who I considered my close friends. It makes me feel like this was less a matter that we had any choice in, and more what Facebook picked for me. Which is pretty disturbing, to say the least. Still, in spite of all that, it still provides what feels like a vibrant medium for social interaction with people I’ve chosen to interact with. But why this subset and not another clique of equally worthy and desirable friends? I have no idea.

More than anything, though, Facebook gives me an inflated sense of mattering. Every like, share, and comment is a tiny validation, and I crave that more than almost anything. That’s why I’ve been posting to Facebook since 2008 like they were paying me a dollar per word.

What do you look at? Who do you interact with? What do you share? What do you say? Most importantly, what do you do?

How to maximize your FB-value while minimizing time consumption

It’s Facebook nature to reward the trivial, and to trivialize the important. And it’s our job to go against that grain. Probably the worst thing about FB taking up every waking instant that I wasn’t actively engaged with something else was that it eliminated quiet time. The times when I used to think my deep thoughts, now were almost completely taken up by FB interactions, checking to see what someone commented to, seeing what the new notifications were. So many of the notifications are of things that I don’t care about, or updates to a thread that I read and participated in once and am now done with. But they keep sucking me back in. That red 1 just demands my attention, whether it’s something important and cool or something unimportant. Somehow, they just don’t get the filtering for that feature right.

When I first started using FB in 2008, wall posts had a maximum length. It was something larger than Twitter, but in order to exceed that length you had to use an FB-app called Notes, which allowed longer content. Almost no one used Notes, or saw them, and eventually FB did away with the length restriction and merged notes and wall into a unified stream. But brevity was the order of the day. It’s how the new social media would defeat the old standbys of MySpace and Livejournal. And by tying your recognizable, public, real life identity to your account, FB ensured that the content we shared would be filtered to be “appropriate” for all our real-world friends, acquaintances, stalkers, and future employers, or that there’d be consequences. You don’t get deep or overly personal on Facebook, the way you once felt safe enough to on MySpace or LJ. But because it’s easier to find people, and the interface for sharing stuff (whether yours or just stuff you found on the web) is way better, FB won.

Since everyone’s there now, and FB has gravity enough to keep them there, at least for now, here are a few things I’ve observed that can help reclaim the time taken up by unrestricted facebooking:

  1. Don’t comment unless it really needs to be said. Refraining from commenting saves almost as much time as not reading at all. If you’re a fast reader, you can read quickly and not waste a whole lot of time as long as you don’t get bogged down in composing and posting responses. This is the secret value of the Like button; it’s a one-click response. It’s terribly shallow, and often it’s not contextually appropriate to “Like” things that aren’t good news, but are well-written or express something you agree with. But unless you have something truly great to say in response to something, maybe it’s the most economical response.
  2. Don’t click links. Not clicking every link that looked interesting or curious also saves me a lot of time. A lot of what people share is what we have come to call “link bait”. It’s like spam, only it’s stuff you might reasonably be curious or interested in and think is cool or important, because some friend of yours thought it was. Don’t bite. Clicking only on things that have a direct, immediate relevance to me helps. It’s very easy to get sucked into every little thing that flows down your Wall, but only if you let it. If you want to make clicking links a choice rather than a habit, it takes discipline, but doing so is necessary in order to reclaim your time.
  3. Use the “stop notifications” feature. If you do want to just comment once and move on with your life, use “stop notifications”. You won’t get the validation and satisfaction that comes from knowing that 6 people liked your quip, and you won’t get to sink hours into lengthy exchanges with Friends who have some minor semantic disagreement of fundamental importance with the way you said that thing you said. But generally, it’s worth it.
  4. Don’t refresh for the sake of refreshing. This is a sure sign of addictive behavior. If you scroll down to the last thing that you remembered seeing, don’t scroll back to the top and start again. If your wall is particularly active, it’s virtually guaranteed that by the time you catch up with your reading, there’s bound to be a new post at the top of your wall, or a new notification of someone liking or commenting on something. You don’t have to be on top of that at all times. In fact, unless you’re being paid to be, probably it’s not worth it. The Wall feed scrolls like a treadmill, and you need to be the one to decide when to get off. Do it, and get away and do something. Special challenge: Don’t come back until you’ve accomplished something worthy of actually posting about on your own wall. Not a photo of what you had for breakfast, but a true milestone in some project you’re working on.
  5. Skip all videos. You can’t skim a video. They take time. You can’t keep scrolling and read other stuff until they’re done. You said you gave up watching TV because you had better things to do with your time; this is probably even less well produced. Is it really worth your time?
  6. Don’t share it. Was it cute? Was it hilarious? Can’t resist posting it because it’s just too good? Don’t do it. You can use facebook without even being on facebook.com. The Share button is uniquitous. You can share just about anything you find. Think twice before doing so. Ask yourself: If someone else posted this on their wall, and I saw it, would it be a waste of my time? If answering that question takes too much time/thought to answer, then make a rule to only share one thing a day, and ask yourself “If I could only share one thing today, would this be it?” If it’s not, then pass it by and move on with your life. (If you hit 11:59 pm and still haven’t found something better to share, don’t go back and “rescue” your one share for the day.)
  7. Facebook needs a “digest mode”. I’d be very happy with FB if I could read a digest of the stuff my friends are up to in about 5-10 minutes of skimming, once a day, and then go on with my life, choosing to engage more deeply only where it really matters, whether by commenting or clicking a link to read more. I’d almost pay for that feature alone.
  8. Almost nothing is a complete waste of time. Don’t think about it in terms of wasted time. If you enjoy what you’re doing, can it be said to be a total waste of time? Rather, ask yourself, what would I most enjoy? Something other than using Facebook is almost always the answer. And, likely as often, doing something else while also facebooking from your smartphone is less than focusing your presence on the experience you’re having immediately. Checking facebook in the midst of the experience is like channel surfing to see if something better is on. Even if there is something better going on elsewhere, you’re right here, right now, so unless teleportation is possible, or Lassie is private messaging you a warning about Timmie being stuck in a well, and you have to go rescue him right now, you might as well be focused on the immediate experience you are having, and make the most of that. And don’t spend so much time updating your Wall with what’s happening right now. Experience it first, document it after. Unless you’re trying to be a reporter, live-microblogging everything you do, preserving the stream of your consciousness for posterity is mainly an exercise in narcissism. Even if you truly are leading a remarkable life, you’re just slowing down or missing things if you’re trying to capture it all and send it through your social media filters.

Perhaps I’ll learn even more over the next two weeks, and update this post. But more likely, I’ll have built that spaceship and cured cancer. I have my time back, and can expect to spend a lot more of that time living.

Driven to distraction

Top techy things I’m doing that aren’t game-dev (aside from my day job):

  1. Trying to root my Android device. Mission accomplished.
  2. In order to recover a draft from the local storage on my my WordPress for Android app that got eaten for some reason. Mission accomplished.
  3. Trying to get Chrome to allow me to download root-enabling exploits for my Android device so that I can get root. Mission accomplished.
  4. Temporarily disabling security features on Windows to allow the root-enabling exploits to unpack from their .zip archive and run. Mission accomplished.
  5. Seriously, Google, everyone knows you can root your device, and there are a multitude of legit reasons to do so, it’s open source, open source is supposed to mean freedom, so stop with the forcing people to hack their way into root already. It’s MY device, I paid for it, I’m it’s owner. I shouldn’t need to pwn it to own it. There should be a supported configuration “enable root” that should be all I need to do. It’s totally unacceptable from a freedom standpoint not to have this as a supported feature. By not providing it, you are making yourself an adversary to your customers.
  6. Figure out why when I try to log in to administer this site in Chrome browser on Windows, I get redirected back to the login form, but Firefox and IE don’t have a problem authenticating me. I mean, I have a pretty good idea why, but I just don’t understand why the setting I changed affects Chrome this way, but not IE or FF. Managed to get this one working, at least.

Seriously, I really need a staff of assistants who can do things for me so I can focus on game dev. Doing everything for myself is so inefficient. I wish it were feasible to have underlings. If not a servant class, then at least AI capable of understanding and doing what I want done without me having to spell out every last detail of how.

Reflections on Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat came out in 1992, the year before I graduated from high school. It’s 2013, which means that MK is old enough to drink. Last weekend, I met it at a bar and caught up with it for old time’s sake.

I first saw Mortal Kombat at the local bowling alley in my hometown. The graphics looked impressive, the photograph digitally sampled sprites and rotoscoped animation giving the game a lifelike feel that no other game had. Yet, somehow I felt turned off. I wasn’t really interested in playing it at first. It looked like it was trying to be too hardcore, and the blood and violence felt more like gimmicks to me. Plus, it cost $0.50 to play.

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I first played it. The student center building at my college had a bowling alley in the basement, and there were a few arcade games there, one of which was a Mortal Kombat. There weren’t that many options, and it seemed to get a lot of play from the other guys who hung out there, so I gave it a try. It wasn’t long before I grew very well acquainted with that machine, and I probably dropped over $100 into it by the time I graduated. It was the first videogame that I ever played that I felt was worth two quarters to play.

Mortal Kombat was mega popular in its day, and notorious for its blood and fatality moves. Frequently cited by social critics who tried to call for censorship of games, it was a game parental groups hated, and it rode the publicity to the top. But all that controversy masked that the gameplay was solid, and the game was a lot of fun to play, offering tight balance, considerable depth, and a learning curve that took weeks if not months to master.

I got pretty good at it, but always felt like a second-rate player compared to some of the other guys I played against. I could hold my own against anyone using Scropion, but I secretly felt ashamed, like he was an entry-level character, certainly the first one I tried with any success, with easy to learn moves that did a lot of damage and were easy to land a high percentage of the time, and I felt like my victories were cheaper when I used him, though I never would have admitted it.

I got to like the cheesy Bruce Lee ripoff character, Liu Kang, and, to an extent, Raiden, who seemed to have been ripped off from the cheesier (though great) Big Trouble in Little China —although, due to an unfortunate leg-sweep vulnerability, bug he was a broken character.

But there were two players at my local arcade who were definitely better than me all around — who knew the moves of all the characters, not just three of them. I watched them play, and tried to learn the moves and the timing, and with a lot of practice I developed skill, which was what caused me to respect the game. Mostly I tried to play the single player tournament mode, where I had a decent chance of lasting a few rounds, but when they were around, I’d inevitably have to face their challenge. I got my ass handed to me a lot, but eventually I got good enough with Scorpion that I was pretty evenly matched against anyone.

Still, I never managed to beat the single-player tournament. I got to where I could get up to Goro, occasionally on one credit. But beating Goro was a seriously difficult feat, which I might have managed a handful of times. And then Shang Tsung, seemingly a weaker boss than the underboss, was somehow deceptively able to beat you before you knew what was happening. I had a rule about playing, I would never let myself spend more than $10 at a time, so if I couldn’t do it for that much, I had to walk away.

Last weekend, I was at 16-Bit Bar in Columbus, where they have a lot of great classic arcade games on free play, and I got to give Mortal Kombat another run. It’s been a good 15-16 years since I put my last quarter into it, and at first I couldn’t remember Scorpion’s fatality move. Embarrassingly, I lost a round in the second fight. I continued a lot. But it was on free play mode, and it started coming back to me.

Somehow, this time I managed to beat the single-player tournament. I’m not sure how I managed to do it. Somehow, it didn’t feel as difficult as I remembered — despite having noticeably diminished skills, I just kept trying until I got to the next level. Oddly the game felt slower than I remembered it — probably, I think, because of how later fighting games have gotten progressively faster over the years. Also, I started to notice what worked and what didn’t, and figured out timing and spacing that would enable me to land the powerful attacks that normally get blocked. Instead of going in headstrong and aggressive like my old playing style, I took a more methodical approach and picked apart the AI’s defense. I don’t know how to explain it, but it felt to me like I was able to see the weak points in the AI, and exploit them with predictable certainty.

I actually wondered whether the old game I used to play was set to a higher difficulty level — it’s certainly plausible, although I hope not. The endurance matches took several rematches, and it took a bunch of rematches before I beat Goro. I worked my way up the ladder, and knocked Shang Tsung off the top. I felt elated and accomplished for hours afterward. Taking 20 years to beat a game that has taken your measure is pretty indescribable.

And yeah, when I did it, I screamed “Mortal Kombaaat!!” like in the movie soundtrack, and felt every eye in the bar directed at me for a few seconds before turning back to whatever it was they were doing. Let me tell you, it enhances the experience, even more than you’d think it would.

 

 

Phil Fish vs. Marcus Beer: We all lose.

This is just my opinion, and I don’t have all the information:

I don’t know Phil Fish personally, but I do follow him on Twitter. I have yet to play Fez, I’m sad to say, but it’s obvious to anyone who watched Indie Game: The Movie that he poured his soul into it.

The impression I get from his appearance in IG:TM and his twitter feed is that he’s an emotionally high strung guy, rather sensitive, and prone to lashing out in anger when he perceives that he’s been hurt or slighted. The most lasting impression I came away with was the part in IG:TM where, on camera, a very upset and overworked Phil Fish stated several times that he would kill his former partner if he did not release his share of Fez and allow Fish to finish and release the game. While I understood very well how deeply angered Fish must have felt, having sunk so much of his life into a game that he was depending on to do well, only to be left hanging by the legal fallout of a broken partnership that might prevent him from releasing it at all, it really did not seem like a wise thing to be saying stuff like that, certainly not in front of a camera. It just made Fish look bad, at best a temperamental artist, at worst a loose cannon who might actually go off. It didn’t matter that I felt that he was in the right and getting screwed, he was handling it badly.

Yesterday, it seemed like the whole indie developer world was talking about the latest Phil Fish meltdown. Fish was quitting game development. There would be no Fez II.

The last major meltdown that I’m aware of dealt with Microsoft’s treatment of Fez. Fish wanted to release an update on XBox Live, but Microsoft’s policies were getting in the way, and for a solo developer getting through the red tape hurdles and costs were tremendously burdensome. Fish’s outrage was as righteous as it was epic. I felt like he was on the side of every small developer who wanted to put out a major release.

This time it seemed that he had few friends or supporters, and lots of haters. At best it seemed his fans were mainly expressing disappointment at the announcement of Fez II being canceled, or expressing hope that he’d cool down and come back to the project. But Fish was spewing profanity about the abuse he’d been on the receiving end on, and it didn’t seem like anyone sympathized.

What was it all about? Something to do with “Annoyed Gamer”. Who? Some guy on YouTube with a following, who likes to give his opinionated opinions on games and the game industry.

Apparently, “Annoyed Gamer,” aka Marcus Beer, had gone off on Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow on an episode of Game Trailers’ Invisible Walls for not wanting to give a reaction to a recent Microsoft announcement that the XBox One would allow developers to use a commercial XBox One as a development unit — no need for a special developer’s version of the console.

My opinion on this is that Annoyed Gamer is entitled to his opinion, but is wrong to call out Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow for not giving comments on demand. If the media covering the game industry seeks an opinion on an industry development and asks someone who’s a big name in the industry says “No comment,” THAT IS THEIR STATEMENT. Sure, you can be an asshole and continue to press the issue until you annoy your interview subject and provoke them into blowing up at you, but when you do that, YOU are the asshole, not them. Being an indie gamer is stressful enough without having to deal with goddamn papparazzi who won’t take no for an answer. “You have to suck it up and talk to the press whenever we want, about whatever we want, because it’s an honor for us to want to talk to you,” is simply arrogant. Calling people names because they don’t want to answer your question is bullshit.

Yes, game developers have something to gain from media coverage, and many of us need it in order to promote and market their projects. No one has to give an interview if they don’t want to, or answer a specific question if they don’t want to.

At the end of the day, Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish give us games. That’s more than enough.

Marcus Beer, and his ilk, on the other hand, give us opinions and information. This is also valuable, but it’s information and opinions about the games that developers make. We can come up with these on our own, easily, although there are a few who are unique voices well worth listening to, and I’m glad they’re out there contributing to the conversation.

Without the developers developing, there’s nothing to talk about. We might need each other, but one of us comes before the other.

It’s certainly possible to gain a name, a following, and influence in the industry — whether you’re a dev or a reporter. There are powerful people on either side of the symbiotic relationship. But however much influence you might have, you can’t always get your way. Ultimately, the media coverage exists because the game industry exists. Everyone should be entitled to respect and basic decency, especially people who have given us a celebrated magnum opus like Fez or Braid.

The industry is bigger than any one person, and there will be no shortage of good games to fill the void that Fish will leave behind him. But it’s still something that shouldn’t have happened, and because it did, we all lose out on the games Fish might have created. I don’t mean to defend his personality or the way he handles being in the spotlight, but frankly, to the vast majority of us who don’t know him personally, those things are secondary to his works, and aren’t really of concern to me as a gamer. Leave him alone and let him make games, the gamer in me says. I don’t care what he says in an interview, or if he gives an interview. I want to interact with his creations, not him.

In deference to those who do know Fish and care about him as a person, and to the man himself, he deserves to be given his space and the right to be left alone. With some exceptions, journalists should respect a person’s wishes to be engaged with on terms of their choosing. Game development, particularly as a solo dev or small team, is incredibly stressful, demanding, and difficult. Everyone needs to recognize that, and acknowledge the sacrifices and dedication that are required of game developers, and give them the respect that they deserve.

Bad timing

Yesterday, my laptop’s Lenovo system health software warned me that my hard drive had failed a test back in late June, and that I should replace the hard drive “as soon as possible.” Why I didn’t see this notification back in late June, I’d sure like to know.

I have a spare drive laying around, an SSD, which I would like to move my files to, only it seems I can’t do it. I am trying to use a tool from Paragon Software called Migrate OS to SSD 3.0, which I got for free through a Giveaway of the Day special some time ago.

Now that I’m trying to work with it, it seems that the file migration doesn’t result in a bootable volume. Something is wrong with the boot manager, apparently. Paragon’s documentation recommends running a WinPE tool to build a WinPE USB drive, which can repair problems. But due to a change in the way Microsoft licenses the tools that their WinPE builder puts on disk, they no longer offer the tool. Supposedly they have replaced it with something else called Boot Media Builder, but as far as I can tell it’s not available on their web site either, although they have a download page where you can download a PDF of the manual.

This has taken 12+ hours and counting, and I’m still not out of the woods. I have a few more options to try, but it’s getting frustrating, and wasted a huge chunk of my dev time for the Summer Jam project, so I’m not too happy right now.

Epilogue:

I’m now running on a Crucial M4 256GB SSD, and successfully migrated the OS on my old, failing HDD over to the new SSD. Paragon Migrate OS to SSD utility worked, except for the crucial bit where it sets up the volume as a bootable system partition. Why it does this, I don’t know exactly, because it’s damn inconvenient of it not to do that. But it might have to do with the way Microsoft licenses their Windows PE technologies.

I previously had Ubuntu Linux installed on the SSD, and ran it for a while, and then found that I could not boot it from the ultrabay adapter for some reason, so pulled it out and continued to run Windows from the main hard drive bay. As a result, I got a clue from the first attempt when I put the SSD in to the main bay to boot from it, and got a grub prompt telling me that it couldn’t boot anything. That told me enough to know that the Windows 7 boot loader wasn’t present, and it was still using the Linux grub utility to try to boot the system, which, of course, wouldn’t work. I eventually fixed the problem by using my Windows 7 installation disc to install Windows to the SSD, and then re-migrating the OS from the old drive to the SSD, which now had the Win7 boot loader on it, and then was able to boot as expected.

I’m very happy with the performance of the system now that it’s on a SSD. Chrome launches instantaneously, and everything is much snappier than previously. I’m not sure how much of that to attribute to the hard drive being a hard drive, and how much of it to attribute to it being a failing hard drive, but full or failing hard disks definitely hurt performance in Windows. No longer having 10-30 second delays to launch apps is kindof exciting.

Unfortunately, I lost the entire day to this, and now have pretty much given up hope of finishing my game for the Cleveland Game Devs Summer Jam. After being sick and missing Global Game Jam 2013, and then basically blowing off Ludum Dare 26, I’ve lost 3 good opportunities to make a new game. :-/

3 Upcoming Ohio Tech Events You Should Put On Your Calendar

July has turned into my regretful month of not being able to participate in all the things.

Cleveland GiveCamp 2013

July 19-21, 2013. Register to volunteer. Spend a weekend helping out a local nonprofit with a small IT project, to be completed in a weekend. Hosted by Lean Dog.

I did GiveCamp 2011 and had a very good experience. I would be going this year, but for my involvement with the Cleveland Game Developers Summer Jam.

Cleveland Game Developers Summer Jam

In the tradition of Global Game Jam, Cleveland Game Developers is putting on our first self-sponsored weekend game jam. July 19-21, 2013. Tickets are available through EventBrite. Hosted by Shaker LaunchHouse.

PyOhio

July 27-28, 2013, at the Ohio Union in Columbus, Ohio. If you’re a Python developer, or interested in becoming one, this is a good conference to check out.

And, coming up in the near future…

Ohio Game Dev Expo

This one won’t be until September 14, also at the Ohio Union, Columbus, Ohio. I haven’t been to this one before, but am looking forward to checking it out. It appears that we’re starting to establish a strong community of game developers in the state. It looks like there is likely to be a pretty large Cleveland presence at this one, but I’m excited to get to meet other game developers in the region.

General update

I have been busy and feeling somewhat burned out and have taken a few weeks off from updating the blog here. I’ve actually been quite busy, though, and have a lot going on that I want to talk about.

GameMaker Studio Book

First, Packt Publishing had approached me a few months ago, asking if I’d be interested to author their upcoming book on HTML5 game development using Game Maker Studio. I considered doing this, but in the end I decided against it for a few reasons, the main reason being I would rather put my time into actual game development than into writing tutorials.

As well, I believe that there are already a lot of good resources for learning Game Maker basics, and the book Packt wanted me to write seemed to ignore this, preferring to focus on the admittedly wider audience of GameMaker newbies. The book that I wanted to write would have been something more advanced, targeting intermediate and advanced Game Maker devs who have been through the built-in tutorials, read the helpfile on a regular basis, actively use the GMC forums and wiki, and are looking to do things at the next level. Since GM:Studio is aimed at professional developers, it seemed to me that a book for newbies would be better off using GM:Lite, and that in any case, re-hashing existing material wasn’t an interesting project for me, or useful for anyone.

That said, Packt came back later after they found an author for the project, and asked me if I’d be interested to contribute technical review to the book manuscript, and I’ve been helping them out with it. So far, the book is looking pretty good.

Direction, Goals, Priorities

Considering this book opportunity put me in a position of having to think about my goals and priorities and how I’m devoting my resources to this indie game developer thing, and I concluded that I really want my focus to be on making games. While I’m good at writing, I consider it to be a byproduct of my game development efforts. And right now, I really want to have more completed games to show for my efforts.

I write articles and tutorials for your consumption here, mainly as a byproduct of teaching myself something new as I’m working on my own projects, and I think it really helps me to solidify my understanding of what I think I know. By putting my knowledge out there, I create an opportunity for peer review to take place, and hopefully get useful feedback from readers who know more than I do or see a mistake somewhere. But also, I hope that it helps people who haven’t learned something yet that I have.

I’ve always looked at this blog as a free service, which I’ve been happy to provide because I enjoy it, and because it benefits me to do so, in that the more I learn and write about what I learn, the better I get at what I do. And because other people can see my progress, it gives me a little bit of reputation, and increases my visibility so that I can potentially make friends in the game development community and maybe even collaborate with people on projects. This has been enough of a benefit that I have not needed any further incentive, in terms of money.

I’m going about pursuing any professional or business development goals rather passively, mainly by putting myself out there and letting interested parties approach me, as opposed to actively approaching others with proposals and ideas, but so far this has worked for me, and I’ve actually gotten more success from this than I would have expected. Perhaps that’s just because I’m extremely humble and my expectations have been very low, but I’ve appreciated all the interest and offers that I’ve received, whether I’ve taken advantage of them or not. But I’ve always felt that in order to have any kind of viable career as a game developer, I had to focus first on obtaining the skills of a game developer. I have prioritized this above developing skills as a business entrepreneur. And, knowing what sorts of activities make me happy, I feel this has been the right choice for me.

And while I’ve considered doing things with the website to try to bring in revenue, I haven’t cared that much about doing so, because it would take me away from doing game development, and would introduce new headaches as well (taxes, dealing with advertisers, setting up e-commerce, increasing my security vigilence, etc.) Since I’m only one guy, and work full time, I have to choose where I put my time and energy, and the blog itself already takes up a large enough chunk of what I’m able to devote to my game development efforts.

It’s a conundrum. On the one hand, if I had income from game dev related efforts, I could probably justify putting even more resources into it. On the other hand, a lot of those resources would go into things more on the business side of the house, and actually take me away from making games. And because the business income would in all likelihood be less than what I’m currently earning, for now it makes more sense to keep working fulltime and do the game stuff on the side. If there were a bridge to take me from here to there, I’d be really happy, but for now that doesn’t seem to exist for me, and I don’t know how I’d go about building it for myself, and rather than devote time to figuring that out, I’d rather just make games as best I can with the resources I’m able to devote with my current means.

Site update: Now using Google Translate

I’ve added a new feature to the site today, Google Translate’s website translator. This will enable you to tranlate the site automatically into over 60 languages.

Hopefully this will help readers who are more comfortable reading in another language to make use of the information I provide here. I have no idea how well the translator works, but I hope it does a good enough job to convey the understanding.

Keep in mind if you write a comment, I only speak English. If you post a comment in another language, I will try to translate it using the service, and will reply in English, which you will need to translate in order to read.

The Internet Is Vast, But We Travel At The Speed Of Light

Ingenuity Fest Day 2 is behind us now. Lots of kids came and played JS Joust and BaraBariBall. I’m not at all surprised, but younger kids especially seemed to like BaraBariBall. It just goes to show that classic game style appeals to everyone, not just nostalgia-seeking old schoolers.

JS Joust seemed to be quite popular, lots of participation. The novelty of it is that it’s more of a kinesthetic game than anything — it uses computer technology and wireless controllers, but there’s no screen at all. It’s more like a weird game of tag. Imagine playing tag while eating ice cream cones, and the way you win is to knock off everyone else’s ice cream. Only, no one’s crying at the end because their ice cream is now melting on the ground. But also, no one has any ice cream at all.

So, the internet. It amazes me. This is the best time to be alive, I think, despite everything wrong that’s going on in the world. Two days ago, I hadn’t even heard of BaraBariBall, and within a day of posting about it, I got a comment from its creator, saying that he follows the site.

I’m really starting to feel like I’m making connections in the world of Indie game development when things like that happen. Since the end of August, this site’s daily traffic has about doubled. In the last two months, I’ve receive about 20% of the visits since I started this thing back in January 2010.

I’ve been at this for going on 3 years now, which I guess is a long time in one way, and not long at all in another. It’s hard to quantify success, and easy to discount its indicators. The stats counter tells me I have an audience, and it’s building, gradually, so I know you’re out there. I don’t know who you are, though, and I don’t really hear from most of you. I don’t really know what kind of impact what I’m doing has on you, and only my own ideas to tell me what I’m doing right or wrong, or what else I should be doing.

I guess what I’m saying is, I really thrive on feedback. Like anyone else on the internet, it’s all about knowing that you’ve got people’s attention. I’m doing all of this stuff because I love doing it, but it really means a whole lot more when I know that there are other people out there who like what I’m doing and are taking interest.

I’d love to hear from you more. Even if you don’t have anything in particular to say, if you just want to drop a comment on this post, and say “hi”, that’d be great. If you’ve done anything I might have heard of (or that you’d like me to hear of) mention that, too. Or tell me how you came to find the site, what you like about it, what you don’t, or anything else for that matter.