Busy Times

Aug. 5th, 2012 10:37 pm
shannon_a: (Default)

Times have been busy, but I haven't written a lot. Now that I use Facebook more, I understand why it's been harmful to plain blogging sites, because it's easy to write just a few sentences there if that's all that's really important.

Kimberly and I have had busier on Sundays lately. So last week we biked up to El Cerrito Plaza (the Greenway is still an awful mess with some parts not even started, though it's supposed to be about done, ) and visited Ross (to no success) then had a tasty dinner at Rubios. This week we biked out to Point Isabel where we watched dogs and read American Gods. Afterward we stopped by Target (where I got a third pair of jeans comfy for biking) and stopped by Out of the Closet on the way home (where I found three comfy light summer shirts, which is what I'd gone to Ross the previous week looking for).

This coming weekend is our anniversary weekend, and we have much more goodness planned for then.

As part of a plan to improve my fitness and lose some weight, I've continued doing evening rides up the hill. I'm trying to do so at least a couple of times a week. So today Kimberly & I biked out to Point Isabel, then after dinner I biked up to Lake Temescal. My total was 2 hours and 20 miles or something like that.

Over at work I finally got done with my crazy, crazy support for Infinite Canvas and was able to get back to Masters Gallery, the Modern Art Card Game variant I was scheduled to release in July. It went out August 1, which I'll call good enough. Starting on Monday is the next project: I'm hoping to get a 4-tile expansion out for Kingdoms by the end of the month, which includes building in-app purchases into our gaming libraries.

On the home front, I am continuing to clean the house of unneeded stuff as I can. Another large set of stuff went to Half-Price Books last week, when Kimberly was kind enough to accompany me downtown.

And finally I have three relatively large projects I'm working on:

1.) Writing toward what will someday be a second edition of Designers & Dragons, beginning with inputting all my corrections. Right now I've got White Wolf in front of me, because I'd flagged it to rearrange and break up some sections.

2.) Programming on the Armorica game for iOS, because I'm *determined* that work will not stop even if I get really embroiled in other stuff.

3.) General work on Mechanics & Meeples, which includes a lot of reposting of articles (though now I'm only doing that Monday-Thursday night, to try and balance out my various projects), but also new stuff too. I spent 3 or 4 hours this weekend preparing my article for Monday, which was a bit more than planned.

As I often say here: busy, busy, busy.

shannon_a: (Default)
I've been working on a variety of different projects lately, in my free time.

Judges Guild. I finished up my history article on Grimoire Games a couple of weeks ago, and have since published the first part to RPGnet. (Second to follow at the start of July.) And thus I've moved onto a new topic: Judges Guild. Which is actually a company I've written about before, but there's a reason for the return ...

I've been thinking about a second edition of Designers & Dragons lately, and so I've started collecting some new reference material. Last month I got a great deal on a pack of about 25 Judges Guild Journals, The Dungeoneer, and Pegasus — all told, the three magazines from Judges Guild. I've been slowly indexing them, and along the way using them to improve my understanding of Judges Guild — taking notes as I learned interesting stuff.

At some point when I sit down and revise my current Judges Guild article, this should all be really helpful. In the meantime, I'm going to probably write a "Magazine History" for Designers & Dragons: The Column covering JG's publications.

Armorica. For a long time I've been trying to put together an iOS adaptation of my friend Eric V's card game, Armorica. I got side-tracked last year while working hard on iOS releases for Skotos, but in the last several weeks I've managing to get it going again, by writing down a new TODO list for the game, with little bite-sized TODOs, then knocking several things off the list every week.

In recent weeks I've killed lots of bugs and fixed some UI issues. I'm just now getting into the last major mechanic, which is the requirement to discard some cards during "winter". When I finish that, I'll soon be pushing on to AI! I'm hoping to release it in Q3, between Skotos' actual releases.

Web Page. Since the release of Designers & Dragons, I've become increasingly aware of the fact that I don't have any good web site to help plug it. My old web site was created maybe a decade ago, and is increasingly out of date, a mish-mash of several different layout schemes, etc.

So I've undertaken revamping it all. I finally figured out how to get the project underway when I borrowed RPGnet's CMS system, or at least the part of it that creates boxes of information. I've thus far created a new home page. From there, I hope to start converting old data, then string it all together. I'm hoping that the final result will be a nice index of all the work I've done, with links to other info as relevant.

Busy Week

Oct. 1st, 2011 10:40 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
Been a busy week. Kimberly was feeling ill toward the start of the week, so I played Dominion with her Monday evening, then with her and her friend Lisa on Tuesday evening. Wednesday, Donald was in the area, so Kimberly and I had dinner with him before I headed out to Endgame. (He stayed to play ... wait for it ... Dominion.)

With regular gaming for me on Wednesday and Thursday, RPG prep on Friday, then the actual RPG game today, plus grocery shopping, I'm tuckered out, as is sometimes the case on Saturday evenings.

(Though I wasn't that burned out on Tuesday or Wednesday, despite the high level of peoples, I think because I kept my interactions pretty brief. Though I actually may have been a bit more intolerant of slow gaming than usual, now that I think of it.)

We have continued watching new TV shows. Here's a few more thoughts.

After the second "A Gifted Man" appeared on the Tivo, I decided I didn't really give a damn about it. Kimberly feels likewise and will be deleting the season pass. I now see that its' ratings were suboptimal in any case. I'd bet it's cancelled before the end of the year.

Tonight Kimberly and I watching the second episode of "New Girl" and were pleased to see that it continues to be funny. We were however, both a bit nonplussed by them replacing a black character with another black character, like they're all interchangeable. Mind you, if they'd replaced a black character with a white character, we might have thought they were white-washing the cast. So, they were probably in a no-win situation when the actor playing said character found his previous TV series very unexpectedly renewed.

We started watching "Alphas" some weeks ago (catching up on all the old episodes thanks to a "Syfy" marathon ... though we're still weeks behind). Accepting that it's the weak pablum that Syfy offers up as science-fiction nowadays, it's pretty good. Great characters and a fun scientific setup for superpowers. There's also been some hint of a wider arc, though I don't trust Syfy to push on it very much. But, well worth watching.

"Haven", meanwhile, is a returnee from last summer that we started watching again this summer (and we've got two episodes left to see on our Tivo). It was based on a superb Stephen King novella, and the series has been ... OK. Kimberly liked it more than I did in season 1, though in the last couple of episodes they did some surprising things that really redeemed it in my eyes. This season that excitement continued on for 2 or 3 episodes ... then things mainly reverted to normal and the show became a highly predictable procedural (with a supporting character, Duke, being the only one with a particularly interesting character arc). Both Kimberly and I somewhat groan as it comes on now. We'll probably keep habitually watching it, as summer is often pretty vacant, but I'm not convinced it's actually worth it. Maybe they'll interest me again with the season finale though ...

Came to the realization lately that I've been working on iPhone euro games for something like 2 years now, with 5 games to show for my trouble, plus 2 more approaching completion. I think that's started to burn me out a bit, and that I need to push on to some other things after these games get put to bed. But, I was kind of considering that anyway, because I'm not convinced that the iPhones euros are our best thing to do going forward, as the market has worsened as it's saturated over the last two years. So, we may cut down on the euros and try some other things.

I actually spent much of last week translating one of our iPhone games to the Mac. It's the kind of work that somewhat terrifies me, as I'm throwing myself pretty fully into an area where my expertise is pretty limited. But, a week later I can play the game through on my Mac and I've got a pretty clean code base that I can continue to use for Mac and iPhone alike. And, my expertise is considerably improved. I've still got a lot of fiddling to do to get all of our subwindows working well, but it's increasingly looking doable, which is a relief.

We'll see how this new direction does, as the Mac App Store is much less mature at this point ... I've love it to do well and push all of our games over ...
shannon_a: (marrach skotos)
My newest iPhone game released this week, Reiner Knizia's Modern Art: The Card Game. That's #5. You can find a complete list of all my euro games over at RPGnet.

Since I've finished with Designers & Dragons I've also gotten back to my other writing: which is to say articles and reviews about board games (mostly).

New Board Game Articles

On the AI of Modern Art: The Card Game for the iPhone:

How Resident Evil Expands the Deckbuilding Field:

Why Amun-Re is Still a Cool Game:

How Nighfall Expands the Deckbuilding Field:

New Board Game Reviews:

Cargo Noir:

Castle of the Devil:


Ticket to Ride: Alvin & Dexter:

Zombie in My Pocket:
shannon_a: (Default)
Auction! Saturday was the Endgame auction, and I stopped in there for about an hour. As someone said while I was there, there's something fun about watching people bid for games (and occasionally exchanging comments with friends while doing so). I did myself bid on a Liberte (which I didn't get) and a To Court the King (which I did). The latter went for all of $6, pointing out how much of a buyer's market the Endgame auction is ... but many of us sellers also find it sufficiently convenient that it's worth lower prices. I saw about $100 of my own games sell in that hour. I do have some concerns if all of my stuff sold because there was a huge glut of games, as Robert brought in 300-450 from his collection(!). Nonetheless, Aaron cleared somewhere between 60 and 90 games in the hour I was there, which looked like a good start. (Just glanced at the Twitter feed, and it said 5 hours, 500+ games, so he apparently maintained or improved upon that rate. Wow!)

(I'll find out when I go in on Wednesday, but I'll bring my panniers just in case I have stuff to go back home ... and if I do have unsold games, it won't be a big deal like it would have been in previous years, because we'll soon be using our garage for storage, pending the floor being smoothed out and Bob building us some shelves.)

Gaming! I only stayed at the auction for an hour because I had my normal KingMaker game later on Saturday, which was run from my home. Munchkin tormented the cat-allergic people for a while, but other than that the game was pretty normative. We stopped just short of the final battle for book one of the adventure path. Overall, I'm pleased that I decided to run this campaign at a slower speed, else I think it would have just blinked past us (given that we're looking at 60-75 session based on the current speed things are going).

A Bit of Biking. We had some late rain on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. When I went out to lunch on Sunday I was hoping that it'd clear up enough that I could bike a bit before returning home. And, 'lo and behold, it did. I'd been considering riding the Ohlone Greenway, which I'd been wanted to do for weeks. Ultimately, I decided that I didn't want to spend that much of my Sunday biking, as my freetime still feels very valuable. I did bike through the hills of north Berkeley up to Solano Avenue and back, though, which was a very nice ride on a surprisingly nice day.

Last rain of the (water) year??

About that Free Time ... I've been relaxing pretty well since I finished work on the RPG history book. In fact, I've be astounded by the amount of free time I have in evenings and weekends (especially with RPGing biweekly or so at the moment).

I've had so much free time that as of last week I was ... starting to get a little bored. Only so many books you can read, eh? So I think I'm going to be starting on my next freetime project in a week or two, which will be an iPhone adaptation of my friend Eric's Armorica game (and something which I'd actually started last year before the RPG history book ate my mind).
shannon_a: (Default)
We've had rain, rain, rain for weeks now. On the bright side, despite a claim that it was going to rain straight through this week, we've actually had a lot of sunshine this Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (with dabs of rain here and there).

I went somewhat unexpectedly into EndGame tonight because of the nice weather. I'd been planning to say home, but when I saw the (somewhat) clear sky and (bits of) sunshine I decided I much preferred to get out of the house for a while.

It stayed nice until I got there, starting raining about 2 minutes after my arrival, but was dry again by the time I came home. And, it was a wonderful ride home. The street was very wet and the wind was either behind me or had dropped altogether. As a result it was a very easy ride home from Oakland. I often felt like I was riding on that good white concrete because my bike just glided the whole way. Mind you, when I took a turn I sometimes felt my tires really skittering. So that's the good and the bad of friction-light riding.

Got home and as I always do now, I popped open the garage door with my opener. And I came to realize how much I've come to like that nicely-lit rebuilt garage. It's such a change, from the black hole it was until this year, to a pleasant haven awaiting me at home.

And then I went into our foyer which we've also rebuilt less dramatically--mainly by moving Kimberly's desk out of there and putting in her white bench and a coat rack. We've also got a shoe rack, but I haven't taken the time to assemble it. But in any case, the foyer feels like a pleasant part of our house now too, whereas before it was just that ugly crap-filled room we went through on our way outdoors.

Programming for Skotos continues. I've got a feature-complete Modern Art: The Card Game at this point, which I'm bug-fixing and improving. It's scheduled to be finished next month. I need to get going on better AIs pretty soon, but the project is looking very manageable.

Meanwhile, I'm making good progress on my really-this-time final draft of Designers & Dragons. Every day, I knock out a few more comments from people. I even got one done tonight, spending half-an-hour on Pagan Publishing just now.

Once I get to the weekend, I'm going to see if I want to create some new mini-histories to pull the company count up to 90. Or maybe spend some time on histories of Glorantha and Tekumel that I considered and never got to. But the actual required work, which is the comments, is looking pretty casual, so I'm feeling good. (Mind you it's still hours of work, and editing is the thing I hate most, but there you go.)

How good am I feeling? Well, I wrote a journal entry on something more than the book!

Poor Kimberly, not feeling so good. Another cold! I'm hoping it doesn't jump to me in the next days.
shannon_a: (Default)
Just heard bells ringing downstairs. Or thought I did. Tai Chi (Guest Cat) has a belled collar you see, and so we heard jingling back and forth for 9 days while he visited. But Mom Melody and Jared picked him up late last night and took him home. So no actual bells downstairs. He was a real pleasure to have this time, as he was pretty well integrated into the house. Not much hissing really at any time, and not much Tai-Chi-retreating-to-the-office-to-hide. But Lucy did chase him a lot.

Feeling a bit spacey today because I'm sick. Again. Dammit. Another cold that I hope passes as quickly as the last one. Because I've been sick while in Hawaii before, and that's just a waste of sunlight. We shall see. I'm feeling better tonight than I was this morning. Hopefully tomorrow will be better again. But I could feel worse instead.

It was a bad day to come down sick as today was my day to get Michael Schacht's Gold! out the door. Fortunately I'd arranged my time pretty well, and I really did have just slight polish to do today. But everything took twice as long. Then another stupid bug in Apple's upload software cost me some time. So it was still more than a day's worth of work, or at least a sick day. But it's uploaded now. It's scheduled to go on sale February 3, which is the same day the physical game goes on sale, which we're trumpeting as a first, and probably is for any mass-market publication.

Well, that's all true if Apple doesn't reject the app, of course. We've been good so far, and in fact they've approved at least one that I wish they hadn't of because of a bug on a platform I hadn't tested for. But in any case I figure if they reject one, it'll be the one that we have a set date for. But I've got my bets hedged via a laptop that will go with me to Hawaii. Once I submit all my code and sync it over, I'll be able to build from there in the (hopefully unlikely) case that the code gets rejected.

Probably all the work on Gold!, which I really cranked on for these last two weeks, plus all the work on my history book, which I've really cranked on for the last two weeks, is what set me up to get sick. I cut back these last two days, realizing I was chancing running myself into the ground, but apparently too little too late.

Which leaves me figuring out how much I can do on the history book before I leave for Hawaii without it being too much.

(And there is certainly no work being done in Hawaii, absent that potential for problem.)

Still hoping to get my three new articles done, which I'm half-way into.

And hoping to be feeling better very quickly. Tomorrow will tell. Or the next day.
shannon_a: (Default)
So, holiday ended on Sunday, and what's followed has been a very busy week.

Programming. The main busyness has been work-related. My schedule calls for our next iPhone app, Michael Schacht's Gold!, to be done a week from today, meaning I had two weeks left when I got started on Monday. My feeling at the start of the week was that two weeks was very doable to allow for a top-quality release, but that I needed to be very focused.

I'm not always good at being very focused, which is a blessing and a curse, but the holiday helped. So I did manage to spend five days being very focused and along the way I hit all the major reprogramming issues I needed to hit before release but one, so things are looking very good for a submission of Gold! next Friday, as planned. But, it'll take another focused week.

The History Book. Busyness II for the week was the good 'ole history book. As you may know, I've been doing my rewrite/edit/expansion for about 42 weeks now, but the thing I hadn't touched was the artwork. My current publishers would like RPG covers from the various companies discussed to use as the artwork and told me I needed to put it together for them. They did have a suggestion for doing so: by calling upon the power of RPGnet. Still, I knew it'd require a lot of organization on my part and time.

So my schedule called for me starting on the artwork scanning on 1/1, which I did. I'm getting lots of good content from RPGnet right now, but it's also obvious to me that I currently have holes. But, trying to stay on top of the incoming scans (and doing some of my own) created more busyness.

If you'd like to help out with some RPG Book scans, my current want list is here.

Cat Sitting. My sister Melody and her boyfriend, Jared, came up on Tuesday to drop off cat Tai Chi, who's staying with us until next Thursday while they visit the folks in wonderful, warm Hawaii. (Oh, how I dream of thee, stuck in freezing California.) As is usually the case, we spent a few hours eating, chatting, and saying goodbye to Tai Chi. And I then went back and did work in the evening because I'd spent part of my free time in the afternoon, as it were (which was great, mind you, as I don't see the two of them often). So, more busyness there.

Tai Chi has settled in remarkably well this time, proving that there is some progression every time he visits. He wanted out of my office within hours, and has roamed remarkably freely (though I've seen Lucy terrify him a few times). The other cats are also remarkably hiss-free. Not hiss-free, mind you, but it's at pretty low key. And I even saw Cobweb headbutt Tai Chi today when she wanted to get at his food.

Tonight. So now it's Friday night. I'm juggling reading/prepping for tomorrow's Pathfinder adventure (I'm going to look through the PF Bestiary 2 PDF that I just got to see if something jumps out at me as my original encounter tomorrow); writing up a totally new history (on Evil Hat; I decided I needed to get my original histories done before Hawaii so that I have time to gather comments); and continuing with the scanning project.

So, busy, busy, busy. Probably a busier week since when I was working full-bore on the history book back in 2007.

But, some restful time too. I just finished a reread of the original Thieves' World book the other day. Good stuff!
shannon_a: (Default)
Garage Hi-Jinx. So our builders came out on Monday to do Day #2 on the construction of our garage. Well, really Day #1, since they only put in a couple of hours previously before running into the gable-roof problem. And really, the destruction of our garage, but you get the idea.

They went at it for a good 7 hours or so and in the process pretty seriously destroyed the garage. They took out the side brick wall, which I've been afraid was going to come down, as far back as the side of the house, then started more slowly peeling it back from that point. Somewhat to my surprise, they unearthed wood shingles on the side of our house, behind the garage wall.

(I did know the house used to have wood shingles, as they're still on the wall of our sun room upstairs.)

Afterward the builders took out the front of the garage, then the little pillar that remained in the northwest corner. The destruction certainly isn't complete, as there's the back couple of feet of the roof and the back couple of feet on the west wall, but it's close. (The south and east walls are staying, both because they were in good shape and because we can't take out all of the walls of the structure. But mainly because they were in good shape.)

(See what it looked like after their previous 2 hours of destruction)

As the above picture shows, our "garage" looks a lot more like an empty space with debris in it now. We've got a chunk of wood lying across the front to try and discourage stupid people from mucking with the debris.

Unfortunately, the builders also found a problem. Or really two problems. First, the foundation of our house is about 18 inches above the floor of the garage, which is not up to code (and probably wasn't when it was done either, based on the various things that were done to this house before we lived here). Second, the roots from the Acacia that we took down last year have gotten under the foundation.

So, we'll probably need to put a pylon in under that corner of the house, tearing our roots to do so. It'll cost more money, but if that's all that's required, it should be OK. (I panicked a bit at first when Kimberly described the roots as growing through our foundation, which would have been disastrous, but that was just because she thought the foundation was at sidewalk level, not 18 inches up.)

So now the builders have taken a break while they again talk with the architect about what to do. I thought he was overpriced when he just drew up the plans (but not him specifically; architects in general), but if he keeps figuring out problems like this, I'll revise my estimate.

Gold in Them Thar iPhones. This afternoon I passed around my first alpha test of the next Skotos iPhone game, which is Michael Schacht's Gold!, which we'll simultaneously be releasing on the iPhone alongside the tabletop release (if all goes well).

I've been very pleased at how well the coding has gone, because so much of it has been well supported by the card library that I've now built three games upon. I've theoretically been working on it for six weeks, but I've been pretty extensively revising our other games and library at the same time, so I've got maybe two man-weeks of actual effort into it. Having a feature-complete version of the game in that timeframe is great, especially with many bugs and UI issues already squashed.

That release is going to be February 1 if all goes well.

I'm Dreaming of a White Thanksgiving ... It's been cold here in the Bay Area lately. The intellectually-challenged ex-governor of Alaska is no longer my least favorite export from that state. It's once more these darned Alaskan storms that freeze us to death.

Today when I went in to EndGame I wore my winter warmest, which included pants, a shirt, an overshirt, a windbreaker, gloves, and a "Jayne hat" pulled through my bike helmet. Glad I wore it though because it was a teeth-chattering 39 degrees when I headed home. Brrr.

(And I smirk at my dad telling us how cold it was last time we were in Hawaii. It was in the high 60s.)
shannon_a: (Default)
This morning Lucy awoke me about an hour and a half before I wanted to get up by running back and forth between all the blinds in the bedroom and getting them. This is the second day in a row that she's done that. I yelled and shouted at her, and she finally let them be. Tomorrow, I will have a water bottle by the bed.

Afterward I drifted back to sleep and started to dream that I was lying on a tombolo. Waves kept coming at me from first one direction, then the other, forcing me to jerk this way than that, and threatening to drown me.

Then I was dreaming that I was back in bed, and it was Lucy who kept jumping at me, forcing me to twist this way and that.

And that caused me to jerk awake again. Damned cat woke me twice and she wasn't even there the second time.

I also dreamed of Warhammer last night. I've only ever played Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay once, to try out the third edition, and I've never played Warhammer Fantasy Battle. But I was reading about them late last night for the work I'm doing on the Fantasy Flight, Games Workshop, and Hogshead Publishing histories.

It's rare that my concerns of the day translate that seamlessly into my dreams of the night.

And speaking of concerns of the day, my next iPhone game, Reiner Knizia's Kingdoms is done and submitted to Apple. Woo hoo! It actually took about half-a-dozen tries to submit it due to some combination of poor validation, poor error messaging, and poor IDE setup on Apple's part, but it's through. (I should write an article about the errors I hit, but then I have at least 3 or 4 iPhone articles that I should wrote.) I think Kingdoms for the iPhone at least as strong as Money, and am looking forward to seeing it out there in the store (in about a week).

I'll post here when it's actually released ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Hot! After a couple of hot days last week, we've got a couple of hot days this week too: yesterday and just today, according to reports. I usually hate the heat, but this year it's been very welcome after the long, gray summer we've had. Yesterday was the first day I can remember when I was working in my office on a hot day and didn't feel particularly warm (mind you, it was in the 80s, which usually roasts my office, but I think I was just basking in the unexpected heat).

It was so nice yesterday that when I rode home from EndGame at about 11pm, I was just wearing my t-shirt and jeans; no jacket. I love evenings when I'm out and it's still warm enough to have light clothes on. Perhaps it reminds me of summers in Missouri. It's very uncommon here because the fog rolls in from the Bay every evening. But yesterday was a nice exception.

(Mind you I don't always think it's nice when I try to go to bed, since our upstairs retains heat in the summer, but there you go ...)

AI. I've continued to work on Reiner Knizia's Kingdoms for the iPhone/iPad these last couple of weeks. It's been going well, but I'd been having increasing problems with the AI. So yesterday afternoon I started hacking apart my long mass of decision-making code into individual choices like isBetterCastleCell:thanSet:forPlayer: and isAcceptableCastleCell:forPlayer:.

Chopping the entire routine into individual decisions is really clarifying things for me, making it more obvious where individual AI choices should go, and also helping to clean up some so-so code. It's nice to see something come together like that. So I'll be doing more work rewriting the rest of the AI today and then it should be a lot easier to do some improvement and differentiation work that's on my list.

Rides & Birthdays. When up to Chris' house on Sunday for his birthday. It's been a while since I've ridden to his house in the hills and I was very pleased to discover it was much easier. I used to have to walk up good chunks of those final hills and I'd still arrive at this house pretty light-headed. This time I did walk two sections, but no more than 100 feet or so each and that's much less than I used to (and with more weight, as I was carrying games). Also, I was fine other than being a bit sweaty when I got there. (Note to self: next time bring an extra shirt.)

The party was low-key. Some talking, some bbqing, and some gaming. The games were a bit slower than usual since folks were less used to then, but it was a fun evening. I got to chat with Chaz and Ken a bit, both people I saw occasionally at our old offices but haven't seen in ages.

On the ride home, I was quite surprised how dark it was on those roads up in the hills. Whew. It was really road-in-your-headlights riding. (I was also surprised by the same last night when I took College Avenue part of the way home from Endgame.)

Anyhoo, back to AIs.
shannon_a: (Default)
A rather curious week. During each day I was working on the iPhone adaptations of Kingdoms for Skotos, then on the nights where I had time (Monday, Tuesday & tonight), I was working on the iPhone adaptation of Armorica for myself.

Both ports are in relatively early days; I was updating my card game library to better accommodate some of their special features rather than coding actual turn-order and AI. For Kingdoms that meant laying out a grid and moving cards (tiles) to it via various means. For Armorica that meant allowing the fanning of a deck of cards without reordering it. It gave me a bit of vertigo as I went from one to the other, not completing either but just continuing on from day to day.

It was effective though. Kingdoms' grid is now working as is the new method of non-sorting fanning for Armorica (as well as some other simple display issues).

Now the reason I gave Armorica lots of time this week is that Eric V. is having a release party for the game at Endgame tomorrow. So I thought he'd enjoy having the start of a prototype working, so he could show off cards on a screen. Unfortunately my iPod Touch that I use for testbedding gave up the ghost this evening after being increasingly flaky over the last couple of months. So, it needs to go off to Apple for repair and I can't give it to Eric to show off tomorrow. Ah well. I should be able to drop it by the UPS Store on Monday.

But, the whole have-it-for-the-release-party thing was more an excuse than anything, a deadline to give me a goal and get me working. Hopefully now that I have some start I'll be able to continue on more easily in the future, even if it's in small bits.

(I always find the start of these iPhone projects, up until the point where I have a proven display that incorporates all the info, the hardest. 320x480 is so, so tiny that it just boggles the mind trying to fit everything onto it. I understand why some developers are going iPad-only, though I think they're hugely shrinking their market by doing so.)

Should be sleeping, as I want to be in to Endgame by about 11am, but I was up programming too late. I'll have to go read for a bit to slow down the mind ...

Some of my next projects are going to involve Michael Schacht's games. I'm unreasonably thrilled that he's added me to his list of "game scene insights". I can't link to the exact page, but it's just one --> in, under "A". There's a pic of me with my Lucy cat.

Many Posts

Jul. 21st, 2010 12:33 am
shannon_a: (Default)
I just haven't been managing to write here lately. And here's another week gone by.

A Weird Saturday. An unusual Saturday this week, with gaming at my house because EndGame was having one of its mini-cons. Kind of nice as a change of pace, though I did miss getting my Saturday bike ride.

And our Saturday gaming's been going great. We've been on a 3-out-of-4 week schedule for 6 weeks in a row now. Much better than the one-game-a-month of the early year.

A Lost Weekend. I'm not even sure what I did the rest of the weekend. Some writing on various things on Sunday, I guess. K. and I had considered going to the dog park, but she ended up being too sick to go.

Much Coding. I'm at the starting point of my next coding project, which is Reiner Knizia's Kingdoms. I'm having more luck this time with not slacking off at the start of the project, but I'm also finding more code cleanup that I want to do, which is slowing things down. Still, hopefully continuing to improve the code. And, I'm making sure to hit some benchmarks week by week too. I hope to have a largely functional game, minus the AI, by the end of the month. Of course there are still other issues, like art ...

A Target Evening. Today K. and I biked down to Target to get some toothbrushes and new sheets. We marveled at the new grocery section that Target has. I think we browsed it for an hour. Very good selection and very cheap prices. Well, compared to the super-small and super-expensive grocery stores that proliferate in Berkeley like vermin. We're talking about maybe biking out there to get our groceries on occasion. It's only about 5 miles, but the trick will be carrying everything back. I'm going to look into options to make my bike better able to carry stuff.

Thursday Problems. We seem to have hit a bit of a problem with our Thursday games since John left. We missed critical mass last week and might this week too. I have a bit of a backload of reviews to write, so it's not a huge problem at present, but I'd like to fix it soon before we all get out of the habit. I probably need to give up on our newest person who'd said he wanted to game with us and to issue a new invite. I had a couple of people I'd love to see here on Thursdays ...
shannon_a: (Default)
I've been meaning to write about a variety of things for days.

The most exciting thing for today is that we released Reiner Knizia's High Society, which I'd been working on for many months.

Mind you, there's a downside to that too. Very mysteriously the distribution release fails on older iPhones running 3.1.3 of the OS. I say it's mysterious because I can replicate the bug on my iPhone with the version that went through Apple, but every other build works fine. Pfah. I'm going to try and locate another slight bug I saw in "continue" and upload a totally new build with the newest SDK tomorrow, and hope that does the job, because a bug that I see only after Apple's 1-week approval is going to be a pretty nasty one to debug.

Edit: Having had several hours of downtime I was able to go back to High Society, replicate the bug, find the cause, and fix it. Now I just have to wait for Apple to approve the update. My note to self is probably to wait until day #2 to do my publicity engine, so that I can pull a release if it went wrong. And my bigger note is probably: more beta testers.

Here's the other stuff of note:

Oakland Lives. So, I biked down to Endgame on Saturday, and along the way got to see the carnage caused by the pseudo-humans who were "protesting" on Thursday. It wasn't actually as bad as expected. Once you got to the Twelfth to Nineteenth Street corridor, maybe every fifth or sixth shop had some boards in the windows.

It was also obvious that there were two different types of protestors: the anarchists who hit the banks and the looters who hit Sears, shoe stores, and salons. It was pretty impressive how every single bank was boarded up--and you know that wasn't preventative, beforehand, because who would smash the windows of banks during a riot!?

Chip Lies. And let me say, screw Chip Johnson, a local Oaklandite who writes about Oakland affairs. I used to have some respect for him as someone writing about issues from a personal point of view, but lately it's become obvious that his writing is so biased that it actually doesn't have any veracity. Leading up to verdict last week, he wrote about the riots last January ... except he refused to use the word riot; he kept saying "protest" instead. And then, after this latest riot he claimed that the people were just "expressing their point of view".

They were animals, Chip. Looters destroying their own community. You should be ashamed of yourself and your pathetic pandering toward them.

Berkeley Falls. So I went back up to the falls behind Codornices Park with Kimberly this Sunday. It was a challenging ride because of the hills, but we made it, and the walk back to the falls was as beautiful as before. I read some Harry Dresden to Kimberly back there (we're currently reading book 7 aloud) and then we biked back down the hill.

House Blinds. Kimberly and I just rather exhaustingly pulled the old blinds out of her office. The problem, as ever, was that some past owner of the house painted everything. All the hardware, all the screws, etc. And it's never fun to unscrew screws that have been entirely filled with paint.

Tomorrow 3DayBlinds (more like 4WeekBlinds, though be fair they said 2 because of the "specialty" blinds we ordered for our stairs) will be installing some of the blinds that we missed when we blinded the house ten years ago: replacements for the crappy previous blinds in Kimberly's office (which we might have ignored because it was supposed to be an unused guest room originally, and thus they wouldn't see much use) and new blinds for the stairs and for the dining room, where the windows cause us problems in the late afternoon and early evening.

This has been part of some general upkeep and maintenance on our house. Kimberly and I have started doing some weekly cleaning together, which is slowing making progress against years of grime. That's in turn encouraged me to replace things that need replacing. So I've gotten new curtains for some downstairs windows that were destroyed by Lucy and by the elements and there are our blinds, coming tomorrow. I now need to get the screens that I've been meaning to get for years. And then I'm thinking about painting stuff, if I can manage the energy while working on my RPG History Book and otherwise eating up my free time.

We'll see.
shannon_a: (Default)
So after doing very well for about six months, Cobweb has started seeming sickly again. She's been having digestive problems for at least a couple of weeks and that appears to coincide with a bit more than a half-pound of weight loss. Now, we did try and move her back to dry food over the same period, but that was very successful, and she seemed to be frequently eating, so I don't think it's an issue of eating less food because of the change.

But, in any case, we are moving her back to wet food twice a day as of today, because she was doing better one way or another with that. Hopefully she will be again. Me, I'm wondering if she might have developed a food allergy to her dry food, and if that could be the source of her problems. That'd be nice, because it's be a correctable solution.

We'll go another month and see if things stabilize or turnaround, else it's back to the vet.

I've been a bit disturbed by the increases in gang violence lately in this area. There have been a number of shootings in Oakland and South Berkeley lately, some not that far southwest of us. However a shooting futher down in Oakland about 10 or 12 blocks west of EndGame earlier this week was more disturbing. There was a candlelight vigil for someone who had been murdered in East Oakland previously and kids showed up and started shooting people at the vigil (killing one of them).

What kind of monsters kill people at a funeral?

There's since been yet another shooting on that same street, 8th, even further into West Oakland.

Though they're not on my regular routes, I've ridden through many of these neighborhoods with all these shootings, which makes me nervous too.

The RPGnet release of High Society is almost done and I'm pretty much burned out on it. That's how it goes with a release: more and more minutia the closer you get to done until it seems like you've got Zeno's Paradox.

Makes me pretty happy that we've got solid deadlines on these games with the designers, because it means they can only lag so far before you have to let your baby go.

On the bright side: Martin Wallace's Age of Industry tonight, as I try out the other map before I write my review.

Oh, and a bit of humor. I was gaming at EndGame last night and ended up chatting with a few people I didn't know. After I introduced myself to one, whose name was Tatiana, I think, she said, "Shannon??" and I said, "Yes." and she said, "Oh, I thought I'd misheard because I haven't met any men named that."

(And, it's certainly rarer. I've known only one or two male "Shannon"s over the course of my life.)

A minute later another person sat down at the table. Shane, I think. And I introduced myself, and he also asked to hear the name again and then he said, "Ah, that's what I thought you said. That's my brother's name."

Brother, not sister, you note;).
shannon_a: (marrach skotos)
Had two days of busy Skotos work--which is to say work that didn't just involve me sitting on my butt.

Yesterday, Kalle, visiting programmer, came by and we chatted for several hours. He told me a few things I didn't know about Xcode which should increase the efficiency of my programming (if I remember to get into the habit of using them over the next week), and I showed a bit of what I'd done to layout a non-table iPhone app. We also plotted out a few libraries that he or I might program, and a few times he suggesting doing things in a way that I wouldn't have (and that was probably superior to my first cut). Though I'm surely not a people person, it was nice to have someone who's working on the same sort of thing to kick ideas around with for a bit. It's something I vaguely regret losing by not having a standard office/work situation any more (but there are so many pluses with it too).

(Also vaguely regret missing: Friday waffles at Skotos.)

I was reminded how much of a people person I'm not by the fact that after dinner I was totally burned out yesterday. Just from sitting around, talking. I fiddled around with a lot of nothing until maybe 8pm or so, then I started doing some work on the review I was supposed to be writing.

(Not done; maybe tonight.)

Today Chris and I spent about two and a half hours working at the colo, hauling machines in and out. We had one new machine to put in our rack and three old machines to haul out. It was nice work. I always like a bit of manual labor, because it lets me turn the brain off for a bit. But I also felt like we worked together very well. He was constantly taking care of one thing while I was working on another, with very little communication required.

And I'm less tired this evening, because of the sort of work I was doing.

So two days of teamwork, which is pretty rare for me at my job nowadays. But the next three days I'll be getting back to my own programming. I've got pretty much the whole game cycle working for High Society at this point, so my hope is to get the AIs working this week so I can release the game as a draft to our testers.

And it'd be prudent to figure out what I'm going to be doing artwork-wise for Kingdoms, as I want to start that soon.
shannon_a: (marrach skotos)
Well, I've just spent an exhausting week programming. I was going pretty full-bore early in the week, but then on Thursday I put in about 12 hours, yesterday I did about 14 hours, and today I slacked off, finishing the last 4 hours or so of tweaking.

The goal was to get a version of Money that was updated for the iPad to Apple. I may or may not be able to talk about the specifics because of Apple's NDA for their unreleased versions of the iPhone SDK, so I'll go with not. I'm going to prepare an article on the topic for my iPhone blog next week (and release it whenever it becomes OK to do so).

Anyway, now done. It has every feature I wanted to get in there, which includes a bugfix going back to 1.0 and a feature that I'd wanted to go into 1.0 but couldn't get done. Most importantly: support for a 5th player on the bigger screen.

Very tired now. Taking a few days off work. I'll get my undealt-with mail cleaned up on Wednesday, then get back to High Society on Thursday.


Mar. 25th, 2010 12:59 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
So yesterday was my birthday. Closer to 40 than 35 now.

I spent the day programming. I'm trying my best to get a nice iPad app of Money done before this weekend. It's definitely coming along and I've manage to get one value-add in over the original, which is that it takes advantage of the iPad's slightly different screen size (one value add other than the fact that everything is just going to be larger and easier to read, that is).

It's totally unclear if I can get this in for the iPad launch, both because of my time constraints and other issues that I probably can't speak of due to NDA, but if not it'll be there slightly thereafter and I'll have a good model for all of our card games going to the iPad in extended forms.

In the evening K. and I went out to Oscar's for dinner, which was my request. Tasty chicken sandwich and fries.

Then I biked up to EndGame by an unusual route (again). This time it was Milvia to Shattuck to Telegraph. Shattuck is a tight little road down south that's quite busy, but if anything it was nicer than Telegraph along the same stretch because of the lower total car count.

(I've ridden that section of Shattuck before, but never on the way to EndGame, and never all the way down to its end.)

Gaming was good. I played only things I'd played before, and all stuff I liked. Tigris & Euphrates was the best of the day. I was very happy new-guy-at-Endgame, Evan, asked me to bring it. According to BGG, I hadn't played the game since 2005. Ah, how the classics are lost to us in the Cult of the New.

It always rains on or around my birthday. I actually took BART home last night due to the rain. Then it *poured* this morning. Pretty and sunny now though.

Woke up very early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep, so I was up before 7. Up and programming, actually That's about as unusual as it gets for me.

Guess I don't sleep as well now that I'm old.
shannon_a: (marrach skotos)
When I came to Berkeley in 1989, I was leaning toward the law as a career. The internet and the vision of an interconnected world that lay ahead changed my mind, and so instead I ended up in computer programming. It was something that I'd been involved in for years already, since I used to program in BASIC and in Turbo-C on my old Heathkit computers. Now it was something that I was looking to turn into a career.

Just as Berkeley had changed me the first time, within four years Berkeley had changed my mind again. Thanks to the bureaucracies of a public university, multiplied by the bare ignorance of so many of the students (likely the ones who had just gone into computers for the money), the fact that the vast majority of the professors didn't actually give a damn about teaching undergrads, and the unfortunate obsolescence of the computer science program--which in 1989 was still teaching programmers to wire together electronics on bread boards and which really didn't touch upon OOP in the main curriculum--my interest in computer programming was largely extinguished. I ended up turning toward IT and technical writing instead when I left Berkeley.

Thanks, UCB.

It's been a long road back, but in the past several years I've been programming increasing amounts. For most of that time it's been Perl and PHP work, first at Skotos (where I largely rewrote one of our games and wrote a simple content-management system), then at RPGnet (where I've coded tons of stuff including somewhere around 50,000 lines of code/HTML for the Gaming Index).

The last two years have been even more active, with learning Objective-C, learning the iPhone SDK, writing a book about it, writing many, many articles on the topics, then finally writing a couple of complete apps, of increasing complexity.

The result has been very fulfilling. Much more than with the Perl & PHP work I can see the beauty of programming again, with elegant libraries of objects working together with each other in harmony, while still offering up reproducible code that can be carried for project to project.

Twenty years after I started at Berkeley, I'm enjoying programming more than I did any time in that interim.

Thanks, Apple. And Skotos.

So I finished up the gold release of Reiner Knizia's Money last Wednesday and sent it to Apple. Though we've released an RPG app already, this is our first full game, based of course on Knizia's card game of the same name.

If you've heard horror stories about Apple's rejection of apps, they're entirely overblown. They always have been. The squeaky wheel gets all the blogosphere attention, or something like that. When I submitted the app, their queue stated that 99% of apps were currently approved within 14 days. It took almost exactly 48 hours for Money to be approved.

It actually hasn't been released yet, as I requested a release date of a week from Wednesday, so that I could correlate some articles with it. I'll post here when it's out, for anyone interested.
shannon_a: (Default)
Jared & Melody visited on Sunday. Their main purpose was to drop off Guest Cat, Tai Chi, who I will be catsitting for the next week.

We also hung out for several hours. We'd considered doing something, like hiking or gaming, but between the Trauma of leaving Tai Chi and the fact that 3 of the 4 of us were feeling a bit under the weather, we ended up mostly talking and a bit of shopping and that was it for the day.

We exchanged some Christmas presents too & Jared and Melody were nice enough to get me a book on hiking in the area, so maybe I'll have a better handle on some local hiking areas next time they're here.

Tai Chi has now been here for two days, and I feel like our relationship is a bit more adversarial than it was before.

Each time he's visited we've started out quarantining him in my office, then slowly let him roam more. On his first visit, he never did more than make 30-45 minute sojourns from his safe zone, but the second time he roamed freely and was even left out at night for the last day or two.

This time, we figured the integration might be a little easier, because the second time was easier than the first. (The cats actually seemed to remember something after a six-month break, which I wasn't sure would be the case, but Tai Chi was both braver and Lucy was less aggressive.) But we still knew that we'd need to have Tai Chi in isolation for at least a day, maybe more.

The answer is really, "maybe more", but Tai Chi really doesn't want to be cooped up in the back two rooms of the house. Unfortunately after he's been out for a bit, and had the other cats all growling at him, he gets all growly too, but still doesn't want back in the office. Fortunately Melody left "benito flakes" which are so desirable that I can tempt him back into the office with them, like the Pied Piper of Fish Scales.

Hopefully things will calm down. If not, Tai Chi will just be back in the office more than he likes.

Work has been a bit frustrating too, because a few last-minute bugs stopped the release of Money! I think I found the last major one, at about 10pm last night (after setting it aside for a few hours). If so I can finally get it into the queue at Apple today ...

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