having contracted american dreams

dogs and tricks of various ages

A neat interview, tweeted or retweeted by William Gibson for obvious reasons; I particularly liked this bit, where Roy Slaper, autodidact jeansmaker, describes his change of vocation:
Skateboarding is such a lifestyle, non-skaters don't understand sometimes. If you're ever really, fully a skater and that's all you think about, it changes your life completely. Until I found making jeans, I felt like the best times of my life were the skateboarding days of my past.

I'm 28 and I feel like the best times of my life were my skateboarding days. For some reason, I just don't think it's going to get that good again, as far as having that much fun.

What's crazy is until I found making jeans, I felt like that.
Idk, I always find the idea of fresh starts really heartening. And people who are really into making things.

On the Embassytown front, a review by Ursula K. Le Guin! The old master gives her blessing to the new generation, etc. I do wish there was more old-school SF written these days; how people think about and approach the same old problems has changed a lot in decades since Heinlein and Asimov (and, yes, Le Guin) ruled the roost. I would be remiss here if I didn't point out Ted Chiang and his exquisitely crafted science allegories--here's one, and another--if he was even one fiftieth as prolific as Asimov, this would be an entirely different conversation! I did just recently run across this great interview with him at boingboing where the guy tries to draw him out over and over again on the drugs-religion-spirituality axis and he just doesn't bite.
having contracted american dreams

readin' books like the girl who ate what she was given

Embassytown! A surprise, in several ways. I ordered it months and months ago (China Mieville's got a new book?) and promptly forgot about it until it showed up on my Kindle. And I certainly didn't expect what actually showed up: anthropo-SF of the old school!

It's not completely unflavored by Mieville's habits and concerns--making up weird words for the sake of it! the uses of metaphor as a major plot point! taking a ridiculous idea at face value and running with it until almost all the ridiculousness has worn off!--but his prose style is considerably subdued.

It's kind of strange. It feels like an artifact from another time. Not a self-conscious deconstruction, either; as with tC&tC, he's playing by the rules. It's a more nuanced take on colonial rule than I'd have expected from the sci-fi of my youth, which tended to ignore politics or paint things in stark black and white, but the focus, as then, is all on the aliens and how the humans deal with them, despite their being alien.

But I kept finding myself wanting to put it in the context of other books in the genre and having trouble; I don't know whether it's a genre in major decline or if I just haven't been paying attention. It's certainly not a major strand of modern SF, I don't think, but there's part of me that thinks "How could it not be? Has SF really stopped caring about aliens?" And to a certain degree it has, with the singularity and related posthuman technologies drawing off some of the energy that goes to weird shit/other ways of living, what energy is left after the punks have steamed it off.
reflecting on work

more work babble

I will say, I am enjoying the unreadable javascript nonsense. Our network storage library has a lot of asynchronous things with callbacks that lend themselves nicely to anonymous functions.

People are getting kind of excited about the idea of doing smaller, shorter projects. It's weird because what we're doing right now doesn't actually feel that big. We've thrown away a lot of work, I think, and changed direction a bunch of times--the life of a small studio that hasn't hit it big, it turns out, consists of a lot of chasing after money, and the game has been deformed a little as part of the chase--but the amount of work left to make what we've got into an actual game is not that large, building as it would on the systems work we've already done.

I suspect the actual cause is that we're all getting a little tired of it; I think a short diversion would do us a world of good, let us come back to it with fresh eyes.
paper ribbon god

shut down

Narrowly averted! Apparently.

My mom worked for the government for...basically, ever since she finished grad school? So I was old enough to know what's going on during the Clinton-era shutdown; she was all, "Yeah, it's happened before. They gave us our back pay when it's over, it's no big deal." She was the least worried of any of us, just kicking back and enjoying her time off.

Which perhaps makes me more sanguine about shutdowns than I should be. It would be awfully inconvenient.
reflecting on work


It's frustrating. A while back I went and cranked out a UI system, and, while it's taken a lot more work than I expected, it feels like it's finally close to complete. And then I went to actually build some screens in it, and found out that it very cleanly and conveniently solves exactly half the problem. You can almost see the line where neat and orderly code dissolves into spaghetti.

Which is frustrating! Have I said that already? Yes. As soon as you get into the sucky part, your productivity goes way down; no matter how easy you make the easy parts, if you venture into the bad parts, it's a horrible, time-consuming slog. Which sucks and is no fun! So it looks like I need to design another half UI system. At least it feels like I should be able to make it as a fairly natural extension of what's already there, not a complete rewrite.

On a brighter note, I have rediscovered C#'s lambdas! They turn your code into unreadable javascript nonsense, but they sure are fun. (I've also dipped my toe into C#'s reflection stuff, which... is pretty neat! I sort of admire C++'s doctrine of absolute purity, but it sure makes for a more usable language when you crack open the shell a little bit.)

There's also talk of maybe doing iPhone stuff. Which could be kind of cool. I'm generally kind of dismissive of iPhone gaming--the interface is just not that reliable; imagine playing a real game, but with mittens on--but as long as we pick our game and genre carefully enough and stay away from real-time stuff requiring precision, there's room to do some cool things. And of course the UI system only vaguely handles multitouch and gestural crap, but that could be an interesting problem to tackle.
finder: demiurge

in some ways, of course, it is your story

Christine Love just released don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story, a--spiritual sequel?--to her earlier Digital: A Love Story (which is one of those 'if you haven't played it, go! i'll be here when you get back' games); don't take it personally does a pretty good job, but doesn't have the same payload of nostalgia, nor, quite, the same narrow focus.

It's also a much more traditional visual novel, in some respects: backdrops, anime-styled characters, big text boxes, a minimum of interactivity, high school; it's kind of amusing watching the Rock, Paper, Shotgun dudes (who rightly and unreservedly praised Digital) attach enormous disclaimers to the art style. Apparently there are people for whom it's a deal-breaker? (ok, i'm just being coy; there is an enormous and not-entirely-undeserved stigma attached to these things.)

But it's neat. If Digital was all about the social media of the '80s, don't take it personally is about the social media of now, extrapolated slightly. You play a new highschool teacher who's been given access to all his students' posts and messages, and so--the thing I'm a sucker for, here as elsewhere--as things are happening you're getting real time commentary on it from the people involved, or vice versa; and there's the extra wrinkle that you have to keep track of where you learned what information, so as not to tip your hand by acting on information you're not supposed to be privy to. (this is only partly true, for various reasons, but there's enough of the experience of it to qualify.)

All in all, though, it's good stuff; charm and food for thought in equal quantities.
finder: plugged in

moving (having moved)

New apartment! Across the bridge, in the near suburbs. Closer to work, substantially cheaper; it feels like a minor defeat, moving out of the city, but, eh. If I haven't been posting much lately, it's because that time's been spent looking at apartments, putting things in boxes, etc.; it feels like I'm uniquely terrible at it, but I think it feels that way to everyone. Still not totally settled in.
finder: plugged in

i'm head of the cluss (i'm populous)

This makes me happier than it should! If only because Populous was, like, the one awesome thing Molyneux ever did in a lifetime of saying he's going to do awesome things. (and a powerful influence on young me, for all that i've never really been able to translate that into game designs of my own. maybe i should fix that.)

FeedMe is a cute name. Hopefully it's acknowledging the fact that despite the text on the box, Populous wasn't a game about godly powers or clashing armies; it was a game about arable land.
reflecting on work

how long it takes

So, shipping two games at once: not highly recommended! And by shipping I mean moving into closedish beta. But people who aren't us are looking at it, which would be more nervewracking if I was less worn out from the process. It's kind of exciting at the same time. We've been a few weeks away from this for about half a year now, and we've finally caught up with our wishful thinking. If you were a cynic you could say deadlines have finally caught up with us, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong.

At the same time! I'd been a bit mopey about how long it was taking us--has it been a year already? etc., etc.--but half a year per game is perfectly respectable. As long as we can get people to pay for it, of course.

I think churning out games quickly has always been a bit of a red herring for us--other people can do it, and it's easier in 2d with Flash, but our old habits and standards die hard. And maybe they shouldn't? I mean, we're a team of venerable ancients, veterans of the console wars; it would be a shame to let that go to waste. Our process isn't perfect, and god knows I'd be happier if we could move more quickly, but it's something we'll have to ease into over time. It's weird: it is physically very difficult for us to cut corners; someone will be all, "I'll half-ass this!" and then show up later with a three-quarters-assed thing and a sheepish grin on their face.