Saving Video Game History

So a recent talk given by a guy I’ve “internet known” for going on close to two decades now is really really great. He’s a huge supporter of companies getting better about preserving and saving their own history when it comes to video games. Where with movies you can more easily buy or rent or stream classics from all the way back to the golden age of movies, with games, unless a company makes a choice to bring it back to play on a modern system, you have to hope the old hardware still works to play it or “pirate” it to be able to play. Well worth a watch to see the latest trends in preservation, and the work he’s doing with others to help preserve history!

Tetris 99

Image result for tetris 99

Good god I didn’t expect to enjoy or keep coming back to this game as often as I have been, but it’s really a fantastic little pick up and play for a few rounds before moving on with your day! For those that don’t know, Tetris 99 was a little gift from the Nintendo gods and the Tetris Company last month out of the blue. It’s a 99 player version of competitive Tetris, where one by one your opponents are defeated and hopefully you’re the last one standing.

Who would have thought Tetris 99 aka Tetris Battle Royale would work so well, but rounds last maybe 5-10 minutes if you’re good, less if you have a bad run, or just aren’t so good. Initially the game is pretty opaque and anemic with options, but you quickly realize you don’t need a lot of options or selections or hints or rules when you’re playing multiplayer Tetris. Rule 1. Don’t Die. Rule 2. Send more lines to your opponents than they send to you. Rule 3. If you mess up on Rule 2, see Rule 1.

I’ve managed a 3rd place finish only once, and only been in the top 10 one other time. I’m usually happy with a teens finish, but from round to round I’ve been all over the map.

I also neglected to mention – it’s free. Honestly if you have a Nintendo Switch it’s worth the quick download and play.

Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out

While I’m a bit late to the party on talking about this book since it’s release, I still think about it regularly when I’m out and about, especially when grabbing a beer at a restaurant or bar. BASaSO is an incredibly well researched book about the rise of Goose Island Brewing Company out of Chicago, IL, and the changes that have come with it being owned by ABInBev in it’s culture and how it’s brought to market.

The biggest revelations where just how ruthless “big beer” can be in their quest to regain market share. Incentives for distributors, discounting for bars for only carrying their brands on tap, and one of my least favorite – hiding the fact that that you are behind this new “craft beer” brand (i.e. Blue Moon or Shock Top). But in the end, if you can’t beat them, buy them and grow that way!

I really don’t want to spoil too much of the narrative, but you really get the sense that Goose Island had something special, and that it’s culture and brand has been changed forever post buyout. Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide.

Future use of Cinder Inc.

Cinder Inc was originally named after my cat/kitten at the time, who’s still alive and well at the age of 15 or so, though she can no longer really hear or see much.

I’ve been thinking of what I’d like to do here, and mostly I think it will be a way to review/talk about/think about various things I’m doing as always, be it books, movies, shows, beer, home brewing and of course always video games. No set theme for now, because this is and has always been an outlet.

Robot vs. Monsters – Dev Diary 1

So I’ve been talking for a little while now with Ash about creating a game, and talking with him about what he would do for making his own. The first many many ideas were basically the same game as him iPhone or Wii favorites, but usually with Lego or Star Wars tossed into the mix. (Angry Birds Star Wars, Lego Star Wars Wii Sports and so on) I encouraged him to come up with his own, new idea that hadn’t been done before, and the idea we settled on would be our own little masterpiece together – Robot vs. Monsters.

His basic idea was that you are a robot tasked to protect a city and the people in it from attacking monsters. He wanted 4 levels, and of course a big boss to fight at the end. The goal of each level would be to save all the humans on the level, and to defeat the monsters using your robot’s weapons.

A feature list we collaborated on:
– 4 Action Packed Levels (each with a different environment!)
– Epic boss battle!!
– Save tiny humans!!
– Use exotic robot weaponry! (Swords! Blasters! More!)
– Sound Effects!!
– Side scrolling, 2D, platforming adventure!!!
– Fun for the whole family!!!

Fairly simple right? Except for the fact that I haven’t programmed anything seriously since college over 10 years ago. Forgotten how to ride that bicycle, and what better time than now to learn all over again.

I decided to make it a Flash based game, so it would be easy to share with friends and family. A good part of the reasoning was as well that there would be plenty of documentation, tutorials and help out there on the web for me to use to help build this game.

I chose to use a Flash library called flixel which has been so far an extremely easy to use framework to get my little game started. There is also an incredible wealth of tutorials out there to work with.

I started with their EZPlatformer Tutorial as a base to get the general idea of how to build a platformer, and since then have been busy tinkering with it adding little bits and pieces to learn more.

I’ve added:
– Sound effects (coin pickup and jumping)
– A player “sprite” (my artwork is terrible I know!)
– Created a tile based level in an editor (DAME)
– Created my own coins to add to the level
– Managed to get it all, somewhat working, with a scrolling level!

Yes some of the level is broken below (inaccessible areas due to the little guy not being able to jump high enough), but it’s a start! Enjoy tinkering with the first little example of what we’re doing:

Click the window to play. Arrows to move. Space to jump!

The next update should include the following:
– New Robot character
– New, less generic map that’s bigger
– Humans to collect instead of coins

I figure those are easy enough goals to work towards, and creating small goals will make this all that much closer to completion.

Responsibilities for this project:
Ash – Lead Designer, Concept Art, Level Concepts, Game Director
Brian – Code monkey, Artist, Level Builder

I’m letting Ash guide the game as much as possible so that he feels like it’s his game, and in the meantime I’ll enjoy building a game and learning something new. Enjoy!

Baseball – My Sport.

Baseball is back! We’re well into the season already and it’s a wonderful thing. I meant to post something about this earlier in the season, but I just didn’t get around to it. So here it goes. My one of maybe other baseball posts as the year goes on.

I love baseball. It’s a funny thing to me. It’s my real first sports love. Maybe I know the NFL and the goings on in Football more these days, but when it comes back to it all, it’s the feel, the sounds, and baseball that I would end up saying is my favorite sport. No contest.

Baseball started early for me. Probably the first thing my dad and I bonded over was baseball. He and I, now that we’re older, have more to talk about, but when I was a kid I was drawn to computers, videogames and books. But one thing we always loved was watching an Oakland A’s game together or playing catch or practicing for my little league games. This was my start with the game.

It’s a funny thing this baseball. It’s impossible to try and explain the rules to someone who doesn’t know. I remember seeing a minor league game with some friends of the family who were from England. It was as impossible to explain to them as cricket is to explain to us. The weird nuances, the terminology that just becomes second nature to you as a kid because you play it and are surrounded by it. This is baseball!

It’s the years I spent playing it as a kid in little league. You always had the kids who’s parents forced them to play, and the kids who were more gifted with athletic abilities. Me? I was in the middle. I loved to play, but was in no way gifted with natural athletic prowess. I played for many years, but it was entering those High School years that left me behind. I was okay at the game, but never great enough to play on the high school team. Other school sports called me.

It’s all the major league games I remember going to as a kid. The tailgates. The vendors calling out “Cold beer here! Peanuuuuutttssss!” The cheers of the crowd. The joy of rising out of your seat after the crack of a well hit ball, and the hope of it being a home run for your team! The hope, every time you go, of catching a foul ball. (only once in all my years of games have I gotten one and that may be it for my lifetime! I hope not.) The food. The hot summer days. The little fold down seats. It’s heaven.

But here’s in the end what I’m trying to get at. I love baseball. I love the feel of the game. I love the pace of the game. I love the sounds of the game. I love seeing all levels of the game being played. From the little league game to the Mariner’s (who seem to have an aversion to winning these days). I don’t mind the long games. The games where no one is scoring because the pitchers are really on fire. The games where the score is more like a football game. It’s all great.

It, to me, is the only major American sport that is suited to listening to on the radio if you can’t be there or watch it on the TV. Maybe it’s the years I’ve watched and played the game, but the pace of the game, and the simplicity of where the ball can go on any given play lends itself well to play by play, and I never mind hearing a game as I can always picture it in my head so easily.

So here’s to the Spring and Summer, when I get my baseball fix in. When I get to a Mariner’s or a Tacoma Rainier’s game as often as I can. Where even if I’m not sitting and watching the game, I love to hear it in the background in the evening while I make dinner, clean the house or play with my son. Here’s to the game itself. Even if my local team isn’t winning all the time. I’m still a fan. I’ll be there. I may throw my hand up in frustration in another loss, but I’ll be back the next day with the hope of a win, and if nothing else the good feelings of the game.


Books in Review for 2009

So, in an experiment last year, I kept a written record of all the books I read and ended up writing each of them up on here. It was different to do so. It for one thing kept me writing a little bit, but it also provided a way to talk a bit more about the books I’ve read. It’s not that anyone else reads this site, but maybe others will come by some time and find something they didn’t expect and enjoy it as well. Or be warned off it.

So I went back and took a look and compiled a few stats of what I did last year. Maybe in years to come I’ll be able to compare them to each other. All the page counts came from Amazon, and I tried to find the copy of the book I read to get close to the right page count.

41 Total Books Read in 2009
17,160 Total Pages
3.4 Books a Month Average
1,430 Pages a Month Average
419 Pages Per Book Average

Sadly only 4 out of the 41 were non-fiction, which I’ll strive to improve this next year. I’ve been building up my “to read” shelf quick a bit in January and February, and along with books given to me by friends, I have my work cut out for me already in these first few months of the year.

I really enjoyed seeing what I’ve read listed out. Call it the nerd in me, or just the satisfying feeling of completion and love of reading, but this exercise had worth. I’m thinking of recording other areas of my life for a bit of reflection, but am not sure what other area lend themselves to this type of record. Any ideas?

Here’s a link to all the past entries for 2009:
January 2009
March 2009
April/May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009

Go 2010.

Books – December 2009

Yes, I know I’m really really late at getting this going for the month of December. My bad.

Bauchelain and Korbal Broach Vol. 1 – Steven Erikson – A collection of three novellas that were previously only available from a small private print house, these stories are a great, well written, and humorous look into the pair of necromancers Erikson has created for his Malazan world. Here, with the freedom that comes from not writing a novel, Erikson pulls an incredible amount of wit and humor, but serious good writing to back it all up. I know I’ve read a lot of this series over the last year, but I’d put this as a highlight just for the sheer fun of the stories.

Invisible – Paul Auster – Ah, probably my favorite modern fiction writer has finally put out a book that doesn’t frustrate me completely. I wrote about his last book and wished he’d just stop writing for a while, because it felt like he was just phoning in a story and fulfilling a contract, and had no interest in producing something new, but instead rehashing his familiar themes over and over.

Invisible was different. It felt fresh from him. The story of students experiences in 1967, and the three different perspectives of that continuing story, and the encounters with a mysterious Frenchman and his girlfriend. Deeply compelling, I read it over the course of three nights, so I couldn’t put it down, it relied so much less on his typical themes, but at least did bring out his favorite of a writer writing about writing. The book leaves you with questions as to the truth of the different stories, and the what lies were told and what the motives the characters may have for lying. His best since Oracle Night for me personally.

I’m also planning a 2009 retrospective on all the books I read last year. Some nerdy stats, some breakdowns by type and the like. Can’t not do that! I love making lists and collecting things along that nature!