300 Million?

Some Excerpts:
Despite a $300 million investment, “The Sims Online” from Electronic Arts Inc. only has about 80,000 subscribers more than a year after its release, far short of the company’s stated goal of 1 million.
By 2008, 40.2 million gamers worldwide will be going online with video game consoles, says market research firm DFC Intelligence.
“There’s no denying that this is the next level of game play,” NPD analyst Richard Ow said. “The console business is all about multiplayer.”
At the electronic hangout “There,” users pay $5 a month to chat, buy and sell virtual items and drive dune buggies. It has gained tens of thousands of players since it launched in October. Its creator, There Inc., won’t say how many subscribers There has but notes that nearly half the users are women and 55 percent are over age 25.

XNA Newspeak

Recently Microsoft annouced a new initiative called XNA which is supposed to unify development across (thier) game platforms. You might recall that they have made this point before when the Xbox shipped that since it used DirectX it would be easy to program because developers already knew how to use it. And they told the truth.
Now it seems that truth needs to be re-invigorated. So in a time honored fashion in the computer industry we will now get a whole new name for the same concept. I guess this is designed to make us forget all those little details about how the Xbox’s DirextX is not exactly the same as the PC’s Direct X and other inconsistencies. In the new shiny world of XNA all will be wonderful.
Being new is important. But very little is truely new.
Postscipt was a graphics language which allowed documents to be created once and print well anywhere. But there were problems since not all machines had the same fonts etc. So in comes EPS or Encapulated postscript. Safe in its encapuslation all problems would go away. But somehow that didn’t have enough juice to make it. So now we have PDF/Acrobat. Which allows documents to be created once and print well anywhere. Inside that file. Acrobat looks alot like Postscript.
This kind of stuff is necessary I supposed when you are trying to solve a problem that is truly hard (as those above are). Its important to be able to make silly marketing claims (Write once run anywhere) about things in order to generate buzz, even though its impossible for these claims to be true. When you try to make the claim again no one will belive you I guess unless you come up with a new logo.


So even though I am not in the game industry anymore I did attend the GDC this year. Overall it was pretty fun seeing people that I haven’t seen in a while.
The trade show seemed smaller this year. There were a few companies that I used to see that didn’t seem to have booths on the floor. Havok was there but only in one of those gray box booths behind the scenes. I’d be hiding too if I was trying to get 100K for code library. I don’t think I’d be able to say that with a straight face in front of strangers. Also I probably wouldn’t want to talk to Mac developers who are being told “Mac Havok? What’s that?” as if it never existed or was never promised. Especially when a simple google search will tell you otherwise.
Didn’t see the new stuff from EPIC but everyone I talked to said it was the best thing in the show.
Also, on my first day there I lost my eyeglasses so until the new ones come in expect my spelling to be even worse than usual.

Zork on IM

This link tells how you can play old text adventures with an IM client. Pretty cool.
Infocombot:> You are in a clearing, with a forest surrounding you on all sides. A path leads south.
On the ground is a pile of leaves.
NiktoIM: get leaves
Infocombot: > Clearing Score: 0 Moves: 6
A grating appears on the ground.
NiktoIM: open grate
Infocombot: > Clearing Score: 0 Moves: 7
The grating is locked.
I think IM is a great platform for the right kind of game.

FireFox + Adblock

Been using firefox/bird/phoenix as my default browser for a while now. Today I went looking for a plugin to block ad images which even with broadband and the fact that I browsing RSS more than HTML seem to be slowing down my surfing enough to be annoying.
I installed Adblock and its just what i wanted. You can see a list of things on the site it can block by URL and it supports wildcards. Now nothing from doubleclick etc. gets downloaded. poof!


Several years ago Headspin was doing a demo at E3. The demo was running really well and lots of people liked it, but a few minutes into it it would hang. Poof.
We tried several fixes installing them on the show floor as they came in. Finally the bug turned out to be that someone had used strdup() to copy a string and then used the c++ delete on it.
Since then I have probably told this story and admonished programmers who worked for me to not use strdup about a dozen times.
Today I spent 2 hours finding a crash bug in a photoshop plugin i am working on. Turns out I had str-duped myself. Hi Ho.

and Prosper

Most of this article is about how non-eco friendly the norhwest is. But here’s a fun excerpt:
Northwesterners number among the longest-living people on the planet. If British Columbia were a nation of its own, its residents’ 80.7 average years of living would be second globally only to Japan. The Northwest as a whole would come out eighth.
We’re living longer than ever — an average of 79 years. That’s up three years in the last 20 years alone — even though Northwesterners spend less on health care than other Americans.
I wonder why that is. Do people in vancouver and seattle eat enough sushi to make this happen?

Free Time

Except for a little consulting, I have been unemployed now for around 3 months. So far I am liking it much more than I thought I would.
Somethings about it have been surprising. Even though I was working 80 hrs some weeks at my old job, it still seems like I am often up at 1am messing around with some code or messing with my server config.
Either than means I am undisciplined and am just goofing off for free now instead of being paid for it. Or It just means that I am lucky that the kinds of things I do for work (when I am working) are pretty much the same things I would do when I am just having fun.
Somethings are better left unexamined.

Office Design

For a long time I have been trying to think of what the best layout is for offices on a programming team.
There are 3 basic approaches:
War Room
Private Offices
While each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, I think that which is best is a function of where you are in the development cycle.
As it turns out A development cycle has 3 basic parts:
Pre Alpha
Alpha To Beta
Beta To Ship
It would be interesting to try and develop a product where you used a different arrangement for each part of the cycle.
Pre Alpha -> War Room
Alpha To Beta -> Cubicles
Beta To Ship -> Private Offices
This would maximize communication during the initial conceptual phases but allow for privacy, peace and quiet during the end game where people pretty much know what to do but just need to be left to do it.
Its also an interesting way to set up an incentive. You get the nice private office when you achieve that milestone.