Howdy. This is Bob. The Bob of Bob Blog. This blog contains about five minutes of my thoughts each day. A record. A history. And occasionally worth reading.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
I introduced a bug into the patch. Ooops. Not sure why yet. Because I can't look at any source because I don't have a machine that can build PlanetSide. Nor one that can run it. I'm trying not to feel bad.
My cat is in surgery. And I feel very disconnected. I hope she is OK. Her knee is being repaired.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
The PlanetSide Launch Party is going to be this Friday in St Loius on the Rail Cruise. Great idea -- basically dinner and dancing on a train around St Loius. Unfortunately with the short notice I'm going to have to go myself.
That's the good news. The bad news is that my primary machine crashed hard today. Hopefully no data was lost but the machine is still being restored -- 2 hours later. Downtime on top of missing Friday and going home early Thursday means I'm going to have to be very productive tomorrow or risk having to come in on the weekend.
A short week. And tomorrow we patch. So I shouldn't be sitting at home blogging but in at work making sure that the things I said were fixed actually work. The thrill of launch is gone. Now I just want to have something to focus on again. It really is strange to think that during the bug fix phase, the longest I might ever work on a single issue is a day or two.
I have some additional plans for the web pages at home: a couple more multiplayer games in Flash, the dancing bear I promised over a year ago, an interactive world map, and a guest book. The most ambitious project is a clone of Seven Cities of Gold. But I have to start planning for a trip and a wedding so I'm not sure how much will actually get done in the short term. One thing at a time...
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Ladies and gentlemen, may I proudly introduce the slightly altered look of the site! I still have plenty of links to add. And I want to add a section that links to the highlights of the blog (since much of it is crap.) But it will do. Now to sleep with me.
Last night, I went to see Mighty Wind. It was funny. Sometimes funny in an awkward sad way. I wanted to clap and sing along with the musicians in the end though. So obviously the movie worked. The highlight though: seeing the preview for Winged Migration, the followup to Microcosmos.
SirBruce has plotted the subscriptions for several online games. Nice comparison As the full text of the description states -- you may not want to believe the numbers and everyone probably counts slightly differently. Alas...
Monday, May 26, 2003
Monday -- and still no work for me. It does look like we had at least one server fix or two over the weekend. An experience exploit. And a crash. But I also think we got enough simultaneous players for another milestone.
On the downside with a big upside, Fry's has the game at $39.95 now instead of $49.
So only two of the new $20 bills are required:
I realize I'm adding more images. It is just because some of the things I need to share are images and not the mental sort that can be typed. Enjoy.
Sunday, May 25, 2003
I had a work dream last night. Hopefully it wasn't foreshadowing...
I was in a meeting in St Loius with the programmers. Dave exits abruptly with some lame excuse. And Don then ends the meeting. We all go back to our offices to find notes announcing that we've been fired. I felt the worst because I knew I'd be fine -- but the rest of the team? The worst bit was feeling like the way it was handled was not honest.
So many teams get cancelled after the game ships. But not at SOE...
Saturday, May 24, 2003
OK. I finally got these wacky ATM card photos scanned. The bank sent me a card with my photo -- but they sent the one from 1993. And then I got the new image. Can you guess which is which?
Wow! Some friends are buying a house. It is great news when friends can be successful. We are definitely cheering for them.
Friday, May 23, 2003
No milestone to report. But we are making great progess. The European server is live. We just had a box signing party internally. Doesn't feel like Friday!
The highlight today is the distribution of bonus checks. Unexpected this early in the month. Unexpected in the magnitude. I feel fortunate to have a boss that looks out for me the way Russ does. Very fortunate. It is silly things like not having to worry about the cat surgery or if we can afford the band at the wedding or the tree house for the cats.
Speaking of cats -- Rich brought his to work today.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
How did I manage to skip a day? Maybe because I went home at a reasonable hour. I actually went grocery shopping AND still made it home before dark.
The team is getting a full weekend off (and a three day one too!) This surprised me. But I'm very happy for it as I need to catch up on some sleep.
The ads in the game discussion started up again. I'm pretty sure it will happen. I hope gracefully and with a large payout to the team.
Servers just crashed. Ack. Hopefully we'll still get that weekend. I'm not inspired. No rants. No insights into running a game. No coding gems.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Milestone #2. [censored] simultaneous players.
This was the goal I wrote on my whiteboard this morning for today. I thought I might have been too optimistic. I know I'm too optimistic for later in the week. I don't know if it is worse to be disappointed because you didn't reach lofty goals or disappointed because you didn't set them high enough. I think the ultimate expectation is that we can sell out and need another production run and more servers. And...
A really good first day. Our servers have been stable. The users seem to be getting in. The web stuff is mostly working now. The bug list hasn't shot through the roof. We still need to have focus in order to squash another wave or two of bugs. And then we can start working on the list of things for the first "feature patch." I wonder if we'll get a three day weekend?
Here's a wack idea: put the QA team onto your programmer mailing list.
Idea #2: make sure your game supports the color blind.
Idea #3: promises to users a difficult to keep. document them and follow through. Absolutely NO talking out of your ***
Milestone #1. [censored] simultaneous players
Day two. And really this is the day we expected to see some users. Yesterday was a dry run if that is allowed.
I'm not allowed to talk about numbers though. People will be able to guess fairly accurately though. Two servers are currently live. We have 10 servers ready. Someone put it best: we have two tests ahead. 1) how many people will buy the box. 2) how many people will subscribe. Everything we do from now is to make the game as fun as possible. Well, that has to be a guarded: make SOE as much money as possible, hopefully "fun" being one of the driving factors for profit = box sales + subscriptions.
There are more questions of course: For how long will we be in the panic/reactionary mode? When will we know that what we created was successful? Define successful? What are the sustaining costs (ie. how much do we need each month to break even -- including salaries for the dev team and everything else)? How long will management let us have to reach that point? What did the game cost to make? Will we ever break even on the total costs? Lots to think about.
But for now the only question I have is what bugs do I need to fix and when. I didn't have any tasks on the Thursday build list. And then in a short bit, my question will be: what can I do to help the project and the company the most?
Monday, May 19, 2003
Day one. No programmer meeting. But an all-hands meeting at 9:30. Probably going to be a very boring day until much later. Then overwhelming.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
The PlanetSide web maps went live today. They look really nice. I'm particularly proud of Rich for all the code he wrote to get them to work. I'll take credit for some of the low level routines but Rich pulled it all together. I think it may be one of the things that make PlanetSide stand out from the competition.
Monday. That's tomorrow. The game is going LIVE!
I reviewed the recent blogs for content to make sure nothing I said would offend: individuals or Sony Online Entertainment or my cats. I don't think any of my friends or family have anything to worry about in terms of me revealing their darkside.
A vet friend sent me some email concerning the proposed knee surgery for my cat. If she is going to be active again it is the good decision. Just a torn ACL. Something like that. Rehab (rest) didn't work. So the next option is needed.
Today I hope to stay at home. I'm going for a walk, and then some chores. But I'll probably remain at the computer -- good chance to catch up on some email and entering some financial data. Every year I say I will keep "Money" up to date. But every year it seems like I just ignore budgeting. 6-8 hours of data entry and I should be current.
We have a bird nesting on our patio so I can't go out to water. I hope she lays her eggs quickly. But the sunflowers in the front are really coming along. We didn't realize the type we got could grow up to 12 feet. I still would have bought them.
One more day!
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Beware of bloggers and bloggers beware. Interesting article in the NY Times for anyone who blogs or knows anyone who blogs. I think the idea of having an editor -- internal review is probably important. Stories like this are why I have them as my homepage.
Have I crossed the line and written too much? Would I say these things to the people involved? Would I mind if my boss read the blog? My girlfriend? My family?
I hope to add some notes on E3 today. Hello World!
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Sell the game you have -- not promises, not expectations. No predictions from me; just a plea for management to deal with our customers fairly and furthermore give the team a break to polish what we already have and time to recover and time to plan properly for the next wave. Expectations of the customers and management need to be met -- but so do the expectations of the dev team to regain our lives.
You only got to see the despair yesterday. The highlights: shortly after the blog, I think I found the crash bug in UIWidget. And I optimized the XML Flash map for Planetside parsing. It took 43 seconds to read in 700 events (nonlinear growth) and I got that down to 1 second. Yowsers. So I was excited.
Sophia has gone to NY. She should have fun. I hope to be able to do a bit of Bob time (not just PlanetSide time) while she is gone. Refocus and recenter.
I had 8:13 written on my whiteboard. I had no idea what it meant. I figured it out on the way in this morning: the lunar eclipse starts at 8:13 tonight. Of course...
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Depleted hope. More bugs get introduced as I fix another one. The boards are flame fests. And I don't care about the game anymore.
Time for a change.
Monday, May 12, 2003
Five months and I'll be married. Five months and a few hours...
I'm in a horrible waiting game at work. Can't do to much because the build has to be stable. Should really make a few changes but don't dare start. Just hoping for some time off before the post-launch panic starts. I'm not very good at not being busy. I'll practice a bit. And maybe help Rich out. And hunt for the elusive crash bugs.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
When is our final code lockdown? Don't know.
That is funny.
The letter E on my keyboard is beginning to wear away. At Mudd, the dumb terminal in my dorm room didn't have an N key. That was too much "Next" reading news postings. Don't know why E is extra used.
The Laker coach had surgury today. Tightness in the chest. I'm a hypochondriac and so things like this make me wonder about my own health.
Couple of interesting links -- Salon.com had an article on Survivor and how Rob and all his wheeling and dealing has made the show's popularity rise. Sophia and I laughed hysterically when Letterman interviewed Christy (the deaf woman). Bad TV but really it is the voyeur in the viewer and the reflection on work (can I just vote one person off?) that makes me watch.
The second link was someone tried to get every question wrong on the SAT. Fiendish and funny.
And the third -- sadly a reporter for the NY TImes (my new addiction source) has been a fraud : making up interviews and other facts for his stories. I didn't read the entire 10 page retraction but I think this is going to help the news media realize that truth matters. But in the end, I doubt they will lose many readers. I just hope the journalist in question never works again as a reporter.
Back to work. Last week before release!
Friday, May 09, 2003
I made the leap of faith today and decided it was time to ask for some vacation --
2 days in June, a week in October (for my wedding), and ... drumroll please...
November AND December off to travel around the world with Sophia.
My immediate manager signed it without a hassle. I didn't think it would be that easy. I then went and mentioned it to the COO (and my former boss) since I figured it would take an executive signature. He was happy to give me the time off and even suggested that I might be able to get some of the unpaid days I needed (15 days?) as comp time for PlanetSide. I have something like 200+ hours of vacation time stored anyway. Asking now was the right thing to do in so many ways.
I'm walking on air right now.
If only I could get a couple of bugs squashed I might even have some of the weekend to hang out with Sophia. That's the master plan.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
I feel like I am about to wake up. The air is crisp and ready for change. The game is going to be live in 12 days. Well, really locked down before that. And so I get to take a look around and decide what I want to do next. Some required tasks -- post-launch fixes. Some fun tasks -- hi Sophia, my name is Bob. Some dull tasks -- sleep. And lots more.
Time to read. Time to explore. Time to Flash. Time to find my voice. Time to... What do I want to do with my life? Next is always a fun thing to decide...
I'd like to be in a place financially that I can say "no" to the stress of another foolish crunch. I want to find a way to be a process fanatic -- because that's the only way out from under the insanity. I think I am. I just need to learn to set better limits.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Am I just becoming a link generator? I found another today that is worth recording: Artima. A place for programmers to hang out.
So here is a quote from one of the articles:
A former accountant of mine in Connecticut lived in a very up-scale, wealthy section of town. This guy lived in a super mansion. He had a tapestry hanging on his wall a little too close to his fireplace, and one day it caught fire. The fire department rolled in. The fire was blazing. The house was about to go up in flames. But the fire department did not simply come charging in the front door. They opened the front door, and they rolled out a little carpet. Then they brought their filthy dirty hoses on their carpet and put the fire out. They rolled their carpet back up and said, thank you very much.
Even with the fire raging, the fire department took the care to put down the carpet and keep their hoses on it. They took extra special care not to mess up this guy's expensive mansion. It was a crisis, but they didn't panic. They maintained some level of cleanliness and orderliness while they took care of the problem. That's the kind of attitude you want to foster on a project, because crises do happen. Stuff bursts into flame and starts to burn up. You don't want to go running around crazy and causing more damage trying to fix it. Roll out the carpet. Do it right.
I think it is critical and essential to remind ourselves what is important. Both personally and professionally. Writing good code and tracking bugs is essentially to the success of any project. Communication and setting expectations is just as important. Hanging out with Sophia is priceless.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
UK IQ Test
This was a fun way to spend 30 minutes. I felt like I should have done better and that I haven't been flexing my mind in many areas -- unbalanced towards solving code problems. Anyway, my results:
I feel most bad about the numbers and logic bits. I knew a couple but didn't answer fast enough or couldn't solve the details. Go take the quiz...
I guess this is as good as any announcement that PlanetSide is shipping to the UK on May 23rd. (They only release games on Friday.)
Monday, May 05, 2003
The reunion wasn't really what I was expecting. Not sure what I was expecting. Wandering the campus connected me. Seeing a few of my classmates older and wiser connected me to how I've changed. But after a few hours, I realized I was already in touch with the ones I wanted to spend my time and energy on. OK, if I'd ever send the email. And I realized I don't really care for people as much as I do cats and computers. Friends excepted. I guess I just am not that interested. Maybe I didn't feel like others were that interested.
Keeping a list of launch absolutes would be nice.
Learning lessons from other games would be nice.
Having a producer and executive producer that have a good sense of things is essential.
Priorities need to be set and reset. And set again. And reset. Hourly if necessary.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
I'm nervous. I'm going to my 10 year college reunion today. And skipping out on a day of crunching.
Friday, May 02, 2003
The next time I have a chance to see an aircraft carrier return to port, I am going to go. Even if it means missing the morning of work. Just hearing the news reports made me cry... Nine months aboard a carrier is insane compared to nine months of crunch mode: I always got to go home, I sometimes got weekends, I got more contact with my girlfriend than email and an occasional phone call. Thanks for defending freedom. Thanks for doing your job!
Back to bugs. 7 days?
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Tomorrow there is going to be some press junket for PlanetSide. The hype is great. Just heard rumors of 10 servers at launch -- so support for up to 40K simultaneous users which translates into handling 150,000 box sales. But the distribution numbers are currently at about 100,000 boxes. It took EQ 3-6 months to sell that many copies. But that makes my previous royalty calculations false -- I was hoping for 250,000 sales (optimistic.) Really, I'd be very happy with 100K. Even 50K. For the first week/month. Long term and subscription is everything.
Forget the hype though -- got to fix some bugs.