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  •  
    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.

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    Links
    New York Times
    PVP Online
    EverQuestII
    PlanetSide
    Sony Online Entertainment



    Bob Blog
     
    Saturday, August 30, 2003  

    I turned into a lobster tonight. I forgot to put on sunscreen when I went to the beach swimming. I would have been ok except I stopped to read a book on backgammon I picked up at the library. The sun felt good though. I hope it turns into a tan, not cancer. For now, besides the obvious pain -- it actually feels someone nice to be in touch with my body.

    I'm pushing 1625 on my yahoo ranking. I'm playing with a slight variation to my normal style based on the book. I think being more patient is going to help my game. I still don't have the patience to calculate the odds for moves though. It may be a personal weakness developed by playing rapid games against the computer. I don't want to slow down -- just click click click.

    Note to self: you need an ATM card to use the ATM machine at the bank.

    9:38 PM  0 comments

    Friday, August 29, 2003  

    6am. Already at work. Not really by choice though. I don't choose to wake up before the sun is up. Not that cruising the freeway at 60mph is a bad thing.

    No, Sophia had me drop her off at the airport. And I opted to just drive into work. 6am-2pm. (Nice hours.) OK, or 6am-5pm. The extra hours should help me make some progress on a feature all our users are craving.

    What do I want to do this weekend -- long weekend at that? Swim in the ocean. Walk along the beach. Plan the India portion of the trip. Document some code. Play video games.

    6:18 AM  0 comments

    Wednesday, August 27, 2003  

    Mars is bright.

    9:41 AM  0 comments

    Sunday, August 24, 2003  

    I couldn't find the manufacturer link. But the next marvel in packing -- the next necessity for a camper van trip: Space Bag (Samsonite and Coleman.) Rollout the air. Make your clothers smaller...

    8:08 PM  0 comments

     

    Walked to the beach. The one at Santa Cruz St was pretty crowded. The waves were really nice. The water pleasant. I should have put sunscreen on. Life is good.

    3:31 PM  0 comments

    Saturday, August 23, 2003  

    We took some stuff to the swap meet today along with some friends (who had most the good stuff.) When we got there and started to unpack, a swarm of other vendors came up to us starting to look for good deals. I think we were going to bring all the leftovers to Goodwill. I think some of the stuff would be bigger tax write-offs than the price we were asking. But the things will get good homes so it won't matter.

    Vultures. And we were not prepared.

    Being a vendor at swap meets is definitely is not the lifestyle choice I want to make. But every so often, it is kind of exciting.

    11:46 AM  0 comments

    Friday, August 22, 2003  

    The 4th Amazing Race ended yesterday. Well, yesterday on TV. It wasn't how I'd organize a round-the-world race.

    The TV premise is: N legs. Last team to get to each leg gets eliminated (except for a few no-one loses legs.) Each leg has a shortcut to skip all tasks. Each leg tends to have a couple of markers that teams get clues to find and a couple of obstacles. The obstacles are my big objection to the show -- not so much travel related as "extreme sport", skydiving, climbing in a cave, dune buggies, walking in a shark tank, being pulled by a bull through mud. The obstacles were often obvious as to which of two choices one should take and didn't require as much thought as strength. A few exceptions.

    And the TV show tried to keep teams relatively close together. For example: staggered starts based on the previous leg often didn't matter as the first "event" wouldn't open for 4-6 hours after ALL the teams would arrive, airport waits with only one obvious "best flight" so everyone queued up to get the same ticket.

    The show had the concept of limited funds per leg -- but I don't remember the choice of spending money really coming into play. Except for bribes for the taxi drivers in the last sequence. I guess the bigger problem was that choices rarely seemed to matter.

    One of the highlights for me was the ballroom party in Venice where the teams had to match a mask worn by one of the guests to a placard. Fail -- end of the line. And only so many teams could be trying at a time. Brilliant puzzle. Used something cultural from Venice (Mardi Gras masks). And really challenged the teams.

    Lowlight: how many places were really explored by the teams. And the interaction between the teams was hard to watch. I didn't really relate to any of the last three teams (and only 1 of the last 5). The clowns were fun. Of course, after the editing room the show only presents the side of the story they want us to see.

    My version:

    1) Fewer legs. Longer legs with less point-to-point-to-point navigation.

    Make teams collect event points in each country/continent. There could be the same "extreme sports" things. Cultural activities (museums, plays, restaurants.) Puzzles to solve. Hidden places to find. Hikes to go on. Etc. Stagger the points so that the first team to do some event gets 13pts, then 7pts, then 5, then 3, then 2, then 1.

    The strategy then becomes which thing to do, in which order, and how many.

    Each leg could last 3-5 days. It would be interesting to not give an absolute (you need N points) but rather let the teams have to decide -- do we go to the rest point now with these points or try for one more event. Add the challenge of you must be here by an exact time or you are automatically eliminated.

    The challenge for the show is to create enough options and have enough crew available. And to make sure not all the teams show up late and get eliminated.


    2) More teams. More options.

    By keeping more teams, the game opens up a little bit more. The 2-3 different groups in early episodes at least made it feel like there was one good option.

    One problem with more teams is that the viewer has less chance to spend time knowing each team.


    3) Choices need to matter.

    With longer legs, the choice of train vs plane or taxi vs walking or path A vs path B would have more chance to play out.
    With more limited budgets, spending now vs later would matter.

    People want to see travel and competition and new things. I think my design would work.


    California Amazing Race
    In progress...

    First stop California/Mexico border:
    hike in the desert
    surf
    find something at the zoo
    palomar observatory


    Second stop Los Angeles:

    Third stop Bay Area:

    Fourth stop Sierras:

    9:51 PM  0 comments

     

    TiVo on Open Source. Interesting document. I wonder how many other companies that use open source software in commercial projects are as careful as TiVo.

    6:39 PM  0 comments

     

    Focus. Probably the fundamental thing I need to remind myself. One thing at a time. One day at a time.

    8:28 AM  0 comments

    Thursday, August 21, 2003  

    Nearly September. 1) I can't believe summer is already gone. 2) That means we are getting so close to the big day that even I am nervous. 3) The trip is close. I try not to be overwhelmed by things. The payoff will be nice. I still can't believe I'm getting married or going on my second trip round the world (even if the first one was short and financed by work.)

    The list of things to do to get ready is awfully long. The list of things I ought to be doing is growing. And I really need a couple of VERY productive days (weeks) at work to catch up with the last couple that seem to not have been very productive at all. Where is my focus?

    I have jury duty in September. I'm hoping to get onto a trial. Not a long one. It isn't even time off from work that motivates this desire. It is sitting in the waiting room bored that makes me wish for getting into a courtroom. Not enough desire to be a defendant.

    What else happens in September? Maybe a trip to STL. Maybe a trip to the desert. Maybe another bonfire. Rich moves. Work. Planning. Hopefully some time to think.

    1:07 PM  0 comments

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003  

    weird day. Rain. almost hail this afternoon. Perhaps because Sophia and I are supposed to go to a baseball game. Last time it rained -- when he went to our last game.

    Women eaten by a shark in Central California. She was swimming in a wetsuit with some seals. First death in 10 years.

    I-15 blocked due to some police chase.

    Did I mention rain?

    5:51 PM  0 comments

    Tuesday, August 19, 2003  

    I feel like it has been a long time since my last post. It has, at least for a substantial post. But I have nothing substantial to offer. So my suggestion: go play PlanetSide.

    6:39 PM  0 comments

    Monday, August 18, 2003  

    Activision Anthology Keys. Definitely worth the bargain bin price. And some of the games are perfect to play against your little nieces or girlfriend.

    10:29 AM  0 comments

    Thursday, August 14, 2003  

    Because I'm becoming familiar with many backgammon moves (and beginning to play by rote), here is a chess page to tempt me: Daily Chess Puzzle

    7:50 PM  0 comments

     

    Today on the way home, I think my car was part of the mini-traffic jam caused by the President's motorcade. Traffic on I-8 was stopped in both directions right before the I-5 interchange. A helicopter flew overhead. 5 minutes. Then everyone was back to normal. And I know he was in town today.

    7:45 PM  0 comments

     

    is nothing to report worthy of reporting?

    7:53 AM  0 comments

    Wednesday, August 13, 2003  

    Another conference sprouts up: Indie Game Conference

    10:56 AM  0 comments

     

    The Martians know that once every 17-20 they get as close to the 3rd planet until the next cycle. Now is a good time to attack! Prepare. Y2K is nothing compared to the impending doom. Have water and batteries and ice cream in reserve. Avoid crowded freeways and conspicuous monuments. Perhaps even stay home from work.

    Prepare for the "Invasion from Mars"...

    7:42 AM  0 comments

    Tuesday, August 12, 2003  

    Go look at Mars! It is following behind the moon. Soon it will be the closest it has been in 60,000 years(?). Want real data -- look it up on the web... Mars at Its All-time Finest

    I need the NY Times version. That was way too detailed.

    11:29 PM  0 comments

     

    List of NY City Underground info

    8:26 AM  0 comments

    Monday, August 11, 2003  

    I decided to post my response to some questions about the future of online gaming. Just my guesses. Not that of my employer or anyother person. However, I'm not sure if this will make 100% sense without the main thread that some of my answers refer.

    1) Where do you see online multiplayer gaming being in 10 years time? (Just a snapshot, in terms of size of market (broad terms, not numbers if you’ve not got them), kinds of games, speeds, communities, etc)
    A lot more like Yahoo games than EverQuest.
    I agree the social aspect is the key to multiplayer games.
    The broad audience doesn't want "game" as much as
    entertainment, a chat room, friendships, connections
    to people, a place to feel accepted. I like to think about
    this in terms of what games would my parents play, what games
    would my girlfriend play, what games would the business person
    want to play.

    The virtual holodeck that Dave talks about is why mainstream
    media were excited about SimsOnline and SWG. I still think
    there will be a niche for giant online worlds. With quests
    and adventures and politics and more and better of what
    the next wave of MMOs are promising. It is hard not to image
    worlds as convincing as movie effects except in real-time.


    Still not a lot of broadband in the US (especially out west
    where distances don't make as much sense -- unlike Korea/Europe.)
    There will never be enough bandwidth anyway since the limits
    are often on the server not the client.


    I envision a lot of cellphone/palm-centric games. I'm not sure what
    they will look like but imagine that Cathryn is on the right path.



    2 Even on console, the user base still hasn’t exploded. Can online gaming ever break out of the hardcore to become mass-market? Why?
    It will. Go take a look at Yahoo's numbers; they are significant.
    I agree with Dave -- not mass market numbers for hardcore games.
    But the mass market being entertained by interactive entertainment
    and online communities.

    Examples:
    Play along with Jeopardy or any other game show at home.
    Play keno on a wireless device while walking to/from lunch.
    Compete in an intergalactic trading game that lasts months if
    not years. Meet new people (near you physically) while at a
    sporting event or concert.

    Ever play the bar game of trying to predict football plays?
    What if 20,000-60,000 of the people in the stadium were playing
    and the winners gets a prize (their name on the score board.)



    3 Voice is doing great things on Xbox Live. Can you think of applications for that technology that we’ve not used yet? What?
    4 What about a similar thing with cameras and EyeToy’s over broadband. Could that add to games, or would people miss the anonymity?

    Dave hit this one exactly:
    "Most people want to express their personality in some form, not conceal it. If you’re going virtual clubbing, what you want is to be able to buff up without spending all day in the gym. With the right software, you can do that with your own image. And some people will still opt for virtual masks instead; it’ll be interesting to see how the "reals" react to the "avatars".

    I just found a reason for putting in the flat panel display
    next to my TV -- videoconference all my friends while watching sports.
    (I have a TiVo so it would be hard to coordinate with friends to watch
    TV live... but that might just be enough to get some people to view
    shows live.) We'll all look goofy with headsets on, so the mic system
    will have to get more advanced.

    I also think voice will become more of controller. And games that
    follow your eye/head movement for ingame movement.


    One problem with voice/video is the grief potential (hard enough to
    get a proper profanity filter on text).



    5 Are the fully-integrated Majestic-type games, which email you and SMS you, the future or a red herring?

    Can you envision your mom playing? If not, probably not the mass market
    idea. But I can definitely see a niche for this type of game.

    Giving out another free idea: local area assassin. Your cell phone
    plots your location and the location of others playing the game near you.
    If you get close (within a mile? 100 ft? ) your phone alerts you.
    If you can get a photo (from the phone) or hit their phone with
    an infrared message, you get the kill. Imagine the guy in the
    suit walking ahead of you suddenly starts running because his
    phone tells him he is being tracked by an enemy. Or you spend
    your 20 minute commute wandering the subway looking for a victim.


    6 Will all games eventually end up online and multiplayer?

    Agree again. Definite no.

    1:44 PM  0 comments

     

    My streak at backgammon is going pretty good. My current ranking: 1612. The game against a human opponent is different than against the machine. Mostly I get to see a few different positions -- not playing against the same logic. And then I get the frustration of people -- slow moves, distracted by then dog, non-working mouse, con artist, pickup artist, potential cheats, and griefers. I haven't seen all of these yet but I suspect I will.

    1:41 PM  0 comments

     

    I stayed up late last night watching a campy movie -- Dr Terror's House of Horror (1965). It wasn't particularly worth it. Funny. Cheesy. The basic plot for those that want to avoid it is 5 people on a train have their tarot cards read that predict their deaths: werewolf, vampire, animated hand, man-eating plant, voodoo. Oops, did I give away the plot?

    However, it reminded me that I haven't read my tarot cards recently. I dealt a couple of three card spreads. The future card was essentially the same in both: you are having trouble deciding on a future.

    Ummm... Going to Tarot.com came up with the same card. XV (the devil, tempation, materialism.)

    11:41 AM  0 comments

    Sunday, August 10, 2003  

    Camping was a great success. A little warm during the day for hiking. Remind me to do it more often.

    This is the start of another dream:
    EuroVan
    Vanagon?
    Or MicroBus in 2005?
    Classic MicroBus?

    4:04 PM  0 comments

    Friday, August 08, 2003  

    Being 33 is tiring. I'm super groggy this morning. 10x more than normal. I'd still be in bed except my cats are really loud.

    This weekend we are going camping. I'm excited. It will be the first test of our new tent. it will be the first of a series of training hikes/camps for our New Zealand trip. Mt Laguna is slightly different than Milford Sound. But the theory is the same.

    I'm beginning to think that I may try to go camping the weekend before the wedding. Bring along some friends. I've forgotten how much I like to be outside. Maybe I'll want to forget again on Sunday.

    8:43 AM  0 comments

    Thursday, August 07, 2003  

    Expensive books and a refound interest. I think that user interface design has finally resurfaced as something I'm genuinely interested in mastering. Not the coding. Not the design (art.) The user. May seem strange from someone who openly admits to being afraid of both technology and users. But I think that fear is perfectly logical when merged into HCI (Human Computer Interactions.)

    But now I need a new collection of books. Send me ideas...
    [x] Design of Everyday Things. Donald Norman
    [] Interaction Design for Complex Problem Solving : Developing Useful and Usable Software. Barbara Mirel


    A list from Amazon.com


    Names I ought to follow up with:
    Dennis Wixon (denniswi@microsoft.com) - Age of Empires II - Getting Data That Improves Games

    3:25 PM  0 comments

     

    If you haven't seen it yet, set your TiVo up to record Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. This reality show is hilarious. Watch 5 gay guys transform the life of a straight guy. Even if you only pick up one little thing per episode for yourself, it is transforming.

    And my girlfriend wondered why I'd decide to go through my closet and throw out clothes I've had since college.

    (I didn't throw out some of those college t-shirts though -- too precious. And I probably will never buy hair products.)

    7:44 AM  0 comments

     

    [rant on]
    For those fans that think developers don't read the message boards about our own games: most do. We do until the signal to noise ratio drives us into deep depressions and the rants are packed with more lies than political campaigns. And then we rely on someone else to send us links to the positive comments and witty observations (and use real tools like customer service reports and bug tracking software to figure out the issues that are urgent.) I still read the PlanetSide boards. I read them like I skim the newspaper, reading headlines and perhaps a bit of a story here and there that catches my interest. Note to reader: "DEV READ THIS!" is never read by this dev.

    Enough of an introduction. Yesterday a fan wrote that he thought we all must have gone away. Some research would show job listings for the team. Some research would show that most MMOs actually get bigger teams after launch than before. So why aren't are patches as fast and furious as the during Beta as implied by this poster?

    0) It probably isn't really the case that less is being fixed or added as before. But Beta is scheduled such that all the stars are aligned to have the last round of functionality and bug fixes and design changes for balance and much more all fall into place in a very short amount of time. So it is hard to compete/sustain that level of "visible progress." But three years went into the code to get to that point. Give us three weeks or three months for some of the large features.

    1) It was less critical to get things right the first time in Beta so we were more likely to code massive changes and push them with very little testing. If we did that now, we could negatively impact the game. Perhaps the real point here is that during Beta we had a gold master date and then a ship date that weren't going to change -- now we sometimes have the luxury of trying to do the right thing and not just hack the code until it works close enough.

    2) We are fixing a lot of things we don't announce such as hacks, exploits, tools, and fixing system that needed extra attention -- better error checking, data recovery, horrible code because it was done between midnight and 4am on a Saturday night when I didn't have more than 5 hours sleep all week...

    3) But the most obvious to me is our current 50 hour work week instead of 80+ hour weeks (and the trickle of time off). So theoretically half as much gets done.

    This theory of more hours = more work isn't true for 6 months of an MMO crunch though. And even if it was, definitely wouldn't be true for the 6 months after release. Don't let any manager/executive fool you into believing it. Some people may be able to withstand it for extended periods of time. Most can't.

    I'm a strong advocate for a productive 40 hour week. I may have to work 50-60 hours some weeks to feel like I had 40 productive hours though. And sometimes a 50% productive day is enough. Like on your birthday.

    [rant off]

    7:25 AM  0 comments

    Wednesday, August 06, 2003  

    IncrediBuild is the best thing since Mt Dew for programmers. It basically lets all our machines distribute the builds. Fast! Faster! Wow!

    Anyway, on Friday my "agent" said it was "unsubscribed". Version out of sync or something. Still down Sunday when I come into work and my builds take an hour each (client and server) instead of the normal 5-10 minutes. And I have to do this several times to integrate changes. Still down Monday so I ask IT. Today the team running the server admits they turned off my agent's access because someone on their team added a new machine. Hello?!? I need my crack too! Slow. Slower. Slowest.

    Resolved. Just took a lot more personal effort than necessary. In fact, a simple email from someone letting me know they turned off my access would have saved several hours of frustration.

    4:18 PM  0 comments

     

    GDC (Game Developer Conference) may have found its match in Austin Game Conference. Both are doing different things but I think that local projects that can get people talking and sharing will eventually make the industry a better place. Better games, better process, better place to work. Just wish I could attend.

    My preference is the $95 registration for the one in Austin vs the much more expensive GDC.

    9:47 AM  0 comments

     

    My ranking on Yahoo Backgammon is no longer "provisional". I played my 20 games and I'm at 1551.

    8:35 AM  0 comments

     

    Tomorrow I turn 33. That is a fun year. I won't get another double double age for 11 more years.

    Anything I need to do on the last day before I get another year older? Nope. Some reflection is mandatory. Some dreaming and planning is automatic.

    I lost my grandfather this past year. He had the spirit of a great adventurer. He touched people everywhere he went. I savor all the times we were able to spend together and know that he's still watching and supporting me.

    I published my first AAA game. Thanks PlanetSide. Growing up I probably would have thought this wasn't going to be an issue. But once I got to Mudd and QUALCOMM, I had forgotten about this dream of creating games. It is very amazing to walk into a store that has your game on its shelf. However, I think software is software as long as someone is using it. The game industry has its advantages and problems. I hope I can be part of it for a long time and make my own contributions. My dreams aren't about changing the world, just helping one project at a time.

    This past year, I realized I was ready to spend the rest of my life with someone. Thanks Sophia for being you. I like you. Alot!

    And next year... so many amazing things are scheduled already. My only hope is that on my next birthday I can look back and my happiest momements are not the travel, work, adventure, my cats, but my friends and family. If I can look back and say I was a good friend and a good husband, it will have been a great 33.

    8:07 AM  0 comments

    Tuesday, August 05, 2003  

    my birthday is very soon. Send gifts!

    I don't know what I want to do for my birthday. I have to work. But I may make a run to the Sony Store. Or maybe go out someplace special for lunch. Or?

    I have started playing backgammon on yahoo instead of against Motif (Artificial Intelligent computer player.) My rating is 1540 but I haven't played enough games yet. I still need 10 more games before my rating is official.

    8:08 AM  0 comments

    Monday, August 04, 2003  

    Lots of things that should have been simple today weren't. LoggingServer needed a new API. Which needed a new UDP Library. Which broke the login process. Which made me revert to the old UDP Library and hack a few things in the LoggingServer. Which then worked except the LogDevice doesn't take Unicode strings (which I thought was OK until now when we need to record chat for the /report command.) So lots of looping around in code and trying to make magic. In the end, I took the simple fix.

    Tomorrow -- double time!

    8:28 PM  0 comments

     

    Everyone on the team now knows I'm going to New Zealand in November. I guess it will have to be a conversation with Dallas, Rich, Russ, and some other folks what to do when I return as it appears the STL office has hired my replacement. If anything, it makes the trip feel more real. But lots of work to get done before I can leave.

    9:22 AM  0 comments

    Sunday, August 03, 2003  

    A run a yahoo! search on "bob blog" today. The version from May came up. But the site has since moved. If you read this, try to send me email: blog@mountabbey.com

    But more frightening was mountabbey came up with me. Guess it is time to start thinking about the replacement for the wedding site. So it will be ready in October.

    Mount Abbey Adventures -- your adventure travel destination...


    2:33 PM  0 comments

     

    Ocean Beach and the ocean. Today we wandered down to the ocean for some splashing in the waves. Yesterday we went to the pier and just looked out at the waves. I like the water.

    12:30 PM  0 comments

    Saturday, August 02, 2003  

    Kung Foo Chess. I saw this in the Smithsonian Magazine. Basically you don't have to wait for the other player to move. Each piece takes some time to move and once it arrives it cannot move again for a set amount of time. I watched a few games but wasn't brave enough to play. My regular chess isn't good enough much less sprinting.

    9:25 PM  0 comments

     

    It is a weekend. I don't feel like coding. But then the question is: what do I do now? I have lots of little things that ought to be done. But none of them are fun. I don't have a book I'm reading. Or any movies that need to be watched. Maybe it is time to go down to the ocean to go swimming again. Excercise is always a good motivator.

    3:35 PM  0 comments

    Friday, August 01, 2003  

    Tools. Tools. Tools. If you don't have tools. Don't bother.

    Next: Requirements. Written and unwritten. The written ones are easy.

    Donuts and free t-shirts...

    These are all things a software project needs. A few code coders help too.

    7:53 AM  0 comments