Thoughts on Destiny


Destiny Line Up

Late in the summer, I downloaded the beta for Bungie's Destiny. I did this mostly because the boys had really enjoyed the Halo games, and this was something new and different. Originally, the boys didn't seem that interested in Destiny, but that may have been mostly because they expected Destiny was going to be more focused on Xbox One and PS4; we only had Xbox 360, and no plans to upgrade until there was no other choice.

The beta was available for the 360, so I downloaded. The worst case would have been that the boys didn't like the game, and we could just not buy it. There's always another game. The boys enjoyed the beta and we pre-ordered the game.

For about the next month, Destiny was the only thing that played on the Xbox. The three of us all played, in very different play styles. Sam was initially very much playing the story and strikes. Jake took to Crucible and enjoyed the PvP. I mostly spent my time in the Patrol areas, trying to explore most of the game. My twitch playing isn't strong enough for the other aspects of the game.

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Ingress: The First Week

Earlier this week, I was received an invite for Google Ingress. Before this goes any father: I don't have any activation codes. I have a list of people who I want to give codes to, but I do not have any to give. If I get spare codes, maybe, but most likely I am going to coordinate that through my local faction.

i've been interested in Alternative Reality Games, as a concept, for a while now. But, like many things that have grown up with the Internet, I haven't really been able to get into one. There is always some combination of time, energy and availability that prevented me from getting involved. And by that, I mean in the past I didn't invest time, energy or make myself that available.

The invite I received came directly from Google. When I first found out about the Ingress website, I registered for an invite. Honestly, given my experience with waiting for Google Invites, I had actually given up on the idea that I would ever even play this game.

But I am happy I was wrong. The invite came on Tuesday.

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More from Norfolk Mini Maker Faire-Hyperion

Yesterday's post about the Norfolk Mini Makers Faire didn't include the booth that the boys thought was the more interesting.

This was a star ship bridge simulation currently named Hyperion. I didn't even know that star ship bridge simulators existed, and now I know about two.

The simulator that was at Makers Faire was quite compelling. There were multiple nodes connected over a network with each machine taking the role of a different starship bridge station. Sam took the helm and Jacob was at tactical and off then went. The graphics, even for this early release, were incredible. The developer let us know that the entire thing was run off a custom web server written in C# and the bridge stations were HTML5 canvases with support. The helm was a netbook and tactical was a large touch screen. There was an about 50-inch TV acting as the shared main viewscreen. They were still adding nodes while we were there, for other stations.

During the conversation, another bystander asked how it compared to Artemis.

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Copious Free Time


I started writing a post about coming to terms that I wanted to add something new to my free time. As part of putting that post together I revisited a few activities I had tried in the past or been thinking about trying. I now do not have a need to write that post; I found something to do.

About four years ago, after the end of an iteration of Myst, I had tried Eve Online. I only played 12 days of a 14 day trial before walking away from the game. I walked away mostly because of the bias I had brought about the game and things that had happened, both with the end of that iteration of Myst, and events that had happened meta around Eve.

When thinking about MMO, there were some things that I've thought should be available in the game:

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More Myst Online Thoughts

I'm suffering a little from insomnia right now. Here's to hoping that it's just part of what I'm hoping is just a cold. After what feel like a month of day-to-day all-day meetings (sometimes 2 or 3 at a time), and my general dislike of Internet forums, I'm having trouble following the state of things after the announcement (and just the announcement) that Myst Online will be released as open source.  My initial thoughts on this are here.

The primary source of information right now is the Myst Online forums. And with everyone trying to get their take on what's happening out, they are taking a beating. I've actually given up on trying to make sense of anything. I came to terms a long time ago that I was seriously limited in my ability to participant in arguments on forums. Most of the problem I have with forums being my difficulty in sticking to "short format" discussion. I always feel as if the forum was a series of crowded rooms where everyone is expected to should one or two talking points and then wait some random interval before shouting again. My writing always feels too dense. And the conversation moves too fast (even for me) and in unpredictable ways.

I find the visual style of every forum I've ever been on doesn't help convey the message of those participating. It seems to encourage not reading anything completely. And when an item is considerably longer than those around it, I don't think it gets read at all. Forum conversations also feel so incredibly fragmented.

I've not really been following the conversation about the announced open source project for Myst Online. I want to, but I just can't. I've got cold (I hope that's all it is). I've had a month of all day meetings (sometimes 2 or 3 at a time). Right now, there just isn't enough real information.

I am concerned about how the release of source code for the client and the server will affect the community.

An event like this tends to favor those who will dive into the code and start doing something with it. But let us not make the mistake of confusing technical skills for the ability to lead. I've seen that happen too often over my career. Someone demonstrates an enhanced capability to perform a function, deal with a technology, execute some process. Before too long, that person finds themselves not doing that thing, but leading others. Sometimes with catastrophic results for the people, process or function.

Please don't take these to suggest that a strong technical person is incapable of leadership. That's not true (please let it not be true).

Another related concern is overall leadership and guidance of the community as the project gets going and starts determining its own direction.

While there are some serious issues that the community will decide need to be addressed, I'm afraid that we'll see the project solve a number of very specific use cases that really don't contribute back to a more general use cases of an MMO (not that I know what those are). I've seen this during every requirements gathering cycle in which I've been a participant. "Wouldn't it be great if, in this one instance . . . " But that one instance is a special case representing less than 1% of the total transactions. And optimizing for that use case makes another transaction that happens 20% of the time 100 times harder.

But this isn't a business system. It's use is not for tracking client transactions with a service delivery unit. It's a game engine. What if every episode of Heroes or Lost or Survivor was suddenly about the mechanics of how the show worked and not the story being presented? What is going to happen to the story?

I'm playing the game because I want to escape from normal, everyday things. I want to explore and discover and, in the end, believe that I've come closer to some kind of truth in the setting (and hope that the lies I'm being told are at least entertaining). I want the conflicts I find myself in as a player or a character, to serve some meaningful end in learning the truth, or hiding it from others. I don't want cookie cutter plots, repetitive storytelling or a grind, just to grind.

Maybe over my holiday vacation I'll find the time and motivation to mine the forums and other parts of the conversation to see what's going on. Or maybe I'll just wait until the code is released and see what happens.

Till then, I'm not too worried. It's not like anyone is ever going to read this, or understand it if they do.

Waiting for Spore


Back when they first announced the release date for Spore, I pre-ordered the game. I thought that this would be a good game for the boys. They love constructing things. They have recently taken to some of the Civilization type games on GameTap. Spore, in all of it's "massively single-player"-ness seemed right up their alley.

I can't help but say I am a little fascinated with the game concept. I really think it will be interesting to see what the game will bring.

The release date announced was 07 September. This, was 2 days ago, on a Sunday.

Why is it that I only just received an e-mail this morning saying that my pre-order was being shipped?

In the past couple of days, Spore has been all over various media. Specifically, there has been a lot of conversation about the protest over at Amazon and the number of single-star reviews the game has received, both for game play and the rather draconian DRM employed.

I'm currently a little upset that people who didn't bother to pre-order the game are already playing it. And that my copy is still being shipped. Why did I bother buying the game right from the publisher?

What is someone waiting for a game to make of the DRM applied? What am I supposed to make of the 1,700+ single-star ratings on the Amazon page for Spore? Why is my pre-order arriving 3 days later than the retail release?

I'm actually a little concerned right now. Will this game be another disappointment? Will the DRM push one of my machines into the realm of instability?

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Spring Break MMO Study

It is old news to anyone that was paying attention that GameTap is shutting down Myst Online: Uru Live on 10 April.
There have been plenty of people involved with either the Myst community or the game industry and media who have already written about why Myst failed as an MMO, twice. The conversations have gone everywhere from "the world was not ready for a game like Myst" to "Cyanworlds was not ready to present Myst."
The short version, or at least the most official one that the community received was that the game just did not attract enough players and GameTap could no longer justify having the game.
In all honesty, the game is already shutdown. While the servers are still up and accepting connections, there has been no new content since the end of the last episode, late last year.

Timing can be painful

Friday I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to deal with the loss of my main Windows machine here at home. What exactly does the loss of this machine mean? Right now, I am using the SUSE Linux box that up until early September was the main Windows box I used around here. It was running Windows 2000, and I seemed happy to let it be. Vista is coming, and maybe next year after the confusion, problems and insanity that Vista's release will surely cause in the home computer market, I would be able to afford the next box for home that will last me forever.

The death of Windows 2000 on that box, and the inability to get 2000-64bit or Vista's RC or Beta to run on any hardware I had (I only tried 2k-64 on the Shuttle) forced my hand. Why not return the Windows XP Home that came with the Shuttle back on the Shuttle. I knew Linux would run great on old Dell. And right now, I am sitting here using the old Dell as a Linux desktop, because I have no other choice. The Shuttle died.

Now we can get into what this means. For me, this is not a significant issue. I have transferred the most important data to Natalie's laptop (the first thing I did after the death of the Shuttle). I have started to use the Linux box as a desktop, and with the exception of the fact that I have not taken the time to configure convenience features of the mouse and keyboard under Linux, everything seems to be working well. Natalie's laptop was already the home of most of our pictures and other important stuff. All of our e-mail is on the server, accessed via IMAP. Nothing lost.

The boys have a machine of their own. It sits in one of their rooms and they use it mostly to play games. It is nice that one of them an be on the game console, and the other playing video games on their PC.

I have two work laptops, so my ability to work from home (once a week) has not been eliminated or even affected.

What I do not have right now is the ability, right this second, to get into GameTap. The only machine in the house that can run GameTap is the boys', and right now, they are sleeping.

Soon, I hope. Soon. Something can be done.

But can it be done soon enough?

Today was the last day of the current phase of the Uru Live Beta or Preview or whatever they were calling it when they let the rest of us on. The next phase, if not the actual go live, starts on 21 December. And at this point, I do not believe I will have a machine to play it on. The preview ran outside the GameTap client, so I could use Natalie's laptop (until she took it away from me). But every indication is that the next phase and the Live (if they are different things) will require GameTap to access. That means I have to use the boys' machine. And I really cannot do that while they are sleeping. Taking the machine away from them JUST SEEMS WRONG.

Soon, maybe, I think, soon.

For the love of games . . .


Where can I begin on describing what I have been up to this weekend.

Sometimes, even those of us that spend all of our time working on computers find ourselves in strange situations that seem completely out of our control. And some of those times, it's because of decisions that we have made ourselves.

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