Interviews

What I Learned Doing 250 Interviews at Google

I’ve done some posts on interviews, which I more or less still agree with. I’m not working in Google or Microsoft, I’m in an agency with considerably fewer engineering standards. Still, there’s a lot here that still works outside the mileu of 7 or 8 1 hr interviews in a day per candidate.

In particular asking questions that can be drilled down into. The Number Swap question really is a Junior Dev kind of question - despite the depressing number of people who couldn’t give even the naive/best solution.

Meanwhile, Etsy, eh? I was vaguely aware they were doing a lot of developer community outreach - I’ve seen a lot of Code as Craft fly through my feeds - but it has taken some time for it to dawn on me they are just an interesting dev shop as Facebook/Google/Amazon. More so than the first two, I suppose, from a ethical point of view.

Rugby League

  1. Brent Tate’s post-State of Origin comments anger NSW players
  2. Brent Tate’s critics should hang their heads in shame

Meanwhile, I did watch the first game of the State of Origin series. Oh and look, a pair of fucking dickheads lifted another player into a dangerous postion and dropped him. I’m biased though, right, because it was a Queensland player and I support Queenslander. Oh, but it’s all okay, because Wally Lewis - the Queenslander’s Queenslander in the 80’s - said mid-game there was no malice and he’s a one-eyed Queenslander.

And, and the guy escaped suspension with sufficient downgrading of the grading of the offense. So yeah, fuck the NRL. I don’t see myself staying away from the Origin games, but I won’t be watching the NRL competition itself any more.

Swift

WWDC tends to leave me reasonably buzzed anyway, but I almost paid the $99 to become an Apple Developer just so I could pull the XCode beta just to play with Swift.

I didn’t, because the chances of me doing anything more than playing are vanishingly small.

D&D

Won’t buy. Will download the free “basic” intro PDF. Still want to play Original or 1st ed again. Still not looking for a game, because I still have a very jaundiced view of Skype+computerised-tabletops.

If I’m writing a package despite my natural laziness, your community is unvibrant

The inevitable occurs in a game of rugby league and I come to the pointy end of a year’s long drifting away from the game.

I made a tweet about a game idea. I followed up with a Facebook post with some more words, since it can have more words. To wit 1

Game idea: Adventure Capital. You’re a nobleman in Greyhawk who invests in parties who go dungeon bashing. Mold your party, earn GP %s. I tried to make it more like VC funding, but it turns out I’d rather gouge out my brain that play that. Maybe more like the Football Manager type games, and maybe that seems more obvious if it were to be multiplayer.

The seed of that idea has several roots. The first is a little mobile phone game called Game Dev Story, a management simulation game themed as a video game development company. I played it for a bit after a friend recommended it. It was fun, I obsessed for a few weeks (as I am sure he knew I would and likely that was part of the reason he told me about it because he thought that would be funny), and I doubt I’ve played it since 2011. At the same time, I was noticing the Grognard movement in D&D and tangentially the proliferation of micro rule sets based on OD&D. I started thinking about what kind of rule set I would create, started creating a rule set, and finally started coding it as an engine because that would be the only way I could play test mechanics. At some stage the concepts cross pollinated. Possibly with a healthy mix of memories of the football manager games I recall seeing magazine ads for in the mid to late 1980s.

The idea has been in the back of my head for a few years now, and every now and then I’ll drag it out and dust it off and have a think about what it might look like. There would be Adventurers, obviously, and then a few bags to put them in: free agents, adventurers employed by the player, and not employed by the player. Sufficiently advanced game play would mean the player has hired more adventurers than can be placed in a single party, so a player could have many simultaneous parties with adventurers, in divisions like a sports manager game. The adventurers not hired by the player would be variously hanging around the proverbial tavern and also in rival adveturing parties competing for the same loot. Perhaps that would entail that there are rival capitalists that may be interacted with by the player.

There would be dungeons into which the adventurers to be sent to pillage, since the conceit of the game is that the player is investing in adventurers to reap a profit. There would be no direct control of what they do in the dungeon. The player shouldn’t even get updates on progress, they either come back with a full report on what happened, or just don’t come back at all. Perhaps rumours if the expedition takes long enough, of death or hints of activity. There should be a sense of the tyranny of distance. When the party does come back, they come laden with loot but also reports that provide flavour to how the party performed.

Obviously the adventurers should have statistics have some variety. Not D&D stats. I already think there are too many stats in D&D just looking at the Big Six2 and then you have HPs and AC and oh my god! Reduce it to maybe Tanking, Protection, Exploration, and Leadership. There should be something to represent magic use as well. Possibly stealth as well, although that could arguably be lumped in with Exploration. I think there should be more things to rate then character slots in a party, and four feels like the right number for that. Six stats? Seven? Eight feels too many. Game Dev Story had four roles and four stats, but to mix it up and encourage multi-skilled employees it has a Fatigue mechanic, so you can’t just use the same employee over and over to defeat challenges they have been supercharged for. This game would have health and after expeditions to dungeons perhaps some adventurers will need to rest up and heal. Particularly if they have been killed and brought back to life, which is defintely a mechanic which must exist. Football management games would have the player roster turning over due to some players being sacked and some players being poached by rival teams. A dungeon bash management sim should have the adventurer roster turn over due to some players being gnawed by a illithid.

Dungeons should then be a series of challenges that are defeated by the ratings the party brings with it and are rewarded with gold and enchanted items. The usual loot. And some sort of experience point system allowing the characters to be improved. Maybe you just abstract that out as spending the gold you earn from the party. Going back to Game Dev Story as an example, Research is earned during the game dev phase that can later be spent on training and leveling up your employees. The money earned from game sales are used to finance the next game, and unlocking new game dev options. I do think the gold earned from dungeons should be used to finance something unrelated to the adventurer-party-expedition mechanic. I’m just unsure what that would be.

Most importantly, there has to be an end game. I have an aversion to games that do not have a goal to reach. Traditionally those goals were finishing all the levels, or winning the race, defeating your opponent, or getting to Alpha Centauri. I never did complete Game Dev Story, but with the sports manager games there is at minimum the sense of constant renewal of the game through the turning of the seasons. You may have won the FA Cup in one season, but next season you have to start again, and probably not with the same roster of players as some leave for other teams. What I am looking for though is a victory condition, even if only have vague ideas of exactly what that might look like. A Big Bad that your party ultimately discovers as the guiding force behind all the dungeons they have cleared out, the capitalist behind it all in negative to the player?

I think it would be a fun game to play once or twice, if it could be executed well. I don’t make the mistake of believing I could create this myself. Not from a software development perspective, but in terms of game design. Game design is a skill just like any other kind of design and not one I have had any occasion to acquire. So even as I have written this, I know it will never leave the confines of my own system even were it ever actually created. But there you are, an idea for a game I have had bouncing around my skull for a few years.

  1. I gave up on trying to embed a Facebook post. Facebook claims it can be done, but it seems to be another stop on Facebooks long running streak in badly executing poorly designed ideas.

  2. WIS should be dropped, and Clerics should use CHA as their Prim Requisite. Although, the prime requisite rule should also be dropped.

Books

What a failure 2013 was in imagination and groundedness. After a final six weeks of 2012 rushing to read enough books to reach the level I set for my Goodreads challenge, as I mentioned this time last year. I even cheated, really, in reading Matchless because it was short and would get my numbers up. Instead I resolved to set the challenge number much lower and to read “challenging” books, without ever really defining what that would mean, other than that Godel Escher Bach would be one.

It’s important to set goals. If you are going to set them, though, you also need to create a routine. I read a few books right at the beginning of January, A Memory of Light being one, but for the most part I didn’t really put much thought into what these “challenging books” were that I would read. When I did finally pick one up, it was immediately before D and I went to NZ for a week and a half, and I certainly didn’t do any reading while we were touring. In the end, I didn’t read a single book I would have included in the “challenging” books list, and felt guilty for it. Enough so that I read barely any books at all in 2013. Six, according to Goodreads, plus the first three Laundry Files books which I don’t seem to have added.

I haven’t set a reading goal at all this year. Whatever I read this year is what I read. I would like to read House of Leaves, the book I picked up in February 2013, and the some non-fiction. But to do so, I need to re-establish my reading routine, which I had been eroding steadily for the last three years with…

Television

2013 was the year I finally strated cutting loose shows that had outlived their verve. True Blood and Sons of Anarchy should have been dismissed two seasons ago. Arguably True Blood should have had one season and been done with it, and Sons of Anarchy had an excellant second season, but everything afterwards has felt gratuitous tits and violence. The arcs for the characters were distorted for the sake of avoiding cast changes, and the story suffered. I understand Tara was killed in the last episode of the season just ended. She should have left at the end of season 3.

I should have dumped Californication as well, again arguably after the first season. The first season was a fun anti-redemption story. Every other season was just a pripatic tit-fest that I kept watching because Hank Moody seems so cool. It’s the last season in 2014 but I see no reason to watch it.

On the other hand, I picked up some new shows, most of which will probably pick up again in 2014. Orphan Black and Vikings earlier in the year, and then House of Cards and Orange is the New Black in the later half. Vikings is the only one I’m not sure about. It was fun - the mass battle scenes particularly the shield wall on the beach are fantastic - and Travis Fimmel was a manic charisma. If they can maintain the alien feel of the Viking culture without slipping too far into soap opera, it’ll be ok. Orphan Black is a no-brainer for a second season, it was easily the best new show of 2013 and Tatiana Maslaney should be showered in awards if there is any justice.

2013 continued my streak of not being able to bring myself to watch Game of Thrones. It started right after I read the whole extant series as the most recent book was released. I was exhausted at the time and I remain unable to commit to binge the three seasons to date. I did binge Breaking Bad in 2013 and I’m glad I did because Ozymandias was the highlight of the year.

Games

A long time friend from high school suggested I start playing a multiplayer game he was involved in, a game called Arcane Empires. I remain friends with him, despite this game being some really evil shit. It’s one of those games that exists to have players become impatient and spend real world cash for in game currency to improve their position. There’s something horrible about these games. They’re barely even games, really. It’s the grinding experience from World of Warcraft with no other mechanic to redeem it. Repetition of the same actions day in and day out. I eventually quit the game at the same time as my friend. I’ve since noticed he went on to play Clash of Clans, which I grant is at least not so egregiously monotonous.

I instead went back to Civilisation 5 and Minecraft, completely avoiding the trap of playing long-running games with the same basic mechanics repeated over and over. I am finding I gravitate back and forth between those two, with more time on Minecraft in 2012 and more time on Civilisation in 2013. I almost flipped back to Minecraft in November, but then I finally caved and purchased Gods & Kings and it breathed enough new life into the game that I have stuck with it to work out the new mechanics. Not that I’ve ever been much good, hovering around the middle difficulties. In the first game I could play The MOngol Tactic1 on the highest difficulty, but that’s not a winning strategy since they a) nerfed the Chariot, and b) ramped up the Unhappiness penalties for too many cities.

I noticed on New Years Day while I was bored that I was playing Tiny Wings and trying to get to Island 8. I was trying to get to Island 8 while bored during a practice run of my team’s end-of-sprint demo in January 2011. So yeah.

Music

I’m old.

I really enjoyed Lorde’s album. Other than that, I’m old, and don’t really encounter new music that readily. I spend more time on podcasts these days.

So Accidental Tech Podcast, Mike Duncan’s new podcast Revolutions, The Talk Show, and The Incomparable.

  1. Basically a Chariot Rush. Research up to Wheel and then just spew out chariots from every city and relentlessly attack each enemy city as you find it. By the time you need ships to get across to the next continent, you should have stolen Sailing from conquering an enemy city.

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