Posts Tagged fun

There and Back Again

Just got back to Seattle from a week-long trip on the Magic Cruise. It’s unsurprising that a combination of floating hotel, drinks with friends, dancing, Magic, other games and tropical vacation has been the best trip I have taken each year for the last 5 or so. Woooo! This post will be pretty stream-of-consciousness because maaaan I’m tired.

  • I found myself getting a little tired of Magic at points on this Cruise, but since tablets and phones are now ubiquitous, I could always get a game of Solforge or Stone Age in between drafts.
  • Martini bars are the best bars!
  • I should bring two suits next year, so that I can suit up at least twice as much. (So basically every day.)
  • Faceboat was a success! A moderate one, since the signal range was awful, but luckily the next project in the works (codename: Facebuoy) will be able to address these shortcomings.
  • I should probably take an extra day off after the cruise next year 😉

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Travel Advisory

I take more than a few trips (which is awesome, and I am grateful I am able to do so!) but I always am unsure exactly how much stuff to bring along when I fly. This mostly boils down to: how am I going to spend my time on the airplane?

I bring my iPad on basically all trips these days, so either e-books or games are reasonable plans. I tend to get a bit bored after a while, distracted. I could watch an in-flight movie but quality (both in terms of movies available, and the audio/video components) makes this kind of painful. And since I’m on a redeye this very night, sleep could be an option, but I have a really hard time sleeping on planes.

I wonder if I could design myself a game to keep me entertained on a flight. Maybe a system of incentives for puzzles that other friends could create the content for? Not sure. I’ve tried the “game” of programming a website/game before, but the incentives for work don’t line up right in my head. It’ll take some further thought to diagnose the problem. I’ll take some notes on the flight!

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Tasks and Treats

I had a conversation with Tifa today that made me realize an element of game design in my scheduling / time management.  As I have discussed previously, I am pretty bad at time management.  What I end doing a lot is writing up a list of tasks I need to complete, choosing an order for them that makes sense, and then powering through.  Since I get distracted from my work easily when I’m not “in the zone” (sometimes with programming or writing or gaming I’ll be fully focused without external distraction), I often give myself little rewards for each task or sub-task completed.  Sound familiar?  It’s basically a level system, a la Super Mario Bros. – complete a segment, get a “reward” (advancement), and continue.

I will admit I am not super familiar with the psychology involved, but if I had to take a stab at it, I’d say this system works for me because I derive enjoyment from delaying gratification – as Brady once told me, intelligence is most strongly correlated with capacity for delayed gratification, so I feel smart when I do this task-reward system.  It also helps that there’s a “light at the end of the tunnel” effect… one of the reasons my attention wanders is my brain is looking ahead, figuring the task will last too long, and then deciding to think about something else.

Unfortunately, I slacked off overmuch today (rewards first = not the smart thing!) and I’ll have some catching up to do early tomorrow morning.  Still, I believe the model is sound, and I was amused at the apparent connection between game level design and my own time management plan.

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Review: Minecraft

Minecraft might be my new obsession.  Due to Ken’s blog and glowing review of it, I ended up watching a couple of YouTube videos of a guy starting out and I was convinced to download and purchase it.  Turns out, it’s extremely addictive, even to a gamer like me, who generally dislikes (1) 1st person shooters, (2) crafting in general in games, and (3) open sandbox worlds.  Kind of odd, but I have been self-examining while playing, and I think I know why I enjoy it so much – it’s a kind of game design game, in that you generate your goals and the style of gameplay you want as you play.  It’s kind of similar to how I imagine Dwarf Fortress plays out, which many of my friends have played but which was entirely uninteresting to me.

In Minecraft, you start in a randomly generated landscape with nothing.  You can go “mine” wood from a tree, and then “craft” it into wooden planks.  Two planks become sticks, and four planks a workbench.  The workbench gives more space to craft, so you can then make larger objects like a wooden pick – which is betting at mining, and so can get you stone.  Stone can make you furnace.  Eventually you can find other resources, like coal (torches), sand (glass), iron (steel) and even diamond and this crazy mystical substance “red stone” (which can power things at a distance, a la electricity).  Add to this the fact that the world autogenerates around you in an almost infinite fashion, and that there’s a survival component (at night, the zombies cometh), and you have a recipe for a very interesting game with only a small number of core mechanics.

One major drawback of Minecraft is it is extremely simple, pixelated graphics, which means it is not super compelling visually.  But honestly, it ends up being both endearing and undistracting, letting the mechanics shine through.  If you enjoy sandbox type games, or building (Sim-style) games, or quest-adventure games, or you are interested in exploring a world populated only by you and uniquely formed for you, Minecraft is worth a try.

Overall: A-
Mining to Crafting Ratio: 10:1 or greater, depending on how much of a “quester” you want to be
Variety of Speckles in Stone: B-

p.s. My current house has a lava floe into a lake outside, and I am planning on hollowing out the mountain I built it in to make the Mines of Moria.  Hopefully I won’t spend every waking moment on it!

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