31 July 2013

Dear Academy

Dear Academy Sports + Outdoors:

I came to your website to find out the hours for my local store. Your website could not tell me. In fact, your website couldn’t find my local store.

Also of note: Your website asked if it could use my current location after asking me for my state and zip code. Yet, despite knowing my state, zip code, and current location, it failed to find my local store.

I went elsewhere.

Can you guess why I’m posting this open letter on my blog instead of sending feedback directly to you? Here’s a hint: It also has to do with a failure of your web site.

13 July 2013

The future of gaming

The Omni is a very interesting device. It appears to be an elegant solution.

They should distance themselves from this kind of hyperbolé rather than quoting it, though:

Ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at the future of gaming

Video games have not had an uphill battle against their lack of VR technology. Rather, such technologies have had little success in the market. It isn’t just because “they aren’t there yet”. It is because people enjoy playing games without the VR experience. Such gaming will continue no matter how good the VR technology gets. The VR technology will be used for some games but not a majority of games.

Even among the types of games that work well for VR technology, there’s the convenience hurdle. Pulling all this gear out of where you store it and getting it set up and calibrated adds overhead that tradition controller and screens don’t have.

While prices will certainly continue to fall and the experience will continue to get better, I wonder if this stuff will ever provide an experience that really justifies the cost. But I’m hoping the Omni does have a bright future. I’d love to try that setup with Minecraft. The non-gaming applications are very interesting and may equal or exceed its gaming applications.

12 July 2013

3 things about Magic Realm

There are a few things about the Avalon Hill board game, Magic Realm, that have always been inspirational to me. I’ve made a number of stabs at adapting these to an RPG over the years.

Its size/strength/vulnerability/weight scale: Magic Realm measures these qualities on the following scale.

  • (N/—) Negligible
  • (L) Light
  • (M) Medium
  • (H) Heavy
  • (T) Tremendous

I assume Magic Realm wasn’t the first game to use such an adjective scale, but I’m pretty sure it was the first time I saw such a thing. Similar scales have since been used to good effect in a number of RPGs including Melanda, Marvel Super Heroes, Fudge, and The Ladder, to name a few.

Its combat attacks and maneuvers: Combat in Magic Realm revolves around three attacks and maneuvers.

  • Thrust hits charge
  • Swing hits dodge
  • Smash hits duck

There are a number of complications that make it more than just “rock, paper, scissors”. There’s something very appealing and evocative to me about the attacks and maneuvers.

Magic colors and rituals:

There are five colors of magic, each representing a different sort of spirit that causes a different sort of magic: White magic represents Power from on High, working beneficial magic; Grey magic represents Natural Laws, controlling nature; Gold magic represents Woods Sprites, working elvish magic; Purple magic represents Elemental Energies, twisting and reshaping reality; and Black magic represents Demonic power, working infernal magic.

Then there are eight rituals (represented by chits)...

Type I chits are Righteous invocations, Type II chits are Pagan rites, Type III chits are Elvish lore, Type IV chits are Energy-binding alchemy, Type V chits are Diabolic ceremonies, Type VI chits are Conjuring techniques, Type VII chits are Good Luck knacks and Type VIII chits are Malicious tricks.

11 July 2013


Something got me to thinking about Magic Realm recently. So, I downloaded RealmSpeak.

In my first three games I was killed by the first denizens encountered everytime. I don’t remember this game being that hard. I guess dad and I must’ve never gotten the rules quite right.

After about a half-a-dozen games, I managed to survive to the end of the game playing the dwarf, though I didn’t have the victory points to win. I managed to get enough victory points to win as the white knight, but I got trapped by the winged demon and killed. (It didn’t help that I didn’t know how to make my hired native follow me and then his contract expired before I renewed it.)

I won my third game playing the white knight.

10 July 2013

Analog versus digital

From the Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange: Why does digital equipment have more latency than analogue?

As an electric guitarist who likes digital gear and who is watching things move seemingly inexorably in the digital direction, the inherent latency of digital signal processing is something that’s been on my mind. So, I was pretty interested in this response.

The thing that I hate about analog is the careful balancing of signal levels throughout the signal chain. That always drive me nuts because my OCD kicks in when it comes to these things. I hate that I can’t know that all the trim pots are set exactly the same way all the time. I hate even more that setting them exactly the same isn’t what you want. They need to be set for the environment they’re in. And even if it is the same place at a different time, that’s a different environment.

Once you’ve digitized the signal, though, you can call up the exact stored settings and highly reproducible results in any environment. You only have to deal with the analog issues at the ADC and DAC ends.

For me, the upshot of this is that I’m good with analog for simple signal chains, but complex signal chains benefit from going digital.

Digital single-effect pedals—like BOSS’s new MDP line—are perhaps the worst case scenario. You go through ADC/DAC for each pedal. It’d be cool if the pedals could detect that they were connected to another MDP pedal and use a digital signal between them.

09 July 2013

Form the sweating-the-details habit early

A Short Quiz About Language Design:

That may be uncomfortable at first glance, but give it a moment. Sure, a vertical bar will end up in a string at some point—regular expressions with alternation come to mind—but the exceptional cases are no longer blatant and nagging, and you could get through a beginning class without even mentioning them.

Glossing over this kind of thing is a huge mistake. To write decent code, a programmer has to keep many such edge cases in mind all the time. It’s a struggle to do so, and it’s a habit that needs to be formed as early as possible.

08 July 2013

Talking in-character

A brief rant: Talking in-character is role-playing, but role-playing is not talking in-character.