All posts by Dave

Owning a Business Is Not All Fun and Games

I started working for a game development startup. I have ideas for several new projects that I need to put out there and test. “It’s time to code”, I said, and sat down to speak to my friends. We own the startup but it’s managed by a guy we know from our high school, an entrepreneur who wants to make things happen. And we are just coders with ideas for games. So it’s a good combination. The rules at my new job are flexible. Coworkers are aware that when people create, they need their personal space to think and develop. The only responsibility I have now is to deliver. And deliver I will.

Our start-up is in a big, old house that we rented. We are four coders all with a background in coding and gaming. We’re also all fat. I don’t know why, but we are. So no physical activities for us. Only coding. I like going to my new job because the challenge it gives me is something I definitely need. I was tired of having a regular job, and I needed to risk a bit. No risk, no reward. Every day at my new job is more or less filled with excitement, productivity, and fun. Do you want to know what coders/gamers do for fun? They play video games. But no worries, we know when to stop and when it’s time to go back to work. Having a business is not all fun. I know we have our manager to deal with all the technical stuff in the business, but there are some problems with the house.

We were not thinking clearly when we rented this house. We were fascinated by the big entrance, reasonably sized rooms, and acceptable rent. Yet, we were not aware that some of the rooms in the house have mold. Anyways, we rented it and it’s our responsibility to deal with the mold. The first idea was to paint the house, but then we realized that we can buy an affordable air purifier for mold. We have them now and they work very well. We have so many computers, cables, accessories, and other equipment, and now we also have these devices. The house is packed!

The most important thing is that our project is progressing well and that we learn lessons every day. This one was that having a business is not all fun.

Not Just for Nerds and Code Monkeys Anymore

It used to be that there was a lot of coding and tech involved in making a computer game. And, while that still is the case in some regards, the process has become incredibly streamlined and simple. Games and the way we make them have truly evolved. Before the widespread use of phones and tablets, nobody would play a simple word game if it didn’t have amazing graphics or lots of customization options. It wouldn’t be worth the trouble. But now, with the allure of playing anytime, anywhere, against people from all over the world, people just want the game to be bug-free and responsive. And usually cheap. That doesn’t sound all that hard to do, does it?

With the easy access to gaming platforms, there is a huge market for good games in every genre. And because there is such a demand for them, more people want in on it.  It used to be a lot of people spending long hours hunched over a keyboard, straining their eyes at millions of lines of code to make a game work. But not anymore. Nowadays, there are shortcuts galore for anybody interested in making a game.

There are programs like GameMaker, where you can drag and drop your entire game without knowing a single bit of actual programming. No need for years of college courses to teach you programming languages that will be obsolete by the time you graduate,then trying to find a company to help you develop your idea. If you have a cool concept, now you can put it together and make it happen all on your own. Then you can export it to just about any platform, including Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Windows, Xbox, and Playstation, depending on what you use to create your game. If you use GameMaker, you can even make push notifications for your players, and it offers support for ads and in-app purchases so you can actually make money off your game once it is released. There are a few different versions of the programwith various levels of features, but one of them is free. FREE.

Then you have games like Minecraft where the users can create their own worlds, or run the game fromtheir own servers, basically creating their own game environment. You can add all kinds of extra coding to make mods. Whether you consider that cheating or not, mods can have a huge impact on how that game looks and performs. It makes the game incredibly personal and unique. There are plenty of tips and how-to videos to add mods to your game online and on youtube.

Major studios have gotten in on this craze, too. There are games like Lego Dimensions, Super Mario Maker, and Disney Infinity, where the whole premise of the game is having the ability to modify your world. In the case of the Lego game, you are building things in real life with bricks that will be translated into the game. Super Mario Maker is exactly what it sounds like: you can design and play your own Super Mario Brothers games. In the Disney Infinity series, you can use “creativi-toys” to modify how characters act as well as create your own challenges and adventures. You also get online access through games like these to share worlds with other players, so people all over the world can be playing the things YOU created.

Don’t let coding intimidate you. There are tools everywhere you look. If you’re inspired, get your game out there!

Always a Gearhead

I embrace the world of technology with open arms. I wish I were an inventor myself; but I certainly appreciate the efforts of others. Every single aspect of my life is touched by some kind of electronic innovation. Some is low tech and some is high. Anything that is now digital that was analog is a case in point. Things keep getting more complex and refined. I guess you could say that I am always a gearhead, one who is knowledgeable or enthusiastic about the equipment and functioning of mechanical devices.

Getting this designation is a coup. I am not ashamed. I have an addiction to technology. I wish I could dissect everything in sight to see how it functions. This permeates everything I do from shaving, trimming my hair, using a cell phone, or a digital scale. It even extends to my favorite sport of fishing. I relish the details of something like a fish finder as follows.

The Humminbird® 541 Fish Finder gives you a limit-catching bundle of features including powerful DualBeam PLUS sonar coverage to 1,500 ft., and SwitchFire viewing to make the most of your time on the water at a price that won’t soak your wallet.

  • 5″ LCD with 240 V x 240H, 12-level grayscale for sharp, clear images
  • DualBeam PLUS sonar, 20° and 60° coverage @ -10dB… narrow beam is optimized for bottom and structure detail below your boat, while a wide beam casts a wider net, searching for fish and structure around your boat. View them side-by-side on screen or combine the images into 1 comprehensive view!
  • Real-time sonar (RTS) window always updates at the fastest rate possible and shows only the returns from the bottom, structure, and fish that are within the transducer beam
  • SwitchFire function gives you 2 different view modes: “Max Mode” and “Clear Mode.” Clear Mode filters out noise (suspended particles, etc.) in agitated or shallow (8′ or less) water for a clearer image of fish and structure. Max Mode for incredible detail and easy lure monitoring
  • Selective fish ID+ advanced sonar processing interprets sonar returns and displays a fish symbol when very selective requirements are met, giving you an idea of fish size
  • Split-screen zoom increases the displayed resolution to separate sonar returns that are very close together… split-screen bottom lock function as well
  • Custom digital readout selection
  • Custom view selections allows you to see only the views you want, giving you the flexibility to access the information you need quickly and easily
  • Large digits view provides digital data in a large, easy-to-see format
  • Optional triplog provides average speed, distance traveled, and elapsed time information
  • X-Press® menu system provides quick access to the settings most frequently used
  • Sonar coverage: 20° and 60° @ -10dB
  • Sonar frequency: 200 kHz / 83 kHz
  • Depth capability: 1,500 ft.
  • 21/2″ target separation
  • 4,000-watt peak to peak power output
  • Power input: 10-20V
  • Transducer – Standard: XNT-9-20-T transom
  • Tilt/swivel mount… sized to let you replace many in-dash modes too!
  • Measures 6 3/4″ x 5 3/8″ x 1 1/4″h.

I can sink my teeth, or my brain cells I should say, into all this technology. I am laying it all out just for you.

Friends at the Office

One fine day at the office, I heard some shrieking going on. This caught my attention. It seemed to be coming from the environs of the break room. I scurried over fast. Odd that I use that word. It just came to mind. I was thinking of the movement of little mice feet skittering across the concrete office floor. It seems apt. Here’s what happened. It was morning break and the coffee was brewing. The smell lured everyone in a certain direction. People were beginning to congregate in the kitchenette for a morning snack with their java. One woman was in a state of jitters while pointing anxiously to the floor. Apparently we had friends in the office that day of the nasty, furry kind. Mice! Eek! Everyone was laughing, but it was no joke. We had to get rid of them. I believe there were two, practically a family. We decided to have a silly little contest to see who could build the best mousetrap. Surely there were a few amateur engineers among us.

I could see people putting their thinking caps on. They seemed to be enjoying the challenge. Within an hour an assortment of devices were lined up on the countertop in the breakroom. One was odder than the other. Who were to be the judges? We decided on the office manager and two executive assistants—an impartial threesome. They were checking out the entrants in the contest and making notes while discussing the options. They voted and selected the most humane mouse trap that would trap but not kill the mice. I concurred as did everyone else standing by. No one wanted to witness an execution, even of a witless inconsequential critter.

The clever solution used only a large bucket, a spoon, and some peanut butter. A dab of peanut butter was placed on the handle of a spoon that was balanced on the countertop with a bucket underneath. When the mouse runs out to get the peanut butter, it would fall into the bucket along with the spoon. Don’t want to keep resetting the trap? The trap creator said try skewering a plastic bottle and positioning it over a bucket so it spins when the mouse runs out to get the peanut butter. The engineer offered an alternative, even simpler. Put some peanut butter on the inside of a glass and prop it up on a nickel. When the mouse tries to get the peanut butter, the glass should fall and trap it inside.

So we had our little contest and a final winner. We didn’t take long to put the device into actual use. We tried the mousetrap within minutes and guess what, it worked. We took the two stricken mice outside and freed them into the field behind the office building. Most everyone joined the judges on the trek. We felt good about it and there was a round of applause. Shortly thereafter, the break room was safe for occupancy once again.

Another Long Day

I go about my business each and every day. Life seems regimented sometimes. It’s like clockwork sometimes: the same old same old. The days are full of meetings, work, breaks for meals, errands, recreational activities, and some fun in the end. I suppose this is the same for most anyone. We all have our routines. But some days are longer than others. It seems that at times they are filled with trivia; but at others we feel particularly productive. Hours are spent in front of the computer getting jobs done. We tick off our check list hour by hour until the day is done.

In trying to recount what I do to a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a while, I was struck by one particular day when my computer crashed. I felt destroyed. I had a barrage of things to do, but everything was put on the back burner. When this happens, you can’t seem to catch up. You move your agenda around and try to squeeze things in the small open spaces. On that day, I was pretty exasperated. I had a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription for toe nail fungus medicine. It’s not that this is so urgent; it’s that it’s hard to get an appointment and if you miss it, you wait another two weeks.

I was not about to reschedule and let the world see my new affliction. I remember how grossed out the guys were in the gym shower when they saw it. It’s common enough, but when you have it, you feel the world’s eyes staring at your feet. Your toes are infested with this blackish yellow goop. If you don’t take care of it, it spreads to the other toes one by one. People in the gym think you are a pariah. They are put off by the fact that you are putting them at risk with your yellow toenails. Some go so far as to make some off-hand comments.

I wanted to cure myself and looked online for home remedies of which there are plenty. Nothing really worked. No one likes going to the doctor and sitting in the waiting room for hours. But I was getting desperate. I needed full-scale medicine, the kind you swallow or apply topically to the affected area. I got an appointment with a dermatologist, the type of doctor you need to see for toe nail fungus. Who knew that I would be going the day my computer crashed and I was rushing around the office in a panic looking for help. I had so much to do and so little time. No, this was not a typical day for me at all, just an anomaly. So another long day had come and gone. I did get my prescription and set about curing the toe nail fungus on the spot. I went back to work following the doctor’s visit and got the computer back up and running. It turned out to be a profitable day after all. No regrets.

One More Step in the Digital Health Revolution

Technology speaks to me. I relish every nuance, every innovation, and every effort to make life gloriously better. And wouldn’t you say that it is better as a result of the myriad of innovations in this decade alone? Who hasn’t benefitted from smartphone and computer advancements? We depend on so many digital devices to run our lives. They keep us getting to where we should be going—and on time. They store our music, our photos, and all the data about our lives. They remind us who are friends are and what they are eating for dinner. No life event goes unnoticed. Who doesn’t consult their smart phone by the minute to see what is next on the agenda, to see who has just texted us, and to see what now lives on Facebook or Twitter. I love the way that life has become organized as it has become digitized. We have never been so competent with what we are charged to do whether at home or at work.

Let’s not forget our health. A WiFi Smart Scale like these that speaks to our computers and mobile phones is one more step in the digital health revolution. This device is so much more than meets the naked eye. You can track your weight daily to the nearest ounce and over time and compare where you are now to when you started. You can get a percentage of increased weight gain or loss for any period of time you desire. You can even find out what is normal around the world for your height and age. There are many great features of such a scale that help us become more aware of the role a pound or two plays in our lives. Anything that helps us focus on the positive is a welcome appliance. Weight is so important these days what with the diabetes and heart disease scare: apparently they are running rampant in the population and surely to kill us all if we don’t take immediate action. A digital scale is a constant reminder that we must be vigilant about weight. The darn thing will even set our goals for us. The next thing you know, these marvelous scales will be programmed to give diet and exercise advice. You will set a target goal of a certain weight, and your computer will print out your workout regime for the week to attain that goal as well as meal planning suggestions. I kid you not. You will save money on your nutritionist, your gym, and your personal counselor. Your scale will replace them all. I think this is a mighty good role for the humble bathroom digital scale. You heard it first right here in this blog. We have the technology; that’s for sure. It is a matter of supply and demand. Manufacturers will fabricate what healthy people want. As the population ages (and by that I mean the Baby Boomers), such devices will become more commonplace and affordable.

Company Perks

I am a loyal employee. I guess it has to do with general respect for the staff that oozes out of upper management. It makes a difference in how you structure your day to reward this attitude with as much productivity as possible. You try your best when you get accolades back in spades. Only the best bosses understand their true role. People don’t work just for money, although it certainly counts for a lot. They work by inspiration and gratitude as well. I am particularly high on my company right now because they put in a new gym. Wow! A gym for the entire staff right here in the office building. This is a real perk. Others I like are health insurance, life insurance, extra time off, adequate paid sick leave, and flex hours. Some of us even get to work from home from time to time.

A great office gym has more than a few pieces of equipment. It will have a set of weights, a treadmill or two so no one has to wait for another person to finish. It will have my favorite, the elliptical. Some say it is the poor man’s treadmill, but if you have weak knees, it is far superior. Elliptical trainers and machines are great options for those who need a calorie-burning but low-impact workout plan: anyone with joint issues, injuries, or other conditions. An elliptical places less stress on joints and bones than traditional running on a treadmill. In short, they offer a gentler but still effective type of home cardio workout.

For the ideal elliptical workout, you should pay attention to specifications like stride length, incline range, wireless compatibility, and additional features like water bottle holders, fans, and heart rate monitoring. Our company did and paid a pretty penny for a really good machine. I asked to see the product features and here’s what I read:

10″ Full-Color Touch Screen with Android™ Browser:Your entertainment options are virtually limitless with this luxurious, 10-inch touchscreen. Connect to your home’s wireless network to research the latest in fitness, read news, catch up on email, watch sports highlights, get on Facebook, and more.

Dual-Grip Heart Rate Monitor: Forever change the way you work out with heart rate training. Two hand-grip heart rate sensors are conveniently built into the elliptical handlebars so you stay in the right training zone for maximum results. Plus, the RE 13.95 elliptical is compatible with the Polar® Wireless Chest Strap so you can get a continuous reading throughout your workout.

iFit wireless technology built in—no module required. Access your iFit account from your enabled exercise equipment, computer, tablet, or smart phone. Featuring workouts powered by Google Maps, training with Jillian Michaels, and personalized goal-specific programs, this wireless technology delivers incredible results. Incline, decline, and resistance controls automatically adjust to match terrain and maximize results. Now, you can customize your own fitness program, access thousands of workouts, and manage your profile online.

Is there any doubt now that they purchased the best elliptical machine possible!

No More Hot Nights for Me

It takes one really hot night and a horrible sweaty sleep to convince you this is the very last time. I treasure my eight hours at night and spurn anything that interferes with them. That would be the heat. It sneaks up on you come late spring and early summer. It lasts well into Indian summer in the fall. I hate sleeping when the temperature soars, but I don’t like a freezing AC blast of cold air in my bedroom either. There has to be a happy medium somewhere here. You are caught between a rock and a hard place. I pondered the problem looking for an answer that wouldn’t alter my body temperature while I slept. I think I found it: a ceiling fan. This rather archaic invention has been around the tropics a long time and has made its way as a décor item into most American homes, especially in what are called “sun rooms,” also known as screened in porches.

It didn’t take me long to identify the solution to my problems and to get right to the task of reviewing ceiling fans online. You have your pick of many materials such as metal, plastic, or wood and all in many colors and textures. If you are big on matching décor, you will have no problem. They make these things pretty much as substitutes for ceiling lighting, but for me, they are work horses that bring a cool breeze to your environment. A ceiling fan is a sleeping partner and gentle friend. You don’t have to live in the southwest to want one of these essential mini-motors. They look fine in colonial homes as well as Tudor or French country. For me, the look of the thing simply didn’t matter. As a point of fact, I find there are too many choices. It just has to generate enough of a blast of coolness to help me sleep. No more hot nights for me.

I wanted a simple unobtrusive ceiling fan that had a remote control and several operating levels from low to medium to high or extra high. The gadget has to be easy to wipe down when it gets dusty and also easy to change the bulb. Many ceiling fans have ample options of center lighting fixtures so if you want a bright or dim room, you can have it. Both the speeds and the volume of light are on dimmers—both from a fixture on the wall and a remote control panel. Kind of high tech for a low-tech item. Speaking of tech, I wanted one that had replacement parts just in case there was some little mishap that needed addressing like a nut or bolt falling on the floor.

As I sit quietly in my bed at night waiting to enter slumberland, I turn on the low volume setting of my ceiling fan and wait for a wash of coolness to cover me like an airy blanket. It is a wonderful way to begin your nightly ritual.

Minecraft Hacks That Make Life Easier

Minecraft Hacks That Make Life Easier

Some people are not big fans of altering or cheating in games. But I look at it more as game…improvement, if you will. Although I really enjoy them, I don’t have a lot of time to play games like Minecraft, which are huuuuge time sucks. You sit down and start playing, and the next time you look at the clock, five hours have gone by and you’ve missed at least one meal. Which means I do use a few tricks to help me better use my time, but only when I am playing on my own. Nothing too obvious or that would be an incredibly unfair advantage (this is my one gripe with invincibility). Here are a few that I use on and off when I have time to play but not enough time to deal with some of the nonsense and monotony.

For example, unbreakable tools. This means less time mining and building tools because they never wear down or break. It isn’t too hard to do, and there are plenty of youtube videos out there to show you how. If you already have an inventory editor, you can change the “damage” value to a negative number and that will work, too. I don’t really feel like this one is a big deal because all I am really doing is saving myself some time. I don’t do anything else with it, except keep my tools safe. Highly recommend.

XRay mod… It is time consuming to always be looking for the more valuable materials, and it can be really difficult. If you use an XRay mod, you can see special ore blocks that will save you tons of time so that you can get everything you need quickly and easily. Yes it is a distinct advantage but oh man does it make life easier. I cut the amount of time I need to play in half with this. Well, I’ll be honest. I actually spend the same amount of time playing, I just don’t have to spend as much of that time mining. There’s so much about this online that you should have no problem figuring out how to do it.

Radar mods. Again, I really only use this as a time saver, if I am looking for someone specific or avoiding mobs and the like. A mod like RadarBro will give you icons for anything you will run across, and you can tag allies so they’ll show up. It can be invaluable if you are lost or in a new area and trying to hook up with a friend. Or if you just don’t feel like dealing with mobs or other enemies.

So there you have it. Just a few things to make things easier for you but doesn’t always make other players angry or give you too much of an advantage. I like to look at it as being more informed than the average player… use only in single player mode. If you are going to be on a multi-player server, either turn all mods off or clear it with the other players first. It’s a different type of community, so act accordingly.

Back to Mom and Dad’s

What do you do when a storm knocks out the heat in your apartment and you don’t want to freeze to death? You don’t have any friends with a spare room and you don’t want to fork over funds for a hotel. You go back to mom and dad’s. For one thing, you are always welcome there. Even if the storm knocked out their heat, no matter. They have a nice large pellet stove and you can bet that it will be on. You won’t spend more than a couple minutes thawing yourself out. Plus, there is a nice cot next to the stove in the basement. They got this second heat source for the house when they moved the old furnace to free up some space downstairs. They reviewed the existing options and went with a heavy duty ComfortBilt model that fit the size of the area to be covered—a couple thousand square feet. It has proven to be able to heat the basement and the house up fast with great efficiency. They feel good about using wood pellets because they are the ultimate renewable energy source, made from manufacturing end products. There is no impact on the environment necessary to create them. Their energy star pellet stove gave them more bragging rights.

I myself have noticed some pretty cool features of this marvelous emergency stove. The built in smart controller can be programmed to run a preset day/time specific routine, plus the integrated thermostat allows you to set the unit to a specific home temperature, or can be adjusted with the included remote control. Why on earth didn’t I get one of these myself? Money no doubt. If I had considered it, I would know that pellet stoves can easily cover 2,200 square feet and that you have your choice of brass or nickel handles. You would come to learn that you start the fire with a one-touch igniter. The user-friendly control board helps you set the feed rate and blower speed to a setting that feels best for your home. You can add a wall thermostat as an extra (it doesn’t come with the unit) to make regulating the heat that much easier. The hopper holds a bag and a half of pellets and uses a large, 250 CFM blower to heat up the large space it can handle through a durable, double auger feed system that promises years of dependable heat.

Other features are a three-inch rear exhaust vent, and a warranty on the firebox and electrical components. It is durable, easy to clean, easy to use, sturdy, high quality, and looks stylish with its quaint design. It takes only about an hour to set it up using the handy installation books. It is important to buy good pellets or the unit might smoke. It is heavy so you might need some help moving it about. You can bet that when I finally get a pellet stove, I will recruit such help.

Bring Protection When Going Away to College

We all have a lot of stuff and college kids are no exception. New gadgets are out there tempting us to buy them when they first come out. Most of the stuff you need to store are rather small such as electronics and it all fits in one roomy backpack if you have a good one. Hence the importance of having a place with slots and pockets that house precious cargo so you can carry it wherever you go. If you put an item in the same place every day in the backpack, it will be easier to find and less likely to get lost. You want this backpack to do double duty as a carrying case for your laptop as you tote it around campus. It is nice to have everything in one place: computer, cell phone, keys, iPod, tablet, etc. It is easy to lay your computer down and forget it in the coffee shop or gym. If you have one tote bag—a backpack—you have less to think about.

I know how valuable it is to have a great backpack. I am talking about something attractive but sturdy that will last you through your busy college years. It shouldn’t be too heavy or too light. There are a lot of options so you can pick a size and shape that appeals to you and does its job of protective storage. Something that doesn’t show the dirt is a safe bet as well.

I remember the time when I couldn’t find my mobile phone no matter how hard I tried. I even attempted calling my number so I could listen for the ring, but no luck. Basically I was putting things at random in shirt and pants pockets. Sometimes I carried a makeshift lunch bag. I did have an old backpack, but the straps finally gave out. Instead of getting a new and better version, I made do with what I had: the clothes on my back. You need protection for your gear when you go away to college. It should be one of the first things you buy. I had put it off for too long being too lazy to do the groundwork to find just the right item.

A backpack for college is a super graduation gift for a high school grad so the college student won’t have to go through what I did losing things here and there. I also didn’t like the feeling of bulging pockets in any case. Plus, it didn’t look very nice. A backpack is chic for a man or a woman and a great accessory to your casual wardrobe. You can either chose to get a good carrying tote or you can get rid of some of your paraphernalia. You don’t have to take it all with you each and every day. I for one like to have all my devices on hand. You never know when I will be in the mood for a round of video games online.

Gaming Machines

Gaming Machines

If you’re interested in game dev and want to get started on your own, or you just want to play the latest and greatest games on your computer, you need a model that can handle the work. I go with a PC for my gaming stuff based on how easy it is to get into to swap out parts if something goes bad or needs to be upgraded. Some people use laptops for the portability factor, and if that’s important to you, more power to you. I have found that games are a huge battery drain and overheats laptops quickly. Plus, I also have a good sized monitor (it is 32 inches) because it can help with eye strain, so I’m not lugging my stuff anywhere.

Save yourself a lot of aggravation and do not scrimp on the processor. I cannot stress this enough. Get a quad core. The higher the GHz, the faster it will be and the more your computer will be able to handle. This can make or break your gaming computer. Intel is more expensive than AMD but is usually worth the extra money, as their processors are superior.

The next thing is the graphics card. Stay away from those low-end cards and spend the money. It will be worth it in the end. The higher quality the card, the smoother your game is going to look and the better it will run. With the resolution, the higher the numbers, the better it’s going to look, especially if you want an oversized monitor. And speaking of monitors, if you have one in mind, check the hertz rate. Just like on your TV, the faster the refresh rate, the smoother movement will look, so choose accordingly. That slick hi-def monitor won’t do you any good if the card you get can’t handle the refresh rate. Here’s a good rule of thumb when considering the memory you’ll want your card to have: 1GBfor displays below1080p;  2GBfor1080p;anything more than that, you’ll need to go higher.

Next is the hard drive. Hard drives are costly, and so this is something you need to consider before purchasing. Buy only as much as you think you’ll need. The rest of it will just sit there unused, so it won’t help you any. I tend to delete games once I beat them, so I don’t need as much space as you might expect. Check out a few games you’re interested in playing and see how much space they’ll take up. You can always upgrade this part later, through flash drives, additional hard drives, replacement drives, or servers. If you guess wrong, you aren’t doomed. I prefer SSD, especially for laptops (let’s face it, you bang the crap out of those). Yes, they cost more, but they also load faster, which helps with games that take awhile to boot up. It is something you’ll notice, believe me.

The sound card is only important if you want it to be. Typically now sound cards are part of the motherboard itself, so there isn’t as much flexibility there. You can go with a separate card if you like, but keep in mind that it will only sound as good as the speakers/headphones you are planning on using. If you invest in some killer speakers, then a higher quality sound card makes sense. And you’ll need to upgrade it if you want to play in 7.1 surround sound. Honestly, this is a bit tricky, as what sounds good to one person might not to another, and you may not even notice the difference between and upgraded card and the stock one.

RAM isn’t actually as important as you think it is. Again, this is a pricey component, especially if you try to customize a PC from the manufacturer, so buy only what you’re going to need. Check those game boxes and you’ll see most require around 8 GB. If you know what you’re doing, it is pretty easy to add additional RAM (if you don’t know, the internet does, so based on your DIY confidence level, you should be fine), so you can put in more later if you find 8 to be a problem.

That’s all for today. Hope this has given you enough info to help create a game system that’ll work for you.

Retro Style

Retro Style

When it comes to video game systems, I make sure I have the best new system, controllers, and gear. I’ve been known to wait overnight outside a store a time or two. I like the complete immersion of current video games, with their ability to make you feel like you’re really pitching in the ninth inning of the World Series, or that you’re really wearing MJOLNIR armor and following Master Chief’s orders. But when it really comes down to it, I am more of a classic guy. I can’t help myself. Call it whatever you want—lame, reliving my childhood, whatever, I don’t care. As a programmer, I still enjoy games that had to rely on a good story to interest the players without the distraction of HD movie-style graphics, a killer soundtrack, and more than just a d-pad and two buttons. Plus, it’s a lot less work.

I’m not alone in this. Just check eBay. Old video game consoles and retro games are to today’s older generation as the baseball cards they left behind in their parents’ attics were to them. It’s how some people are putting themselves through community college.

True story.

If you’ve found this blog and you’re interested in classic games, there are a couple ways to go about it. You can spend a lot of money tracking down games on their original consoles, and be a retro gaming purist. A great resource for you if you’d like to go that route is Racket Boy, which has just about everything you can think of—lists of games and their value, guides to help you out, forums to reach like-minded others, and a store for hard-to-find accessories and adaptive equipment.

If you don’t care about authenticity, you can get things like the Intellivision Flashback—it’s got sixty of their most popular games on it, plus replica controllers. Nintendo also has some of their older, more popular games (as well as Sega and Turbographx 16) available for download in their online store. It’s not quite the same, but it’s pretty close. It is also cheaper and less time consuming than tracking down the old consoles, games, and accessories.

If that all seems like too much work, money, or trouble, you’re in luck. There are sites like Play Retro Games and Game Oldies that have games as far back as Atari! There are also a bunch floating around on the appstore and in google play. Next time you’re really bored, check it out and see what you can find. Even if you weren’t around when some of these games started—Mario’s been around since his stint in Donkey Kong back in 1981—it is something to do until the next game comes out. It is an even better way to test out titles and see if they are as great as you remember. I’ve found that they usually aren’t, because I can blow through them way faster now than when I was a kid (no homework or bedtime holding me back) but somehow they are still worth it.

Anyway, hope I gave you some food for thought for today and reopened up your video game library to some titles you may have forgotten about.

Start Here

Start Here

If you are interested in game dev, the first thing you need to think about after you have your concept down is the POV you want. Everything else about your game’s look and feel will be dictated straight from this point, regardless of how fancy or high tech the graphics or complex the plot. There are three POVs in gaming:

First Person: this is the way that we see the world around us naturally. The player’s view will be straight ahead, and the camera will need to pan from side to side to simulate the player turning his or her head. Many games use this POV because when done correctly, it can really “sell” the player on the reality you are immersing them in with your game. Your goal when creating the game is to have players forget about the distance between themselves and their screen; you want them to believe that what they see on the screen is what they’re seeing through their own eyes. Technically great graphics or photorealistic images and high-quality sound will help perpetuate that illusion. Many shooting style games are first person, as it lends itself to be more accurate for targeting and more realistic gameplay (i.e., looking through a scope). If not done properly, it can really throw off the player’s perception and make the game both difficult to play and potentially nauseating.

Second Person: this is a little less typical, and seen mostly in text based games. Second person narration relies heavily on the pronoun “you,” which made it so effective for text-based game immersions. Everything in the game is influenced by “you” as the character, so the plot will rely on things that are initiated by or happen to “you” as the player. Text based games are very low tech and old school, but can be combined with graphics and given more of a comic book feel. Second person visually may be harder to pull off, because you would have to create a second, non-player character as a witness to the game. There isn’t really a logical point to do things that way, but if you can come up with an interesting concept, it might be very cool and can set your game well apart from others in its genre.

The last, and most common, is Third Person. In this POV, the player can see the character that they are controlling. Most scrolling games fall into this category. You may or may not be able to pan around the character; it will depend on the type of game and the look you are going for. If you are planning on having characters run, climb, and jump a lot, it will be easier if the player can see their entire avatar for better accuracy. There’s a reason all those Mario games are third person!