8bitrocket.com
1Jan/130

Don’t be afraid of Windows 8 Desktop

This (Windows 8 has problems, but it doesn’t deserve the dreaded Vista comparison)says that Windows 8 is only good for touch screens.

Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8 Desktop

 

He is wrong. Windows 8 is just Windows 7 with new "window" dressing and a few new good features. The backup and app search are 10X better than Windows 7 [Start] menu or (especially) OS X Finder.

Windows 8 Search

Windows 8 Search

If you need to old Win 7 desktop, just click on the giant DESKTOP button.

Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8 Desktop

 

You will be right back to familiar territory. There is nothing to fear from Windows 8, except time wasted playing with the new free (or low cost) games and apps from the Windows 8 store.

Wordamint

Wordamint

They are easy to build also, as the HTML5 Canvas (we tested all of our book's apps with in) can easily be compiled into Windows Store Apps. This gives you the ability to port all of the older Flash, Android, or iOS games that you want to port to a new platform.

12Jul/120

In His Latest Column, Bob Cringley Finally Tackles The Current State Of I.T.

Bob Cringley has finally done it.  He has finally written a column that tries to tackle the current sad state of corporate IT.  You have to read until the end, but in a single paragraph he crystalizes the issue:

"Against this we have a cadre of IT workers who have been slowly boiled like frogs put into a cold pot. By the time they realize what’s happened these people are cooked. They are not just resentful but in many cases resentful and useless, having been so damaged by their work experience. They just want things to go back the way there were but this will never happen."

You can read the rest here.

6Jul/120

Sim City Social : Social Game Perfection, Cynical Game Design

Yesterday I sat down to try Sim City Social.    I, honestly, wanted to see how EA had translated one of my favorite old school games to the Facebook platform.   I was not playing as a "joke" or just because I wanted rant about it, I honestly was hoping to eek a bit of enjoyment out of my otherwise  (with the exception of my family) pretty dreadful current life situation.

However, when I started playing the game (I'm not linking to it, go find it yourself), the horror of the past year came into focus.  I've worked on several social games in that time, and designed a couple games too, but I've taken a step-back for the past few months to work on other things.  This was the first time I've looked at a game like this in long time, and I think I could finally see it for what it was: a big ball of cynicism.

Right on the title screen it said something like "Build A City : With Your Friends."  My first thought was: "I don't want to build anything with my friends.  I do not want to subject them to this. Why can't I just do it alone?"    I was initially taken into a tutorial where I built some roads and then some houses.  These would have been rather mundane things to do, and should have been easy for me to figure out on my own, but in reality, I "needed" the tutorial.  The interface was so crowded and cluttered with multiple menus and listings that I had no idea how to start the game.

After I finished my "building" (which was just clicking where they told me to click), some coins and other icons appeared over the buildings, and I ran my mouse over them to pick them up.    Whoohoo!  The tinkling of my prizes gave me a burst of excitement for exactly a microsecond, and then I remembered that I did nothing to get the reward except click where they told me.   It was at this point when I took a serious look at the interface.

There at the top I saw all the familiar trappings of a social game: multiple currencies (Simoleans and Diamonds), a level indicator, a list of my "neighbors"  (random people from my Facebook friends) at the bottom  of the screen, most of whom I do not want to contact in any way to bother them with this game, an energy bar the game will beg me to replenish, a population indicator,  a "fame" indicator, and a "build" interface.    As soon as I finished my first house, I was asked to invite neighbors, then I was given free reign to start building all on my own.  Yea! However, I had no desire what-so-ever to continue.

As asocial game, there is nothing wrong with Sim City Social.  In fact, it  might be the "perfect" social game.   The subject matter for Sim City Social has a proven, universal appeal.  The interface is honed down to a science, with the proper button and displays aligned to pin-point information architecture accuracy.    The rewards come at regular intervals, and are splendidly displayed.   The graphics are cute, and delightful, and appealing.   The game has the same  focus tested, Skinner-boxed, market-proven nuanced sheen that has been proven to make for successful social games in the past couple years, only here, turned up a couple notches for maximum effect.

It also  made me want to throw my computer across the room.

Why? Because it's cynical.  It's Cynical about the source material, and cynical about who is going to play the game.

Sim City Social (and most other games of it's ilk)  takes the stand that anyone who plays wants to play a game for free and does not want to pay anything for it.    They have added all these social gaming trappings to capture social gamers in their natural habitat, and get them to open their wallets.   I can see the motivation behind  it too.   If the public likes free-to-play games theses days, give them what they want, and find a way to entice them to spend money.  That's a fine way to try to make a living from people who expect everything for free.   I understand the mechanisms and motivations for this type of game, and why it exists.  This is especially true for games  based on a subject that have not been traditionally a basis for video games (say, a game about  farming,) because the subject is not all that interesting to being with, but can be made interesting (in theory) if you can bug all your friends while playing it.

However, Sim City was ALWAYS interesting.  Sim City was, and is,  a damned fine, fun, ground-breaking game.     I find it incredibly cynical to think that Sim City the original game, could not be successful on Facebook as Sim City itself, without all the regular social features piled on top.   I mean you could make it social in many ways, but why add all the tired, regular stuff (i.e. duel currencies, fame, levels, energy, pick-ups, quests that require neighbors, etc.) that makes it appear like every other game, and turns me off right away?  Why couldn't "Social" be inter-city competitions  that have your neighbor's cities affect your city in real-world ways (i.e. your high school sports teams play each other, or one city dumps  sewage in the fresh water of another).    I don't know, maybe that kind of thing is there in Sim City Social, but it's clouded by all these traditional social "features" that I will never wade through to see what is underneath.

Maybe it's just me who is cynical.

Maybe I'm tired of the same old thing.

Maybe I'm ready to see what comes next.

 

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6May/120

Randomness: The Best Cartoon ever Made: Feed The Kitty (now on youtube.com)

This doesn't look like it was posted by a legit source, so enjoy it while you can.

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28Jan/120

When Social Media Fails

This week I found out that someone I know is in a very bad situation.  Actually, the situation is dire, really horrible, and honestly, unimaginable.    I went to school with this person, and for a couple of years we spent a good amount of time together.  This person is one of the nicest, sweetest, most genuine people I have ever known.  In fact, I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this person.

Several years ago,  this person wrote a fictionalized book about the place where we grew-up, and we connected again.  For a while we kept in touch, and then, as people do, I got distracted and did not return one of this person's emails, and that was that.   I did follow this person's career on their blog for a while, and when this person's second book came out last year, I planned to buy it (but never did).  We are connected via Facebook, but with so many updates flowing by, it was difficult to keep up.

Now, like I said, this person is in a dire, horrible, unimaginable situation.  In 2012, my first inclination is to jump on Facebook/Twitter/my blog, etc. and shout to the rafters about it.  I want to help in any way I can.  I want people to know about the situation this person is currently in, and I want to have an answer that I can blog, tweet, update, crowd source, kickstart,  flashmob and send virally so anyone who might be able to help out would see it and take action.

But I can't.

I can't do it because the people who have put this person in this very dire, horrible and unimaginable situation have access to the same social media that I do.    They can read  tweets, they can monitor posts to the person's Facebook page.   They can read news stories, and search Twitter feeds, and consume blog posts.  Every time they see a word written or mentioned about this dire, horrible and unimaginable  situation, it emboldens them to keep it going.   The very tools that I (and honestly, many other people who want to help but can't find a way either)  have access to, the tools we think could use to help make a difference, are the same ones that might prolong the situation, or change the outcome to something terrible.

This is where social media fails.  It's been said, "if we all have a voice, then none of us have one" (don't ask me who said it, but I'm sure someone has).   I've always though thought that cliché was bullsh*t.    Now starting to think otherwise.

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9Jan/120

Where is the Point Blank Remake?

(Jeff Fulton)

Point Blank and Point Blank 2 were 2 of the best party style games for the original Playstation. You needed a "gun controller" that oddly hooked up to the video "in" on your TV and to the controller port to make it work. I have both still on an old PSX, but the game will not function because LCD/Plasma TVs don't work the same as the old tube TVs so the video "in" for the extra gun data is useless.

The games were very successful and were both in the arcade. I remember playing these a lot friends in 1997-2000 and they were an absolute "blast" (pun intended of course).

The games would have been perfect on  the Wii, but now that every console has the some sort of mechanism to simulate a gun controller, they could be wireless wonders on all three major consoles. So, why have they never been remade?

There was a DS version, but that game makes no sense.  So, Namco, what gives?

 

 

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3Dec/110

The People You Will Meet At Your Garage Sale

Garage Sale People (originally written in 2004)

What better way to meet the neighbors than to have a garage sale. Actually we called it a “yard sale”, and by neighbors I mean the cheapest freaks I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet. To be honest, the immediate people to the left and right of our house are quite nice, and they came by to wish us luck and shoot the shit for a little while. Most of the people you will attract to a garage or yard sale aren’t actually your neighbors, but seemingly professionals from outside “your” area. They are professional at being cheap bastards, and quite a bizarre lot.

On Friday night we spent a few hours preparing our goods (read old crap) for sale. We wanted to be very prepared because we had not efficiently readied our merchandise, advertising and signs advertising and signs for our previous attempt at a garage sale (1999)

We put an ad in the Penny Saver, we put up a few signs, went to the bank and got lots of ones and fives for making change. We priced everything very low. Relatively new videos and books – 25 cents to 1 dollar. Old, used crap, 10 to 50 cents. Nice pairs of jeans and shirts, 2 dollars. Etc. Everything was priced to GO!

While preparing these items, we met the first of the “garage sale people”.

The Really Fucking EARLY BIRD

The Really Early Bird doesn’t just come a little early in the morning, she (or he) comes a full DAY early. By experience, she knows that you will be home, preparing in the evening before the sale, so she comes a knocking. This type of buyer is cheap, and discerning, but knows she is early. So, she doesn’t haggle. Her job in life is to get the first look through your old crap because she hasn’t bought anything new in 50 years. What might be a couple (10 – 20) years old to you, is freaking brand new to her. Don’t give in, she will continue to terrorize all garage sale proprietors a full day early unless she is stopped NOW!

The EARLY BIRD

These people wait in their cars, camped out to get their hooks on your goods as you are putting them out for sale. They know this is very busy time for you, so they use the cunning they learned as “Carney-folk” to out-whit items from your inventory. If your house or garage door is open while you are carting items to your sale area, they will meander in and start making outrageous offers for your furniture, pets, TVs, and computers. They obviously think that everything must have a price. Sorry, but a $3.00 offer for my new Lap Top ain’t gonna get much play here. To avoid these people, turn your sprinkler system on 30 minutes before your sale is to begin, and leave it on.

The Haggler

The haggler is usually a short, balding man. He will come in any number of versions, but out here, he is usually and older latino or really old white dude. He wants all of your electronic items, CDs, videogames, and other expensive trinkets, and he is NOT willing to pay for them. The haggler will be the first customer to really piss you off, because he will blatantly act as if the $2.00 you have priced the almost new CD player is and outrageous insult to the buying public. The haggler will collect up and arm or box load of your most expensive items and then offer you $5.00 for the whole lot. The more you tell him “no” the angrier you seem to get. He will just act like he can’t hear you and keep repeating with outrageously low price. Keep a hose handy to spray him down if needed.

The Scammer

Watch what type of cars your customers drive up in. The scammer will usually drive up in an expensive car and then “only have $3.00” when it comes time to purchase. The scammer will sometimes come with his “mom”. Mom will be an old lady, dressed in an old country black garment. She will know very little English, but can somehow read enough to pick out the most expensive collectible item at your sale. She will be feeble, her hands will shake, and her little black purse will contain only a few old coins from a country that no longer exists. If you look closely though, her son will have brought her there in a brand new pickup, loaded down with an incredible amount of nice, new items that she has “purchased” with her old country collection of shells and ½ pence coins, and lint. Have the hose ready for these people – and put it on full blast.

Cheap neighbor
The cheap neighbor will show up late to your sale. It will be hot out and you will be dying to get rid of your items or suffer the long drag back inside or to the Goodwill drop off center. The cheap neighbor will feign disinterest early in the morning, but she will hit you up for cheap or free items right about noon. She must be stopped. Tell her that the neighborhood cat pissed on all of the items and that she would not want them. If the neighborhood cat DID piss on all of the items, then surely, it is best to let her have as many of them as she wants. In no cat pee is available, “accidentally” turn the sprinkler system on. It might ruin some of the items, but at least SHE won’t get them

Smart young people
Smart, young people, are the people that civilized garage sales were made for. They will come about 10 AM, pick out what they want quickly, pay you in relatively new cash (American bills, not shells and lint), very politely thank you, and then leave. They wont haggle, scam, or be cheap. They are as embarrassed to be at a garage sale as you are to be having one. I wish the world was made up of these patrons. Only one of these showed up, and god bless her, if she hadn't brightened up my day I would a drug out the hose and hit them all full blast as the walked up to longingly ogle my once played copy of the 1999 Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Video.

30Oct/110

Goodbye Dad, Hello "Code Writer's Block"

My dad died just about 5 months ago.  In that time, I have done lots of things.  I have written a ton of blog entries (some good, some okay, and many bad ones), I have changed jobs, read at least 10 books, and started to play hardcore video games (i.e Gears Of War 2, Dragon Age) again after many years.  However, there is one thing I have not done.  I have not written a single line of code for any project other than what was necessary for work.

The morning of June 1st started like any other.  After dropping my girls off at school, I sat down at my computer to continue working on a version of "progressive" Breakout in HTML5.  I wanted to include a version of the game in my book, HTML5 Canvas, but the deadline was too short for me to finish.  I recall, that morning, I planned to work on the in-game sounds and if there was time, add some power-ups that could be caught with the paddle (ala Arakanoid).

I had just sat down to start programming, when my sister called me and insisted I get to my parents house immediately because my dad was "not doing well".   2 hours later my dad's body was carried out of the the house on stretcher, and with it, went my desire to write any code that I was not contractually obligated to create.   At first, I didn't really notice.  I was working so hard for my day job that my inability to write personal code did not surface often. However in August,when I took a business trip to San Francisco, I copied some personal work (including the HTML5 breakout game) to my computer in-case I had time to look at it when I was gone.  I never touched the code, and in fact, I realized that I  did not want to touch it.  Ever.  I've been trying to figure out the reason "why?" ever since.

I've sat down to write blog entries many times in the past 5 months.  Even though this blog rarely gets read or linked these days, I still spend countless hours researching, writing, and re-writing stories in the hopes that something will stick like the days of old, and with it, people will come streaming back to the site in droves.   In all of that time, I could have, very easily, written some code for a personal project.  In fact, instead of writing this piece, I could have opened up text file and coded some HTML5 JavaScript to test in Chrome, or opened Flash CS5 and debugged one of the countless  1/2 finished games that are waiting for a bit of my attentionon my hard drive.   However, I just can't get myself to do it.  I don't have "writer's block", I have "code writer's block" and I know I can't be truly happy until I find a way out of it.

I don't have to think very hard to arrive at a simple explanation for my "code writer's block."  I was working on personal code when my dad died, and until I get over that moment, there is no way to move on.   Sure, this is probably true.  I spent my dad's final months working for a company that afforded me nearly zero time to spend with him, and I'm obviously mad at myself for not visiting him more often.    Why was I spending my limited spare time writing vanity code instead of spending those final few precious minutes with my father as his life slipped away?

However, I think there is more to it than that.  My dad was never keen on my career choice.  When I graduated from high school, he wanted me to become a real-estate broker. He did not want me to get stuck in a 9-5, spirit-killing, life-sucking job like the one he had at Hughes Aircraft for the last 20 years of his working life.  I think that he felt that a real-estate broker would have the freedom to not get bored with life, and to spend time doing interesting things besides wasting away in an office.

To me though, the idea of being a  "real-estate broker" (no offense to those who might love that kind of work) was the exact type of spirit-killing, life-sucking job that he feared. Instead, I got a job programming for a software company, and worked my way into making games, which was my goal all along (even if I did not fully realize it along the way).   However, in the 18 years I was writing software, web sites, games and applications while my dad was still alive, he was only ever interested in one thing I created: an interactive fireworks show that I played on my TV via the Nintendo Wii Opera Browser for the 4th Of July 2007.  Nothing else interested him in the slightest.  It's one of the reasons I still post that application to the site every year.

Maybe I was trying to prove to my dad, for 18 years, that I had chosen the right path.  I was not bored and I did not feel that I was doing anything spirit-killing or life sucking by programming for a living. In fact, it was quite the opposite.  I was making games for kids (even games for my own kids, which was the best part of it all), and I loved every second of it.   However, he never understood it, or if he did, he failed to ever express it to me in any way.  So when my dad died, my need to prove to him that I had done the right thing with my life died too.  When I watched his covered body being pushed into that back of a nondescript van, and taken away forever,  my need to write personal code (at least for him to see), went with it.

But none of that is fair.  It's not fair to my wife (who asks me to make apps for her) or my kids (who are still waiting for games I've promised for years).  It's not fair to my brother who likes to play my games, nor is it fair to book company who want a revision. It's also not fair to me, because I like writing code.  No actually, I love writing code.  I love it like no other activity in the world.   I especially like writing code that I am not obligated to write: the kind of code that comes from the pure joy of making something come alive.  So I need to find a way out of this "code writer's block" and I'm going to try right now.

My died died after deteriorating for years suffering from Dementia.   Maybe the only way I can deal with his death and start coding for myself again, is to make a game about fighting Dementia.  It was something I simply could not do while he was alive, but maybe I can do it now.   I have no idea what a game about fighting Dementia would be about.  Maybe it's about shooting fading photos until they appear whole again?  Maybe it's an iOS game that uses motion sensing to get brain-wave patterns back  in order?  Maybe it's just a regular shooter that gets harder and harder to play as the images fade in and out and the controls stop working. Whatever it might be, it's not important right now.  What's important is that I write some code that is for me, and for me alone.

Here goes:

package {
	import flash.display.MovieClip;
	import flash.events.*;

	public class DementiaGame extends
                flash.display.MovieClip{

		public function DementiaGame() {
			addEventListener(Event.ENTER_FRAME,
                        gameLoop);
		}
		public function gameLoop(e:Event): void {
			trace("A Game About Fighting");
			trace("Dementia Goes Here");
		}
	}
}

Okay.  It's not much, but it is a start.  I just wrote that class and saved it to new folder, and made it the default document for a new .fla file.  That might not sound like a big step, but after 5 months of pure nothing, it's huge.  Can I start the process of "moving on" now?    If I can actually finish this game, then I will know the answer.
-Steve Fulton

19Oct/110

Our Favorite Viral Videos About The Games And Web Business

Code Monkey

Jonathan Coulton's classic song about the life of a software developer.  One of the all-time best songs ever written.

 

Angry Video Game Nerd : Atari 5200

So this is not just a video, but a whole series.  The AVGN is now an institution, but he started as just a regular insane video game collector with a dream.  His Atari 5200 video is my favorite, but he has videos for all sorts of classic games and console.

Other great AVGN videos: [ET][Jaguar and  Jaguar 2][Power Glove]

11Oct/110

And the Man on the Hill said HTML5, build it and they will come…

This really is just a "state of the union" for 8bitrocket (8bitsteve and 8bitjeff) to go over some of the events that have transpired over the first 9 months of the year.     We like to keep these brief (this one is anything but), and put them in the "history" section of the blog so we can refer to them when we need them for various purposes.

The big success story of this year so far has been HTML5 and our  Canvas Book for O'Reilly'. It has been selling very well and the Spanish language foreign rights alone almost covered our entire advance.   Even though the book was selling well, we had not really been doing too much Canvas project development work earlier in the year. Because of this, we both decided to take a break from our respective jobs in March and sign up with a big Facebook gaming company. The Canvas knowledge had been a big selling point for us, so we anticipated jumping full force into developing Facebook Canvas games that would work across the entire spectrum of devices (both browser and hand-held).

Unfortunately, things don't always work out the way you plan them in your head, and no real Canvas work ever materialized at the company. Frustrated, we both have now parted ways with that company. I have taken up duties as the CTO and All Around Lead Developer at Producto Studios and Steve has taken on a project management and a sort of technology evangelist lead role at Electrotank.

It just so happens that NOW HTML5 and Canvas work has been the bulk of what we both have been asked to work on (with some Flash sprinkled here and there). In fact, right now 80% of my development time is spent on HTML5 and about 50% of my CTO time is spent discussing the merits of Flash v. Native v. HTML5 on the various platforms for RFPs and client information requests.

Steve is actually working on the Canvas almost full  time to help Electrotank flesh out  their JavaScript API and prepare to run some of their bigger projects.

Everyday I am getting more and more requests for HTML5 game development. So many in fact , that I have to turn some away.   I get to refer back to my Canvas game  chapters on a daily basis so the book has become a nice little reference manual as well as a source of small royalty income. If anyone out there has read our book, and can demonstrate a solid knowledge of game development on the Canvas, I can put you on our external developer role over at Producto and refer you the overflow clients that I assume will stream in even faster now.  Send email to info[at]8bitrocket[dot]com if you are interested or have something cool to share.

We have also had great success with the Flash CS5.5 -->Air-->iOS device pipeline. Games and apps have been working very well and we have a few new tricks up our respective sleeve to optimize them even more.

Back to HTML5, we are still not seeing great performance on the various hand-held devices, but if you choose your app wisely (not too much fast game play, etc) the Canvas seems to be a very viable platform to target mobile, especially the larger devices (iPads, etc).

One final note, even though we swore off writing anymore books after completing the last two, it looks like we have been enticed into not one, but three more that target various mobile platforms.  We'll  information to share if and when the deal is finalized.

Until then, check out both Corona and AppMobi. These two companies are doing great things for Mobile game development and deserve all the support we can give them.

Also, a friend of ours, Raffaele Cecco,  (who was a great 16 bit game developer back in the 80's) has just completed his own book called Super Charged Javavscript Graphics. It covers some of the same ground as our book, but integrates DHTML and jQuery also. It's a must read.

With Adobe purchasing Phonegap and Microsoft putting their full weight behind the Canvas, it looks to us the HTML5 and the Canvas are not going to go away any time soon.  There is an entire chapter in our Canvas book about using Phonegap to turn and HTML5 app into a native iPhone app (I even added in a shake gesture to demonstrate how easy it is to pull off).  Microsoft also announced  that they are putting their full support behind HTML5 for all of their next operating systems (Mobile and Desktop).

Usually Steve and I have had a history of being either too early or too late to some of the things we get interested it. It looks like this time we might have arrived right on schedule.

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