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Preview: In My Experience

In My Experience

Last Build Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2011 15:05:16 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2011

Using Variables in jQuery Selectors

Mon, 21 Mar 2011 15:05:16 -0500

Sometimes you need a grab an object in jQuery using a variable name, this is pretty easy to do and you can get pretty stupid with it. First an easy one...

var foo = "some_div_id";
$('#' + foo).click(function() {

That will make a div with an id of 'some_div_id' alert the word "hey" when you click it. Now a stupid one...

$(".some_clicky_thing").dblclick(function() {
      + ' .section_header a.toggler')

When "some_clicky_thing" is double clicked, that triggers the click event on an anchor, with the class of "toggler", inside of an html element with the class "section_header", inside of an html element who's id is a concatenated string of a constant and the currently operated-on-object's id's last character (in this case a number). *cough*

jQuery selectors are just strings that are evaluated, so feel free to generate a string following basic Javascript rules and use it in jQuery selectors. But, be careful. It's easy to make a selector that's really supid. :D

The Perceived Value of Downloadable Content

Wed, 23 Jun 2010 18:17:11 -0500

Downloadable Content (DLC) comes in MANY different shapes and sizes, and this is a quick look at three pieces of DLC and their perceived value. Oblivion's Horse Armor In the earliest days of the Xbox 360, Oblivion was released by Bethesda Softworks and was an amazing game (I didn't finish it though). Bethesda then went on to release what was the first DLC for the 360, in the form of 'Horse Armor' to be used on your in game horse. It was a purely cosmetic addition and Bethesda tried an experiment, by pricing the armor at $2.50 which wasn't exactly met with universal acclaim. Since the DLC was cosmetic only and used on something you didn't really need in the game, it was easy to dismiss it and say it was over priced Modern Warfare 2 map packs The first of two map packs for Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) was release at a higher than expected $15 price point ($10 was the expected price) and was met with whining in the press and good sales from consumers. The pack contained three new maps and two remakes from the first Modern Warfare games (which was Call of Duty 4). Many people, including myself, boiled the DLC package down to "three new maps for $15 means five bucks per map." The original $60 game shipped with 16 multiplayer maps and a solo campaign, so it's reasonable to suggest that there's a price premium on these new maps. The reason why it sold so well is that MW2 is the best game of its type and FPS players will tend to gravitate and stay loyal to one game, and in this case, it's MW2. If you want to keep playing and not be bounced from multiplayer lobbies when new maps are chosen, you need the new maps. Since it's a multiplayer game and people usually form clans, the effect of socially obligated gaming comes into play and the perceived value of having the new maps (or just the game in the first place) is boosted. Worth noting at this point is the comment from "amaan4ever" saying "i feel so left out for not buying this game". In spite of the bad press about the price, and some whining on various forums, the second map pack was released at $15 and included the same distribution of new and rehashed maps. The "star pony" in World of Warcraft At $25, the Celestial Steed in World of Warcraft is the most expensive single piece of DLC I've ever bought (as an aftermarket addition). It's value is that it's an enabler. The horse can run fast and it can fly (assuming you have leveled your character and have paid for the riding skill (with in-game currency)). Every last person I know who bought the mount already had another mount that enabled the player to fly and travel at very high speeds. The reason why the star pony sold so well is that you can use it on any character you have ever created in the game and it's very common for players to create multiple characters. Each new character you create can use this mount. You can go from a lowly level 20 nobody to an overpowered death machine with this one mount under you, and it will assume all new abilities (speeds and flying) as you acquire them in game. Having a mount is, besides tons of gold, the greatest single enabling ability in the game. $25 buys you mobility for all characters you have or ever will have in the game. That's why a small pile of polygons sold at such an amazing rate. DLC, when presented as a trinket, isn't very compelling, but when it's delivered as an enabler it can demand a lot of real money for something that technically doesn't exist.[...]

iPad Wallpaper: North Shore

Mon, 14 Jun 2010 11:29:46 -0500

Surfers off the north shore of Maui, taken from the park above the beach. This scene, and the drive thru Paia made me want to sell everything I own and move there.

You may freely download this and other iPad wallpapers on for your own, personal use. You MAY NOT distribute these on other websites or use them for commercial purposes without approval.


iPad Wallpaper: Haleakala

Wed, 09 Jun 2010 15:10:09 -0500

As should be obvious from the title, this was taken on Haleakala during a sunrise, right before the sun crested over the clouds. I thought we were overdressed when we wore coats, sweatshirts and jeans in Hawaii, but as it turns out, we were freezing. As always, the joke's on the tourists, but that sunrise was amazing.

You may freely download this and other iPad wallpapers on for your own, personal use. You MAY NOT distribute these on other websites or use them for commercial purposes without approval.


iPad Wallpaper: Greens

Tue, 08 Jun 2010 15:42:58 -0500

Today starts a new series of posts featuring photographic iPad wallpapers. Greens was taken at the Washington DC zoo using a Canon PowerShot SX210 IS.

You may freely download this and other iPad wallpapers on for your own, personal use. You MAY NOT distribute these on other websites or use them for commercial purposes without approval.



Tue, 01 Jun 2010 13:25:38 -0500

I will be implementing Google AdSense very soon as a way to pay the costs for this blog. It's been ad free for over 8 years, but now I'd like to recover some (likely a tiny fraction) of the costs.

A massive percentage of the traffic to my site is coming from search engines and most of that traffic goes to only a few pages. I'm considering only placing AdSense on individual archive pages and not on the home page (and probably not in my RSS feed either). This would effectively only target those random people who arrived here via search and not those who regularly read the site.

So, here's heads up to those who read this blog. Ads are coming soon. If you don't like ads then disable cookies and Javascript or just don't come to the site. Feel free to yell at me via Twitter.

Gameplay on the iPad

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 10:56:43 -0500

There are varying levels of gameplay depth, from the one button jump in Canabalt to the incredibly complex Yogg-Saron fight in Warcraft. A given depth of gameplay is good or bad depending on who is playing the game, how much they paid for the game and the platform the game is being played on. The PC allows for very complex/deep gameplay and I think it's obvious by now that the iPhone lends itself to 'shallow' gameplay. The iPad is somewhere in between.

It's my hope that over time we will see iPad games evolve beyond single button style gameplay. This video of multitouch gameplay in Plants vs Zombies is an indication of where games can go, it's the point where "the iPad is just a big iPod Touch" argument starts to fall apart.

Think about the size of your thumb as it compares to the iPod Touch screen. It's a huge percentage, maybe as high as 10%, but then think about the iPad. You can literally have two people using five fingers each, and still see most of the screen. Also, those 10 fingers will not max out the iPad's ability to deal with those inputs (11 seems to be the max). Those physical and technical facts make it possible to create more complex games that involve more than one person.

Now, as an aside, does "complex" = "deep"? Well, the answer is of course, "not necessarily." For me, "deep" gameplay exists when you have these three layers stacked up...

  1. What I'm doing right now.
  2. What is the other guy (human or AI) doing right now?
  3. What should I be doing after this.

After that, anything stacked on top is flavoring and anything below is more meat. The leveling system in Call of Duty or the gear progression system in Warcraft is flavoring on top of the gameplay meat. Good design and great execution can make or break that meal of course, but (I think) you have to supply that basic framework to say the gameplay has any depth.

The iPad is uniquely positioned to allow head-to-head multiplayer on the same iPad due to its physical size and its ability to cope with a lot of incoming multitouch input. I can see an opportunity to create very social games that have much more depth than Canabalt (which is awesome, not bashing Canabalt) that you play in person. Of course, you'd have to support playing over the internet, but I think there's a great opportunity to make compelling meatspace games right now.

Advertising and Socially Obligated Gaming

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 15:27:31 -0500

The theory goes like this, if you make an element of the gameplay involve other people, such as leaving a gift for someone in Farmville, then you're more likely to return and play more due to the social obligation. Another framework is layered below that, which is to have everything take a specified amount of time to complete. Farming crop X takes 2 hours and crop Y takes 4 hours. Two of ngmoco's freemium games use these dynamics, but they follow two models. As a player, one is clearly superior in my mind (We Rule), but as a business owner, I think they got it backwards. Note: this blog entry doesn't address the use of 'for pay' instant gratification gameplay. Each game uses it in the same way and isn't the interesting story (imho). GodFinger is a god sim where you run your tiny little planet like a god. You can raise and lower land, refresh your followers and have them do some work. Each part of the process can earn you gold (affording you the opportunity to buy better stuff and do bigger things). There is a decay model in the game that is based on time and fatigue. Your followers do work, then they get tired and they stop working. You have to log back in, make conditions right for them to be refreshed and they get back to work. Meanwhile, your friends can view your planet and 'enchant' one of your followers. Doing so, and approving it will yield some gold for each player after a certain amount of time (a day). We Rule is a kingdom sim, but you'll more likely think of it as "Farmville for the iPhone." You plant crops, they grow, you harvest them. That's the basic gameplay. Over time, you earn enough money to build more farms and a variety of businesses that will, automatically earn money for you (but slowly). As in GodFinger, people can visit your kingdom and place orders at your businesses. Approving that will yield some gold for each player after a certain amount of time. Both games leverage a social obligation and a decay of 'stuff' in the game, to encourage you to login and do some stuff. That of course increases the amount of time you spend looking at the game which generates ad impressions. In terms of the ad supported business model, I think GodFinger should be an ad supported game, just like We Rule. Here's why... In We Rule, I have many options for the types of crops to plant, each with its own time to maturity. Those time periods range from 5 minutes to a full day (or longer). If I know I don't want to, or can't, play for a set amount of time, I just plant a long term crop and then logoff. If someone places an order at one of my businesses, I can let it sit there for a long time before approving it. So, the bottom line is that I can control the amount of time I put into the game and how often I play it. The incentive to come back and login RIGHT NOW isn't very strong since I scheduled my crop maturity time period. Any orders placed at my business can be safely ignored since those business will generate money anyway, albeit more slowly. GodFinger on the other hand is NOT ad supported but has a "you should come back and play right now" model that I CAN'T control. If I want to optimize my cash flow in the game, I have to log back in much more regularly to deal with things. Since, I have to log back in when the game wants me to, it would be the better game to use an ad supported model, but for some reason, it doesn't have ads and only wants me to spend money on something the game gives me anyway (slowly).[...]


Mon, 12 Apr 2010 10:34:23 -0500

I'm writing this from an iPad, comfortably from my lap at just about the same word entry rate that I usually get on a real keyboard. I'm going to email this to my Evernote account (free) and post this tomorrow after doing some editing in TextMate (not free but is awesome). I haven't bought a single piece of software for the iPad yet and have been able to be productive. I've also had fun playing a few "freemium" games (eg, We Rule and GodFinger).

This isn't a review but here's a few things to think about...

  • The iPad is the Xbox of hand held computers. Think of it as a console rather than a "PC" and you'll be in a better mindset to make a potential purchase.
  • I'm not going to do html markup on the iPad. Getting to all the characters needed for that is slow and annoying. I'll finish this post in TextMate on my MacBook Pro (with an attached monitor, keyboard and mouse).
  • If you think about Apple's products you can place the iPod, iPad, MacBook, iMac and desktop machines in a line. If you have one neighbor of the iPad, you probably shouldn't get one, if you have two neighbors then I'd say that there's so much overlap in those devices that buying an iPad is a waste of money, for now. I agree with the sentiment that when these things are three or maybe even two hundred dollars, the industry will experience a sea change. iPhone OS4 on an iPad that weighs less than a pound at $200 would be the revolution Apple keeps talking about.
  • Due to the race to the bottom on game prices for the iPhone, I'm much more sensitive to iPad app prices. $10 feels expensive now even though I'd get a lot more use out of something like NetNewsWire than from a new Moby record (note: Moby rocks, not bashing Moby) that would cost a few dollars more. I'd buy a new record without thinking, but I hesitated to buy NetNewsWire.
  • The iPad has one critical issue, weight. It's way too heavy to be a hand held reader. It sounds pathetic to say that my hand and wrist get tired while reading on this thing, but, they do. The battery life is *so good* that I think they might have made a mistake by wrapping an iPod Touch around a huge battery. I'd think I'd prefer to have this thing weigh a half pound less and just deal with it having shorter battery life (it stays at home anyway).
I don't regret my purchase like some folks do if only because my career is better informed by having one. I also happen to like the device. If you're a open source libertarian, then this isn't for you in the same way that socialism isn't for a red state tea party attendee.

Twitter doesn't own the world yet.

Tue, 23 Mar 2010 11:07:19 -0500

More often I'm hearing people describing Twitter as the place to get all of your news and to connect to everything and everyone. More than a few times I've heard people say RSS is dead and Twitter now owns the empty hole in your soul that can only be filled with up to the second news. They may be right, but there's one hole in my soul that Twitter couldn't fill and that a good old fashioned blog could.

I've been playing We Rule on the iPhone, which is a Farmville clone (cue the moans and groans). Anyway, there's a social component to the game and I posted up my Plus+ name (which We Rule uses to connect players) and got only one reply. I then posted my name on a We Rule story on and got 20 replies that night (and they continue to come in as I type). So, maybe it's not a shocker that a specific story and a comment posted on it would garner more results, but consider the fact that I posted my name on Twitter in a standardized format.

There's an in-game feature that spams Twitter saying you're looking for people to play with. It's done in the same format every time and only the name in the post is different. You can do a search for that right now and you'll see tons of people looking for each other. Now, I'm just one person, but it's worth pointing out that a blog comment in the right place can be far more productive than shouting into the Twitter abyss.

Oh yeah, add Circk on Plus+ when you get a chance. :D

Forza Motorsport 3 is amazingly expensive.

Tue, 09 Mar 2010 11:01:02 -0500

Even though I work, have a family and play Warcraft, I bought the Limited Edition of Forza Motorsport 3 (and then didn't play it as much as I wanted to). I admit that I'm a sucker, but I love driving games and Forza 3 is the best game of its kind (Sony fan boys can go ahead and eat their hearts out now). Anyway, I paid $80 for the Limited Edition which came with a bunch of goodies (that I don't use) and the price keeps going up.

Here's the scary part, I could spend another $15 on additional downloadable content (DLC). One more cap pack, which would normally sell for $5 will push the total price to $100, and that makes me wonder how much DLC should a publisher try to sell. It's 2010 and the world's economic foundation is circling the drain, yet we have a video game that costs almost $100. Even in better times, I would question the sanity of someone trying to sell that.

DLC has an added effect of segmenting or partitioning the online community. If 10 people buy the game and only 5 buy the first DLC pack, then there are two segments of players, over time, with more DLC, you continually segment, and eventually fracture, the community. I think the fracturing of a community is just about the worst thing you can do to the long term life of your game (other than shipping it broken).

The goal of DLC should satisfy a few goals...

  • Make money
  • Keep the player base engaged with the game so they won't sell their copy to Gamestop
  • Keep the fans of your game happy so they will buy the next game

I assume, that thru price sensitivity and the fracturing of the community, that you hit diminishing returns on those goals very quickly. I have bought one DLC pack so far, and if I want to play the game online and be able to participate, then I pretty much have to commit to all of the DLC and throw down more money. That has an inertial effect where I have to keep up with the Jones's and keep on buying! Well, I'm not going to keep buying, because it's 2010 and I have a credit card I need to pay off. Sorry Turn 10, I love your game, but it costs too much for me to keep going.

FPS games trying to RPGify themselves are failing the players.

Mon, 01 Mar 2010 11:12:25 -0500

Call of Duty 4 tried something "new" by including a player leveling system that was attached to a complex unlocking system. As you leveled up by killing people and doing a variety of other things, you got experience points and those points fed into your level. A new level meant you got access to new weapons and other gear (including perks). Initial reactions to this idea were that people who play a lot, and thus hone their skills, would be rewarded with the best weapons and the scrubs of the world would be doomed to a world of hurt. Infinity Ward did a remarkable job balancing the unlock progression so that the super hardcore didn't earn themselves a god-like immunity to everyone else. The first weapon you got was a capable weapon and the best unlockables (such as the Red Dot sight) didn't require weeks of playing (perhaps only an hour or two). However, given a system where there are levels, some people will figure out a way to game the system and "boost" their progression thru the levels as quickly as possible. The "prestige" mode, by which you give up all of your unlocked goodies after you hit max level, served to encourage this behavior. It's more prestigious (aka, my "epeen" is bigger than yours) to give up all the goodies and still pwn noobs. Ultimate epeen-ness (my apologies for using a non-word and adding suffix to it) in Call of Duty is achieved by hitting the max level in the game and 'going prestige' 10 times. At that point you're done and get a shiny icon that shows everyone in the lobby that your epeen is large and throbbing (and/or that you have no life). That well designed incentive system, that begs you to keep playing, encourages people to "boost" and people inevitably answer that call. Now, if you create a system with a reward at the end and then have people that want to circumvent that system, you are obligated to keeps things fair for everyone (even though it's all meaningless). In Call of Duty, and in any other game with this system, the method used to keep things "fair" is to not allow any leveling in private games. Those games would of course be the best method for someone to boost, because they could just invite their friends and grind thru the matrix of levels, unlocks and achievements. This wouldn't be fair to the player base, so XP gains in private games are always disallowed and are instead only allowed in public matches, which are predominately populated by assclowns. The result is that people usually don't play private games, at least until everyone has unlocked everything and there's no more progress to be had. In Call of Duty 4, the progression system was so long that private games were rare. The same is currently happening in Modern Combat 2 since it has the same leveling structure. Battlefield Bad Company 2 appears that it will follow the same pattern. The reason why this is bad is that the general public ("GP") on Xbox Live is the internet's version of Mos Eisley ("a wretched hive of scum and villany"). Many online gaming communities have been formed due to this exact issue. A 30something like myself doesn't want to play with 15 year old kids and listen to them pretend to be tough and whine about their homework. It gets much worse than that too. I'd rather play with men (and women, and not sexually harass them) closer to my own age and closer to my own tolerances for bullshit. The older people get the better they are able to divorce their sense of self worth to their in-game icons, the inverse is also true. Being forced to play in public matches will especially hurt when Battlefield Bad Company 2 comes out tomorrow. More than any other game I've played, teamwork in BFBC2 is an essential part of success and having fun. The reason why I play video games is to have fun. It's as simple as [...]

Social Graph

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 11:17:10 -0500

Like most nerds who spend too much time online, I use many social networking services and it's interesting how differently I use them...
This is the place where I share personal stuff with people I actually know. If I don't know you directly and know something personal about you, then I don't have a connection to you on Facebook. It's ironic that Facebook is the service that scares me the most when it comes to privacy issues but is the service where I have my most personal relationships.
I have one account that's "me" that covers nerd stuff. My other account is for games and Warcraft related stuff which I assume people on my personal account don't want to hear about. I tend to use my normal account for quasi-bookmarking of links and ideas.
This is much like my personal Twitter account, but it feels much more directly identifiable as ME since it's attached to my email account. It seems that in Buzz I should watch what I say more carefully and have to keeps things on the techie side of the world.
Xbox Live
These are people I know well, or that I don't know very well at all, but all of them are people I've met online and aren't annoying. I have know some of these people for six years now and have been promoted up into the Facebook realm of my social graph.
I'm not using this, but I feel like I should be. I've been taking a lot of pictures with my iPhone and processing them with Mill Colour and have posted some of those pictures here. But they are a part of what I think of as a 'collection' and want to get them out there.
Twitter is wall and we all put our textual graffiti on it. It feels stateless. So far, Buzz feels like it's closer to home and more stateful, whereas Facebook is right inside my house and semi-permanent. I'm not really getting anything out of my personal Twitter account and the same goes for Buzz. I'm just going thru the motions on those and have followers I've never heard of and will likely never meet. I haven't mentioned Posterous, Tumblr or Plurk, which I could use, but don't since those all seem like people are shouting in the abyss. They all seem to relish a stream of consciousness that amounts to nothing. All of the services mentioned are ways to create and consume noise about our lives and I'm looking for ways to aggregate them all here on In My Experience in some meaningful (and yet automated) way. I looked into Storytlr, but it's a pain to get running and I have a wife, career and kid. Occasional blogging and manual labor will have to do for now, but I know there's some layer in between a personal blog and all of these other cloud services that can make things easier, meaningful and vaguely permanent.

Google Buzz

Wed, 10 Feb 2010 14:03:04 -0500

After a day of sneaking onto it via the iPhone, Buzz has landed in my gmail (follow me here). I suppose the differentiators for Buzz from Twitter, et al, are some threading and gmail integration. On the iPhone, the most interesting part is the local buzz. I'm now spying on my neighbors. I'm guessing people's Twitter habits and social graph have solidified enough where Buzz isn't a real threat, but we'll see what happens. My guess is that this lives somewhere between Twitter and Movable Type's Motion. The funny thing is that I could have Buzz'd this, but I blogged it instead. I'll now share the link to this on both services and create more ancillary inside-baseball noise. I'm wondering when the madness will end.

Old timey snowmageddon

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 11:41:45 -0500

It was clear as a bell after two days of snow. Taken with an iPhone and processed with Mill Colour.