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games, music, and musings on the internet


Showing Win-Loss Records

Sat, 05 Mar 2016 18:12:10 -0800

One thing I’ve noticed from this round of the Overwatch beta, is that Blizzard chose to show win-loss records in your career profile. Another thing I’ve noticed is people leaving games if they’re going poorly, and generally leaving games after they’ve lost (instead of playing the next round on the opposite side). And part of me wonders if these two aren’t connected.

Showing win-loss records on non-ranked modes, especially when you can join and leave at any point in the match (unlike a game of Heroes of the Storm or LoL), seems like it’s only going to cause more harm than good.

  • It discourages playing new heroes that you’re bad at
  • It makes joining a game in progress where a team is losing feel extremely bad
  • It requires Blizzard to have to deal with all sorts of cases that only matter in the context of loss tracking: Should you get a loss if you leave a game at any time? Should you get a loss if you are put into a losing game? If so, what if you only join 30s before the end of the match?

Granted, your win-loss ratio is only shown when looking at a player’s career profile, so it’s not as if it’s pushed on other players when you join a game, but it is still something you see everytime you look at your own player profile. And as far as I can tell, there is literally no benefit to tracking this for players.

For a ranked mode, by all means track win-loss. But also make sure people can’t join and leave arbitrarily, so a loss accurately reflects a loss. I do think you can and should track wins for normal games, and even tracking win % for individual characters (so you know who you’re good at) probably doesn’t hurt. But for normal matchmaking, it doesn’t seem like the ROI is there.

Games I Played in 2015

Sun, 03 Jan 2016 20:29:25 -0800

I started attempting to keep track of all the games I’ve been playing each year - it ends up adding up to a lot! You gotta stay current, ya know? Obviously, I didn’t play all of these in equal amounts, and in many cases I barely played them at all (for various reasons). For PC & mobile games I tried to distinguish between ones I legitimately played multiple times for a reasonable amount of time, vs ones I just dipped my toe into. PC Actually played Civilization 5 (vanilla, co-op) - I’d played Civ 5 before, but this was the first time playing it co-op with a friend, and it worked remarkably well despite my worries about pacing. Civ 2 is still the best Civ there is, but 5 is pretty damn good. Prismata - Not sure how to describe this except as a mashup between a card game, RTS, and Dominion (shared central pool of cards), except it’s not a deckbuilding game, there’s no randomness, and there is perfect information. It’s neat - give it a try! Gunpoint - I played and beat this, but I always felt like I was brute forcing my way through the puzzles instead of being very clever. But the story is actually pretty great, and the wiring mechanic is a lot of fun to play with. Smite - Played this a few times with a few friends who had never played any MOBAs, and the biggest takeaway for me is that 3rd-person/1st-person action controls are way more familiar to most people than RTS/top-down controls, and they also provide a much more immediately satisfying moment-to-moment gameplay. This group of friends (I don’t think) would ever want to play League of Legends, but Smite was at least interesting enough to hook them for a while. Borderlands: Pre-Sequel (co-op) - This was bad and you shouldn’t play it. I don’t know what happened between Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, but the group of us that finished Borderlands 2 together, played a few hours of this and never looked back. On the plus side I got to play as Claptrap which was pure insanity. Luftrausers - A very well-done Vlambeer arcade shoot-em-up with a weird alternate World War II wrapping. Recommend. Heroes of the Storm - I got SUPER into this for awhile, and was playing every day at work over lunch. I particularly like (1) the shorter game length vs LoL, and (2) Stitches. Once I earned my Stitches Master Skin, I stopped. A lesson in goals and motivation in games. Borderlands 2 (co-op again) - Early on in the year we were desperately hunting for new co-op games to play, and playing Borderlands 2 again seemed like the best option, despite having beaten it once already. It didn’t last long enough the second time around for me to beat it again, but I did learn some obscure mechanics like health-gating from this Zer0 melee build guide (which I unfortunately never got high enough level to try and implement). Crypt of the Necrodancer - Rhythm game + roguelike, with an amazing soundtrack. One of my favorite games this year, and usually under $5 when it’s on sale on Steam. Don’t Starve: Together - I guess I’m not sure what I expected. A few friends and I tried to get into this but it was so damn hard to get any kind of sustainable town going that it always ended being hours of desperately eking by before everyone died and we had to start over again. It didn’t help that none of us had played Don’t Starve before, but the learning curve was too steep on this one for us. World of Tanks (for real this time) - I tried World of Tanks exactly once years ago, but at the urging of our head of game design at work, I gave it another shot. WoT is worth playing particularly for learning about the monetization and progression systems. The actual combat ends up being interesting once you know what is going on (but the vast majority of mechanics are never explained unless you read an absurdly long wiki). Hammerwatch (co-op) - Kept us entertained for a few sessions, but ultimately there wasn’t enough variety in the play or character builds to keep me coming back. It was definitely worth the few bucks it cost though. Hearthstone (again) - [...]

Books I Read in 2015

Sun, 03 Jan 2016 13:23:02 -0800

Another year, another set of books. My list from 2014 is here. Favorite books The Night’s Dawn Trilogy by Peter HamiltonThe Reality Dysfunction (The Night’s Dawn)The Neutronium Alchemist (The Night’s Dawn)The Naked God (The Night’s Dawn)The Dread Empire’s Fall Trilogy by Walter Jon WilliamsDread Empire’s Fall : The PraxisThe Sundering: Dread Empire’s Fall (Dread Empire’s Fall Series)Conventions of War (Dread Empire’s Fall) The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh Non-fiction How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen - Short and arguably worth the read. It didn’t change my life in any meaningful way, partly because it covers a lot of the same ground that career books like So Good They Can’t Ignore You and other “self-help” type books that are more focused cover in more depth. However, I’ve always liked Christensen’s writing, and the topics covered are a nice reminder. Skyfaring: Journeys with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker - This book is arguably part poetic descriptions of flight (which are very well written), and part science/engineering lesson on the mechanics of piloting and flying, and part personal memoir. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend the book to anyone curious about flight or modern air travel. You can get a feel for how the book reads from this NYTimes article. Start With Why by Simon Sinek - A fast, worthwhile read on how successful organizations market themselves externally and build a religion internally. It is a quick read, though some of the examples in the second half of the book felt long-winded to me. It also talks about Apple a lot as an example of an organization that starts with “why”, and some of the examples seemed a little like retroactive analysis.Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career (The 99U Book Series) - Basically a series of essays on developing talent, networking, working relationships, etc. Most of the essays read like short blog posts, so there isn’t much depth to them. It was fine, but not terribly inspiring to me and I’ll probably pass on any future books from the series. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger, 3rd Edition by Peter Bevelin - Farnam Street Blog recommends this book very highly, and it’s understandable when you realize it is basically a compilation of mental models, cognitive biases, heuristics, and explanations for how humans think. The problem for me is that (1) the book is not very well written or edited, and (2) in many cases is inferior to reading the original texts that Bevelin tries to cite (e.g., Thinking Fast and Slow). It does serve as a useful compilation and reference for the material it covers though, and so I don’t plan on throwing out my copy, but it doesn’t stand in for reading “the real thing”. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama - I really wanted to like this book, and for maybe 60% of it I really enjoyed it. Origins of Political Order is the first part of a two-book series that tries to answer the question “how did the various political institutions we have arise from tribal societies?”. And what caused Russia, China, the UK, Spain, and India to evolve in different ways? It’s meticulously detailed, but even I (as a history buff) could take so much detail on the Mameluk slave armies, medieval church politics, or Qin dynasty eunuchs. It is a very well-written book, and I would definitely recommend it, but only if you know what you’re getting into. The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh - 100% recommend this to anyone working (in tech or otherwise), but particularly if you are a manager. It’s short (I finished it in a weekend), and re-thinks they employer-employee relationship in a way that resonated with me. Instead of the old model (”work for GE for life and you’ll get cont[...]

Overwatch vs TF2

Sun, 06 Dec 2015 21:21:01 -0800

Or, who is this game for?(Originally published on Medium)I have been playing an awful lot of Overwatch lately. I was fortunate enough to be invited into the closed beta, which marks the one and only time working in the gaming industry has given me a perk that “mainstream tech” folks are jealous of. At first glance, the game looks and feels a lot like Team Fortress 2, which is one of my favorite games of all time. However, there are meaningful changes to the design which significantly alter the experience, and beneath the super-friendly Blizzard style is actually a pretty difficult and (potentially) competitive underlying game. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far.TeamplayJust like in Heroes of the Storm vs League of Legends, teamplay is sneakily upped in importance in Overwatch vs TF2. Because Overwatch is 6v6 instead of your typical 24-person public server match, working together is even more critical, and your actions have disproportionate impact. While competitive TF2 is indeed 6v6 as well, most players never end up playing that way, and the game doesn’t push you to do so.As part of the hero design in Overwatch, everyone gets an ultimate ability — in other words, everyone has an uber they’re charging. Building these and timing their deployment will be critical to successful offensives and defenses, in a way that traditional FPSes haven’t really asked players to learn to do. While charging your ultimate in Overwatch is more forgiving than TF2 because you don’t lose your charge when you die, coordinating the use of your abilities with your allies (like in a MOBA) is important, and can outweigh individual kills or 1v1 duels. Strangely, Overwatch provides some tools to do this (e.g., you can use a chat command to tell everyone the % charge of your ult, and you can see a simple indicator in the scoreboard), but eschews some really obvious ones like showing a sidebar of every character and their ult status (like League of Legends).The Tab scoreboard — the glowing check-mark indicates their ult is readyAnother key difference is the expectation that players should change characters to respond to the enemy composition in Overwatch. While this happens in public server TF2 matches (often begrudgingly), in competitive 6v6 TF2 it rarely happens. Besides the obvious additional skill/mastery required to play multiple characters well, it’s another way that your team has to work together to successfully win. While there are nice tools for pointing out team deficiencies at the start of a round (e.g., a warning for no supports or tank), these alerts aren’t as noticeable during a round, and even seeing your current team comp is somewhat buried— the only place to see this information is when you hit tab to see the scoreboard. I’ve played many games where I see the end-game lineup of characters on my team, and am surprised to see different characters my teammates are playing that I lost track of through multiple character swaps.Pacing / Time-to-killOverwatch feels much, much faster. Games routinely end in 5–7 minutes (I think the fastest I had was getting utterly stomped in 1:48 or so), and even the longer games don’t seem to last much beyond 10–15 minutes. It’s clearly an intentional decision and mirrors what Blizzard has done with both Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone in reducing the overall time to complete a game. The result is that the whole game feels more frenetic. Characters (on average) seem to die faster, respawns happen much more quickly, and there are fewer capture points per level. The other contributing factor is the high mobility of many characters, and the number of paths enemies can take to reach you — not only do you die quickly in combat, it’s also very easy to be caught unaware from the side, behind, or above as well. While it’s not at Quake levels of franticness, the short respawn times can cause the gameplay to feel less meaningful. Most popular FPSes (like Call of Duty or TF2) have lon[...]

The Rise of Product Marketing on Mobile

Sat, 12 Sep 2015 13:36:20 -0700

Reading Benedict Evan’s post on manual curation reminded me a lot of what has been happening on Steam over the past year with the ridiculous explosion of new titles. It seems that Valve/Steam reached a similar conclusion late 2014 with the introduction of Steam Curators. It’s effectively bringing the various disparate individual/blog-based recommendations (e.g., famous YouTube personalities, or blogs like Rock Paper Shotgun) directly into the platform itself. Not terribly unlike Apple Music.

But it sort of feels like this isn’t really anything new, just a re-surfacing of content that exists elsewhere. I was already getting my game recommendations and reviews from Rock Paper Shotgun - there’s nothing new about Steam Curators that I didn’t have already. A quick glance at the top Curators shows that most of the ones at the top are people or organizations that already had a following off-Steam. And it doesn’t seem like anyone is going to start being famous through Steam Curators in the way that one might through YouTube, Twitch, blogging, etc.

I wonder if ultimately the discovery problem is something that the platforms can’t solve (and maybe don’t need to) - it’s not as if Amazon recommendations are the only way I hear about new books to read. It’s always been trusted 3rd parties that provide the most relevant recommendations, whether it’s your friend or a blog you read. And perhaps the central authority inherent in any major platform is at odds with the idea of a trusted source of personal recommendations (at least until personalized AI gets good enough).

It used to be enough for mobile game developers that you were a mobile game developer because there simply wasn’t much competition. Then in the early days of mobile UA buying installs was cheap enough that pretty much everyone could do it, which led to a reliance on performance marketing as the way to get players into your game. But now with UA costs rising, and without any forseeable relief coming from the platforms themselves (featuring is great but does not provide sustained installs), mobile developers are going to have to get good at marketing their games in the traditional way - figuring out the right messaging, creatives, and channels for their target audiences.

And if the PC / console markets are any indicator, things aren’t going to change anytime soon. Product marketing on mobile is jut getting started.

Books I Read in 2014

Sat, 27 Dec 2014 23:25:58 -0800

I decided to start keeping track each year of the books I read and the games I played. These aren’t all necessarily published in 2014, but I read them this year. Favorite books Non-fiction The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China - David Eimer Creativity, Inc. - Ed Catmull So Good They Can’t Ignore You - Cal Newport Fiction The Martian: A Novel - Andy Weir The Source: A Novel - James A. Michener Dust (Wool Trilogy Book 3) - Hugh Howey & Shift Omnibus Edition (Shift 1-3) (The Silo Series Book 2) - Hugh Howey (FYI these are parts two and three of a series) Non-fiction The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China - David Eimer - Great read on the various non-Han minority groups in China. Sort of a combination of travel writing and history. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter - Tom Bissell - A nice collection of essays on video games (if you couldn’t tell from the title). I quite liked the writing, though a lot of it was more enjoyable that informational for me. Here’s another essay by the author on GTA V. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield - I read this after reading The Martian (see the fiction section below). I didn’t care much for the life lessons bits (though they weren’t bad), but the personal anecdotes and stories about space alone are worth the read. Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition - Geoffrey A. Moore - Started this, then stopped about halfway since it wasn’t terribly relevant to me. The basic gist was easy to get, and I’ll probably revisit if I go join a B2B startup. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die - Chip Heath - Pretty fast and fun read, with an easy to remember mnemonic for crafting sticky messages. Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories (SUCCESs). On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King - Half auto-biography, half writing instructional. I haven’t read a single Stephen King book, but I still liked it. The Checklist Manifesto - Atul Gawande - This book suffers from the “should have been an essay” problem. The core idea is fine (use checklists), the delivery is too fluffy. Creativity, Inc. - Ed Catmull - One of the best non-fiction books I read all year. Ed Catmull (of Pixar) talks about the history of the company, as well as how the company is run and structured. Particularly relevant for those in creative industries (like games!). So relevant that we (at Pocket Gems) bought a copy for every employee. The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz - If you read Ben’s blog, you’ll be familiar with the content. This book is primarily a collection of many of the essays that have been featured there on startup leadership and management. It’s packaged up in a nice way, though, and has a lot of lessons that anyone working in startups can learn from. So Good They Can’t Ignore You - Cal Newport - The book I recommended to the most # of people this year. The basic premise is that the “follow your passion” credo is flawed. If you want a job that provides lots of great things (like autonomy, good compensation, etc) - you are asking for something that is rare and valuable, and you need skills that are rare and valuable to offer in return. Highly recommended for anyone who isn’t sure what they want to do with their life or who is consistently finding themselves unhappy with work (a phenomenon I feel is particularly prevalent in Silicon Valley). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era - James M. McPherson - I decided it was time to learn more about the Civil War after reading 1861: The Civil War Awakening. Consensus seemed to indicate that this was the best single-volume history of the war. I enjoyed it, but you probably need to be a military history or Civil War buff to do the same. Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist - Roger Lowenstein - Great bio[...]

Game Stores on Mobile and PC

Sun, 18 May 2014 22:19:30 -0700

This bit of news from RPS is pretty remarkable:

We’re not even halfway through 2014, and Steam has already added more new games than it did in the entirety of 2013.

Is PC gaming headed towards the fate of the iOS App Store, where there are eleventy-billion games and no one knows about 99.9% of them? Or is the App Store going to look more like traditional PC gaming over time, with bigger production and marketing budgets sitting alongside a plethora of highly available indie games?

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Indies have been on the rise for PC due to the decreasing cost of creating (through things like Unity, GameMaker) and distributing (through Steam, the Humble Store, and others) games. You could argue that on iOS, the same mechanics exist, taken to an extreme. It’s always been cheap to make mobile games (vs traditional AAA titles) and throw them on the App Store, and so there are many more titles.

On the flip side, since there are so many titles on mobile, standing out has gotten harder and harder. Fewer and fewer companies have the budgets to market a new game to the level required. A large part of this is the lack of discoverability on mobile. As shoddy as Steam is (I love Steam, but this is another story for another day), it’s a hell of a lot better at surfacing things than the App Store.

But if Steam is actually dropping Greenlight, then we’re going to need another way to deal with the glut of games. Maybe, as a commentator on RPS suggests, the answer is more storefronts (like GOG, Humble Bundle, etc) but no one really knows. Valve/Steam really are the gatekeepers on PC (whether they like it or not) right now, so the next few years will be interesting to say the least. Less restrictive gatekeepers than our overlords at Apple, but in control of a lot of market-making levers nonetheless. Interesting times to be a gamer, indeed.


Sun, 04 May 2014 22:25:29 -0700

Last week I read this critique of Titanfall’s “unlock” system, as compared to Call of Duty. “Unlock” isn’t really the right word, since the author isn’t talking about Titanfall’s progression system (whereby you earn XP by playing and completing challenges, and level up to earn new weapons / modifications / etc). Rather, the argument is something like: Since you have access to really powerful features (like dropping Titans) as a new player, you’ll get bored since more power isn’t unlocked over time.

Yet this supposed solution also creates new problems. What you get in the first round is what you get in every match you play, and while unlocks, loadouts and Burn Cards offer flexibility and empower different playstyles, they don’t afford any tangible increase in power. As you get better, you get your hands on the toys quicker, but none ever really boosts your chances of winning.

The author’s example of a better system is the killstreak implementation in CoD 4: MW. If, and only if, you are able to run up a high killstreak are you allowed to summon an AC-130, tactical nuke, or other high-tech shenanigans. The point is that this system makes it a much rarer event to unleash something truly powerful (which is true), and that is therefore better because otherwise the game would become stale (which I disagree with).

The reaction that came to mind when I read the article was, “What about Team Fortress 2? Or Quake? Or CounterStrike: Any Version Ever?” None of these best-in-class multiplayer FPSes have killstreaks that unlock temporary power boosts, yet seem to have no problem flourishing.

Killstreaks encourage a specific kind of gameplay that may make sense in a Call of Duty world. It is less obvious they would make Quake 3 a better or longer-lasting game.

I was expecting a critique of the weapon unlock system in Titanfall - why am I forced to grind through 50 levels of XP to play with all the toys I paid $60 for? Titanfall’s progression system has it’s issues, but one of them is definitely not the fact that you get to drop Titans all. the. goddamn. time. The name of the game is Titanfall - how on earth would it be better served by only letting players summon a Titans when they reached a killstreak of 10? The article closes with:

Clearly, Respawn will tinker with Titanfall’s framework in the inevitable sequels to come. As it does, it would do well to remind itself why the multiplayer FPS exists. When power is permanent, the fantasy rather loses its shine.

Multiplayer FPSes exist because it is fun to be a badass and to crush your opponents. The authors would do well to remind themselves that blanket applying a mechanic from one game in a genre to all other games in that genre is unbelievably short-sighted.

The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird

Tue, 04 Feb 2014 13:02:32 -0800

This review of Flappy Bird is by far the most amazing thing I’ve read all year. It may be the best review I read all year, despite the fact that we are only one month in.

But in fetishizing simplicity, we also mistake the elegance of design for beauty. For Go and Tetris are likewise ghastly, erupting stones and tetrominoes endlessly, failing to relent in their desire to overtake us. The games we find ourselves ever more devoted to are often also the ones that care very little for our experience of them. This is the devotion of material indifference. To understand Flappy Bird, we must accept the premise that games are squalid, rusty machinery we operate in spite of themselves. What we appreciate about Flappy Bird is not the details of its design, but the fact that it embodies them with such unflappable nonchalance. The best games cease to be for us (or for anyone) and instead strive to be what they are as much as possible. From this indifference emanates a strange squalor that we can appreciate as beauty.

On Free To Play

Sun, 02 Feb 2014 15:17:54 -0800

(Disclosure: I work at a company that makes free to play games. This opinion is my own.)

This weekend, the internet briefly went nuts again over the specter of in-app purchases destroying gaming as we know it. As a long-time gamer (I played the original Dungeon Keeper referenced in the article), I understand where the author is coming from, but the blanket vitriol directed towards IAPs and free-to-play is misguided.

The F2P version of Dungeon Keeper may nickel and dime players, but that’s a problem with the game’s design (I don’t know, I haven’t played it), not the entire business model. For every great game you pay up front for (XCOM, Dishonored, Minecraft, etc), there are plenty of games that charge $50 up front and end up being terrible (Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?). Is this somehow more ethical than letting someone play a game for free before deciding whether they’re happy putting money into the system?

Additionally, F2P enables games-as-a-service where it would have been impossible (due to financial constraints) before. I’ve personally logged hundreds of hours in Team Fortress 2 and appreciated the endless updates Valve has put into the game – if they only charged a fixed amount up front, what incentive do they have to continue supporting the community of players who are no longer paying?

It’s not all black and white. There are terribly designed F2P games, and there are games like League of Legends, or Puzzle and Dragons that are perfectly playable as a non-paying player, and provide hundreds of hours of enjoyment. There are paid games that cost $60 up front that are worth the investment, and there are others that cause deep regret (*cough* Diablo 3).

I agree that on mobile, F2P has dominated the industry which makes it hard for games like XCOM or Oceanhorn to bubble up to the top, but this is actually a discovery problem. Since the app charts are built around the most downloads and top grossing, they are naturally dominated by F2P games which can acquire more users, and make more money. On PC, Steam / Steam Greenlight / Humble Indie Bundle / and others make it easy to discover high quality games that aren’t just ranked by top downloads or grossing statistics. If you’re on mobile, you don’t have these other outlets (for now).

As a life-long gamer, I’m excited by the future of mobile gaming. I routinely put money into F2P games (LoL, Puzzle and Dragons, and TF2 all top my list), and also buy full games (Super Hexagon, XCOM, GTA V, etc). In the long run, the most successful games and franchises will be the ones that focus on creating delight for their players, regardless of the business model.

"Russian space lizards return to Earth"

Thu, 01 Aug 2013 22:13:35 -0700

““Russian space lizards return to Earth””

- The Guardian, offering up maybe the greatest headline of all time. (via davidnibert)

"The thing looked fierce: the pointy ram intake/radome evokes images of the spiked helmet of a..."

Thu, 01 Aug 2013 22:13:16 -0700

“The thing looked fierce: the pointy ram intake/radome evokes images of the spiked helmet of a Prussian solder. The tiny, recessed cockpit of some versions makes it appear like some sinister subterranean carnivore from the front view. Over all the thing looks like a supersonic medieval mace; all straight lines and brutally sharp angles. The designers didn’t even bother with the “area rule” -they didn’t need to; it’s powerful engine punched through supersonic drag issues like a hatchet through dog shit. Unlike the swoopy-doopy SR-71 or Bristol 188 or Tsybin RSR, it is an undiluted incarnation of terrifying speed and electric death.”

- Scott Locklin on Soviet Interceptors

I have a long way to go with my wok-ing skills.

Fri, 19 Apr 2013 21:44:20 -0700

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I have a long way to go with my wok-ing skills.

davidnibert: (photo: US Navy) This is a laser gun. The US...

Sun, 14 Apr 2013 14:37:48 -0700



(photo: US Navy)

This is a laser gun. The US Navy now has ships equipped with laser guns. Guns…that fire lasers. I just…am having trouble with this.

With a point and a click, these laser systems devastate small attackers like fast boats and drones. AND THEY ARE LASERS.

On Google Reader

Sun, 17 Mar 2013 14:57:16 -0700

I started using Reader November 30, 2005, a bit over a month after the product was launched (according to the Official Reader Blog). I remember using Bloglines as my RSS reader of choice before Reader, trying out the new service, hating the “lens” design, and going back to Bloglines. It wasn’t until September 2006, nearly a year later, that I returned after the (first) big redesign, and never looked back. When I joined Google in 2007, Reader was the product I wanted to work on more than anything else, and I was fortunate enough to be able to work with the amazing team before it was put into maintenance mode in 2010. It’s obvious why I care, but to many people, the widespread passion around Reader’s shutdown seems strange - why do we care? Who uses feed readers anymore in a world of Twitter and Facebook? Reader started out as an RSS reader, but it in no way needed to be only an RSS reader. RSS is only the infrastructure that delivers information (which is why Dave Winer is fine to hate on Reader as one of many clients) - it could just as easily have been augmented with Twitter, Facebook, and G+. Except for one problem: this was Google, and it doesn’t take a particularly astute observer of history to see how well Google plays with Twitter or Facebook. So Reader was caught in a catch-22 of sorts. It needed to grow or die, but in order to grow it needed to expand beyond the scope of RSS to include the other forms of rapidly growing information consumption… that Google was unable to work with (and in Facebook’s case, didn’t want to share). Doing so would also require significantly more resources and an expansion of scope for the product. Reader vs Twitter & Facebook Comparing the usage/growth of a product that was an afterthought at Google, and hasn’t been staffed for three years with Twitter and Facebook is silly. Imagine if (somewhat absurdly) Google had decided to invest the resources of G+ into a product like Reader. Calling Reader a niche product isn’t an argument against Reader, it’s an argument against the staffing and support it received throughout its life. I’ve always been confused why a company with the mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” never valued a product that did that on very personal level. Particularly in a world of increasing information overload, a product designed to take in a variety of sources and present them efficiently and cleanly certainly seems like it would provide value. One friend told me he had replaced Reader by using Twitter, Facebook, Techmeme, and Reddit, which sounds terrifying to me. Judging by the growth of products like Zite and Prismatic (I use both of these), people are searching for a way to have relevant and interesting information (minus the friend updates, etc) surfaced for them in a way that Twitter and Facebook are pretty bad at. Reader served this through recommended and shared items, but also provided a way for users to explicitly declare what they wanted to see. Reader provides a carefully controlled environment where you only see things you explicitly care about. No ads. No friend requests. Flexible UI that adapts to your reading style[1]. You might argue that the same content exists on Twitter or Facebook, but they don’t lend themselves to the same kind of publishing, and the UI is cluttered with a myriad of unrelated features and content. Mike Elgan sums it up nicely: In fact, Twitter is not a big RSS reader. RSS is something you control, and Twitter is something other people control. (Even if you dedicate a Twitter account exclusiv[...]

Seeing the King of the Blues

Thu, 28 Feb 2013 20:23:14 -0800


Seeing the King of the Blues

I don’t know what this song means, but it is awesome.

Tue, 26 Feb 2013 22:25:16 -0800

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I don’t know what this song means, but it is awesome.

Favorite new song for February.

Mon, 25 Feb 2013 18:36:27 -0800

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Favorite new song for February.


Mon, 25 Feb 2013 17:17:46 -0800

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Pocket Gems Holiday Party 2013 by Set Theory on Mixcloud

"The text contains especially lengthy tangential descriptions of the dishes that appear at feasts of..."

Mon, 24 Sep 2012 21:41:27 -0700

“The text contains especially lengthy tangential descriptions of the dishes that appear at feasts of nobility. You are unable to extract any useful information.”

- The description from reading “A Tome of Fire or Ice” in Dungeons of Dredmor