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Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Birthday - Part 8: Purple

I was going to combine my posts about the hair color and pasta class, but then I realized something.
I'm 45.  That's half of 90.  I'm a tenth of 450!  I'm the square root of 2025!

I'm older than dirt (judging from the contents of my composting bin).  It's funny, when the year begins, I consider myself whatever age I'm going to turn that year.  This year, I considered myself 44 until... Well, I still consider myself 44.

So, I'm stretching these posts out another two weeks.  You're not a year older until you've finished blogging about your birthday.  This week is hair.  Next week is pasta.  The week after that is about what I didn't accomplish.  I'll keep going on this theme for the rest of my life.
Matthew Kagle: Born 90 years ago.  Dead at 45.
So, let's talk about my head.

Every year I dye my hair a weird color.  I started with blue but was put off by all the attention I got.  The next year I didn't color my hair, and was put off by all the attention I didn't get.  Next year I did yellow, which just involved a gallon of bleach and an hour of screaming.  Then came green, which became a disappointing, light teal color.  Then orange, which became a disappointing natural color.

Actual quote: "My grandmother asked who the guy with the lovely auburn hair was."

This year is purple.
As always, my hairdresser is more photogenic than me.

Nice color, but it's leaking out.  I had to buy purple pillowcases.  My fingers are purple from where I scratched my head.
Does some awesome things in the morning, though.
I'm going through the rainbow, so I have four more colors left.  You'll have to guess which.

I've been thinking about why I color my hair, why I was disappointed the year I didn't color.  Last night it hit me (along with my son, need to work on his anger).  When my hair is a funny color, people look at me.

It's like being famous.

People smile.  Kids whisper to their parents.  I get approached by people who ask questions about it.  Every now and then, my agent drags me to rehab.

It's a good feeling.  I can see why so many people are addicted to fame.  When I finally run out of colors, I'll crash and burn.  Drinking.  Arrests.  Ex-wives on talk shows talking about my sexual proclivities.  Reality shows.  On Ellen to talk about my fall from fame.  Endorsing cheap haircare products.

Man, I can not wait!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015 Birthday - Part 7: GDC Notes

I've had to table a few birthday achievements until later (getting a belaying certificate at Planet Granite, juggling, cartwheels, biking without hands, bringing about world peace).  Unfortunately, that leaves me with a week before my birthday with nothing to achieve.
Achievement Unlocked: Nothing to do!
So, it's time to do something I've put off for years and years and years.

I've been carrying in my backpack a worn, brown envelope filled with old notes from Game Developers Conference talks.  The GDC is the most important conference in the games industry.  I've been for so long, I forgot when I started going, so I called CMP (the parent company).  The call went like this:
Me: How long have I been going to GDC?
CMP: Since 1997.  You only missed 2006.
Me: Wow, I'm old.
CMP: And you never accomplished anything in life.
Me: [Sobbing]
At the earliest GDCs I attended, technology wasn't very advanced.  The World Wide Web was new, few people had cell phones (let alone smart phones), and things were rougher.

Lunch at my first GDC.
They used to give you little slips of paper to evaluate the sessions (now they just send you email).  I'd always write my notes on the back and take them home and transcribe them.  That way, I'd always know what talk they were from and I'd limit the notes I'd take.

A few times, however, I wrote my notes on notepads.  Then I'd forget to label them.  Then I'd forget to transcribe them.  Then I'd stick them in my worn folder and forget all about them.

I've been carrying these notes for years and years and years.  Well, to hell with that.  It's time to birthday these suckers.

That's my new expression: "It's time to birthday these suckers!"  Feel free to use it wherever appropriate.

I just sat down in Starbucks this morning and transcribed them all.  Here are the bulk of them; the notepad ones from (I think) 2002.  Sorry I didn't format them or correct errors, but I'm so done with them.

Ernest Adams - Why we shouldn't make games
Problem: Real world gameplay without real world ethics
(people get upset over them)
Games with vagueness are the more memorable ones
(asteroids, tempest, battlezone)
Only show things we have to
Don't add so many pieces of minutia
Shouldn't always fear death
            Gameplay tension is nearness to a goal or failure

America McGee Alice Postmortem
Keeping it simple was a primary goal
Difficult != fun
Consider a toy line/franchise properties
Character studies
Engineering does not rule the world
Get design much more complete (80%) before going to development and then let them run with it
Music as 50% of the experience
            (but managers control the musician and they back out)
            Always establish business end first
A good trailer is a good beginning to a project
            Sold the movie (cost 100k but was worth it)
            Got people back to the concept and motivated
Publisher should have little or no work to do
50% women players-
            Don't make women characters too blow-up doll

Warren Spector - Producing (preproduction)
Try not to overdocument
Start with a small team
"Behind the scenes at Sega" - a book that's out of print
Different for different types of games
Generate art, design, and tools, schedules, documents, prototypes, team building
Can begin with almost anything (concept-wise)
Manifesto: What ist he game about in one sentence, why different, what is the core experience
First document (1-2 pages): high concept, why should we make it, overview, tech overview, competitive titles, audience, projected budget, risks, next step
Company manifesto is important
Pre-production includes: director, producers, leads of disciplines,(5-7) peoples
"Individuals don't make games, teams do"
Director - keeper of vision
Producer - process, budget
L. Designer, L. Art, L. Programmer - Manages design/art/code on day to day basis
End Products: Design doc, tools and tech, look and feel, geared-up team, prototype, road map for team, tech design doc
Need a spec to deviate from
            Everyone contributes to a piece, one person who as al. control
Producer has veto power (money guy makes last call)
Plan cuts ahead of time (prioritize features)
Preproduction becomes obsolete but come back to doc some day

Game Hooks - Dave Perry
Go to
Dp (at)
Controversy sells
What emotions are you trying to evoke
            When you are ready to reward, don't pause
Must have unique selling points
            These aren't hooks, though
I figured out a paradigm for the game that works for me.
Name and logo
ST:BC  H=11 M=11 L=11

Beyond Psychological Theory
Testing with typical gamers
Not focus testing: fix bugs not marketing
See the CD-ROM
Can solve disagreements
Gamers evaluate, designers desgin and revise
Get competitor data first
Then get own data
People who betatest are too high up in ability
Don't want evaluation of a game, you want to find problems to fix (unless you want ideas)
Data on competitor's game helps you early on
Can affect schedule
Never have same people play game twice
May water down the vision

Outdoor Level Design - Jolyton Leonard
Creating It:
First figure out the scale (they used a flight simulator engine)
Big is better than walls
Can use physical boundaries (fences, walls, locked gates, cliffs)
Abstract boundaries (deterrents/boundaries, boredom, rewards)
Story and AI should interact deeply
Map and binoculars useful outside
Can still use triggers
Keep plans as simple as possible

Collectable Card Games - Richard Garfield
Unequal sides in games are okay and can be focus
Vanity objects - look different but act same
Adding cost to an object makes it tradeable or can just use time
Need to limit parameters to allow fairness
Don't want strictly better objects, must always be trade-offs
If you have a dominating object, everybody has it so it's just background
Want peopl eto mix up what they have, not homogeneity
Some are okay (if they are bad and people don't want them)
Size of collection is important:
Too small - limits the scope of the game
Too large - Intimidating, harder to master
Vanity objects can increase size for some, but not others
Rarity increases value
Should have item expiration dates
Limited uses, progressively more power
Question I asked : Why hide contents of packs? He said because that lets the value be set by the buyers, otherwise everything has a set price

Empathy vs. Agency
[There was a graphic here, but Google won't let me paste it and MAN I am so done with this]

Experimental Gameplay Workshop - Jon Blow
Arcadia - four games at once
Definition 6 (
Valve's Steam

Startup Horror Stories
Savage Entertainment Guys (
Lures are better than rewards (not much creative control)
Publishers give seeds of development to see if you can meet milestones
Be wary of big promises, only promise what you can deliver
Always be skeptical of time frame
Trust is a big factor w/startups
Know your partners
Be realistic about weaknesses and red flags
Be prepared w/ exit plans for your partner (like a prenuptual)
Marketing buy in is important
Work with publisher
Always line up the next project before this one ends
Lucrative projects can lead to mismatched expectations
There are still project risks
Publishers can be evil
            Will disregard contracts
            Will take over your company
Set expectations correctly
Middleware can be a good starting point and solves problems
Offer equity stake in company?
Ask for prototype funding (need good design work and visuals and enthusiasm)
Can offer to port a game
Keep $ burn rate low to get another chance

Sequels are now the best-selling games
            (in spite of the calls for originality)
Step back and decide if original had the right features - figure out why you added everything
Get to the core of the game
Grand Theft Auto 3
Prepare your engine for re-use
Can't throw out everything
I think these notes at the bottom of the page are for Arrival: Village Kasike
Miners - Resource for manufacturing
Farmers - Resource for populace
People production - Managers and creates workforce
Manufacturing - Builds equipment and ships
Colony management - Manages store, offense, defense, deals with disputes

Randy Smith - Stealth in Thief
Rsmith(at) - Lead designer
Discrete Interaction - Finite number of choices (conversation trees)
Analog - Freeform player movement
Want both types
Discrete- Must do one of the other of the choices
Aanalog- not picking from the menu
Don't want to use triggers only if you go to specific area.
            That's just like choosing from a menu.
            Can do many paths, but must avoid having only one path (secretly)
IF you can't do things programmer didn't predict -> Discrete
If you can do infinite things -> analog
Analog - interacting game systems
Avoid absolutes, embrace gradients
Simulation, expressions

Why they won't let you make good online games
Costs $15 mil to make a game
Want same formulas just more
People feel MUDs are like real life
Believe it only gets better w/technology
Managed conflict creates bonds between people
None of the problems w/games are because of bandwidth
Must have exhaustive research and then make it better
Best lessons:
people want to belong (make belonging faster)
Separate work from advancement (allow guilds to help people advance)
Rites of passage (more than one)
Membership of a group
Narrative generated through playing the game
Don't direct the game design
Make them group w/out forcing them
Adventure isn't something most people enjoy, try to find a more mainstream fantasy

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 6: Juggling FAIL

This year's birthday was about accomplishing things I never was able to accomplish or didn't have time for.  Well, it seems some things are beyond me.

I can't juggle.  I just have to accept that, along with the fact that nobody will let me star in a movie adaptation of my novel Matthew Has Sex With Several Beautiful Women.

I've tried to juggle for over a decade.  I read an article back then that stated juggling helped stave off dementia.  I'm deathly afraid of dementia, of having my mind slowly crumble away without realizing it.

Sometimes I wonder if it's already happening.
Now that I think about it, where did I put my car keys? Hm.
I got that Juggling for the Complete Klutz book.  It should have been called Juggling With Incomplete Instructions.  I lost the balls, found them months later, tried again, lost them again.  I never managed to juggle more than two at a time.  I gave up; it seemed dementia was inevitable.
Now that I think about it, where did I park my car? Hm.
Last year, I went on a Disney cruise to Alaska.  If you've never been on a cruise, it's like being in a prison where they try to keep you entertained so you don't riot.

And stuffed so full you can't stand up to complain.
One of the entertainers was a juggler named Michael Holly (he's good, you should check out his YouTube channel).  While searching for a lost child, I ran across him sitting on the deck watching the icebergs go by.  We talked, and I mentioned I'd never been able to juggle.  He directed me to his Learn to Juggle videos.

Here's part 1 of 3 if you're curious:

I pulled out my old Klutz juggling balls.  Over the last few months I've watched Holly's videos and tried the lessons almost every day.  Last week, I lost one of the juggling balls (a good rule for life: never let kids play with your balls) and realized something: best I could do was two.  Even after all the practice I put in, even switching techniques, I hadn't improved at all.

Perhaps I already have dementia.
Now that I think about it, where did I put the toilet?  Hm.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 5: Being Hot

Well, juggling isn't going as well as hoped, so I'm skipping to a backup goal: I've never been hot.

I've been I'm "not all that bad looking."  Which is a nice way of saying "You don't make me sick" or "The only thing holding you back is your personality."

Hotness was never a priority.  As a kid, I was nearly blind, so the only contacts I could wear were made of steel wool.  I insisted on scratch proof lenses, so my glasses were so thick they warped light around my face, making my head look like a Planter's nut.
My yearbook photo.
I could never sit still for a good haircut.  I didn't care about clothes, so got everything from TJ Max.  Add to all this the bullying I got throughout Junior High and High School and you can understand why I didn't bother working on my looks.

Then I got old.

Now I work out five days a week.  I have a hairdresser who charges by cut instead of by corner.  I get clothes from The Gap.

Okay, maybe I should work on that last one.

Anyway, I still don't know if I'm hot or not.  In short, am I too old to be sexy?  Turns out there's an app to tell you.  It's called Hot or Not.  The basic idea is you upload pictures, people rank you, and you get a score. 
Also the logo for heartburn remedies
It's pretty addictive to rate people.  After a while, though, I  noticed a pattern in the pictures I saw.  They all fit into the following categories:
Your face upside down, wearing sunglasses, or half cut off.
If people can't see your eyes together and right-side up, they assume you're pretty.

Your face filtered so the whites of your eyes glow like a 60s movie alien.
Also photos that are blurred, covered with sparkles, or otherwise somehow obscured.

In a car.
I call this the Lindsay Lohan.

Firing a gun.
Rate me "hot" or I will shoot you.

"Kissy face." 
Every single woman on the app has a duck face pic.

Weird hand sign.
Peace, sideways peace, heart hands, etc.

Your body
To show off how thin you are.  Alternately, squishing your boobs into the camera to hide how thin you aren't.

Cat makeup
Seriously, this is a big thing.  A lot of women either paint themselves to look like cats or there's some creepy cat fetishist running around with a magic marker.

With other people.
So we don't know which one is you.

Your braces.
Leaving me with a dilemma.  Do I a) say you're hot and wonder if I'm a pedophile or b) rate you as not hot and crush a young girl's self esteem?

Exact same photo 20 times in a row
Filtered or cropped differently.

Dear God, the piercings.  Eyebrow.  Both eyebrows.  Lip.  Double lip.  Nose.  Golden boogers (a septum piercing like they do to bulls to tie them to trees).  Tongue.  Nose bridge.  And, the most impressive of all, cheeks.

That's right, women are poking holes in their cheeks.  Or they're eating the Whizzo Chocolate Assortment.
Anyway, here's my score:
At first, I thought, "Crap, I'm a 6."  Then I realized hotness is like the Richter Scale.  Each point is double the previous number.  I've never seen anyone sexier than a 7.7.

So, am I a tremor or a Loma Prieta?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 4: Nail Picking

I've picked at my nails ever since I was a kid.  The imperfection in my fingernails and the skin around them bothered me.  Of course, I knew that picking them was causing much of the imperfection, but I never stopped.

I never bit them.  While nail picking is perfectly understandable, biting your nails is gross. Don't get me started on the people who bite their toenails.
On the other hand, I was going to stick nail biting in a novel:
"You see these?" he said, holding up his hand.  Except for his left thumb and right pinky, the nails were gnawed down to nothing.  "I bite my nails because I can't stop until they're perfect.  I never stop." He took a step closer.  "That's what I want to do to you.  I want to put you in my mouth and wear you down until there's nothing left."
What do you think?  Sexy?  Creepy?  I've never been able to tell the difference.  Explains why I never dated in high school.

After a while, I tried to quit picking.  I used cuticle nippers and nail files to give myself a manicure, but it just exacerbated the problem.  I got a Swiss Army Knife.
Beware my vicious toothpick!
The Swiss Army Knife is a bizarrely useless piece of equipment.  After using one, I worry about the security of Switzerland  It has:
  • The world's tiniest pair of scissors
    You can only use these if you had hands the size of a fairy's.
  • A short but remarkably sharp knife
    Until you use it three times and it becomes a short but remarkably dull knife.
  • A nail file
    Also great for three uses. 
  • A toothpick
    Does anyone else gross out after using a toothpick twice?
  • A pair of tweezers. 
    I never had a use for those.

Anyway, I started using the knife and nail file to work on my nails.  It was working well until a girlfriend (ie. a cute girl who sat next to me in history) told me how annoying it was.  I was crushed and gave up using it.  Eventually, another cute girl told me I pick my nails when I'm thinking, but I still gave up the knife.
Well, for a while, anyway.
I tried putting Vaseline on my nails.  I couldn't pick them if they were slippery, right?  Yeah, if girls thought nail picking was a turn off, they really hated my squishy handshake.

The point is, nothing I tried helped me stop.  Only two things ever had the slightest effect:
  1. I got a watch.  I needed thumbnails to open the band.  So, I learned to grow my thumbnails out.
  2. I got mono one summer.  When I recovered, I noticed my nails had grown back.  Then I started picking them again.

Anyway, as part of my birthday of self-improvement, I got a wristband.  You snap it every time you catch yourself picking or biting or, I suppose, doing anything bad.
We should make politicians wear them.
I got a cheap bag of "issue bands" that say things like Dream and Courage and Faith.  I like that they have insipid, inspirational sayings on them and that they break easily.
Just like your dream, courage, and faith.
They all broke, so I went to the store and found a $3 charity band.  I don't even know what the charity is.  I just wanted the band.
I must be the last person who donated just to get a wristband since the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
So, did it work?  Here's before:

Here's after:

We can call that a win.

I just realized fingernails really suck.  Okay, they have advantages.  I can scratch the hard to reach parts of my back and I can... Um...

Yeah.  That's about it.

And they feel so weird.  I mean they... Bend.  They flex.  I thought they'd be like giant talons of death, but I got bendy talons of squishiness.  Yeah, that won't help you with hot girls either.  Back to Vaseline.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 3: Wood Video

Before you read anything else, watch this video.  If you don't have a high speed internet connection you can wait. 

Don't scroll down.  That's cheating.  I spent a heck of a long time putting it together; I expect you to see it.


Originally, Master Markowitz ("Stop calling me 'master'") was planning on having me do a side kick to break the boards.  After a few tries it became clear that I'm as tight as Pat Robertson at a GLAAD convention.
Well, until some hot guy gets a few drinks into him.
He decided I should punch the boards instead.  He ran me through crouching and punching and crouching and punching, making suggestions here and there.  I really didn't expect I would be able to break anything (especially after my first failure, above), but it wasn't has hard as I thought.

In the end, I broke four boards: two with my fist and two "knife hand."
No, that's not what I meant.
I figured four was enough, so Sensei Dave ("Tae Kwan Do is Korean.  Sensei is Japanese") broke the other two with his foot, proving I'm as tight as Phyllis Schlafly after 30 years of marriage.
"I don't understand.  We were married 44 years."
The strangest part?  My hand only hurt for a couple hours.  My left butt cheek and right shoulder ached for days.  Did I mention I was tight?

In any case: another (big) regret down.

Next week: fingernails!

No: Really.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 3: Wood

When I was in school I was bullied a lot.  In elementary school, I was attacked by a kid named Larry (nicknamed "Moose" -- I assume for his IQ) in front of my house, but my mother ran out and stopped it.  A kid named Roman and his friend Lauren enjoyed punching the top of my head in junior high.  A kid in my neighborhood spit in my face twice, but ran away when I tried to retaliate.

I can't say my bullying was all that violent; it was more about humiliation.  Mostly I ignored the occasional hit or insult.  When I got to college I was determined to change.  I entered a frail, scared geek. I wanted to leave a powerful man.
My hopes.  Also (almost) the name of a classic monster game.
Free classes were offered in the evenings.  I took massage hoping it would help me with women (it didn't).  I took fencing hoping it would make me be cool (it didn't).  I took martial arts hoping I would learn to defend myself (it...  Well, I haven't been attacked, so I don't know).

We studied Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Hapkido, three completely contradictory arts.  We students were so confused, we fell down at the end of every session.

Or was that just part of the Judo training?

Anyway, what excited me most was the promise of board breaking.  Almost every session I would ask Master Porzio ("Don't call me master.") if we could break boards with our hands.  On the last day before summer, he took me to go get wood get boards.
"You kids stay off my lawn/lumber yard!"
We visited a lumber yard, got some small boards (12x12x.5), and returned to school. As the most enthusiastic student, I got to go first.  I stood before everyone, trembling with excitement (what martial arts practitioners and new age nutballs call "chi energy").

I thought I was going to punch the board, but Master Porzio ("Stop calling me master.") set the board up on blocks at my feet.  He told me to punch down in a circular motion, like turning a steering wheel.

I punched the board like he said.  Ow.

I tried again.  Double ow.

He punched the board himself to see if the knot in the middle was a problem.  It broke.

"It's a mental barrier.  If you imagine yourself doing it, you will."

Punch. Ow.  Punch.  Ow.

He let the other students try.  They broke the boards with little problem.  I went back to my room, then went back and watched for a bit.  The other students broke boards all night long.  They broke them with their palms, their heels.

I didn't try again.

It bothered me for years.  Wasn't breaking mental barriers how you achieved success? If I couldn't break a board, would I fail at everything else?

When I decided to have an "ending regret" birthday, breaking a board was the first thing I wanted to do.  I found a friend with a black belt who agreed to come over and help me.

First, I headed to the lumber yard.
I got wood picked up lumber here.

Getting wood is harder than it sounds. Buying the appropriate board isn't easy.  I was banned from Home Depot after the whole "You sawed a board in half, decided you want it, and left." incident.  When I found a nearby lumber yard, I wasn't sure what I needed.  I bought pine boards (12x12x1) but, on the way home, balked at how freaking thick my wood that is.

No way I could break that.
No. Freaking. Way.

I went back and got 1/2 inch boards.  My wood The boards were really-eally narrow, but thin enough to break.
My wood My board is long and thick.
The day came, and I met Master Markowitz ("Just call me Dave") to give him his payment.
True fact: you can pay for martial arts instruction with burritos.
Then we went back to my house, and I got wood the boards.

I put on my old judo gi (it still fit), but couldn't find my old white belt.  I put on a red one from an old Society for Creative Anachronism outfit.
SCA, making the world creepy one geek at a time!
"That's not big enough," Dave said as I held up my wood boards.

The thinner boards weren't the right dimensions and wouldn't break properly.  Nervously, I showed him my thick wood 1" boards.

"Yeah, that's fine," Dave ("Kyo Sa Nim Markowitz is more accurate.") said.

More next week.