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ErikH2000
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icon What I Learned In 1998 (+2)  
When I'm an old man, I will pester people with my tales of the 1990's. I will seem especially Abe-Simpsonish because the person I'm talking to will likely have never heard of goatees, pagers, Nerf guns, or coffee drinks with only four preceding adjectives. I will caution the listener not to abbreviate the current year to the last two digits. "Sure, you act like there's just this here millenium and no others. But we software engineers fought for your freedom to do that! We stayed up all night drinking Jolt colas to save civilization." That's what I'll scream as they wheel me away to the nursing home.

I learned a lot of things in the 90's and will definitely exaggerate it all into fantastic stories. Exaggeration is needed, because what I really did with most of my time was stare at a glowing rectangle of phosphors. Nobody wants to hear about some genius query I ran on a Paradox database at 3 AM that successfully showed a discrepency between the general ledger and accounts receivable for a shipping supply company. And nobody wants to hear about the requirements document I wrote for a web-based e-mail product even though it was really good. (Oh man, it was soooo sweet!) But I refuse to believe all that time in front of a computer was wasted. To outsiders, it looked like I was jacked into a surrogate reality while my true-world skills atrophied. On the contrary--I was growing wiser! I was expanding my soul! Let me explain.

It's 1998. I'm sitting in a North Seattle office that I rented for my fancied game development business, which is a part-time moonlighting project. The office used to be an ice cream parlor, and it has a wonderfully appropriate linoleum checkerboard floor. Appropriate, because with money from my plush webdev job at some doomed company, I've created what I believe to be the perfect environment to write a sequel for DROD. I will call the DROD sequel, "Beneath". The little office has four of those oppressively large metal desks that I think are from World War II. I occupy one of them and am busy typing and clicking with a blazing intensity.

You'd think I was writing code for that DROD sequel. But no... I was playing Age of Empires. And for the half year I rented that office, I easily played more Age of Empires than coded on my game. I mean, I maybe spent 10 days doing real work in that place, but at least a hundred days playing AoE while listening to streaming RealAudio of Jerky Boys or Prairie Home Companion. Don't judge me! Here's what I gained from my intimate obsession with Age of Empires...

You start out with some villagers and build things, right? Like you build farms to feed your people. And you build special houses where fighting men are asexually created by clicking on a button. And some houses let you build other houses that you couldn't build before. After a bit, you start to feel quite proud of your little town and how you've arranged it. And about that time, a bunch of dudes come in with catapults and demolish it. That really hurts, because you envisioned that city lasting forever. (Heck, you even had plans to build a Wonder there.) But this ain't no Sim City, Bucko--this is AoE! Nobody's going to leave you in peace to build your perfect city (well, not unless you put the AI setting down really low or play against an 8-year-old).

I watched really good AoE players and noticed that, unlike me, they didn't seem to care much when their cities got destroyed. They didn't have my emotional pain, crippling panic, and slow recovery time. Often, they would be quickly building a new city someplace else while their old one was still getting dismantled. The strategy for victory: sprawl all over the map without any notions of permanence, because constant growth and action compensate for all losses. It's just a game and the lesson is pretty easy to learn in that context--don't hold onto things (buildings, units, territory) when it's easier or better to start anew. But there's lots of other not-AoE-related things which can fool you into overvaluing their illusory permanence--like a crummy soul-draining job, a girlfriend you don't really love, a car that needs constant repair, or even...

A Server That Is Slow And Goes Down a Lot

We don't know what exactly the problem was, but the old server would hang every so often and needed a reboot. And one day last month, the machine wouldn't reboot because files in the kernel were corrupted. So Schik and I were faced with setting up the server from scratch, and we decided that if we had to do all that work, it might as well be on a newer, faster machine that can cope with the load better.

I'm not in a hurry to blame all our problems on the old server. We may still have some of the same hang-inducing bugs in our code that will need to be fixed on the new server, but it's good to start again on some faster hardware.

So the new server is up with CaravelNet and forum restored to what they were the minute before the old server went down--no lost data. There's likely to be a few things that don't work right due to the new setup, and Schik and I would appreciate if you would report them on the "The Site" board.

Everybody that had CaravelNet before the downtime or purchased a membership during the downtime will be credited an extra two weeks. A number of people also placed orders during our downtime and didn't receive their CaravelNet membership info until today. Sorry for the trouble!

See how Age of Empires taught me to deal with this situation? I'm sure that if I hadn't spent thousands of hours playing that game, I would have clung to the false permanance of the old server.

Danforth Strout is Permanent, However

Danforth Strout, the World's Greatest Salesman, terribly botched the last task I gave him to do. I asked him to talk to people whose CaravelNet memberships were near expiration and convince them to renew. But that's like using a motorized hammer to push in a thumbtack--he just got way too aggressive.

I was going to fire Danforth, but he started in with the pleading and the screaming and the ad-hoc PowerPoint presentations. (I don't know how he suddenly has these PowerPoint slides ready to go for any given topic, i.e. "10 Reasons Danforth Stays".) I realize now that the man is so persuasive that I will never be able to get rid of him. He'll just talk me out of sacking him every time.

So Danforth will be handling in-game sales on our big release of DROD: The City Beneath this year. You'll see him camped out in his office on the screen that appears when you exit the game. In fact, I can show you a picture of Danforth and his office at the link below. We have a just-begun contest to design a motivational poster for his office.

Contest info

Beethro's Teacher

Beethro's Teacher is ready to be downloaded right now for CaravelNet members. This is our latest Smitemaster's Selection--a hold (level collection) put together by one of our senior architects, Henri Kareinen, with help from the Caravel team. The official story of DROD continues with Beethro's underground travels to Rooted Hold. Beethro encounters another smitemaster from the surface that takes Beethro under his wing. The new character, Denfry of Fulce, is exceptionally voiced by Tony Porter of Anthem Audio. Between Sten Ryason (voice of Beethro) and Tony, there is over 45 minutes of great voice acting in this hold.

Because of problems caused by the server ruckus, I have not ordered the one-time printing of Smitemaster's Selection issue #4 CDs yet. The good side of this delay: it's still possible for you to put in an order to get issue #4, Beethro's Teacher, coming to you in the mail. Unlike the downloadable Beethro's Teacher hold available to CaravelNet members, the CD includes two half-hour science fiction audio dramas (Shadowman Part 2, and CONvergence--both Mark Time award winners), some extra music from DROD and Morning's Wrath games, a recorded interview with independant game developer, Thom Robertson, a bunch of demos of newly-released indie games, and... this is new... a mini-map of the High Path between King Dugan's Dungeon and Rooted Hold printed on the jewel case insert back.

I've already told half a dozen disappointed individuals there are no more Halph Stories (issue #3) CDs left. And it's inevitable that people will miss out on issue #4 too. In fact, I'm going to write some copy-and-paste boilerplate to use for replying by e-mail to these folks. If you want this CD instead of my disheartening boilerplate, you have to order one before I have the CDs manufactured (i.e. next weekend). For more info on the Smitemaster's Selection CDs and ordering instructions, check out the URL below:

Smitemaster's Selection CDs Info

If you'd like to play Beethro's Teacher, but don't really care about the CD extras, the hold can be downloaded with a full CaravelNet membership (trial memberships don't give access to these holds). CaravelNet has a bewildering amount of other features as well. More about that at the URL below:

CaravelNet info

Topic Picks on Vacation

There are still things I need to get done related to the server, and I'm definitely behind on important things due to that little crisis. So I'm going to take a break from topic picks this month, and double-up on them in next month's Illumination. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to help me with the social recovery of our server. Please come back and populate our boards with your brilliant posts!

The Road Home

-Erik

____________________________
Godkiller Gamedev streams (live sessions where I make a new puzzle game. NSFW, mature content)
youtube (archive of live streams, and some animated videos I made. Again, contains mature content.)

[Last edited by ErikH2000 at 06-06-2006 07:37 PM]
06-05-2006 at 03:19 AM
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ErikH2000
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icon Re: What I Learned In 1998 (0)  
Small correction to the above: Beethro's Teacher is issue #4--not issue #3.

-Erik

____________________________
Godkiller Gamedev streams (live sessions where I make a new puzzle game. NSFW, mature content)
youtube (archive of live streams, and some animated videos I made. Again, contains mature content.)
06-06-2006 at 07:40 PM
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