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The Bag of Holding

New layout = the suck.

Posted by , 23 November 2005 - - - - - - · 430 views

Warning: whining and ranting ahead.

I'm going to have to register my complete and utter hatred of the new look. There seems to be a lot of "you're just not used to it yet" going around, which frankly (as far as I'm concerned) is crap. I'm a virtually certified change addict, and I hate this change. I'm the kind of person who rearranges all of my desktop icons and start menu shortcuts on a weekly basis. I refactor my projects recreationally, the way most people smoke or drink. Change is not a problem. Changing to s**t, however, is a problem, and we seem to have been afflicted by it. Powerfully.

Complaint 1: Drunk clowns and paint cans
Bright colors... cheezy blue-and-silver "theme"... icons that seem to have been taken into a back alley and violated repeatedly by the same sick freak that did the artwork for Windows XP... this thing has all the hallmarks of a weekend website project mucked together by some two-bit hack in his basement. I know that's not really the case, but it sure as heck feels like it.

I've always liked GDNet because it seemed like more than that - like something a bunch of dedicated, serious people got together, and really turned into something great. Now I feel like I'm posting on some mass-market cheapass spam repository. I've read the rationale from Khawk; frankly I don't buy it. Remembering things better because of colors? I'd think more about the validity of that concept, but my BS-o-meter is already overheating, and I'd hate to risk a meltdown.

Bottom line: silver and blue is the most overdone, pathetic cliche in the world of web theming. Period. I like sites with character and atmosphere. Now we have this godawful sterile, "professional" (oh freaking please), we're-scared-of-being-different conformist reek. It reminds me of corporate suits who crap their pants whenever anyone so much as thinks about challenging the status quo. I want to come here and be reminded of midnight coding marathons, of hackers striving in their lairs to push the frontiers of gaming... I don't want to be reminded of suits, ties, sport coats, and power lunches.

Complaint 2: #&#%!@ dropdown menus
I don't know why it is that "web designers" get so hot and bothered over dropdown menus. I f***ing hate them. HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE. They are stupid, pointless, and reek of whiz-bang fad-ism. They also inhibit my browsing style. I like to shift+click a lot of links and browse in multiple windows; dropdown, scripted menus preclude this in most cases. It's fairly rare in my experience for anyone to implement dropdown menus in a manner that handles this nicely. GDNet has now joined the ranks of Those Who Done It Wrong.

The usual excuse I hear for this pablum is that it "conserves vertical space." Dammit, people, scrollbars are your friends. This change didn't even do much for space; there's maybe 20 pixels saved over the old layout, at the expense of easy accessibility, and at the expense of having an efficient-looking layout. Every graphics designer in the world is crying over this right now.

Dropdowns are also "mystery meat navigation." This is BAD. Why is GDNet Gathering under Community and Jourals under Members? That's arbitrary, counter-intuitive, and just plain poor. The goofy column names from the old layout were excusable because the column names didn't obscure the content (links); the names didn't convey any useful information, so they could be ignored. Now, they both fail to convey useful information, and they both conceal the useful information while making it harder to access.

Please, guys, go buy some books on doing good web design (and good content design in general) and learn some things. Hiding your links under menus is NOT COOL, no matter how hip, trendy, and 21st century it makes you feel. Warm fad fuzzies do not compensate for a botched user experience.

Complaint 3: Bandwaggoning
This looks like every other forum engine out there now. That's not a good thing. I liked the GDNet forums because they were unique, different, self-made; they didn't stink of cookie-cutter freebie engines that someone downloaded and installed (without changing the theme) to run their Ub3r Aw3s0m3 INT4RW3BN3T SIT3.

More than anything else, this change feels like a bureaucratic conformalist wank. My honest impression is that someone in upper management can't get it up unless the product looks just like the competition, and God himself forbid that we show any gumption in being different. The problem is, I know that's not how GDNet works, and so I'm left confused as to how this horrible mistake was allowed to happen in the first place.

This is a different kind of site from any other, with different kinds of people and different content. Looking different was part of the old site's attitude, part of the experience. It said that we're here, we're not owned by billion-dollar media congolmerates, and we've got enough testicular fortitude to not have to copy everyone else's cliche designs.

Sure, a lot of people disliked the old look, and a lot of people so far seem to like the new look. So let's have some options here - and no, the www2 hack does not count, especially since it doesn't work.

I have returned. Again. Or something.

Posted by , 22 November 2005 - - - - - - · 336 views

As promised, I've updated the shrine with the X³ US pics. Behold all of the awesome.

And then of course there's the gaming peripherals:
Toys make me happy

From left to right, we have:
- My old knock-off, off brand PC Propad. I never actually got to play any games with this, because it only has two trigger buttons, and all the games that supported gamepads expected four back in the day. The 15-pin gameport connector also went out of fashion shortly after I got the thing.

- Logitech Rumblepad2. Essentially a clone of the PS2 controller, except with a vanilla USB connector. It's comfortable, but it isn't my preferred method of gaming.

- Saitek P2500 Rumble Force pad. This thing is awesome. It just sits in your eager, trembling hands like a craven plastic block of might, jittering with massive energy waiting to be unleashed. I'm starting to do a lot of gaming with this, especially when playing Final Fantasy.

- Gravis Destroyer Aftershock. Trusty joystick, nice rumble pack, fairly decent for what it does. I've used it happily for a number of years, since my cheap gameport joystick died a while back. It was the first USB device I ever owned. For a long time, I was stoically convinced that no joystick could ever be better (after all, if there was anything better, I would own it... right?).

- Saitek Cyborg Evo. This thing is beautiful. It has all kinds of nifty glowy things, and little gears and knobs and such so you can adjust it to fit the shape and position of your hand. Excellent tactile response on the springs and the buttons (although the buttons are just a hair too spongy for my tastes) and a generally really cool looking profile to boot. My only regret is that I thought I had bought the force-feedback edition, but sadly not. Such is the way of things.

Happy Juice
Happy Juice
This is another little bit of awesome. Apparently, E3 attendees were randomly selected for a market test of the new Mountain Dew MDX drink that was just released. Several months ago, I got a package in the mail with a nice silvery box in it, which contained six cans like the one you see here. The fifth, depicted, was enjoyed last night. I'm keeping the last one unopened just for the heck of it, plus a couple of the regular empties.

It's actually fairly different from the final version of MDX, which makes it that much cooler, since it's not just the same old stuff in a shiny can. Of course, the shiny can makes it that much better.

So there you have it. Now I'm done rotting your brain and assaulting your eyes. Go do something productive, like scare small children and take their candy solve world hunger.

Life, the Universe, and Everything. Or not.

Posted by , 21 November 2005 - - - - - - · 342 views

January cannot come soon enough.

I've been spending a lot of time this week sleeping and just generally goofing around with my flatmate. Our current project is to play through Final Fantasy III (which I've done, but he hasn't) and then FFVII (which he's done, but I haven't). Beer, Pizza, and old school gaming - that is how it should be.

Every now and then I've been clocking in a few minutes to work on the next update for X³: Reunion, although not a lot of that has been going on. I did pick up a couple of joypads to test with the game, bringing my total collection of peripherals to a Saitek gaming keyboard, a Saitek Cyborg Evo joystick, a Gravis Destroyer Aftershock joystick, a Logitech Extreme 3D joystick (which, thanks to the wankers at eCost.com, I do not actually possess yet), a Saitek P2500 joypad, and a Logitech Rumble Force 2 joypad. I'll have to edit in some pics of the goodness later.

When we went out trolling for the joypads, I came across some copies of X³ in the wild:

Best Buy sells The Awesome Walmart sells The Awesome

That's pretty cool to see. Naturally I had to pick up a copy on CD to fill out the shrine; I'll update that with pics later, too.

For now I'm stuck in my office, writing application code, and debugging weird quirks with rolling timestamps and PHP's mktime() function. Only two and a half more days this week (turkey! woot.), then four more weeks, and I'm out of here to go full time at Egosoft.

January cannot come soon enough.

Work, work

Posted by , 14 November 2005 - - - - - - · 351 views

I'm sorry to disappoint all of you morbid freaks who I know were just itching to hear about me getting brutally dismembered, but I'm back. The trip was long, boring, and essentially uneventful.

The only real highlight worth mentioning was that we held the 8 Bit Theater "Welcome to Corneria" / "I like swords!" exchange for one hour and fifteen minutes. That's right, eighty miles of incessant geek drivel.

It feels good to accomplish something meaningful with my life.


Posted by , 11 November 2005 - - - - - - · 340 views

Well, the Spectral Samurai's car has finally and utterly died. Being naturally tired of it dying repeatedly over the past two years, he's getting rid of the car entirely. This leaves us with only one car, which is a slightly problematic situation for people who are supposed to be sharing a flat.

So the plan is I'm going to go to Virginia pick him (and his crap) up this weekend and haul us all back down here to Atlanta. Should be a good weekend.

Have fun without me - and don't despair! I shall return next week to assault you with endless verbosity and drivel. There might even be some more blurry pictures in it if you're good and go to bed on time.

I am not a photographer - but look at 'em anyways

Posted by , 09 November 2005 - - - - - - · 414 views

I'm going to have to do three things here which I was not expecting to do. First, I'm going to post two entries within a few hours of each other, which for some reason makes me feel dirty. Second, I'm going to post a short journal entry. This definitely makes me feel dirty. Finally, I'm going to actually post something about, y'know, me doing game development. That does not make me feel dirty, even though maybe it should. I am now confused.

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present: More Blurry Camera Phone Pictures. Also known as The X Shrine, a tribute to the best games ever.

Observational gallimaufry

Posted by , 09 November 2005 - - - - - - · 314 views

Observation One: NDAs make for boring journals
I originally planned to start this journal to record, y'know, game development and such. So last night I was thinking about why I have yet to actually post much about, y'know, me developing games. Today it finally dawned on me: I never post anything here, because all of the interesting stuff I work in is covered by a few really tight NDAs.

I really don't know why that never occurred to me before, but now it has. I'll see if I can pull some strings and get some NDA-slack to talk about some of the less sensitive programming and other work that I do.

Observation Two: The "Helldesk" is Aptly Named
So the tech support/IT/helpdesk guy is off this week for maternity leave (just to clarify, his wife actually had the baby, not him). That leaves me as the only person in the office who isn't management and is here often enough to answer the phones. To their (somewhat marginal) credit, the management does answer a few calls while I go and stretch my lunch hour out as much as I can, but it's still mainly my curse to bear.

Observation Three: Office politics are The Suck
This is only annoying because helldesk duty tends to fall to me pretty much all the time for various reasons these days, and I'm already under a lot of fire for being "behind" on my current project. Now, for some perspective, my project team consists of me. The schedule was written up in ten minutes on a whiteboard by the management - without consulting me. So in essence I've got a set of totally random dates and a bunch of deliverables that are due on each of those dates. Suffice it to say that the schedule is in no way possible, and I get to hear about it. A lot. I've attempted repeatedly to explain that the schedule was too incredibly arbitrary and contrived to even be remotely meaningful, and that in light of the major rewrite that I'd been telling the management I needed to do for the last four months, the final deadline really should have been about six weeks later than it was. Apparently this is "understood" but not really processed by said management, as we have yet to actually revise the schedule in any way. I'm currently working on tasks for an interim "beta" release that was due four days ago.

Or at least, I would be if I could get a solid ten minutes without having to answer the phone.

Observation Four: The C2.com wiki is hazardous to your health
About the only thing that's kept me sane is idly browsing the C2.com wiki while listening to inane questions. Unfortunately there's just far too much good stuff on there, and naturally I'd much rather read it than explain for the dozenth time to someone what a serial number is for.

Observation Five: Knowledge organization and retrieval is an unsolved problem
The Wiki concept is really cool, but it lacks something that I personally wish for on a daily basis: a reliable, high-level overview. I'm a sucker for hierarchies and trees and nested lists and all that good stuff, and Wiki is not really designed for that. I'm sure that some kind of metadata engine could be tacked on to make the Wiki thing much more accessible at a high level, but somehow I suspect that wouldn't work nicely.

The keywords concept is nice if you know the right keywords. If you don't, you get NamelessConcept syndrome, which is a pain in the posterior.

And of course the existing hierarchical trees of knowledge organization just plain suck (witness exhibit A, the Yahoo Directory).

I'm thinking there has to be a better way, but I can't think too much about what it might be, because I have to think about explaining serial numbers.

Observation Six: Sleep is weird (redux)
My sleeping patterns are now totally borked. I'm fine during most of the daylight hours, but I seem to be on some kind of aharmonic, chaotic pattern where I'll randomly either be wide awake all night or fall asleep at 7 PM. Sometimes both will occur in a single night. It's very surreal but kind of entertaining at the same time.

Observation Seven: "Redux" is a weird word
There's something about that word which bugs me. At one time I took a half-serious oath never to use it in conversation or writing, but I'm a soulless bastard so I just did. Twice.

I'm gonna burn for sure.

Observation Eight: I HATE SERIAL NUMBERS
In case it wasn't already plain.

Observation Nine: Programming expands your vocabulary
Case in point: I learned the word "gallimaufry" from Dan Appleman. I think I still have his Guide to the Windows API for Visual Basic Programmers laying around someplace.

Observation Ten: I've made a lot of dumb observations here
That one should be self-explanatory. The writing of this collection of inanity has been continually interrupted by additional opportunities to explain serial numbers. Again.

Observation Eleven: I write long and primarily pointless journal entries
Again, self-explanatory. Are you bored yet?

Inane Factoid #47582

Posted by , 03 November 2005 - - - - - - · 354 views

Smokey Bones has awesome chocolate peanut butter pie.

I'd talk more about how awesome it is, but at the moment I'm feeling the distinct need to crawl into a dark corner and sleep it off for about a week.

[update] I have developed a theory. I believe that pie is a form of antimatter for code - an antithought as it were. This pie seems to be utterly destroying every trace of code that I might have been able to produce this afternoon, while simultaneously producing a heck of a lot of energy.

Yeah, it's a slow day.

Tome of Navel Gazing +3

Posted by , 30 October 2005 - - - - - - · 358 views

I've made a terrible mistake. I read the Newspaper Comics thread in the Lounge. Specifically, I got thinking about Calvin and Hobbes. Now it is worth noting that I recognized the fake end-of-series strip immediately as a hoax, not because I've seen it before but because I basically grew up glued to that strip. Heck, a few of my parents' coworkers actually called me Calvin when I was little.

Anyways, the mistake that I've made is getting nostalgic. I've always had a very weird soft spot for nostalgia. I used to read through my Calvin and Hobbes collection in afternoons and on weekends, and have sort of mini-marathons where I'd just chain-read for days on end until I cycled through the entire set. Like Calvin, I used to love getting sick because it meant I could lay around and read comic books all day. Whenever I finished one of those marathons, I'd get into a deeply depressed mood, sometimes lasting multiple days.

I never really thought about it until one year I did the same thing with the Lord of the Rings series. I started with The Hobbit, and basically did very little but read until I finished The Return of the King. Of course, being a complete geek, I went through all of the appendices, supplemental maps, and even a decent chunk of the Silmarillion before I quit.

It took me almost a week to recover from that. The euphoric joy of reading, being caught up in some other world, doing grand adventurous deeds was more than just palpable to me; it was something to care about. Leaving that world wasn't just a matter of wishing it wasn't over; closing the cover of the book didn't mean returning to real life - it meant killing a set of friends that I'd become attached to.

Over time I've seen a pattern develop. It's not just a matter of getting lost in some fantasy world that I know I can never truly inhabit. It's more than being attached to memories or things. "Sentimental value" has absolutely nothing on me - I've got things in my possession going back to when I was born. I've kept stuff unopened from so long ago I can't even remember getting it - but all things holy forbid that I get rid of it.

We moved a lot when I was a kid, and I hated every move because inevitably mom or dad would come in to my room with a big box and say something along the lines of "figure out what you don't want to keep." Without fail, when they came back, there'd only be two or three things in that box - most of them sneakily pilfered from various trash bins around the house. I couldn't throw stuff away, and to a large extent I still have a very hard time doing it. Maybe now and then I'll get rid of the receipts I know I'll never look at.

A long time ago, I got drawn into games because they had many of the same effects as good books. The immersion, the exploration, the experience of something else has always been a very powerful force for me. I recently reflected that I don't think I've ever genuinely played a game until I was sick of it - almost invariably, the reasons I stopped playing were practical ones. I can still name a long string of games in my collection that I don't feel like I ever truly managed to wring dry. I'm beginning to wonder if I ever will. I don't much like that thought.

There was something else about games, though; something more personal. When I first started gaming, I couldn't write or draw worth much, so my favorite media for expressing imagination were out. But this - this game thing - I could do games. One of the most vivid memories I have of anything is sitting on my dad's lap in front of the family's 386, using the DOS-SHELL editor to look at some of the data files for Commander Keen. Ever since then, I've simply known that I've got to make games.

I still can't draw, and I've never been much good at writing. But I still hold on to the hope of making games. I've actually started doing it, and if things go well, I'll be doing it full-time and gleefully at the beginning of the year. I still don't really truly understand my sentimental streak - and maybe I never will - but now I know what to do with it.

Because all I've ever really wanted to do is share that nostalgia, and inspire those kinds of feelings for other people.

Wallace and Grommit : Cheesy Good Fun

Posted by , 28 October 2005 - - - - - - · 309 views

Just got back in a while ago from seeing Wallace and Grommit in the Curse of the Wererabbit. That movie is without doubt the most absolutely hilarious thing I've seen in a very, very long time.

Anyone with a decent (read: British) sense of humor owes it to themselves to see this movie at least once.

"We'll call him.... Hutch!"

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