Monthly Archives: August 2013

#17 Gamescom 2013

Originally I wanted to go to the Gamescom in Cologne on Saturday, but unfortunately the tickets for Saturday were sold out. Since I already have plans for tomorrow (Friday), I decided to go today. As an additional incentive, I knew that the masterminds behind Chip Power Play would be at Gamescom today as well.

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The event is running from 10 in the morning to 8 in the evening. I arrived at around 16:30, which meant I only had to pay half the regular admission price. As you can see, it was still quite busy.

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First I headed to the retro gaming area – nice shirt, dude! For any of the new releases it was standard to queue for hours in order to play for a few minutes. In the retro area long lines weren’t really a problem.

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Chip Power Play

Eventually I found the “Haus der Computerspiele” booth, with the old games magazines on display.

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The chip power play journalists were there. From left to right: Sebastian Sponsel, Stephan Freundorfer, Heinrich Lenhardt, Michael Hengst, Boris Schneider-Johne and Anatol Locker.

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It was a pleasure to finally meet all of them, after reading their magazine as a kid and then finding and listening to their excellent computer game focussed podcast “Spieleveteranen” (apart from the occasional special episode, it’s entirely in German) as an adult. I hope I did not annoy them too much with my fanboy ranting – the podcast really is excellent, especially when there are guests like Smudo or Guido Henkel.

Talks

Apart from trying new games, there are also talks at Gamescom. I happened to walk by when Naoki Yoshida, the Producer and Director of Final Fantasy XIV, talked about the latest Final Fantasy in front of a massive audience.

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At some other stage near the retro area some guy told a story how he used to play Paradroid on his C64. Next year I should have a look at the talks and pick the interesting ones to attend.

The Titan Fall trailer looks impressive and so does this huge mech that they had on display.

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The head with the lights actually moved around. I thought that was pretty cool.

Starcraft 2 show matches

Eventually I ended up at the Blizzard section of the Gamescom. I caught the last part of a series of show matches between WhiteRa and LiquidRet.

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WhiteRa is one of the only (perhaps even the only?) professional Starcraft 2 players that is older than 30 years. Hats off for still being able to compete with the young ones! In the matches, I learnt a few new things: WhiteRa kept his sentries in the mineral line at his 2nd expansion, so that he could force field block incoming zerglings. LiquidRet eventually moved spore crawlers across the map, which I did not understand, until the commentator mentioned that the vipers are able to leech off health from buildings to replenish their energy.

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It was also very cool to see them switch races for the last game.

Hearthstone

Unfortunately the line for Blizzard’s new game Hearthstone was too long, so I did not get to try it. From what I have seen during Day[9]’s Day off, it looks a bit like Magic the Gathering. They’ve fixed a few issues that Magic had: For example, in Magic you need to draw land. Land produces mana, which is the currency that allows you to cast spells. If you don’t draw land, then you basically just lose the game, better luck next time. In Hearthstone, you always increase your currency to cast spells by one each turn, so this unnecessary luck element has been removed.

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Because Magic started out as a card game, the computer version feels clunky, since you have to wait for an opponent’s reaction to things you do. In Hearthstone, they’ve removed this interrupt ability, so that you can play through your turn in one go. The only way to interact during the opponet’s turn seems to be with so called secret spells that trigger when your opponent does a specific action as described by the secret spell. Those are just two things that came to mind, there are probably more improvements they’ve come up with by not being constrained with traditional cards. Day[9]’s demo certainly looked interesting, so I’ll check it out once it is released.

The verdict

The Gamescom did not impress me as much as the Spiel in Essen does, but it was interesting enough that I’ll come back next year to take another look and hopefully try one of the new releases that they are showing.

#16 Sword & Laser anthology submission

Today, Veronica Belmont announced that the Sword & Laser anthology entries have been picked. The Sword & Laser people have received about a thousand submissions and picked twenty. Unfortunately my story did not make it into the top 2%.

After revisiting it, there are a lot of things I’d write differently, but it is too late now. Nevertheless, if you are interested in the story, here is a PDF version: Urban Genie PDF

On a whim, I have also decided to create an audio version of it. I hope you don’t mind the accent and the occasional mispronounced word too much ;)

MP3 audio file

Reading it out loud helped me identify awkward sections, so perhaps I should use that method during the revision phase.

Onward to the next project!

#15 Nike is right

I am, of course, referring to Nike’s slogan “just do it.” This is good advice, but somehow easier said than done. Listed below are a few things that complicate “just doing it”. I’ve included some advice (or rather, for the most part, links to other people’s advice) to tackle these challenges.

Analysis paralysis

People get caught up with weighing the pros and cons of different ways of dealing with a problem. Most of the time, figuring things out in detail to choose the optimal course of action isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s only going to cost a lot of time, without contributing to the solution.

In part 3 of day[9] daily #342 Sean Plott advocates being more resolute. Around the 8 minute mark he states that he spends very little time in this deliberation mode and that in his opinion it is better to decide to do something than it is to figure out what the best solution of two different options is. If you have a moment, go watch the entire daily, as there is more awesome stuff in there, for example his take on the benchmark he uses in all walks of life (at around 14 minutes).

Seemingly herculean tasks

Most things look daunting when viewed in their entirety. When faced with a huge challenge, it is easy to despair. Procrastination is not so much a sign of laziness, but rather avoidance of what seems to be an impossible task. The late Randy Pausch lectured on the subject of time management. Not all of his advice proved to be useful for me, for example the four quadrant to do list does not work for me – interestingly enough, he mentions in the same talk that he does not use the four quadrant to do list either. His tip to split big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and to start with the ugliest one of those is spot on, though.

Jumping back and forth between tasks

This used to happen to me a lot – I would have so many things on my to do list that I felt I was neglecting important tasks, while working on one of the items. I switched between different things, which resulted in none of them getting properly done. It is much better to prioritise the to do list and then to tick things off one by one. In order to facilitate that, I found it useful to devote dedicated time slots to certain things, so that I can shut out all distractions and focus on one task. Case in point, we are at a certain bakery/coffee house for the Thursday writing sessions and every Saturday I’m at the library to write my novel.

To summarize

When you need to get something done, don’t spend too much time weighing the pros and cons of different options; don’t deliberate. Split up the task into smaller, easier to handle portions. Find a time and place to work on these tasks without interruptions.

See you next time,

Kai

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