Haters Gonna Eight

There once was a little event where people from around Toronto came together to make games. It was called TOJam, and much fun was had by the participants. Years and years later, TOJam has become one of Toronto’s big, annual game development events! 2013 marks the eighth TOJam, and the third time that I’ll be attending.

I was at the first two events, back in 2006 and 2007. That first amazing year saw me complete a game called Alien Abduction! (now renamed UFO Panic), a game where you flew around another planet abducting aliens. Unfortunately, the second year saw my computer blow up on me, which resulted in much sad, and so I didn’t get anything completed. However, this year I don’t have to transport an entire desktop system from Pickering to downtown Toronto; all I need is my trusty laptop, and if I’m crazy enough I might also bring along my CRT monitor so I can rely on my usual two-monitor setup.

Almost every TOJam has had a theme, and this year is no different. The theme is “uncooperative”, and I already have a game idea for it. With any luck, I’ll be able to put together a simple tactical socialization game on a deserted island within the three days of the jam, with the help of my friend and fellow Cold Acid Entertainment developer Karl.

I’m really looking forward to it, and so are many others in the city! For the four hundred seats available, over three hundred registrations have already been sent in since the registration form opened up this morning. Goes to show you just how popular this game jam can be. I certainly hope that Karl and I will be among the lucky folks selected to attend!

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Ad Astra 2013

It’s Ad Astra this weekend, so I’ll be fairly busy. This is my sixth year of running gaming for the convention.

I have a lot of fun here, even though I’ve had my fair share of troubles managing my department. This year has been no different in that regard, but the problems I’ve faced this time around have been in the planning and preparation stages, rather than execution (so far). It boils down to two issues that should be of concern for any group project: personnel and communication.

I’ll not name names or anything, partially because I am one of the people at fault for this (not just in a “buck stops here” way either). But yeah, it is incredibly important to know who you’ll be working with and what they will be responsible for from the get-go. Even more importantly, it is necessary that team members keep multiple lines of communication open at all times, and that they communicate early and often.

For future years and future projects, I hope that I will be able to maintain this knowledge.

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Old game design documents

Every million years or so, I dig up and review some old game design treatments I wrote eons ago. They never got anywhere, not even to paper prototyping, but sometimes I still consider resurrecting them and making the games I had planned out. I got thinking about these again as I was building the new cold acid entertainment website, and figured I might as well post them here for anyone interested.

The two docs I’m posting today are for games that were tentatively titled “Valkyrie Dragon” and “Great Kingdoms”. The first was originally written around 2003, and was to be a cross between the mecha combat (a la Starsiege or Evangelion) and dating simulation genres. In short, it was Baldr Force with genetics instead of virtual reality. As for the second, it was written and tweaked over a period of time spanning 2002 through 2004, and was to be a real-time strategy where players would build their own fiefdoms (including vassal relationships to other players). This was the far more interesting (and further developed) treatment, although I determined I had neither the resources nor the inclination to follow through on developing it.

As other projects of mine either get retired or tossed on the heap of unfulfilled ideas, I might release their design documents too. In the meantime feel free to review these ancient treatments – perhaps they’ll inspire you to come up with something interesting.

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Sharing models between Windows Phone and Windows 8: An exercise in futility

Data access is hell.

I’ve been stuck on the same problem for a while now, working on MoodTracker. The problem comes down to SQL Server Compact and LINQ to SQL, and the lack of the former on Windows 8. You see, I’d like to get MoodTracker on Windows 8. However, to do so means reworking how the app does data access since SQL CE isn’t available for use in Windows 8 applications, and unfortunately, there’s absolutely no useful guidance on moving from using SQLCE-decorated model classes to a more portable solution for data access.

So here I am, working on separating my model classes from the concern of data access. And it’s not going too well. Sure, I have a portable library containing new model classes free of the attributes and various association-related classes, and I’ve moved the SQLCE-specific stuff into its own assembly. But that’s as far as things have gone. Trying to connect the dots between the model classes and the data access classes has gotten me nowhere. On a related issue, working out how to inject the DAL into the app had been troubling me, but the realization that it would be done in another platform-specific assembly has given me the clue to work that out (so long as I can work out an interface for data access that works).

I really wish there was some guidance on this, so that phone apps making use of a local database could be more easily ported to Windows 8, with a lot less fuss. If anyone has a good solution for this problem (bonus points if it’s MvvmLight friendly) please let me know!

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Good Enough versus Perfect

Voltaire fought intolerance and fanaticism, an...

Voltaire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The perfect is the enemy of the good. – Voltaire

Motivation to perform to perfection is a strong force in western society. The attitude that we have to be better than anyone else at something, to achieve perfection in our activities, has been a strong force throughout modern history, from the world’s nations down to the individuals which form their bases. And it’s seen every day in projects of all scopes and sizes.

But Voltaire left a message that should be listened to, by everyone on every project – one that is unfortunately ignored by many, to their detriment.

It’s a somewhat heretical thought: What if we don’t have to be perfect? What if we just do good enough to pass? What will that offer us instead of striving to be the best? Well, what it offers is the ability to work more efficiently and still do a proper job of it.

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