Assistant to the Lounge-About

The fun begins when you quit your day job.

Shop Heroes —

I’ve been playing “Shop Heroes” for about a month. It’s a bit embarrassing because it isn’t a serious computer game. In fact it’s a casual browser/mobile game and it even has micro-transactions where you can pay money to speed up progress in the game. It’s the reality TV or soap opera of the computer game world. But it has managed to distill the addictive elements of casual and role playing games into a very appealing form.

ShopHeroes_Shop
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Muck —

Late last year I finished a real-time game for the touch table that I called “Muck”. It is an economic game for two to six players that plays in a half hour. The game is modeled off the board game Brass. I’ve considered converting Brass directly, but it only plays four people, it has hidden information and we really aren’t playing it much anymore.

Muck

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Year in Review – 2015 —

This is my second annual “year in review” post. It’s like a lazy Christmas card to the internet.

Overall we had a good year. We are healthy, enjoying our free time, and keeping busy making software and games for the touch table. We did a lot of traveling this year with trips to Boston, San Carlos Mexico, Essen Germany, a Mediterranean cruise and a couple trips to see family.

Mesa Mundi invited us to PAX East again this year. We stayed with the Mesa Mundi team in Sharon, so we got to spend more time hanging out with Toby, Rebecca, Laura and Matt.

In April we drove down to San Carlos Mexico to relax, enjoy the warm weather and spend some time on the beach. On the way back, we checked out the Very Large Array Radio telescope and stopped in Santa Fe and Taos. The VLA was a bit of a detour, but it was well worth the time.

To celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, we joined them on a Mediterranean cruise with my brother and his family. It lasted two weeks and we got to see a lot of interesting sites. It was also nice to spend time with brother’s family again, and the food on the cruise ship was excellent.

In October we celebrated our 42nd birthdays by doing something geeky and going to the biggest board game convention in Essen Germany. We had a lot of fun at the convention and also saw the Zollverein coal mine complex. We played and saw lots of new games and have ended up adding quite a few of them to our board game collection.

We went to Kansas for Thanksgiving and to Idalia CO for a mini family reunion in June. It had been quite a while since I had seen some of my aunts and uncles and we got to spend time with a couple cousins that I haven’t seen in years.

Along with travel and travel planning, I spent a lot of time this year writing games for the touch table. I wrote five games this year: Puerto Rico, Vegas Showdown, 7 Wonders, Caverna and Muck. Vegas Showdown was the last game that I wrote in the Torque game engine and 7 Wonders, Caverna and Muck are written in Unity. I’m enjoying working in Unity. The Unity editor is really good and makes laying out the graphics for a game much easier. It is also nice to write code in C# instead of Torquescript. Another big advantage is that the Unity community is a lot more active and there are assets and plugins that are available for Unity that can save a lot of time.

I also wrote a new version of my Timeline program for tracking major life events. I added the ability to track health metrics collected by a fitness tracker to the application.

I am still practicing the violin. I had a recital in May and stopped taking lessons in August. I may start lessons again someday, but for now I am learning on my own. We are also still hosting bi-weekly game nights with friends and have started attending a local gaming group meetup on the off week.

 

Next year will probably be a little less busy than 2015. We don’t have nearly as much travel planned. We hope to continue making touch table games. If we continue at our current pace, we will reach fifty games sometime next year.


Touch Table Caverna —

I’ve finished converting Caverna for the touch table and PC. This was the second game that I’ve made using the Unity engine. It is also my first Unity game that used touch for input and it is probably the largest game that I’ve ever converted. Space was very tight and I spent a lot of time laying out the graphics:

Caverna is a game for one to seven players by Uwe Rosenberg. It is a worker placement game where you manage the farm and cave dwelling for a family of dwarfs. The game is similar to Agricola where the occupations and improvements are replaced with rooms which are available to everyone and there is a new expedition mechanic.

The game is a lot of fun to play, but it takes 30-45 minutes per player and there are lots of pieces to move around. My goal for this conversion was to speed up the play time as much as possible. I’m also hoping that the single player is as much fun as the single player version of Le Havre.

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Anniversary Cruise —

We took a cruise of the Black sea and Mediterranean with my parents and my brother’s family to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was a 14 day cruise with stops in Greece, Istanbul, Bulgaria, Romania, Valletta, Sicily and Italy. The ship docked at a new port most days, and we would either tour on our own or take a tour organized by the ship. We got back on board for dinner as a group each night and the ship moved on to the next port while we slept.

It was a great trip and it was very nice to have time with my family. I’ve posted a bunch of pictures here.

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Timeline —

I’ve been working on a new software project that I’m going to call “Timeline”. When I first learned C#, I wrote a simpler timeline program that I’ve used to keep track of “big” events like houses, vacations, jobs and projects. After getting the Jawbone fitness tracker, I wanted to add that data to my timeline program.

Instead of just adding that to my existing program, I decided to re-write the program to be more flexible. I wanted to be able to have events with child events and to “tag” people in events instead of having a copy of the event on each person.

The program is complete and I am currently submitting it to freeware sites. I didn’t release my first timeline program because it wasn’t able to handle incorrect inputs and it wasn’t very intuitive to use. I am going to release this version, so I’ve made the program more robust.

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Microsoft Windows Text-to-Speech for Unity —

I’ve made a wrapper around the Windows-only Microsoft Speech API for use in Unity. The Microsoft Speech API is a Windows COM capability that first appeared in windows Vista. It is an easy way to get text to speech in a windows application.

This post will go through the steps of making the C++ DLL and the C# behavior for Unity. If you don’t care about the “how” and just want to use the plugin skip to the end for the download and usage instructions.

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