Assistant to the Lounge-About

The fun begins when you quit your day job.

Year In Review – 2014 —

I don’t mail out a Christmas card, but I’d like to provide a brief summary of my year to family and friends who I haven’t gotten to see this year. I also enjoy doing a bit of reflection at the end of a year.

It felt like a busy year, and I think it is because of all the travel that we did:

  • In March we went to Effingham Illinois for my Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary.
  • We took the scenic Amtrak train ride from Denver to Glenwood Springs with Bill’s parents for spring break. (Photos)
  • We took a two week tour of England, Ireland and Scotland with my parents in September. (Photos)
  • In December we went to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding and took in a couple museums. (Photos)

We also went to two game conventions promoting our touch table software. In April we went to Boston for our second PAX with Mesa Mundi. We enjoyed the convention and getting to see all the Mesa Mundi people again. In July we brought our own touch table to the Conclave of Gamers convention which was held at a nearby hotel. This was the first time we have done a convention without Mesa Mundi. This convention was less busy, but the attendees stayed at the tables longer and we got to try a bigger variety of games.

In January we had a wedding reception game day to celebrate our legal marriage last year in New York. The wedding was a civil ceremony with just my brother and his wife as our witnesses, so this game day gave our friends and my parents a chance to celebrate with us. It felt strange to have a wedding reception after being together for so long, but it is nice to be recognized by our government, and I had a lot fun that day and appreciated the well wishes.

Right after getting back from PAX in April, I started a short term contracting job that lasted through June. Before this job, Bill and I created Fire Platoon. After the contracting job ended, I wrote Le Havre and Puerto Rico while Bill learned the Unity game engine and wrote High Score, Pair Soup and started on a space racing game.

In February I had my third violin recital. We hosted it at our house and invited my parents. I have been playing for five and half years and the rate of improvement has slowed way down. But is it more fun to play now, and I am still trying to practice daily. In August I fractured my shoulder in a biking accident and couldn’t really play for two months.

Overall we had a good year. We didn’t make it down to Mexico this year, so that will be a goal for 2015. Hopefully we will also get to spend a little time with my brother and his family next year.


Touch table Puerto Rico —

My touch table conversion of Puerto Rico is complete. As usual, I will continue to work on the game, but it is mostly done. There are probably still some bugs to fix and some of the animations should be cleaned up. The game is for two to five players and seems to play quite a bit faster on the table.

PuertoRico

Unfortunately the owners of Puerto Rico (Alea), aren’t willing to give me permission to distribute the game. I have also talked to the creator of Tropic Euro, and they have given me permission to make a version of their game. It would take a little work to convert Puerto Rico into Tropic Euro, but then I could release the game.

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Chicago —

We went to Chicago for my Cousin’s wedding last weekend. We spent an extra day in town and went to the Field museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Baha’i house of worship.

Both museums were good. We particularly enjoyed the huge model train at the museum of science and the working labs at the field museum.

Photos are here.


Trip to the UK and Ireland —

We went to the UK and Ireland with my parents this September. We started and ended in London and took in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. It was a good trip and we saw a lot of the countries. We also had excellent weather: We had a couple foggy days and got rained on once. But that is great for the UK in September.

We took a tour instead of traveling on our own. I’ll have another post about that. There is also a full gallery of the pictures that I took and a map of our travel path.

Our tour started in London. London was probably my favorite city because it has an impressive density of attractions and sites and is easy to get around. You can see Westminster Abbey, Westminster palace, Big Ben and the London Eye from one spot.

 

If you walk for five minutes you pass 10 Downing street, the Horse Guards, several war memorials and arrive at Trafalgar square. The National Gallery is right there, and you are another five minutes from Buckingham Palace and the Royal Society or the British museum. Plus, there are lots of old buildings and historical markers.

Our tour included a driving tour of the city and the tour guide could barley keep up describing the sites that we passed on the bus. On this tour we got to see some of the more famous modern buildings, the Tower of London, and the Tower bridge.

The museums have some impressive artifacts. We especially liked the Rosetta stone and the clock display in the British museum and both Leonardo da Vince’s notebook and Mozart’s ‘Summary of works’ in the British Library. The British Museum as a huge collection of artifacts from other countries. It is really amazing the amount of stuff they took and haven’t given back.

 

The single site that I was most eager to see was Stonehenge, and I was not disappointed. In fact it was a bit cooler than I anticipated. They have made changes to the site within the past year to move the parking away from the site and make it more peaceful. Between that and the large radius ring that people are allowed into, you could get away from the crowds and noise and enjoy the site.

 

At Bath we saw the reconstructed Roman baths. The neatest thing here were the “curses”. If you were robbed or wronged by someone (especially if you didn’t know who did it), you could write your complaint on a lead sheet and throw it into the water to ask the gods to punish them.

In Cardiff, we took a tour of Cardiff castle. We ended up touring the portion that were renovated in the early 1800s by the local coal baron. The baron (John Stewart) had good taste, the decorations were lavish and everything was still in good shape. Some highlights were the children’s room with fairy tales painted on the walls, the smoking room with game tables, and the dining room where the table was setup to allow live grape vines to be brought in so that diners could have fresh grapes off the vine for dessert.

 

We spent a few days in Ireland before we arrived in Dublin, mostly looking at scenery. We had a nice history tour in Waterford, drove around the Ring of Kerry, took a cruise on the Beara peninsula, and kissed the Blarney stone. The highlight of this period was visiting a demonstration farm where they showed life for an Irish farmer before the potato famine. We got to see peat, their poitin still, and the houses. We ate a traditional meal of lamb stew and brown bread and tried Poitín.

 

In Dublin we saw the Guinness brewery with the tour (very overcrowded) and happened into an Octoberfest. We saw Trinity college with the Book of Kels and the long room that was used for some library scenes in Harry Potter. We went to Kilmainham Gaol and the Little Museum of Dublin where we learned a bunch of Ireland’s history. There was a great quote at the prison: “If the prison does not underbid the slum in human misery, the slum will empty and the prison will fill.” We did a couple of geo-caches and I went to a “Musical Pub Crawl” which was a mix of music and Irish musical history lesson.

Back in England we went to Liverpool. The tour took us to a bunch of Beatles stuff, but there were also a lot of cool buildings. The best was the modern (1970s) Gothic style Anglican cathedral made of red sandstone.

It took a full day of travel to get up to Edinburgh in Scotland. On the way we took a nice boat ride on Windermere lake. In Edinburgh was toured the castle, walked up Scott Monument for views of the city, and toured the Royal Yacht Britannia. The Yacht was used by the Queen for vacations and had a cool room of gifts the Queen received on her travels. It was also interesting to see the vast differences in the bedrooms of the Queen, officers and crewmen.

In Edinburgh we had our most interesting meal of the trip at “Amber” by the castle. They had an extensive (350) Scottish whiskey selection and we both tried one. We learned that the smokey Scottish whiskey gets the smokey flavor from using peat to heat the mash. We also tried Haggis; it could be mistaken for ground beef or mild ground lamb. For dessert we had a whiskey whipped cream with raspberry.

On the way back south to London we stopped at York and saw a chunk of Hadrian’s wall. The part that we saw was small, but it was still neat to see something nearly 2000 years old. At York we toured the old town and saw the impressive cathedral. The next day we stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s birthplace and Warwick castle. At the castle we saw them fire the world’s largest trebuchet. The last stop before London was in Oxford. We saw the deposit library on campus, the Bodleian, and toured one of the colleges (Brasnose).

 

Back in London we took in the London Eye, Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert museum and the Natural History museum. The Tate has a lot of art that we liked and the Natural History museum is housed in an impressive building with a cool main hall. We also walked around Hyde park and checked out Harrod’s department store.


 

On our last day in London we went out to the Greenwich Observatory where the prime meridian is located. We toured the museum there and saw the telescopes used to make transit observations. We stood with one foot in each hemisphere and found the spot about 100 meters away where GPS registers zero. They are off because GPS uses an oblate earth model, so the only place where the GPS meridian and the original meridian line up are at the equator and poles.

We traveled back to the Tower of London on a Thames river boat and walked around the tower. They are doing a WW I commemoration right now where the Tower moat is filled with one red poppy for each service member who died in the war.


LeHavre – Complete —

My touch table conversion of Le Havre is complete. I am sure there are a few more bugs out there, and there might even be some enhancements I decide to add, but we have played several games and it is working well. We have particularly enjoyed the single player game. With one player, the game becomes an optimization puzzle since other players can’t disrupt your plans.

LeHavre384Score01SeptCapture

 

Unfortunately the owners of Le Havre (lookout-games), aren’t willing to give me permission to distribute the game. I had hoped that they would since there is already a free Java version available online. But it sounds like they may have given an exclusive electronic license to someone else.

Read on for a comparison of this project to some of our other games and a bit of a postmortem.

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Le Havre – Week 3 —

With a total of 120 hours of work, I am happy to say that Le Havre is playable. There is still a lot of testing, bug fixing, and polish to do; but I’ve played through a full game.

Main progress this week:

  • All the building actions for the normal and special buildings
  • End game

I am still expecting another 40 hours or so of work on this game. I’d like to have quite a few more sound effects and player prompts and some better animation for resources being paid/received. And once beta testing starts, I’ll have usability improvements to make too.

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Le Havre – Week 2 —

I have put another 40 hours of work into the touch table conversion of Le Havre, so it is time for an update. In the first week, I did a lot of work with the graphics and layout of the game to make sure that the game would fit onto one screen. In the second week, I have been making the game play.

Here are the progress highlights:

  • Created graphics for player areas, offers, supply tiles and added animation of buildings and resources.
  • Incorporated the timeline engine and added save/load and undo to the engine.
  • Built the main menu: players can join, choose their color, pick options and start the game.
  • Player area replication code.
  • Added the “take offer”, “end turn”, “end round”, “buy building”, “repay loan” moves.
  • Added the scoreboard and scoring logic (except end game bonuses).
  • Created “feed workers” and “pay interest” dialogs.

The big things left to do are: all the buildings, end game. I feel like I am about half done with this project. We will see how accurate that estimate is. When estimating for a client, I always double my gut feel (and that is usually still too short). So I probably have another 3-5 weeks of work to go.

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Le Havre – Week 1 —

I’ve spent about 40 hours working on Le Havre. About half of that time has been spent planning screen layouts and designing graphics for the buildings and ships. Bill came up with the idea to draw all the buildings (even the ones built by the players) in the center area. This keeps the player areas very small and leaves almost all of the screen space for the “town”.

Even with that idea, the space is still quite tight. I’ve had to create a different view of the buildings and ships for each “mode” that they are going to be displayed in to limit their size.

My main accomplishment this week has been coming up with a screen layout that will be able to display everything that the players need to see, and a design of the ships and buildings that will fit into that layout. I am now fairly confident that it will be possible to play this game on the touch table.

Here is the basic layout: Town Read the rest of this entry »