Assistant to the Lounge-About

The fun begins when you quit your day job.

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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Violin Recital 4 —

I am preparing for my fourth violin recital. I am going to be playing the second and third movement of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. The “Four Seasons” is a very popular song, but people are most familiar with the first part of Spring. The part that I am playing is less famous, but still fairly popular. The “Four Seasons” is intended to evoke the seasons of the year in the listener, and the music even has little descriptive notes describing what is happening. In the second movement of summer, is is a hot afternoon and a shepherd is trying to sleep through the approaching thunderstorm. In the third movement, the storm has arrived and there is thunder, wind, and hail.

Here is a recording of me practicing for the recital. I have another week to practice, but I’ve already been working on this movement for five weeks, so this is about as good as it is going to get. I am playing at 92 beats per minute while professionals would play at 120 beats per minute. Some parts of this piece sound significantly better at full speed, and while I can play at nearly full speed, I make more mistakes. At the recital, there will be piano accompaniment which should help.

Edit (post recital): The recital went fairly well. We didn’t do a warm-up period; so the recital was shorter, but it was a bit harder to play without the warm-up session. I was a bit less nervous than at the prior recitals and played a bit better. This was the first year where I made it through the piece without having to stop to recover from a mistake.
I brought my camera along and got some video of some of the students to provide a feeling for what the experience is like. The final performance is by the teacher.

Edit 2: I was wrong about not improving much more in the final week. With another week (probably 15 hours) of practice I did get a bit faster and more consistent. I think that some of the tricky parts are a bit cleaner too. I’ve replaced the original practice video with on that I recorded the day after the recital. Sorry about the bad focus on the new video.