Assistant to the Lounge-About

The fun begins when you quit your day job.

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.



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 »

Le Havre – Intro —

I have started writing a new touch table game based on the board game Le Havre. Le Harve meets a lot of the criteria that I have for converting a board game. It has a long setup time and a lot of pieces are moved around during the game. It doesn’t have any hidden information and has remained popular with our gaming group for several years. It has a single player mode and plays up to five people.

There are two issues with Le Harve that might make it difficult. One is the amount of stuff that needs to be displayed on the screen: During the game, players build quite a few buildings and ships and all of those need to be on the screen. But it is also possible that they wont built anything, so the “building proposal” area also needs to be able to hold all the buildings. The other issue is that there are quite a few buildings that have special rules. In the base game, I count 18 buildings that will need some special code.

I don’t expect to be able to get rights to sell this game. Le Havre is very popular (currently #11) and the amount of money that we could offer wouldn’t be significant to the creator of the board game. However, there is a Java implementation available online already, so I hope to be able to give away the game.

To get a feel for the time involved in making a board game conversion, I am going to make a blog post for every 40 hours that I spend on the game. I’ll describe what I’ve done during that week and the current state of the game.

Conclave of Gamers —

We attended the Conclave of Gamers convention in Denver this past weekend. We brought our touch table and were joined by our friend Doug from who brought his newly built touch table. We ran all the games on both tables and had a lot of fun. We got to play all of our games including Power Grid, Fire Platoon and several rounds of Hansa Teutonica.

While this convention was considerably smaller than PAX or GenCon, it was also a lot more relaxed and the attendees were willing to spend more time at our tables. We got to meet with a couple local game developers who may be interested in having Dark Infinity write a touch table version of their games.

Conclave of Gamers








The convention was held at a hotel just a few miles from our house, so we were able to take both tables over in our car. Setup and tear down was very quick. Overall it was a great convention and we are looking forward to doing it again next year.

Contracting Job at Mercury —

In February I was contacted by Mercury, a company that I worked for five years ago, about helping them with a project. The contract would last three months and offered good pay. They caught me at a good time and I agreed to take the job, starting right after we got back from PAX East.

Beyond saying that not a government contract and involved writing a distributed message processing system in Java, I don’t really have anything interesting to say about the job itself. Except for the commute, it was better than many jobs that I have had.

I was surprised by how easily I switched back into the work routine. It made me notice some of the things that are “hard” about being retired. Not that I am complaining about being retired – it is truly a luxury. Read the rest of this entry »

PAX 2014 —

We attended PAX again this year to demonstrate our games at the Mesa Mundi booth. We had a great time playing our games with the attendees and demonstrating Fire Platoon. The Mesa Mundi booth was larger this year and we had a bigger space and a much larger table.

PAX - Waiting for the first visitors



We were on a 60″ table using the new SensaTouch IR sensor and modular wooden table frame. It did mean that we were standing all weekend, but it was actually easier than sitting and leaving over to touch the coffee-table sized screen we were on last year.

From the time the hall opened at 10, till it closed at 6, we were always busy playing games. We mostly played Pair Soup because it is super easy and cooperative. People could walk up and join a game any time. By the end of the weekend we had played 160 games of Pair Soup. That adds up to about 13 hours! We were really glad to have the new tile sets.

There was an overhead walkway above us, and many people stopped at our booth saying that they had seen the game from above and had to try it out. We also played quite a bit of Fas’Jack, Dungeon Raiders, Got It and Yacht with people who stuck around for a second or third game.

We played several games of Fire Platoon and people seemed to enjoy it. People didn’t have trouble learning the game and controls and the tablets worked well. The WiFi was much better than last year, but it was still hard for some people to connect to the game.

PAX - Fire Platoon


The other quadrants of the booth were occupied by d20 Pro; a system for running a role playing game, another game table running a fast paced competitive game called WhackIt, and a demo of the modular table system.

PAX - Modular tables PAX - d20 Pro PAX - WhackIt PAX - DISC













There are lots more pictures of PAX and a few of Boston in my gallery.


Fire Platoon postmortem —

It is a bit early for a postmortem – the game is not really complete and we haven’t released it to the public yet. But the majority of the code is done and I didn’t want to wait to capture both the things that worked well and poorly.

I’ve also been catching up on blogging about my programming projects. I’ve retroactively posted some entries to the date when I did the work. Since that makes it really hard to spot new content, here are links if you are interested:

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Adding OGG support to Torque 2D —

Prior to being released opensource, Torque 2D supported OGG and WAV files. MP3 support wasn’t included because of licensing issues with the MP3 codec. The opensource version of Torque 2D doesn’t include OGG support. So the only audio support was WAV. This is a problem because WAV is a raw format, so having audio of any length was taking up a lot of disk space. I added OGG support back to the engine and will describe the process in this post. I am not adding it back to the Git project because there are probably open source license issues that caused them to remove OGG in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »