Not sure who the King was

Game: The King’s Bird

Developer: Serenity Forge

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.


I like the hard open. Feels so much more immersive than a title screen.

Pretty impressed with the platformer controls so far. Feels like I have very good control of the character.

They’re able to do some cool animations with the somewhat limited art style they’re using.

Wish I had a little more direction in that first level. I feel like I’m trying to guess where the game wants me to go.

Having lots of checkpoints in the early stage really helps me not be frustrated by repeated dying. I feel like I’m able to master the basic moves and improve and progress at a reasonable pace.

Getting past the opening sequence and winding up in a series of time trial levels wasn’t what I was hoping for. I was wanting a narrative experience, and I generally churn of of games that deliver their content in this format.

As the puzzles got harder I didn’t feel as in control of the platforming. Didn’t feel like I was achieving mastery at the rate the difficulty was increasing, and soon got frustrated and gave up.

The Flapjack Fire

Game: Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.


That narrative at the beginning with the wife was emotionally rough. Did a great job of hooking me into the game though.

Games have made me skeptical of whether any of my dialog choices really matter. So I’m curious if anything I did in the beginning makes a difference.

The atmosphere seems really ominous, between bears and thunderstorms and creepy strangers.

Environmental navigation feels a little unpolished

Narrative and mystery was extremely compelling. I was always eager to jump back in and start playing.

Voice acting was really engaging.

I appreciated the extreme loneliness they put me through. Having a game with virtual no tangible human contact was a cool experience. The radio as my only real lifeline of a relationship was a super interesting touch.

The travel time got a bit tedious sometimes, but overall the game did a pretty good job at not making me waste a bunch of time moving around. When it did, it felt like it was because there was dialog it wanted to deliver.

Ending felt a little unsatisfying. Solved the mystery, but it wasn’t all that deep, and there wasn’t much resolution. Kind of just back to where I started. Not sure how the game really ties in to the story about the wife. Feels like two totally separate things.

I liked that the pictures I took showed up at the end in the credits.

I probably won’t but I’d be interested in playing through again and making significantly different decisions to see what changes.

In Velvet and Gold

Game: Omensight

Developer: Spearhead Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.


The voice acting was a little rough.

Collecting the gems while my npc buddy is just waiting on me feels a little silly – and the VO even calls it out. It doesn’t really satisy my exploration itch since it seems like the barrels and chests are just right there, it’s just a matter of taking the time to walk over to them.

It feels a little weird to be fighting on the opposite side of the war from the side I was fighting on in the first level – but maybe my goal of saving the world is bigger than the war.

I love the art.

The murder mystery story is already really compelling. I’m excited to figure out what happened.

I appreciate that the number of health pickups you need is dynamic when breaking barrels. It feels like the mechanic is there to get me back to 100% after every major fight without seeming wasteful. Although why not just refill my life and remove a somewhat unnecessary mechanic?

I really appreciate being able to “skip” to the major decision point.

I like the plot twists – thinking one character is good or bad, and then getting new information that changes your point of view.

I got to a point where going through the same areas is getting a little old, although having different allies and different goals is keeping it somewhat fresh. Probably saves a lot on environment building! There’s also something to be said about having mastery and intimate knowledge of an area – and having the ability to unlock more secret areas on successive times is cool.

It’s hilarious that the allies make fun of you for smashing barrels or rolling around. I love it when games are self aware.

I really like Ratika and the musical aspect of her character.

The big clue UI is pretty cool. The game keeps telling me to go there. But I don’t feel like it’s really affecting my decisions. I’m kind of just picking what sounds cool when deciding who to join up with next.

Towards the end of the game (I think?) some of the play sessions before going back to the Nexus are just too long. I like to always end the night back there, but sometimes it’s over a half hour before that happens.

The difficulty is a bit inconsistent. There are areas (like when preventing the rats from blowing up the big siege machine with Indrik) that feel much harder than anything else.

The last level was great. Not having a weapon for a bit was a cool departure. Then having a weapon that can obliterate the mobs I’ve been fighting the whole time was great.

The boss fights on the last level were a little bland. The difficulty felt right but they didn’t feel like anything special. Felt kind of derivative of earlier fights.

The ending was kind of a bummer. I wonder if there are better endings.



…It pours

Game: Risk of Rain 2

Developer: Hopoo Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.


Movement and shooting things feels good.

Playing with friends was a lot of fun, made it a lot easier to fight bosses and discover the teleporters. Competing with them for items wasn’t as fun though, and it was a little discouraging to run through an area where all the chests were looted already.

UI is pretty clean and simple for the most part.

I like that there’s an element of discovery and mastery in learning what the items do and which ones you want, and even knowing from the way they look in the 3d world which ones you want to get or avoid. But it’s knowledge that isn’t taught very clearly.

I do feel like I spend a lot of time focusing on and watching health bars go down while simultaneously kind of blindly moving my character around to stay moving and avoid damage. I’m not really looking at the environment or monster models all that much.

It doesn’t seem like you can have a short and meaningful play session here – it simply takes a lot of time to go through levels, earn gold, buy items, get stronger, and move on.

Being able to dodge and aim feels like it’s important, but at the end of the day you need the items, especially certain combos of items to truly be able to chew through the amount of health hard enemies have.

The randomness feels fun in a lot of ways in that the game will feel vastly different from some of the upgrades, but also like you’re at the whim of the RNG a lot of time. There are some design choices to counteract this, like the 3d printer, but even that is pretty RNG.

As with a lot of roguelikes, at the end of the play session I’m always left wondering what I accomplished. It’s weird because games didn’t use to feel like that to me, certainly there wasn’t meaningful progression on a lot of NES games. You played to achieve mastery.

Having double jump really makes the game feel more nimble and fast paced. Once I’ve played with it I never want to play without it and I feel really limited in play sessions I don’t get it.

Dying early in a map and having to wait for your friends to finish doesn’t feel great. It also feels like you’re really falling behind by not participating in obtaining upgrades.

I didn’t like the Hunter nearly as much as the Soldier. The fact that I could only shoot when enemies were around felt broken at first. Then it just felt a little unresponsive. Also felt like I couldn’t really aim where shots were going. I ended up doing lots of damage according to the scoreboard but it didn’t feel like it.

The worm bosses were a bit annoying, especially once they got loads of health. It felt frustrating just to get good dps uptime on them with how often they go under the geometry.

The radar dish equipment felt extremely helpful, almost necessary, but didn’t feel good giving up a huge damage piece to achieve it. I didn’t want to give it up and not be a team player, but it felt bad being stuck with it on boss fights.

The upgrade that lets you use your equipment slot more often is great.

Having health bars on the left side of the screen for all the bots felt cluttered and claustrophobic. Not sure why I needed it. It was cool knowing we had a lot of bots but not at the cost of that much real estate in the UI.

I wish more items were clear what they did, and especially what happened when you got more than one of them. Maybe this is just in the glue screens somewhere?

I didn’t feel like any of the enemy or boss types stood out enough that I altered the way I played the game when fighting them. Maybe there’s a mastery aspect here I haven’t achieved yet.


Book: The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Author: Andrew Hunt and David Thomas


When you accept responsibility for an outcome expect to be held accountable for it. Make plans for the risks and if things don’t work out provide options to salvage the situation rather than provide excuses.

Don’t leave “broken windows” in your code. Fix them as soon as they are discovered or board them up. People who find themselves on projects with pristine code are less likely to make a mess or go against the grain with code that doesn’t fit the standard.

It can be better to show people a glimpse of the future then try to lead them to it directly. If you’ve got a great idea it might be worth subtly nudging a discussion focusing on the problem and letting others come to your same conclusion.

All systems must meet users requirements but user should be given an opportunity to decide when software is good enough. Great software today is preferable to perfect software in the future for many customers.

Treat your programming knowledge like a portfolio; invest, diversify, manage risk, review and rebalance. Learn new languages and find other ways to broaden your knowledge.

Every piece of knowledge must have a single and unambiguous authoritative representation within the system. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t have multiple constants referring to the same thing, or multiple functions which calculate the same result. Don’t cache values until it’s optimization time, and then have systems that verify the cached results.

Keep dependencies between systems minimal.

Tracer bullet programming involves making many small steps to try to hit your target. Not the same as prototyping – you should intend to keep the code. Don’t always expect to hit your target the first time. Don’t spend months of time calculating the trajectory, determining wind speed, lining up the shot. Make small iterative adjustments to get your code closer to its goal.

The ability to accurately estimate project timeline is really important.

There are a lot of advantages to keeping your data in plain text format. Don’t underestimate human readability for maintenance and debugging. Other formats can be used at optimization time.

Be familiar with the shell commands.

Be very familiar with your IDE and ways it can save you time.

Always use source control.

Embrace the fact that debugging is just problem solving and attack it as such. It’s not a blame game.


More to come later…

So much potential!

Game: River City Ransom : Underground

Developer: Conatus Creative Inc

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.


Really conflicted on this one. There were elements of it that really brought back memories of the original and they introduced some new cool things. But the difficulty level was just too high and frustrating.

Achieving the stat and ability progression that was so fun in the original took way too much grinding of trash mobs and death was too much of a punishment for how often it happened.

Having more characters that had pretty significant fighting styles and moves was cool.

Much like the first game the story progression wasn’t clear, although the introduction of the map with objectives on it did help somewhat.

The platforming was far too frequent and punishing especially compared with how difficult the controls for jumping accurately were.

The chase sequences that completely reset you back to the hideout were also too punishing.

I really enjoyed the art and music.

Too many one shot mechanics on bosses.

The nerd boss in the mech was really frustrating – having to pick him up and throw him and block him as he ran back to the mech was difficult and didn’t feel good.

My guy’s default special move was a really powerful spin kick but even with friendly fire off it would knock down my allies. Not a great mechanic.

I think that a lot of the problems with this game might just be 25 year old game design that just doesn’t hold up in a modern world and not enough thought was put into deciding what to refresh and improve and what to keep. My guess is that if there wasn’t so much grinding required it would really easy to max out stats and then the game would be too easy, especially since it’s not linear.

I liked that there were shortcuts (subway system, sewers) to other parts of the map so it wasn’t always necessary to travel the full length of the map to get to other locations.

Demand better news

Article: The Media’s 10 Rules of Hate

By: The Washington Spectator



For many years, unity and conformity in the news were more profitable and desirable, with only a “narrow median strip of political ideas” was available to the public. Today, the primary product being sold is division and hatred.

  1. There are only two ideas – the range of ideas being presented is binary with the intent that people will line up behind one of them. Diversity just means that both binary sides are presented.
  2. The two ideas are in permanent conflict – present the idea that politics is a fight and the goal isn’t to come to an agreement but maintain a debate to the end. Debates are not about ideas or solutions but partisan sniping and talking point recitation.
  3. Hate people not institutions – Large companies will not only sue for unfavorable news stories, they’ll pull ads. New audiences have been trained not to value detailed and fact filled investigative journalism.
  4. Everything is someone else’s fault – the public likes easy stories that can be blamed on one or the other party. In reality, most problems are systemic, bipartisan and bureaucratic and most of us own a little of most disasters
  5. Nothing is everyone’s fault – topics that are all or some of the above (bloated military budget, mass surveillance, embarassing or immoral involvement in foreign affairs, drone assassination program aren’t covered in the major news. These stories are hard to sell and market. If something isn’t for or against Trump right now you don’t get airtime.
  6. Root don’t think – we’ve modeled our political coverage after our sports coverage
  7. No switching teams – the model we live in today is one side’s media covering the other side’s corruption. Being out of touch with what the other side is thinking is no longer seen as a fault.
  8. The other side is literally Hitler – A critical part of Fox’s post 9/11 success was that liberals were actively in league with terrorists and traitors. Not just wrong but evil. Hannity and Glenn Beck were masters of this push. Once you’ve made this comparison it’s a rhetorical dead end, because comparing your opponents to Hitler means there can’t be (and shouldn’t be) any compromise or middle ground. You don’t compromise with Hitler. While some of Trump’s behavior can be correctly characterized as white supremacist and fascist, trying to characterize 60 million people who voted for him in 2016 as racist white nationalist traitor Nazis isn’t appropriate.
  9. In the fight against Hitler, everything is permitted – you don’t need to apologize or take responsibility for shameless behavior against Hitler. You’re morally obligated to do whatever it takes to stop him.
  10. Feel superior – We are winners and our opponents are losers. Americans don’t tolerate losing. The news you’re shown is demeaning disgusting, pointless, and not intended to inform but you’re too embarrassed to admit you spend hours every day poring through content specifically designed to stroke your point of view.


Netflix vs my childhood memories

Podcast: Netflix vs Blockbuster

By: Business Wars



In the early 2000’s, Netflix’s DvD by mail business model was eating into Blockbuster revenue. Blockbuster spent 25 million dollars and took 6 months to copy the Netflix model as exactly as they could from the website to their distribution center, even using dirty tricks like sending covert agents to go on tours of the facilities and take pictures.

Blockbuster’s new service (Total Access) was an immediate success, but it was priced lower than Netflix and also came with vouchers that allowed people to drop off their DvDs at the brick and mortar stores and then immediately get a new DvD as well. It was estimated that they needed 5 million subscribers to turn a profit but they were on their way, and it was eating into Netflix’s subscription numbers.

Carl Icahn bought a huge portion of Blockbuster as a corporate raider and hated John Antioco and eventually pushed him out, and replaced him with someone who wanted to undo everything he did, including Total Access. They raised the price and reduced the vouchers and immediately started losing customers back to Netflix.

Initially the streaming library on Netflix was very sparse. Netflix knew they needed content, and so for years would buy the rights to the digital content from the major studios/media outlets. Many were reluctant to sell the rights, but the Great Recession of 2008 worked in Netflix’s favor and many companies became more willing to negotiate that year.

For a while Netflix and the companies that sold it digital rights enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship where they would give Netflix rights to their older seasons, which gave Netflix better content and then brought in more viewership to some of the series, and people went to the source for the new seasons.

With their success, Netflix knew it was just a matter of time before the companies selling them the digital rights wanted to go into the streaming services themselves, so they focused on obtaining original content. House of Cards became their first major success.

This was modelled after HBO, and for a while it was race between Netflix and HBO to determine which one would copy the other’s model more successfully first. HBO had a streaming service called HBO GO but it was locked behind the pay wall of having HBO and a cable service, so it was far more expensive to use.

One of Netflix most valuable assets is their underlying algorithms and data on what users watch, what they’ll enjoy, how they like to watch. They employed this time and again to stay ahead of the competition, doing things like introducing binge watching because of the way it affected users in such a positive manner.

Beauty in the eye

Game: Beholder

Developer: Warm Lamp Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.


Played on Trainee mode – I think this is Easy Mode

I don’t enjoy when games do the “Charlie Brown” voice instead of real VO. I’d prefer no VO and just have subtitles. It’s distracting.

The game stresses me out and I can’t really explain why. I’m managing to complete all my quests on time, plenty of time actually, and I have plenty of downtime but I feel like I’m always under pressure.

The game is oppressive, but I think it’s meant to be.

Despite it’s dark nature, the graphics or characters or something about the art style almost feels lighthearted. I do really like the style though.

My strategy feels mostly like just keep talking to everyone until something happens. I don’t feel like I have clear clues on what to do or how to make progress and I’m just kind of reacting to things.

I appreciate the pause feature just to feel like I can prevent the anxiety of time moving on.

Getting government directives all the time also stresses me out. I feel like there’s a growing mental burden that I’m not keeping up with.

It seems like there are quests that are just money sinks to make my family happy. Not sure what the mechanic or decision is there – but then I’m playing on easy mode and have a huge surplus of money.

I’m trying to play as a nice guy and not just be a jerk to my tenants. Maybe it’s a totally different experience when playing as an agent of the government?

It seems like the money situation is rapidly deteriorating. Makes me kind of hate my family and never want to talk to them! I’m starting to make decisions around the need for money but it doesn’t feel like there are direct consequences of doing so. Maybe they’re just not obvious consequences.

I think I’m doing quite a lot of stuff that’s illegal but I can’t be sure if it’s hurting me. Maybe it comes back to haunt me later?

The suspense of wanting to know what’s next is a pretty good draw – there’s a part of me that always just wants to do one more quest.

Never really took advantage of the surveillance cameras or searching apartments. I was always afraid of being found out in someone’s apartment. Not sure what even happens if you get found out.

Tarun Khaitan has my vote.

Podcast: Democracy

By: Philosophy 24/7



Some countries like Hungary, Turkey, and Poland have greatly eroded their democratic institutions in recent years.

Others like the US, India, Israel, and South Africa, are following similar strategies.

Democracy’s success in the late 20th century set the stage for some of the problems it’s now facing. As the only game in town, those who are interested in eroding it have to come from within, often pitching themselves as the only ones who can save it. They’re attacking some of the institutions that keep democracy in check, such as the courts, the opposition party, and the free media.

A lot of the limitations on autocratic takeover are unwritten rules that can be taken advantage of to seize authority without actually breaking any laws. It’s very difficult to write laws for everything into a constitutional document, but the more a government relies on these unwritten rules to keep power in check, the more vulnerable they are.

Some things liberal democracies can do to weaken the risk of autocratic takeover:

  • Preferential Voting (Ranked Voting) to empower the centrists and weaken the radicals of each party
  • Revive the discourse on opposition rights and reduce any winner take all situations.
  • Campaign finance reform.
  • Empowering and entrenching the fourth branch institutions, things like anti corruption bodies, electoral commissions. Non partisan offices that seek to protect democracy.