All posts by koonthul

Grandma Brinker does the Harlem Shake!

Grandma does the Harlem Shake!
Grandma Brinker at it again!

Either I’ve lost it or she has. Not only has Grandma gotten herself into the newspaper again, but now she’s in a Harlem Shake video!  And online too!!!

She told me she thought that no one would recognize her with the hat and sunglasses.  Nice try, but the press know’s a ham when they see one!

Senior Center in Richmond does the Harlem Shake!

Win 7 and OSX Color Profiles on a Macbook Pro…


















So yes, I broke down and installed Win 7 on my MacBook Pro. I’m not happy about it, but considering what I need for AS3 development this seems to be the cheapest alternative.  Hard to believe, right?  Well, here’s the skinny.  On OSX I was looking for a program similar to Flash Develop, which is free and open source, but PC only.  I’ve started a project in it and really want to finish it based on that IDE.  As for mac, a copy of Adobe’s Flash Builder would run me about 600 dollars for a license.  Not really what I was willing to pay.   There were a few other alternatives like Haxe and FDT, but those were not working with my pre-existing code base (at least not easily) so I was left floundering.

Realizing that I could easily bootcamp, I just needed a copy of windows and I could get back to my previous setup.  Looking at current OEM prices, I found a cheap copy of Win 7 for under a hundred dollars online (it is also nice to have a friend at M$).  After the install and some wrestling with Bootcamp, I’m back to my old dev environment again.  Word to the wise, use your original factory Mac OSX cd’s that came with your mac to bootcamp.  DO NOT try and be a smarty pants like me, and download the latest bootcamp software as an alternative.  NOT a good idea.  You can always update the boot camp software through apple software update anyway, so find those system discs!!!  The process after that was smooth sailing.

My only problem so far has been the small crap that comes with putting windows on a mac.  Like the keyboard and mouse.   Still getting used to that as I do switch back and forth from time to time.  The most recent hurdle I had to overcome though was getting my display to look correct on my laptop screen, as everything is very blown out and hard to read.  What I didn’t realize was that in OSX and now Windows, you can share icc color profile’s back and forth!  Here’s the article I dug up.  Pretty snazzy.  Now if I could just remember to NOT press APPLE + C to copy things….sheesh…

The Witness: Focus testing thoughts

I was just reading through an interview about Jonathon Blow’s new game called The Witness when I ran into a very nice quote regarding focus testing.

“When you’re too reactive to playtests, says Blow, “You get this totally featureless game out of doing that. No game ever made by man provides a perfect experience to anybody. And attempting to do so can easily — speaking for me — carry me away from what’s really important about the game. So I try to rein myself in about that.”

This is an excellent point that I try to champion myself in my professional career. Focus testing is important to get a general idea for how people are “reacting” to your overall game concept and then to point out the very large flaws that you may have missed when creating smaller/tinier experiences within that constructed game. Here, let me break it down for you.

1. Focus test at the right time, with the right people. What does your core audience think about your game concept without even playing the game? Is the subject material interesting for them? Does the concept excite them and get them engaged? I think this is a very tough set of questions to answer when you sit a 49 year old female down and ask them what they think of your first person shooter concept. You are mismatching your hard core audience with random, potentially un-interested parties (and by un-interested I mean uninterested in games in general). It doesn’t work. Focus testing with lots of different people outside of your core demographic is good when you are unsure of who your target audience is to begin with. Often times, you as a design team in a commercial setting will have a pretty good idea of who would want to play your game and who would not from the get go.

2. Focus testing for existing software should be used to point out the GIANT mistakes/holes in your original thinking/logic. IF you have missed something, it will become apparent and you as the creator will know. It will take the form of your “a-ha!” moments in your puzzles, only as a “designer of software for a player” instead of the “player of the designers software”. It will be something more like “Wow, I never thought that players would do that!” And the most important reaction to that is you AS THE DESIGNER will agree with the focus testers/players experience. Then and only then should you consider changing that interactivity based on that information.

Often times, when a player struggles with a game or a sequence in a game, most studios take those experiences as gospel and change the very heart of the interactivity to fit only fifty, maybe 100 peoples experiences with the software. In my math brain, this isn’t a large enough sampling to get an accurate reading of what to change in your software. If you guess that you will sell around 650,000 units, that’s only .015 percent!!! So whats the solution? Make changes only with certainty. Gamers aren’t as dumb as you think they are, even if they look like bumbling idiots in front of you during the focus test. Always have your designers make these calls. Those “a-ha” moments in realizing what your players are doing/not doing revolve around who designed it, not who’s running the focus test.

So what about the niggling little details, or the grey area? For example, let’s say you give focus testers about an hour to complete the first two levels of your game, and only 50% of your focus testers finished both levels, the rest didn’t get past level 1. What’s the take away here? Depends on the specific sticking points (puzzle, enemy, boss, navigation, etc.) but for the most part, you can’t get forget about the 50 percent who DID complete it! It’s very disappointing when I see broad sweeping changes made to software because someone says that 50% “isn’t good enough” for selling more units of a video game. Sometimes, when players struggle, it’s considered a good thing because they are actually being challenged and are learning how to play your game. And this is easy to tell, so long as you provide them with an outlet where they can express their experience in terms of difficulty/frustration and difficulty/boredom on the same scale. So often, I see the experiences of focus testers only weighed against half of the testing variables! There are FOUR things to look for, and the sweet spot is in the middle. Just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it is frustrating! People can still enjoy an experience if it’s difficult, the idea is that it doesn’t skew into frustrating territory for too long. And of course the flip side to that is that if a game is too easy, people may become bored and lose interest. The sweet spot is in the middle.

Games are about overcoming challenges, and sometimes challenges require more perseverance than others. Difficulty is generally a hard thing to match to EVERY player.

Another thing to remember, too, is that completion is not necessarily the equation for happiness from a gamer. There are many cases where I have not finished a game or gotten very far only to say “that’s an awesome game, I really liked it”. And the opposite is true, I’ve completed games that I have found to be uninteresting, terribly designed and boring. Crackdown and LA Noire respectively, in case you’re interested. 🙂

As for The Witness, I look forward to playing it. Braid was a triumphant success in my mind and I eagerly await the new efforts from Mr. Blow and his newly formed company. I highly encourage them to release on the consoles, it will do much for the state of gaming on those platforms.


Interlocked is a puzzle game about removing interlocking puzzle pieces from an already built object.  The minute I ran across it over at GameSetWatch I had a sneaky suspicion I would like it because the game actually reminded me of a real wood block puzzle my mother showed to me when I was a child.  It was a perfectly round sphere made of wood puzzle pieces that were interlocking.  Your task was to put it together.  The key to putting it together was figuratively the same thing, two of the pieces formed a key that was inserted last.  This was also the “key” to taking it apart.  I think this is what it looked like…

In this digital version of the same puzzle, the task (or puzzle game element) is to take them apart.  Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s frustrating as hell.  The control scheme is similar to that of a 3D editor for geometry, as you use the mouse to just look at the object by clicking and dragging around.  The way in which you interact with the object is by holding down the space bar, placing your cursor over the shape in question and clicking the mouse button again.  A little 3D widget appears and allows you to pick an axis to “constrain” or pull on.  The controls are as elegant as they could be for such a rudimentary and simple game, so I don’t have an issue with the interface design.  It’s actually quite slick.  I think the real problem revolves around the lack of a good tactile feedback system.

The Mouse and keyboard leave a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth about 4 or 5 puzzles in because you have no good way of feeling the loose ends of the puzzle (read: the player doesn’t understand why their tactic isn’t working and cannot “feel” their way through the solution).  I’ve seen many a haptic feedback system and all kinds of systems that incorporate gloves so those would be a good match for this.  Combine this with some Nintendo 3DS action and you have yourself a dandy little puzzle game!

Skydive 2008

The lens flare is great, looks like the shoot snapped!

Back in 2008 my sister convinced me to skydiving with her.  I hadn’t thought about it up until that point, it was only really one of those things that I wanted to do “eventually” but never quite got to the top of the list.  So when my sister offered to take me with one of her friends when I came into town to visit, I felt that the priority level of this event just got bumped up.  Plus I wasn’t really doing anything anyway, and having this insatiable lust for doing adrenaline filled things in my late twenties (and now early thirties…yikes!) only pushed this over the edge for me.  I had to do it.  I was GOING to do it.  And I did.

The experience itself wasn’t too bad.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day in Bowling Green, MO.  The weather was near perfect with light clouds in the sky and great ground temp of about 70 degrees.  The people were friendly and most everyone had a good time.  A couple of unique things that come to mind as I reflect back on it all are particularly interesting.  The first being that when we went up into the plane to jump, you really don’t know just how cold it gets at 14,000 feet!  Last I recall was that it got be about 36 to 40 degrees!  It’s pretty cold up there!  But you don’t realize it because you are so filled with adrenaline about the jump that your body is already quite warm.  The second thing about the experience that was different, especially for me, was the fact that I got so pumped up adrenaline wise that when I jumped out with my instructor, I couldn’t breathe for the first second or two!  I just kept gasping for air.  I thought it was rather strange, but after a few seconds I got things under control and enjoyed it.  If you watch the video carefully, you’ll see i look kinda like a fish out of water for a second right after getting out of the plane.  You can see my face kinda get all squinchy and I’m doing the “OMG I’M IN FREEFALL AND I CAN’T BREATHE” face.  Yeah, it was funny, but not so funny at the time.  The entire journey, from exiting the plane to deploying the real parachute (not the small little thing he throws at the beginning) was only one minute long.  After the jump, and talking with a few people, this was probably the maximum time anyone gets on their first jump, and most people don’t get to 14,000 feet either, they stay at around 10,000 or so.

One important thing for those who might do this at one point in their lives…I’m glad I dropped the extra cash for the pics and the video.  I don’t usually do that kind of thing, but this was well worth it.  And since I was in a pretty small down with a pretty small business, I felt I was definitely getting a good deal.  I think I dropped about 150 to 200 for the whole thing.   I don’t remember exactly, but I think that’s about right.

The whole experience was, and still is at the time of this writing, the single most high octane adrenaline rush I have ever received.  I think that Wing Suit Base Jumping is the only other thing that will come close to this adrenaline rush.  Or maybe bungie jumping.  But who knows when I’ll get around to that!  🙂

*UPDATE* Well youtube is being a poop head and they don’t like the music in the video.  Something about copyright blah blah and license ownership from WMG blah blah etc etc.  Poop on you!  I’m trying right now to upload it but WordPress is now being a poop head too!  Max upload size is 64 meg and the video 115!  DOUBLE POOP!  I’ll see if I can’t figure out a work around here soon….

Runkeeper Pro is Free!

The folks over at Runkeeper just released their pro version for iPhone for free! There is a time limit of course, but it’s worth picking up. I’ve been using the free version for quite some time now and have been very happy with it. Until the end of January 2011, you can download the pro version for nothing/nada/zilch. It’s a great little application to map your runs via gps and to keep track of your pace. I haven’t played much with the Pro version yet so I don’t know what all it can do. There is a way to linkup with your iTunes library and to have a “coaching” option enabled but that was only after a quick glance at the new Start screen. Head to your friendly app store and download it today!

My experience has mostly been with the free version, and it’s been quite helpful for running outdoors.  It’s nice to know how far I’ve run and how much time has elapsed.  There is also a handy chart that shows your pace at different intervals, as well as a very accurate google map of your run.  I have been using this app in conjunction with the iOS 4.01 release and an Apple iPhone 4 so I’m not quite sure what anyone else’s experiences have been like on different platforms.

One thing I’ve always liked about Runkeeper is the ability to specify which activity I’m doing and have the application track that.  Before starting, there is a handy drop down list that shows all kinds of sports you can use this program with.  I really wish they had one for Kayaking, as that seems to be absent from the list.  I have noticed an “other” category which I tried to use, but the free version of this application only operates with cell phone service, so kayaking has yet to be tracked in my list of activities.  Hopefully the pro version fixes that by allowing the user to operate it just using GPS service.