October 02, 2017
No fascists on our streets
On Saturday I woke up with a knot in my stomach. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day full of colours, I had a fun event to attend in the evening and plenty of free time before that. But the knot was there, beause a Swedish nazi orgainzation was set to march in town, police from all over the country was setting up barricades days ahead of time, debates were raging about the rights and wrongs of giving permission for the demonstration in the first place and nobody knew how anything would end up. Many gatherings, counter-demonstrations and other events were taking place to protest and spread positive values instead of fear. But again, nobody knew how anything would go. So, knot in my stomach. It would have been easy to completely stay out of town and feel assured others would deal with the situation. But if we all did that the nazis would march unopposed. And so I found myself biking downtown, still buzzing from morning coffee, parking my bike and navigating around all the barriers to join the largest counter-demonstration.
It was the best thing I could ever have done with the day. Instead of sitting indoors, thinking myself into the belief that the world is dark and fearful, I was outside in the sun with thousands of other completely normal people, confirming and strengthening the fact that most of us are on the side of peace and understanding. Following the events through media of any kind would not have been the same thing either, I needed to be there. So, clearly, did everyone else, and we all are better for it.
There were speeches by various people. There were organizations and words I do not normally agree with, some I may even strongly disagree with. There are many discussions worth having about that. But there is still a great deal of beauty and importance in the fact that so many differences can be put aside and reached across on a sunny Saturday.
(Now, can we all learn to do it on every other day too? Then we are really winning.)
Some wrote afterward that it felt as if the city was under siege. I say it was much more of the calm before the storm. Everyone and everything was bracing for impact, and one of the best things about the day was that the storm never came. The nazis tried to diverge from their assigned route and break through the police lines and were stopped dead in their tracks before even reaching the starting point for the demonstration. Almost every single counter protester was calm and civilized too. I was not near where anything happened, but a friend was and sent me some video of how calm things were even very close to the police lines.
It was a good day.
There are so many good people.
September 27, 2017
Xiki, Xikihub and UI excitement
In this week's Kodsnack I got the opportunity to talk to Craig Muth about his fascinating creation Xiki and where both it and computer interfaces in general may be heading. I came across Xiki in 2014, and its continuing development was one of the first Kickstarter projects I backed.
Xiki is a sort of re-imagining of a command line, wrapped up in a text editor and somewhat mixed with a wiki, and it is just as unusual as it sounds. Craig does a much better job at describing it, so do go look as his examples instead. What really grabs me about Xiki (which I also mention in the podcast) is how new, excitingly unfamiliar and full of possibilites it feels whenever I use it or even just read and think about it. The most similar experience I can think of was when I started using and reading up about Quicksilver - here is a whole new way to get things done on my computer, one very based on text and keyboard input yet at the same time surprisingly discoverable and extremely extendable and adaptable. Yes, I am lost, but I feel sure I can figure things out and find my way around. And in the meantime, just stumbling around is pretty fun in itself. It is much more a case of figuring out just what I want to do and then doing it than wanting to do something but getting stuck because you have no idea about how.
Craig has been working on Xiki in various ways and forms for 14 years, and he has a new Kickstarter going right now. The aim is to fund and speed up (by hopefully being able to pay some additional developers) development of a social and sharing evolution of Xiki. It is called Xikihub and wants to be something of a Github for Xiki commands, and of course accessible right from within Xiki. The idea is that whenever you want to do something for which your Xiki setup has no commands, you can instantly search Xikihub to see if someone else has built and shared such a command. If someone has, you can install and use it right then and there. You can of course share your own commands too, send them by email and do a million other things I have not even thought of yet.
Xiki itself is impressive to me, but even more so is Craig's drive, focus and vision. He has built on and extended his ideas for years, and he has just as many ideas for continuing the evolution. To me, the world could use so much more of this kind of drive to run with ideas, and after our chat I keep wondering which other equally exciting interface evolutions may be lurking out there, outside of my known world (if you know of any, please tell me!)
Craig has been able to devote a lot of time and resources despite not making any money from Xiki apart from the 2014 kickstarter. It is easy to assume that good ideas will somehow have momentum of their own and keep going regardless of income or other active support from others. I backed the first Kickstarter and am more than happy to back this one too, because ideas like Xiki deserve support and long-term evolution. Too many people burn out in one way or another working on passion projects which other people just use and assume will just always be there. I think we would all be better off if we tried to support things we use, or are just plain inspired by, a bit more often.
September 10, 2017
I went for a run in the forest.
(Realizing during the run that the area would be called Magpie ridge if translated to English.)
It felt like the beginning of a good autumn already, an intense shower having passed just before I headed out and drifting drops mixed with falling leaves taking turns with sunlight filtered through foilage.
I increased my exercise frequency quite a bit over my summer holiday, and now that I have stepped down again (to every other day), it suddenly felt like ages since I last ran, or even moved. Just another little version of changes giving a fresh perspective. As always, I hope the feeling lasts as long as possible.
I feel in the right mood to begin a new week. A nicely full week at that, I realized as I sat down to go create my weekly text file. The best part of the planning was that I suddenly came up with not one but two possible projects for Wednesday's lounge hackers meetup. Perhaps going regularly is actually making me better at finding projects? It also feels just a little bit funny how I can come up with a side project and decided to save it for the meetup instead of diving in, as if I was time constrained outside of the meetup hours. Funny or not, it is all good.
Perhaps I will port it to some other language at a later meetup?
September 04, 2017
Watch the view go black, sound fade away.
Take the headphones off.
Pull the view of the other world from my eyes.
Come down, with an ever so slight thud.
Add a little violence
I just finished Polybius, Llamasoft's VR … experience.
Such a pure thing.
There were levels I did not care for, levels which felt like a slog.
Like they ate away my shields with cheap tricks I just failed to grasp.
So what are you waiting for?
By the end, all that fell away. In the end, there were no cheap tricks. Just purity, that flow the game always aimed for.
Did it fix what was wrong with you?
Off hand, I can think of few games where the last levels actually felt the purest, most like what the game wanted to be. Polybius feels like that to me. I worked my way through the levels before and was rewarded with an extended experience of pure flow, everything the game wanted to be in one long, focused experience.
Are we less than?
I wonder how they did it. How do you make a great game which builds nicely, yet save the best for last? So many games start really nicely but seem to overshoot somewhere right before the end, passing the purity mark in an attempt to make the end different, bigger, stranger, in some kind of sudden lack of trust in the enjoyment provided by the levels before.
Not Polybius. I think the last level was the very best. And I think the way there played a very important part, ensuring I got the most out of it.
I want to replay it already.
(VR matters. I would probably enjoy the game in 2D if I had never played in VR. Now, a 2D, non-surround version feels completely uninteresting.)
Are we less than?
August 27, 2017
Wanting more can be high praise.
I finished Tethered last night, and I think it is a great example of VR gaming. It controls super well, I had fun and felt immersed the whole way through, and now that I have put it down I wish there was simply more of it. A sandbox mode, randomly generated levels, what have you.
(Or multiplayer, to dream big. Wow, that could really be something.)
So, what kind of game is it?
I think of Tethered as a god game or a realtime strategy game, but I bet there are lots of labels which more narrowly describe this type of game. When I think of ”classic” realtime strategy, I think of a game with somewhat freer controls. In Tethered, you can not really tell your units (called peeps) to go anywhere, you always select one and pick a target. So there is no placing units in formations, putting one on guard at a choke point or anything like that. But you do gather resources, construct buildings, advance tech trees and fight enemies, so I think it fits nicely and easily within the genre.
Tethered is very good at always having something to do. Yes, you lack certain freedoms of classic realtime strategy, but you have so many things to do that those freedoms might well have become overwhelming and confusing. I think the mechanics of Tethered have been very carefully thought through and tested. I think of it as "classic" realtime strategy being scaled down and adjusted to fit great with the controls, then having new things added on top to balance and add spice. It all works very well and is great fun once you get into it.
And there is enough complexity that getting in actually takes a few levels. At first I felt as if I was barely scraping by, losing peeps to despair, missing events and generally having too much on my plate. Then, it suddenly clicked. I finished the third or fourth level with much less trouble and suddenly I had reached a plateau where everything just flowed and was fun. I was wondering if there would be another steep increase in difficultly somewhere along the way, but there was not, and I finished the thirteen levels hungry for more.
I played the whole game with my Playstation VR using the standard controller. In this mode, your view is always attached to a fixed point (you can switch to other fixed points to look around the world from different angles) and you control your cursor by simply looking at things. It works great, but I am excited to try the game using Move controllers. Their controls seem equally well thought out, but mainly they offer free camera movement, and I would really love to see this amazing world from more perspectives.
Just like in Tiny trax, the world is beautiful to look at, like peering down at a model world where miniature creatures live and follow your commands.
The game also supports playing in 2D, but that option holds so little appeal I have never even tried it. Sure, the visuals will be sharper … but why would I want to leave this immersive model landscape for something flatter?
I am curious what someone with more game design theory has to say about the game style and challenge curve, it feels as if there are interesting insights to be had there.