Friday, July 16, 2010

Too young to be rich and famous

When I was a child I had the opportunity to play with computers before many even realized they existed. I remember when games came on 8 inch floppy disks. I was thrilled with 3.5 inch floppies and blown away by CDs. And when I was a child, I imagined how I would make my millions.

My first thought was to become a game programmer. Back then the creation of video games was slightly different. Often times it would be just one person with an idea. Sometimes it would be a small team of programmers. These programmers were rock stars in a way. You would buy games based on who the creators were. My favorite game company was Sierra, and my favorite rock star video game programmer was Roberta Williams. There might not have been much money in gaming, but there was fame of a sort.

But times changed. Now games are made by huge teams owned by huge companies. As a game designer there is no fame any more. The only time a name is associated with a video game is if they are a relic of the previous era, like Sid Meier. It was sometime in early highschool that I realized my dream of being a famous game programmer was not to be. It wasn't that I didn't have the talent, or the skill, it's that I was too late. I was too young. By the time I would be able to write a game, there was no fame to be had in it.

I was lucky, and had access to the internet before things called browsers existed. In school I had the pleasure of using gopher. I had access to the internet before AOL existed. Through a summer camp I had the pleasure of roaming the internet freely in 1995. It was not long until we had dial up internet at our house. I knew that the internet was a Big Thing. More than that, I realized that there was money to be made.

In high school I watched in horror as the dot com bubble happened without me. I knew I had the ability to make my millions in the dot com world. I had my own webpage of course. I even had a webcam. I didn't know what exactly I was going to build to make my millions, but I knew I could do it. I knew that in order to make it happen, I had to get out of school and make it happen.

I was a rare one though, in that I thought that college would be important. But I also knew that in order to make my millions I had to get out of school fast. I was taking college courses in high school to speed myself along. I graduated from high school a semester early, just so I could get into college faster so I could get OUT of college faster. I had it figured how I could graduate from college in just three years if I worked really hard. And then I could go out and make my millions.

My first semester of college, March 2000, the dot com bubble burst. Like many, I didn't see it coming, and I didn't even see it happen. The following year at college, I started to realize what happened. There was no fortune to be had in the dot com world anymore. I was too late. I was too young, again. I wouldn't be rich.

Here it is 10 years later. I am not rich, I am not famous. I was too late for that. I realize that the fame and fortune wouldn't last if I had been on time. But I can't help but think that maybe I would have been smart enough to invest some of my fortune into something stable and survived the burst. Or maybe I would have made a game series so memorable that my name would still be uttered by geeks. I am sure there is another Big Thing up and coming where fame and fortune can be found, but I'm too old and tired to chase them now.

Friday, April 9, 2010

eBooks and Agency Model

There has been a lot of hoopla about the supposed "agency model" for eBooks. It's a simple problem actually when you boil it down.

A publisher creates an eBook, and it is sold by other companies. Typical eBook sellers include Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and recently Apple (for the iPad). In the past the folks that mostly controlled how eBooks work are the sellers, such as Amazon. This makes sense in a way. Amazon makes the Kindle, so it's not surprising that they were mostly in control of what can go on the Kindle. More importantly though, they were mostly in control of the pricing scheme. If you wanted your books to be on the Kindle, you had to play by Amazon's rules.

Lately however there have been more folks getting into the eBook world. One of the biggest of course is Apple with their iPad. This means that publishers have more options, which means they can stand up to the pricing models they don't like. So if a publisher doesn't like the way Amazon prices things, they can make a stink about it and try to get it changed. This then requires the publisher and Amazon to sit down and formulate some sort of contract and pricing scheme that both can agree on. This of course takes longer than if the publisher was willing to just take Amazon's canned pricing solution.

So really it's a supply and demand thing. There was very little supply of eBook sellers and devices to put those eBooks on, so Amazon could control the market. Now there is a high supply of devices and sellers, therefore the publishers have more power to control the market.

In order for publishers to convince Amazon that they do have power, they sometimes need to flex and show that they mean business. This may mean refusing to let certain books or groups of books be sold through Amazon. In a way it is similar to a strike. Amazon of course can show their power back and pull books also. It creates a tug of war.

In addition to that there are actual legal issues also. If Amazon and a publisher make an agreement on how to sell something, but the backend technology is not capable of handling that particular setup, it will take time for the code changes to be implemented. If there isn't wording in their contract for books to be sold the old way until the new way can get technically implemented, then this may result in certain eBooks being pulled for a while.

This can of course annoy many people involved. Customers are unable to buy books, and writers are unable to sell books. This also makes many people less trusting of eBooks. They are the unintended victims of this battle. Some customers want to show their displeasure with the situation by refusing to buy books from certain publishers.

I personally do not feel that boycotting sellers or publishers is a good way to show your displeasure. Getting angry at authors is no solution either. Authors have very little power in this entire situation, it is between publishers and sellers. Refusing to buy books just means you will not be reading books you enjoy, and authors get punished. Voicing your opinion and displeasure at the delays is important, and it may be wise to write letters to sellers or publishers encouraging them to bring the battles to a quick close, but there is no need to direct your anger at authors.

My personal suggestion is to wait it out. Both sides are trying to get to a solution. It is in their best interests to keep the eBook community's trust in the eBook format strong. It is also in their best interests to keep selling books. I do like instant gratification, and often times want my book the exact moment I click the "buy" button. However if I think back just a few years ago, I was living an hours drive away from the nearest bookstore and didn't have access to eBooks. I would often times have to wait a few weeks before I could get a ride to the bookstore to pickup whatever books they happened to have in stock. The bookstore could charge whatever they wanted for the books, because that is the store I had access to.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thoughts on presents

It's nearing the time of year when everyone scrambles around buying presents for each other.

So here are a few things that I would suggest you get me, if you feel the need to get me something. Which by the way no one should feel they need to get me anything. I am perfectly happy not getting stuff actually.

My first thought is to donate to something. Donate to whatever charity you like, or if you want to donate to something that seems like "me" I can offer a few suggestions. I always liked the Black Hills Children's Home, I know a few folks that work there and it would mean the world to those kids. Child's Play is a charity run by gamers for kids, they give video games, movies, and similar things to kids in hospitals. I also like monkeys. And of course any animal shelter or library is awesome. If you run across any other cool charities that seem like they would interest me, just let me know! A donation is a wonderful gift, and a sure way to make me smile.

I like stuff people make. Art is awesome. Art need not be a masterpiece to be loved and hung on my walls. And other little trinkets like that. Some of the gifts I remember most were things people made for me. A little beaded bookmark, a keychain with a piece of amethyst, a hand made pen... And I tend to like food that people make too. Yum!

But if you do feel the need to buy me something specifically material, well there are a few things. Amazon gift certificates would be used to get me kindle books. iTunes gift certificates would be used to get me music. I've been having fun modding Nerf guns, so if you buy me one it will keep me busy tearing it apart and repainting it for a while. I like Star Wars figurines (specifically I am wanting an Aayla Secura to go with my Kit Fisto). I love Legos of course, especially anything that looks like castle type stuff, Star Wars, or Technic. I am currently really into SteamPunk, so pocket watches, clocks, or really anything with gears or weird moving parts, doesn't have to actually work. Or if you happen to see something and think "Oh man, I know EXACTLY who that would be PERFECT for!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Soulless - How I learned I like Urban Fantasy

On October 1st at 7:56 am something happened. You see, several weeks before that I bumped into a fascinating person on Twitter by the name of Gail Carriger. I don't know who followed who first, but I'm fairly sure it was due to a Follow Friday suggestion from Jill Estabrooks.

Gail Carriger is a fascinating person to follow on Twitter, and her website is a boon to anyone interested in Steampunk. Also, she happens to be an author. Her style of humor on Twitter made me think her books would be excellent to read, but unfortunately her books weren't actually out yet.

So I really had no choice... I had to preorder her first book: Soulless. I admit I was nervous. I am not the type to preorder books. Also I haven't read much in the way of Steampunk besides The Difference Engine. Although I have a rather fluid gender identity the idea of reading what might be construed as a romance novel worried me.

And then on October 1st at 7:56 am it finally happened... Soulless magically appeared on my iPhone. Nevermind that I was supposed to be at work at 8:00.

My expectations were off however. Soulless was better than I expected. I had not read a book that good since Spook Country, or perhaps Keeping It Real.

There were many genres in Soulless. Steampunk, vampires, werewolves, science, romance, comedy... Listing them all off almost sounds silly. But that's exactly what this book is.

The Steampunk is woven casually in, like Firefly. The romance was believable and did not offend my X chromosome, yet made my Y chromosome beg for more. British humor bringing it all together naturally with preternatural Alexia Tarabotti standing in the middle of it.

I look forward to preordering her next book: Changeless. (don't read the synopsis of Changeless until you read Soulless, as it might have spoilers!)

I highly suggest adding this to your list of books to read. It is a fast read that keeps you interested. It blends several genres smoothly, letting you sample several while still staying in the comfort zone of whichever is your favorite genre. It won't challenge your beliefs in humanity or deal with very many social issues, but it will make you smile which is more important anyways.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Racism in MMO Games

Almost every day I log into an MMO I see racism. Yes, video games have racism. But I'm not talking about real world racism. I'm talking about being racist against other video game races. Show me someone who plays an elf and I'll show you someone who is racist against trolls.

My Gnome wizard in EQ2 hates Frogloks and Kerran, and those horribly annoying Sarnak. Casafin, my Fae berserker constantly makes fun of Arasai and those silly fat Halflings. And does anyone want to see a female Troll or Ogre? Sure there are always exceptions, everyone loves Mooshga. We all know a Froglok caster that tops the DPS list and is nice about it. But that is still racism, disliking an entire race and only making an exception for those that we are close to.

But this sort of racism is okay. Even the game creators say it is, and many NPC's are racist too. Races in video games are very different from each other. An dwarf and an elf are very different. Different cultures, different looks, and often times even different stats. And more importantly, the player chooses what race they want to be. And of course it's not meant to harm, it's just harmless role playing. We don't actually think ill of people that play particular races (except for those people that play those awful Sarnak, right?). Do the characters have a choice in what race they are? So is it right for one of my characters to hate halflings or does it make my character a bad person (except in the situation of Frogloks, they are just so annoyingly hoppy that it's okay to hate them no matter what).

Is this what it was like before I was born, when racism was acceptable? Could someone justify hating an Irish person because of their accent, and it not mean anything personal? Society said it was okay to hate, therefor it was okay. Video game society says it's okay to hate video game races, so it's okay. Right? Now, I understand that video games are obviously different than real life. We don't actually go around killing people of other races in video games (except for that thrill you get from killing a slow moving stupid ogre on the pvp servers, right?). We don't burn crosses on their lawns, and it's not 'real'. It's all make believe, pretend, fiction, role playing... But does it mirror something in us? Is video game racism a reflection of the fact that we can never fully get rid of racism in the real world? Is it a way for us to direct our need for hate? Or is it all just fun and games?

Personally for me, I have reasons for my dislike of races. I am allergic to cats and don't like litterboxes, so kerran remind me of that. Frogloks actually I would like, except their hopping animation I find distracting. Sarnak are just big, and friggin ugly (I'm just not a fan of their particular model being used as a character race). Arasi are fun to make fun of just because of their emo /dance animation. I personally actually have nothing against any race, it's all fun and games to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Programming and language

Most folks that aren't programmers think programming is either really hard, or really easy. In truth it is both.

Programming is just language. If you speak a second language, like French or Spanish, then you know what it takes to learn another language. Programming is just language. You type out a set of instructions to the computer. That's it.

The tricky part is that it is a very picky language, and computers do not understand typos or bad grammar very well. So in order to be a good programmer, you have to really understand your language. Similar to if you want to write published papers you need to be pretty good at English.

Many programmers only learn a few languages, because that's all they need. Similarly, if you are only dealing with people in the Americas', you probably only need to know English French and Spanish. But there are those people that know 13 different spoken languages, the linguists out there. Well some of us are like that, and know more programming languages than we care to count. There are also those that study and create and read ancient spoken languages, there are also programmers that are like that.

Luckily, programming languages are much smaller than spoken languages. Much fewer ways to say things. Also, usually you are talking about very concrete topics, like math and science, and not fuzzy topics like emotions. Also, you can try running your code and see if the computer says "I don't understand". The only real problem comes up when you word something wrong and the computer thinks you mean something else.

So programming is only as hard as you want it to be. Learn a little, or learn a lot. There is always more languages to be learned, and if you run out, you can invent some new ones.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I had a dream last night and it fit me like a glove

Last night I dreamed I installed linux. Ubuntu I believe. In my bed. Yes, I dreamed I installed linux in my bed. I mean, if you are going to have an OS installed in your bed, do you really want Vista on there?

But it just wasn't working quite how I wanted. Because apparently I installed linux in my bed. And my pillow was just simply not behaving quite right. Normally I like to tuck my arm under the pillow, but apparently Ubuntu wouldn't let me do that. Whenever I tried the pillow would move. It was otherwise a completely functional pillow, except that if you tried to put anything under it (besides the bed of course) it would just not work.

So, I tried looking in the man pages for info on pillow and beds... but you know how man pages are. After a good hour I still couldn't figure out what I wanted (although I did learn all sorts of other completely unrelated things I could do with my bed). I also discovered that changing the covers was a pretty easy task if you installed this other little thing. So I downloaded the RPM and sure enough, pretty cool, I could change the color of my covers. Still couldn't put my arm under the pillow though.

Looked up a few other flavors of linux, and sure enough, pretty much none of them let you put your arm under the pillow. Apparently they would have to completely rewrite the pillow in order to allow that. So I got frustrated and decide maybe I should just give up and go with Windows since I knew you could put your arm under the pillow in Windows.

At that point my alarm went off and I woke up. My arm was under my pillow. WTF.

So, now I'm trying to analyze this dream. I believe my mind is trying to tell me about the frustrations of linux. So much potential, so much power, so much freedom, but there is always that annoying little frustrating thing that you can't figure out how to fix unless you get way too deep. But yet a strong desire to go away from Windows. But... why didn't I dream about a Mac bed? That would be a nice bed. Probably really sleek looking, and all white. I would totally buy a bed from Mac.