Why, hello there. I'm back from the warm glow of spending Christmas and New Years at hearth and home in Rhode Island. That means that I've returned to my usual city of stubby, unadorned concrete boxes posing as buildings, host to a quixotic collection of ugly white people under severe delusions of grandeur.
One must soldier on.
Or not, since it's time again to arglbargl about Xbox Live Indie Games. For a change, instead of describing its latest indignities through the lens of Cute Things Dying Violently, let's instead focus on Scott Tykoski, a bonafide developer at Stardock who decided to go slumming in XBLIG with the Christmas-themed Elfsquad 7.
Poor Scott recently tweeted that Elfsquad 7 had only sold 600 copies on XBLIG (at $1 a copy) since its release, which is dispiriting for a number of reasons. But since my opinion on how viable XBLIG is as a market should be pretty well-known at this point, I'll only focus on one reason in particular: Elfsquad 7 got lots of good press. Joystiq, Kotaku, Indiegames.com, Gamasutra, and plenty of other sites quickly took note of the professional developer and his game. Lots of people paid attention. And still... 600 sales.
So, we're looking at XBLIG as a market that is even now becoming more resistant to good press, one of the most reliable levers of ensuring (or at least boosting) commercial success in pretty much any market. XBLIG doesn't have many saving graces left for those interested in earning money from it, and one of those few remaining graces is either quickly receding or is now entirely gone.
And Scott's not my only data point. Cursed Loot (formerly Epic Dungeon) was the best-selling game of the XBLIG Winter Uprising that occurred a year ago. According to its creator, Eyehook Games, the title sold 3,800 copies (at $1 a copy) on its first day on the market last December. And that was before that game (and the other Winter Uprising games) got featured prominently on the Xbox Live Dashboard. By comparison, CTDV (I lied, I am talking about it), a game I'd wager was similarly popular, sold 700 copies (at $1 a copy) on its first day of sales about 9 months after the Winter Uprising concluded, and only 800 copies on its best day, when the Summer Uprising ad went up on the Xbox Dashboard.
Two games, both popular and well-received, both backed by prominent Uprisings and similar levels of advertisement from Microsoft... yet one exhibited far slower sales than the other, just nine months later.
There could be many other reasons for that, including purchasing habits of different customer bases (CTDV seems to have sold as well as Cursed Loot over all, indicating that the long tail of purchases has made up for lower initial sales), but I can't help but think that the marked difference of 3,800 sales versus 800 sales is from rapidly-declining market interest. Fewer customers are interested in XBLIG as a whole, and the market is contracting to the point where even consistent good press is losing its relevance.
One final example: the creator of the recently-released twin stick shooter P-3 admitted in the App Hub forums that his game only sold 21 copies (at $1 a copy) on its first day on the XBLIG market. His conversion rate of trial downloads to purchases was 5%, which is... saddening. And I can't help but compare that with my own crappy geography game, which sold 60 copies on its first day of sales back in June 2010. As a genre, twin stick shooters are far more popular than edutainment, so once again I find myself wondering just how much the market has contracted.
We got thunder snow on Wednesday night. Thunder. Snow. A rare-ish meteorological occurrence that spells the unholy combination of airborne fire and airborne ice. And what do we get for all that? Three bloody inches of snow, and I guess an early dismissal from work. I was kind of hoping "fire + ice" in natural phenomena would be like "crossing the streams" or something, but apparently not. I just want a snow day, ok?!
In other news, a lady was basically humping my leg on the Metro today. I managed to snag an aisle seat, pretty much the last available seat on the train. But since everyone up to and including me had found a seat, that meant the aisles were clear for people to stand near the very convenient holding bars. Y'know, the ones not near the seats.
So imagine my surprise when a woman chooses my seat to not only stand next to, but to dangle her purse and pelvis over. One hand gripping the seat in front of me, one hand gripping the back of my seat, standing perpendicular to me as if my thigh were a surfboard to ride. It turned into one of those awkward things where I am so completely determined to just play my Goddamn Angry Birds that I will not show this crazy leg-humping/surfing lady that she is freaking me out, although she is RIGHT GODDAMN THERE, HOVERING OVER ME LIKE SOME KIND OF ALIEN PROBE and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL? IS THAT PICKLES? AT 9AM?
On a different note, if you tell me in all seriousness that you're not going to get a flu vaccine because of nebulous, unfounded concerns over the "stuff" that's in a vaccine, because God will protect you from the flu, and then you get the flu anyways and become viciously ill... does that mean that (a) God doesn't exist, (b) God's trying to teach you a lesson, or, my personal favorite, (c) God doesn't care what you think?
Please understand how I get confused when people who live in a world governed by God's laws and rules start arbitrarily drawing the line when scientists come up with ways to use those rules so that I don't have to listen to you barf into a wastebasket.
Finally, I think a certain class of people - particularly the lazy and the obese - are excellent mathematicians. It's true! I've decided this is true because of how expert they are at moving sharply towards their destination at an incredibly slow pace, nevermind the fact that they're either holding up people behind them or obstructing the paths of people in front of them. There is a mathematically perfect route to their destination that requires the smallest amount of speed and effort, and they don't care who they have to annoy to follow it.
Sure, it's not like sidewalks and Metro platforms have lanes with painted lines, but human traffic generally follows the same rules as American traffic: you're on the right, oncoming traffic is on the left. Pass slow people in your own lane on their left, then re-merge with traffic. Got it? Good. However, the fat, lazy mathematical geniuses don't follow these rules! They are adhering to algorithms and elliptical orbits that make mere human decency pale in comparison! Not following me? Their formula goes like this: a young, skinny, healthy train leaves from Alexandria at 9AM, walking briskly at 10mph, heading for Washington DC. A corpulent, glacial-paced train leaves from Arlington at 9:15AM, waddling at all of 2mph, also headed for Washington DC. The skinny train follows human traffic and is courteous to people, whereas the jowly train will run you right the fuck over if need be.
Q: How long will it take the slower, more obnoxious train to reach DC, presuming that they ignore typical pedestrian walking patterns and run over everyone in their path to get to their destination?
Q: How long will it take the faster, much handsomer train to catch up to the one that's pissing me off, and then have to go around them at a brisk pace at the one junction where the pain-in-the-ass train has stopped annoying oncoming traffic and has started annoying me?
Q: How likely is it that the faster train will fume about this without saying anything, because of politeness and because of society, and will instead write a passive-aggressive blog post about it later?
Happy Day Off, federal employees! This is the second work cancellation ever for the Obama Administration, and the first I've experienced, as I fled DC before the December 19 storm.
Word of the cancellation reached us yesterday afternoon, but seeing as how the roads and everything else were still a mess on Super Bowl Sunday, none of us thought the government would open on Monday. That allowed us to have a leisurely day of shoveling sidewalks, cooking, and playing Settlers of Catan. And the watch the Super Bowl, too. I guess. (Was it just me, or were a lot of the commercials really misogynistic?)
My girlfriend and I headed out today to re-up on groceries and took stock of the situation. The main roads, like Logan Circle, 13th Street, and 14th Street, have been mostly cleared of everything but snowy lane centers and lots of slush. The smaller streets like P and Q have been left to fend for themselves, and usually consist of 2 to 4 inches of ice, packed snow, and slush. Those who bothered to clear their sidewalks get to appreciate clear brick and pavement today, while those who didn't bother (the bastards) still have lots of packed snow to hike over.
Apparently, there's another storm that will show up tomorrow afternoon and start dropping snow. Preliminary estimates are in the 5 to 10 inches range, with snow falling from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon. This makes me really wonder if the federal government will reopen tomorrow. Right now, I'd say there's a 50/50 chance of work... the major DC roads are in decent shape and people seem to be moving around decently. The Obama Administration has been pretty single-minded in keeping the government open during dicey weather, and if they're looking for an excuse to reopen Uncle Sam Co., the main roads out there should provide one. However, the side roads still suck. Sidewalks are still messy. Above-ground Metro service has yet to resume, leaving me looking like a greasy, unshaven hobo. And God knows how the suburbs are faring, seeing as how Maryland got hit even worse than DC.
Combine that with an infrastructure that's already severely taxed by the 20 to 30 inches we just got, which I'm not sure will be up to the challenge of clearing an additional 5 to 10 inches in a quick and orderly fashion. The result is that I foresee work being cancelled on Wednesday, and if the snow starts Tuesday afternoon... is it wise to have everyone struggle in to work tomorrow, only to send them home early again? I'm not sure. But, again, the Obama Administration really doesn't like to cancel work.
No work tomorrow! Woooooooooo! Happy Hour was at The Commissary in Logan Circle and became way, WAY happier.
4:29pm, February 9
It's started snowing here again. 6 to 16 inches is on the way. The novelty is wearing off.
12:15pm, February 10
Complete white-out conditions outside. Our nice shoveled paths have been reburied. Yes, the novelty has worn off.
Returned from Whole Foods with lots of supplies. Okay, well, not lots of supplies. Mostly beer and chips. I think some chicken and pasta sauce made it into my bag too. I'm not sure, things were rather hectic. Fortunately, the beer and chips are accounted for.
Hunkered down in Fortress Logan Circle with my laptop, camera, and a copy of Inglourious Basterds. I anticipate fun blizzard-like conditions. (Why don't they ever come out and call it an actual blizzard?)
Inglourious Basterds is pretty awesome. The beer helps make it even better. In other news, current beer supply running low. May have to switch from Dogfish Head Raison D'etre to Hoegaarden. There are difficult times. The snow continues to fall.
Inglorious Basterds is over. God, what a weird movie. Need more beer.
Heard rumors of a snowball fight in Logan Circle at 9pm. Heading out into the tundra to investigate. Found additional Raison D'etre in the fridge, have received a new raison d'etre. The snow continues to fall.
There was a grand snowball fight in Logan Circle! About 200 people stopped by, many of them en route to the Black Cat, to participate in the mayhem. Highlights include gaining and losing ground at the center of the circle, our Snowtomic Bomb, our Snow Redoubt, and many screaming charges to and fro. Eventually the snow got so compact from everyone walking on it that getting hit by a snowball felt like taking a brick upside the head.
Back at the house, pizza-making has commenced, and beer-consuming has recommenced.
Started uploading pictures. View them here (link also now at the top of the page).
Just got back from the great snowball fight of Dupont Circle. A couple thousand people were there, hurling chunks of snow that were the consistency of concrete. I charged the center of the circle several times, to prove my bravery! After getting hit in the head several times by what I suspected was snow-covered lead, we opted to retire back to the house.
The... the snow stopped. What the hell? I was expecting at least another 5 hours of snow. I wonder what the final tally is. I'm guessing somewhere around 20 to 24 inches.
Still hunkered down in Logan Circle. The snow's been over for several hours, but it's left its mark: at least 20 inches on the ground, with drifts ranging from 24 to 30 inches in places. The snowball-tastic wet snow from last night wound up being covered by much lighter, fluffier snow overnight, so it'll drift whenever the wind picks up. At the bottom of the pile, though, there's a rock-hard layer of packed wet snow and ice. Cars were making progress on some of the roads, but only because the tire tread areas consisted of this solidified crap. Plows have been almost non-existent, but I've seen them leave their marks. The problem is, the hard layer of snow and ice is so stubborn that the plows can't straight down to street level... they can only scrape away at the top levels.
Will all this in mind, Mayor Fenty hopes to have the city open by rush hour on Monday. Personally, I think he has no chance of pulling that off. I'm expecting to get Monday off from work, with a possible return on Tuesday. The Federal Government will only reopen once all the suburban roads have been cleared in addition to the highways (so the bureaucrats can leave their homes), but here's the kicker: more snow is possible on Tuesday night. If the suburban roads and subdivisions aren't clear by Tuesday, the plows committed to clearing them will have to be reassigned to clearing the highways of fresh snow. I'm hoping there's a chain reaction that will keep me out of work for the better part of the week. We'll see!
12:00pm, February 7
Well, DC Metro will not have above-ground Metro service today, so I'll still be out in Logan Circle. Beer supply going strong (although the Raison D'etre did not last the night), aided by a last-minute addition of bourbon. Food supply adequate. Clothing supply limited, smells suspiciously of rock salt and B.O.
I'll probably be trudging through the snow for several blocks to get to the underground Metro service and ride out to Rosslyn for my friend's Super Bowl party. Not super duper thrilled about that exodus, not to mention the eventual un-exodus. I doubt many other people are, either... I'll eat my hat if we have work tomorrow.
Alright, well, it's started snowing here in DC. Forecasts are calling for about 36 hours of snowfall, with accumulation of 18 to 24 inches. For lots of the country, that's a dusting. In my native Rhode Island, it's a big deal. Here in DC? It's the end of all things.
I'm repatriating into DC for the weekend and staying at my girlfriend's place. She's got a big house with lots of cool people that's right off of Logan Circle, so I'll be very comfortable there. This is, ahem, in comparison to my tiny studio apartment. Also, the logistics are better: DC Metro will cut service on all outdoor tracks, which is the only way to cross the Potomac from Virginia and get out of my neighborhood. The Metro is all underground in the city, so the interior will have full service. I also don't have a shovel to dig out my car, but that probably won't matter: the roads will be impassible through Saturday, and even afterward, they'll probably be too hellish to contemplate navigating with 15 inch tires.
I'd like to live-something the blizzard, but how? Liveblog? Livetweet? Liveupdate my Picasa? All of the above? It's tempting, but then again, how many different ways do I have to say, "Yeah, it's still snowing"? Expect a few tweets/blog posts and many pictures on my Picasa channel that I'll duly link to.
A quick rundown of the behavior on the DC Metro that drives me out of my Goddamn mind.
The Door Guardians: Appearing in either ones or twos, these individuals wish to maintain their spot in a Metro train right next to the train's doors. In the older trains with partitions bracketing the doors, look for the Door Guardians to be leaning with their backs on the partitions. Sure, one or two Door Guardians slow the trickle of embarking or disembarking passengers to a single-file shuffle, but don't you understand that they're getting off in, like, only six stops??? Slowly squeezing by them and causing passengers to bunch up is a small price to pay for their convenience.
The Roller Backpackers: These have actually declined in the past months, after a fever pitch of Roller Backpack usage in 2008 and early 2009. Maybe their users realized that turning yourself from a small, mobile pedestrian into a 5-foot long moving obstacle was pretty obnoxious during rush hour. Bonus points: Roller Backpackers should move diagonally, so that their body can get in the way of one group of people while their backpack gets in the way of another group of people.
The Slow Smartrip Exiters: I'm a tad confused by individuals who are savvy enough to trade in paper farecards for electronic Smartrip cards, but dumb enough to not use them to speed through the turnstyles. No, you don't need to wait for the turnstyle to close again before swiping your Smartrip. Don't you notice all these people breezing by you without waiting? You're actually making yourself slower than a paper farecard user, which I didn't think was possible.
Escalefters:Move to the right, jackass! I'm trying to make my train!
Tourists: See above.
Pole Leaners: Seats are a rare commodity on a Metro train during rush hour. If they're all taken, the next best thing is holding onto the vertical poles. But none of us can do that if you're leaning your entire body on the pole instead of just holding onto it! That pole can support many outstretched arms and grasping hands... it isn't there just so you can feel something between your butt cheeks while you lean.
The Kamikazi Fat Guy: The best possible note to end on. It's rush hour, and you've just made it onto an impossibly packed train. You're practically standing in the doorway, with only an inch of clearance, waiting for the doors to close and nearly pinch your neck hair off. No more room, right? Wrong! Enter: The Kamizaki Fat Guy. You catch a glimpse of him coming over your shoulder, as the "Doors closing!" voice chimes. He's rushing to make the train, having broken out into a full-speed waddle. Moobs atwitter, he lunches into the still-open door, using his considerable bulk to ram you, and everyone else, deeper into the train, giving himself just enough room as the doors close. Meanwhile, you - now molded into his body for the duration of this hellish trip - can now legally claim yourself as a dependent on your taxes, should you survive the journey.
Because I can't leave well enough alone, here are some pics of the view from my new apartment. I promise I'll get back to game design shortly.
Click each thumbnail for the larger image.
For the uninitiated (or for those who don't feel like playing Where's Waldo), in the panorama you can see, from left to right: the Lincoln Memorial, the Pentagon (the huge beige building front-and-center), the Washington Monument (duh), the Ben Franklin Clock Tower at the Post Office Pavilion, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol Dome.
I also learned that the human brain is highly efficient and, after repeat viewings, will log this view as "standard information" in my mind, after which it will process the image quickly without emitting the dopamine or seratonin that comes from excitement or enjoyment.
I took the Blue Pill: Verizon FiOS is all hooked up. They were late, it took two and a half hours, and I think they built a fucking DeLorean in my closet, but now I can browse the Internet at lightning speeds and get Facebook on my TV, so... awesome?
Still getting things sorted in my apartment. Not a whole heck of a lot of uncovered surfaces in the place at the moment, and the defining feature seems to be scattered cardboard boxes, so, needless to say, I have some work to do. I hope to get back to programming in the near future though.
I'm part way through my move from Alexandria to Arlington and still have two days left to go on being off the grid. Cable and internet don't get installed at my new place until Wednesday morning, so my only access to the digital world can occur at work. Yay.
My new place is awesome, and I'll give a quick rundown once the Verizon guy installs me FiOS. But in the meantime, here's a recap of things that have gone horribly, horribly wrong during the move over the past two days.
Here, in short, is my original plan:
Pick up a cargo van from U-Haul on Saturday at 1pm
Do the first round of moving at my new place between 2pm and 4pm (you have to sign up for 2-hour move in slots)
Organize the apartment in the evening
Do the second round of moving in on Sunday morning between 10am and Noon
Return the van at 1pm on Sunday (24 hours of rental)
Happy Cristoforo Colombo Day, everyone! I don't have to work today, so let's talk about a favorite vacation activity: adding calories!
Last night, some friends and I hit up Ray's Hell Burger, a burger joint in Arlington that was opened by a local gourmand whose other restaurants offer deluxe steaks. So what does a gourmand do when he gets his hands on a burger?
A new Development Diary will come as soon as I find the time to actually do some honest-to-God programming.
I currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Old Town. It's beautiful down here, and fairly quiet, but good lord is it far away from the city. In exactly two weeks I move to Pentagon City, a section of Arlington that's just across the river from DC. It's a nice neighborhood, a bit more is happening, and it'll shorten my commute wonderfully. Actually, wanna see my building? Here it is! Bottom rightmost building, down the road. Thanks, Wikipedia!
It also means I get an excuse to buy things! My gaming and development gear right now consists of an aging desktop computer, a new laptop, my Xbox 360, and plasma TV. So there's a couple of things I'm considering, so long as I don't complete lose my gourd and spend more money than I deserve to:
New desktop monitor: my 19" CRT has served me well, but jeez do I hate moving the thing. Gonna replace it with a 19" LCD from my roommate's defunct desktop.
A DVI-HDMI adapter from Monoprice so that I can occasionally (permanently? I already yoinked the LCD monitor...) just develop or game from my PC to my TV.
Back in mid-January, I wandered through the U.S. Department of Labor's Frances Perkins Building taking before-and-after photos. I wanted to show how things would change from the Bush to the Obama administration.
Actually, I only wanted two photos. The first was of the Bush-era "FOX News Kiosk" that was downstairs in the lobby. Well, I was too late on that one. The damn thing was taken down even before the inauguration, before I had thought to snap a photo. It's since been replaced by the Obama-era "CNN News Kiosk."
The other photo I wanted was of the mandatory portraits of our glorious leaders in the lobby. I took a picture of the triumverate of Bush, Cheney, and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and uploaded them onto Facebook. (Photo after the jump.)
I came back on Tuesday after the Obama inauguration, aaaaaaaand... no portraits. Hmm, okay. These things take time. 'Course, it wasn't until March that a portrait of Obama was put up next to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. By then I'd long since stopped carrying my camera to work. But, HEY! Where's my picture of Joe Biden?!
Turns out that Biden was on the Hill earlier this week to finally get his photo taken. And, wham! Just like that, the Obama triumverate now graces my building. I'll have to bring my camera in on Monday and finally finish the "before and after" series.
Last Saturday, my friends and I celebrated the end of summer (or eulogized it, I guess) by patronizing the Great Waves at Cameron Run, a tiny water park that nonetheless sported some decent slides, mini golf, and a wave pool. There's not much there but it's still good fun.
We stayed late and then drove back into the city for the evening. On our way up the George Washington Parkway, we got a fairly good view of the autumnal Harvest Moon hovering over the Potomac. It looked even more spectacular once we were on the Mall, as the moon was rising above the Capitol Building.
The shots I snapped on my cell phone camera didn't do the event justice, but fortunately, DCist and some talented photographers were on hand to capture the event.
Fun times on the Metro this morning. I think my train driver was stoned or hungover or something. The train randomly moving in fits and starts was bad enough. But I really felt uneasy when his announcements started becoming divorced from reality.
He kept forgetting where our train's destination was. He announced Crystal City as Pentagon City. He thought Pentagon City was the Pentagon. And when we reached the Pentagon, my Yellow Line train to Mt. Vernon Square suddenly became a Green Line train heading to Branch Ave, the exact opposite direction.
Fortunately, despite the fact that our train was apparently driven by Verbal Kint, we arrived at Navy Memorial okay, at which point we fled screaming from the train and walked the rest of the way to work.