GDC & San Francisco Part I

GDC & San Francisco Part I

Sometime early yesterday (seems like much longer ago now), I was dropped off at the airport to make the 6+ hour flight trek west. I think the last time I was in San Francisco was when Dani and I came out six or seven years ago. So I was pretty excited to get back out here.  I'm staying at the Cartwright hotel in Union Square. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the hotel is.  The building is old, but the rooms are nicely updated.  They are small, but that works fine for my solo trip this week.

I decided to walk down to Fisherman's Wharf and pier 39. Because of the time difference, I was already super hungry at 3pm, so I battled the crowd for my In-N-Out burger fix. I'm so sad that we don't have that chain on the east coast, but I suppose that's good for my self control. Right after I finished eating, it rained for a short while.  I was a little bummed to be caught in it, but seeing this rainbow really made it alright.

Since I'm still on east coast time, I crashed about 8:30 pm - which means I was then up at 4am. Fun!

Monday at GDC

Registration opened at 7:30 am, so I grabbed a coffee and headed over.  From what I understand, registration was a bit of a pain in years past.  It could not have been more simple this year. I grabbed my badge and "swag bag", then headed over to the west hall.  Since panels didn't start until 10am I just hung out at the tables and did a bit of work on my game.

With a couple exceptions, I spent the entirety of my day taking in the panels from this years "Mobile Summit". Since I'm working on my own mobile game, it was super educational.  More than anything it gave me a bit more of a peak into the industry that I lack, having never worked for a studio.  The other two panels were a "Simple AI Tricks" panel and a postmortem on a really neat Project Tango based augmented reality game called "Woorld". 

I was very impressed by how well things ran today.  And how diverse and inclusive the entire conference is.  There were people from all over the world, men, women, trans peeps.  Given how bad the player community can be to people who are cis-white hetero males, It's nice to see that the dev community is so much more inclusive.  

Anyways, here's photos I took today.

Life Inertia

Life Inertia

A few people know that I sometimes battle with some mild depression. Sometimes I just slide into a state of being where I have a lot of anxiety and my mood goes super low for a few days or weeks. I always manage to come out of it for a while, but it sucks. I've been struggling there for most of February. One thing it does tend to do is cause me to do a lot of introspection and reevaluating of priorities.

One of the things I've kinda figured out is that I'm struggling against what I can only describe as life inertia. You set yourself on this path in life by making various decisions and pursuing different goals. And like a boulder rolling down a hill, you build up inertia. But then when you want to change course, trying to steer that boulder into another direction feels impossible. Even more so, when you and your partner are a pair of boulders rolling down the hill together.

I had a whole post planned out about the specifics. How I'm trying to morph my career from a successful web developer into making games. How I'm working so hard to get myself back on a healthy track, both financially and physically.  And about how much I dislike living in New England and the internal conflict that causes. But I don't think I'm going to go much into detail right now. Mostly I can't find a way to phrase it all that doesn't sound like whining or doesn't turn into an essay length diatribe.

I'm going to Game Developers Conference next week. I'm hoping that spending a week immersed in the world which I really want to break into will be the impetus I need to push myself harder. I'm making better choices with my money and with my health. And I have Dani helping me along the way. As for being stuck in Somerville... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So I guess all I can do for now is continue to nudge that rolling boulder and hope that eventually it will shift.

#boardgameflirts

#boardgameflirts

I run a Slack group that a handful of friends and I converse in daily about many things nerdy.  Today started out innocently enough with a post in our Boardgames channel. Joel posted a board game based pickup line.  It quickly devolved from there.  For your reading pleasure, here is the NSFW list of line.

Peace Out 2016, Don't Let the Door Hit Ya

Peace Out 2016, Don't Let the Door Hit Ya

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone had a great New Years Eve and start to the new year.  Dani and I had a great quiet night at home with the pups.

I should have known this year wasn't gong to go out quietly. Walking to the train the other morning I caught my foot and took a tumble on the sidewalk. I landed on my left knee, my right elbow, and.... my iPhone. And so I pretty much destroyed the screen. A nice little end of year expense I didn't expect. But hey, bright side, I upgraded to the 7.

So with 2016, the world around us has been filled with way too much bad stuff.  From the many beloved celebrities who passed on, the tragedy at Pulse nightclub, the fact that our country elected a orange faced, facist, man-baby to be our next president, the tragedies in Syria, and many other tragedies around the world . It's been a shitty year.

But with the bad, there's also good. Looking back over the year, Dani and I had some pretty great adventures this year.

  • Went to Disneyland & Dani completed the Star Wars Light Side Challenge
  • Chicago Visit and Dani's first Comic Con - C2E2

  • Received my Associates Degree in general studies

  • Went to Disney World & Completed the RunDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge

  • Attended my First PAX Ever!

  • Visited "Comic Book Men's" Comic shop in NJ and met couple of the guys from the show.

  • Attended 3 Weddings

  • Built Companimals at the Microsoft Hololens Hackathon

  • Built a gaming rig and entered the world of VR with my Oculus Rift

  • Dani Completed her Ultra Marathon

  • Saw Billy Joel in concert at Fenway Park

  • Finally got Dani to take me to King Richards Faire

  • Philadelphia Trip

  • Montreal Trip (first time in Canada)

  • Attended our first BU Hockey Game

  • Another trip to Disney World and the Wine and Dine Festival / Race Weekend

  • Star Wars Rogue One! (I love Star Wars)

The other big change that happened this year, was taking the jump back into the start-up world again.  At the end of July I took a new position as the lead front-end developer / architect with Indico Data Solutions. It's been a great move for me, allowing me to be a lot more creative and work to improve my leadership skills.  And in my field, there's always more technology to learn and stay up to date on.

But what about 2017 you ask?  I'm not much of a person for resolutions, mostly because I'm not good at keeping them and I think that New Year's is an arbitrary point in time for self improvement. But it's as good a time as any to take stock of where you are and set some new goals. I have a few in mind I'd like to work towards in the coming months.

  • First off, I vow to keep fighting. This country is going to need people to keep fighting for the rights of women, minorities, and immigrants under the incoming administration. I could go on and on about how terrified I am that the progress we've made over the past few years could be rolled back and then some.  But I think most people who have been paying attention understand.  The only thing we can do is to keep fighting and show up at the next elections in 2 and 4 years.
     
  • Project: I'm planning to build a "droid".  It's a multi-disciplinary project that I think will take me the better part of a year. But I'm very excited to take the plunge. The plan is to build a motorized life size Chopper from Star wars rebels. For an idea of what I'm talking about, check out this amazing build by "Darth Will", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL4SFNwV-Po. I'm hoping to build something similar.
     
  • Continue Learning. I bought a ukulele in Hawaii several years back  when Dani and honeymooned.  And I've not found the time to learn how to play. I'm going to try to prioritize time to learn.  I also plan to devote more time to working on and learning more game development.  I'm very excited to be attending the Game Developer / Virtual Reality Developer conference this year.
     
  • Give myself an Attitude Adjustment. So we've been living in Somerville for pretty close to five years now. While I moved here with an open mind and even a bit of excitement, I've never really fallen in love with the Boston area to put it kindly. I'm going to try to suck it up, deal with the overcrowding and horrible public transit and try to be somewhat positive about living here for now.

I'm looking forward to the next year.  I'm also terrified about what effects the Trump presidency will have on the world and on my life, but nothing to do but forge ahead and get ready to fight. And play some hockey. Yeah, I'm gonna play a lot of hockey.

Disney Holidays & Wine and Dine 2016

Disney Holidays & Wine and Dine 2016

Dani and I took in our first food and wine festival as Disney a couple weeks ago.  As a huge fan of Disney and of the RunDisney races and with the announcement of the inaugural Lumiere's Two Course Challenge, we couldn't pass it up the opportunity for another trip to the happiest place on earth.  It also didn't hurt to be there during the final stretch of this awful election year (but that's a story for another post).

As usual, we stayed at our favorite budget hotel, Pop Century.  Staying at those resorts makes getting to the parks, the race expo, and all the races so much easier.  While Dani has signed up for all three races, I decided just to do the 5K this trip.  That meant I only had to get up SUPER early one of the days.  This race, my first RunDisney 5k,  actually turned out to be one of my best RunDisney races. As per usual I didn't stop for any pictures, due to the long lines, but I managed to plod out a 40ish minute 3.2 miles without having to do intervals or stop to walk. I think I even managed to get negative spits.  I guess all the cross training is starting to pay off.

The race itself was mostly through Animal Kingdom which was actually pretty nice. We got to see a fair amount of the "backstage" areas of the park - which included some animatronic Dinosaurs in storage as well as the floats for their new lagoon show.  And how about this start? Is that snow? In Florida? ;)

Dani rocked her 10k and Half as well.  And sported some pretty nice costumes if I do say so myself.  You can see those on her Instagram or blog.

Outside of the races we enjoyed six awesome days at the parks.

While we were there, the 2016 Food and Wine expo was also happening.  Essentially what this was, was at Epcot they set up food and drink kiosks all over the world showcase with tapas sized food options from all over the world.  There was even a passport booklet you could get to check off all the different food and drink you tried.  It's a bit expensive as you have to pay for each item and they aren't cheap.  But it's so much fun to try all sorts of food.  I think my favorites might have been the Korean Barbecue and the Elderberry Cider.  Oh and we didn't even know that they had special concerts for the festival, so you can imagine how excited Dani was to see Boyz II Men live.

The other amazing highlight was going to the first of this years Mickey's Magical Christmas Party.  This was an extra ticket which got us into a four hour "party" at Magic Kingdom that Monday night.  They had many of the rides open (with much shorter lines),  free treat stops with all sorts of cookies, eggnog, and hot chocolate, special character spots, an incredible holiday parade and an even more amazing fireworks show.  I'm so glad we decided buy tickets to the party. It was so much fun,

As per usual, a lot of photos were taken. (Although I always find I forgot to capture a few things).

We even saw my gal, Phasma, marching the troops through Hollywood Studios!

We enjoyed the experience so much we are already planning on going back again next year.

J'aime Montréal

J'aime Montréal

Sometime's Dani's races take us to some really cool places.  This time it took us north of the border, to Canada.  I can't believe it's taken me this long to visit our neighbors to the north.  And I have to say I absolutely fell in love with the place.

It's kind of funny, every time I bring up Montreal, if the person has been there, they agree the city is amazing. It's a beautiful mix of old and new.  The people were friendly and the poutine was delicious. Highlights included poutine of course, seeing the Bell Centre, Square Victoria, and the Olympic Monument. 

2016 Microsoft HoloLens Hackathon Boston

2016 Microsoft HoloLens Hackathon Boston

A while back I found out about a hackathon sponsored by the Boston AR and Boston VR groups.  Microsoft had agreed to bring in a bunch of the developer headsets and let us hack up some new apps for them over the course of the weekend.  My coworker and I both applied.  I had almost forgotten about the whole thing until we both got invites the weekend before the event.  I'm so glad we did, because it was an absolute blast.

Friday night we were introduced to the platform and given an overview of how to use them, what the goals of the weekend were.  Shortly after we were turned loose to eat dinner and form our teams - which involved walking around pitching our idea to potential team members.

Scott, a walking, idea pitching, billboard, and myself.

Scott, a walking, idea pitching, billboard, and myself.

Our original idea was to have sort of a virtual therapy animal.  A hologram animal you could interact with, talk to, and play games with to help deal with stress and anxiety.  We started out with the idea of a bird and somewhere along the way added the idea of a jelly fish.

Scottie and I found ourselves working with two incredibly fun artists - Costas Frost and Derek Johnson. And not only were they awesome artists, but they also brought some fantastic ideas to the team. One of which was our final character, Squiddy.  But the other ideas pushed us to adding an emotional reading feature to help autistic people who have difficult time reading emotions.  This was done by taking a picture using the webcam and using Microsoft's cognitive services Emotion API to read the faces.  Squiddy would then act out the emotion in an exaggerated fashion to help convey it to the user.

So that's what we set out to build over the course of the next 36ish hours. There was a lot of laughing, a bit of cursing, and a lot of bad-assery.  The result was a demo that had many people who tried it giggling with delight.

Here's a short demo of our CompAnimal, Squiddy, in action.  Sadly we weren't able to capture the emotion reading; but please take my word for it, it was awesome.

Here is our presentation deck.

If there was any doubt about how cool the HoloLens is check out this video of me playing Robo Raid on it. The robots just bust through the walls!

I Built a Gaming Table!

I Built a Gaming Table!

Ever since I first saw the Geek Chic products at C2E2 a few years back, I've been slightly obsessed with having my own convertible game table. The only problem is that they are expensive as hell.  Convincing Dani that we needed to invest in one just wasn't going to work.

So then I thought, I'm pretty good at making things... maybe I could make my own table.  Oh poor naive Tori, this was going to be a serious project. First things first, I started to research! I scoured the web for resources.  It turns out more than a few other people had this same idea. So like the good crafty person that I am, I started a Pinterest board! In the end, I decided to take the general approach in the nicely laid out plans here: Game Table Project with Step By Step.

First Try:

With my first attempt at a table, I started with a modified size. I felt like the original size was too large.  This first frame was largely an exercise in how things could not go the way I wanted. It was also a good lesson in how inaccurate pre-dressed lumber and hand power tools can be.

Take Two

I was pretty unhappy with the way the first frame came together. the sides were bowed in and in general it just wasn't how I wanted it.  So I took it apart and started over.  This time following the plan dimensions a bit more closely. Since I don't have a table saw, planer, or various other shop tools I had to make a few substitutions.

  1. My arm rails are an inch wider.
  2. I used pre-made table legs chopped down for height in lieu of the tapered legs.
  3. I used pre-made crown molding under the arm rests

Messing up the Top Insert

The insert is, and has been one of the toughest part of this build. Which is why my table currently sits without one. A couple problems came into play building this piece.  The pre-dressed wood from Home Depot (as previously mentioned) is not precisely cut, and is often slightly bowed. So getting the top measured and cut correctly to fit the opening, which is also ever so slightly off from square, turned out to be a large issue.  

I would up with an insert that fit super tight. There was not enough clearance to allow for the wood to swell in the summer correctly.  In attempting to remedy this I managed to really fuck up the insert by cutting it too short on one end.  I then had the bright idea of cutting it in half and doing adding a piece down the center perpendicular to the other boards.  But again, I ran into issues making this happen with imprecise tools and uneven boards. So currently that part is on hold.  I think I may eventually try to build leafs instead of one large piece.

Finishing it Up

Please excuse the pun, I couldn't help myself.  This was also my first attempt at applying finish to a piece of furniture.  And it taught me a few very valuable lessons.  The first being always try to do your sanding before final assembly. The second lesson was in how messy staining is.  I choose a dark stain to match our other furniture.  I then followed that up with a couple coats of a hybrid oil/water based polyurethane for the arm rests and the inside vault walls.  You can see the finished project below.  Well, I'll say it's finished until I get a table saw and can build the insert leaves.

Always looking to break out some dice. Let me know if you want to come over and play some games!

First time at PAX East

This past weekend was my first foray into the phenomenon that is PAX East. I was, thankfully, able to snag a Saturday ticket right after they went on sale. And got to attend with a few friends and coworkers.  We had fun, played a lot of board games, and I walked the insanely crowded show floor.  I picked up a new board game (Krosmaster Quest) and a couple of ships for X-Wing, which I finally learned how to play.

I was coming down with a cold, so my day was unfortunately a bit subdued. And I failed hard at taking pictures of all the awesome stuff. I think next year I'll try to get a three day pass so I can experience more of the panels and other things going on.  In the mean time, here are the few pics of the fun insanity I took.

Geek & Sundry's Table Top Day - Nerd Block Unboxing

Warning - Spoilers below if you haven't received your block and want to be surprised - turn back now!

Being a huge fan of both Geek & Sundry and table top gaming, I was pretty excited when the themed box finally arrived at my door. Note: This was also my first box from Nerd Block.

So lets take a look at what was inside:

  1. International Tabletop Day T-Shirt
  2. Funko Legacy Magic the Gathering Action Figure (I received Liliana Vess)
  3. No Survivors Note Pad
  4. Felicia Day "Embrace Your Weird" Pencils
  5. Geek and Sundry Bumper Sticker
  6. Dungeons and Dragons Comic Book
  7. Wil Wheaton's D6
  8. Geek & Sundry Tabletop Day themed playing cards
  9. Geek & Sundry RPG Player tokens w/ Bag

Verdict? I'm actually pretty disappointed with this box. The cost on this box was 39.95 plus shipping, which brought the total investment to almost $50.  I have a hard time finding anywhere near that value from this box.  

The t-shirt isn't a high quality shirt. It's just your standard, heavy weight, cotton.  I would have much preferred a Funko POP to the legacy figure.  This particular figure barely sell for $5 on eBay.  Didn't really need another set of playing cards. The tokens, comic, and notepad are ok, and rest of the items are just meh. 

Being as this was a tabletop day box, I was expecting more game type stuff.  Most of this is just game adjacent swag. They could have included a card game like Flux for the cost of the figure. Or even some of the items they include in the tabletop day kit they shipped to retailers last year.

Well, lesson learned here.  I won't be picking up any other Nerd Blocks anytime soon.  Hopefully you will find more value in your box than I did.