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Microsoft Applies For Patent On Tufte's Sparklines 175

Posted by timothy
from the audacity-of-patents dept.
jenkin sear writes "Data visualization guru Edward Tufte developed Sparklines, a great way to display condensed data as an inline graphic. Excel's new version has incorporated the design element — and Microsoft has applied for a patent on them — without so much as a by-your-leave from Tufte."

Comment: Based on personal experience (Score 2, Interesting) 69

by PegamooseG (#29365579) Attached to: The Future of Indie MMOGs

Zwei2stein mentioned the REALLY Indie developers (i.e. Hobbyists and Amatures). This is the bucket where we're catagorized. Some of our greatest hurdles could be handled by throwing more money at it, but it's given us the motivation to find other, cheaper avenues for getting things done.

In our situation, we have a very small team of friends working on the game (both engine and content). At the time, we can only afford the bare minimal amount to host the game's site. Mostly, we put more time and energy into it than money, and even that is difficult while managing full-time jobs, families, social lives, etc.. If we had a large basket of money, we could hire more developers, artists, marketeers, and so on.

Even though we don't have that big basket of money, we still manage. It takes a lot of discipline, sacrifice, persistence. I get up two hours earlier than I really need to, so I can spend the evenings with my family. It takes discipline and determination to get up that early, but it's two hours of uninterupted time while everyone else is sleeping.

Can't afford artists? Well... What we can't do ourselves, we seek elsewhere. We started hitting the art forums and university art departments asking for volunteers. True, many artists are in it for the money. But, there are a few out there who are willing to help us a bit for the exposure and the practice.

Can't afford marketing and advertising? Well... We mention our game on various forums where people are playing a similar style of game. We've also looked into various ad-exchange sites. We've contacted reviewers and offered perks to some other gamers. If you just keep an open mind, there are a lot of fairly cheap ways to spread the word.

My greatest hurdle is getting more content into our game. I have pages and pages of ideas. It takes time to add new content, test it, and release it. I have more content ideas than I know what to do with. And, that's an awesome problem to have.

We didn't start working on our game to compete with other games out there. We don't even view them as competition. We view them as the community. We set out to create a game that we enjoy playing, based on ideas and concepts of other games that we enjoy playing. Yes, we'd love to reach the point to quit our day jobs, but if not much ever comes of it, we're having tons of fun along the way and gaining a lot of useful development experience.

If anyone would like to try our game, we'd love to hear your opinion: www.urbanlegions.net

And, if any of you are developing your own game out there, look us up and let us know about it. We look forward to seeing what you create, too.

Comment: Re: point and click killed adventure games (Score 1) 130

by PegamooseG (#28731853) Attached to: A History of Early Text Adventure Games

I have not tried any of the TellTale games, but from what I've seen, they look very entertaining.

One of my favorite point-and-click games of this style was "Day of the Tentacle". Even though the actions were limited, you still had a lot of combinations when doing a trial-and-error approach to solving the puzzles. Even though the interface is point-and-click, you still need to hold object X and apply it to other object Y. X times Y can lead to tons of things to try.

Comment: Adjust Your Schedule (Score 1) 601

by PegamooseG (#28481249) Attached to: How To Get Out of Developer's Block?

I understand. I've been there myself. I have several different projects I like to work on, but struggled to find the time and motivation to work on them. Especially while balancing other stuff: day-job, family time, social life, chores, etc. I had a hard time sitting in front of a computer for 8+ hours for my day-job, then coming home and working on the computer some more. Plus, in the evenings, there are plenty of other interruptions and distractions.

So, I rearranged my daily schedule. Now, I wake up at 4AM (Seriously... There is a 4AM! It does exist!) and work from 4AM to about 6:30AM. It takes will power. It takes discipline. I've been doing this for 3+ years. Yes, there are still mornings when I want to roll over and stay in bed. But, I have been so much more productive on my own projects when the rest of the world is still sleeping, and before I have to deal with other people's schtuff. Your body wil adjust after a week or two, and it becomes easier.

Also, since some people at that time of morning have trouble thinking, you might want to plan what portion of your project you want to work on, so you can establish focus. Otherwise, you might find yourself Slashdotting and Facebooking at 4:03AM.

Comment: Game Design vs. Game Theory (Score 1) 85

by PegamooseG (#28376391) Attached to: Game Design: A Practical Approach

Might be an interesting read. I may not be as interested in the programming side, but I might find some of the other topics to be beneficial.

Can anyone suggest a good book covering Game Theory? I'm looking for something that can provide me with a better grasp of the mathematics of establishing challenges in a game. Ex. Suppose there is a board game with pile of cards to draw from (like Monopoly). The deck has positive and negative game factors. What is the probability Negative should show up over Positive to make the game challenging enough, but not too challenging? And, at what strength do these factors makes the game too easy/difficult? And, how often should the cards be drawn?

But, I'm not just interested in this for board games. I'm interested in this for computer games, too. For RPGs, how does one adequately scale NPCs the players' progression? How often should encounters happen? How much and how often should the player be rewarded? Etc.

Comment: Of my Favorites (Score 1) 153

by PegamooseG (#28181973) Attached to: <em>Monkey Island</em> To Return
I loved this series. In fact, when I first met my (at the time) wife-to-be, I was playing the entire series. And she still married me (Can you believe it?). My other favorite was Day of the Tentacle ("I feel smarter... stronger... Like I could..." *boink* *boink* "TAKE OVER... THE WORLD!"). My other favorite... Discworld (the first one; never played the sequel). What I especially love about the LucasArts games and the Sierra Online games were the creative energy poured into them. I think these kinds of games help shaped my sense of humor and let me see things, not just from outside the box, but from the crow's nest perched at the top of the Christmas tree. I look forward to these Monkey Island releases. I just hope they don't do to these what was done with Legends of Zork (*shudder*).

Comment: Re:Not in the Game Design (Score 1) 308

by PegamooseG (#28124799) Attached to: Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design
I slightly disagree with your last statement. I don't think it is the interaction between the person and influence, but it is the psychological state formed from the interaction. Outside influence X creates emotional reaction Y in the person's mind. Enough of this conditioning, and you have a strong compulsion. The addiction comes in which the person believes this state of mind is the only way things are (white = this state of being is good; black = existence is hopeless without that state). To overcome this feeling is difficult, but not impossible. Pavlov proved this conditioning method with his dogs. But, you can uncondition the dog, and replace this mental addiciton with a bicycle horn instead of a bell. In this respect, it is "in the person", because it is created by the positive reactions generating neurological chemical dependencies.

Although I do agree with your comment on grey areas. Not everything in the world is black or white, but various shades of grey. So, I do not believe there is some "magical element" in games (or drugs or celebrities or whatever people attatch themselves to) that can be coded into the next great fbleepin' game. Whatever the next big addictive game is, it will need to create that positive reaction in the person's mind, so that they think, "This game is a good thing. I need more of it. I have a hard time of thinking of other things, because I like thinking about how great this game is. And, if I play just one more turn/round/hour of this game, it will make me happy. Because, this game is a good thing..."

Comment: Not in the Game Design (Score 1) 308

by PegamooseG (#28123259) Attached to: Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design

I don't think game addiction is in the game design itself. I think the addiction is in the player's obsessive-compulsive behavior towards reaching a personal goal. I used to be addicted to Lemmings. I'd stay up late playing, because I wanted to get those Lemmings past one... more... level. "Just one more" is a common catch phrase around people I know how have some form of game addiction.

My mom gets addicted to simple games very easily. In the original version of MS Windows's Freecell, she heard that ever 32,000+ levels were win-able, and she was obsessed with beating each one, just to see if she could. She completed all of them except for the one level which was proven impossible to beat.

The addiction is in the people, not in the game. I think you can design any game, give the player some kind of mission to keep in mind, and make the game somewhat difficult to reach that goal, but not impossible. Then, once they do obtain their goal, give the player a way to keep striving for something even better ("Sorry, Mario... The princess is in the next castle."). Ex. See if you can beat this game of solitaire. You beat it? Okay, now try again, but quicker this time. You beat that, too? Okay, now try it with more cards. Etc.

Comment: Re:Throw it out! (Score 1) 245

by PegamooseG (#28055125) Attached to: Throwing Out the Rulebook For MMOs
Skinfaxi -

If you are looking to exercise your brain, story-driven, puzzle-solving, world-building, you might want to check out Urban Legions (*insert tooting of own horn here*). I replied to the original article, but my friend and I started our own browser-based game. Both of us have played various RPGs. He's more WoW, and I'm more Ultima (classic, non-online).

We've taken the elements that we like of the various games, but strayed drastically from what people might consider "the norm". First of all, our game is very text-heavy with movement very simple (almost boardgame-like). It can be described like an RPG meets a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Yes, it does have its share of combat. However, it has several events wtih moral decisions throughout. Do you save the kitty from the tree? Or, do you burn the tree down, cat, leaves, and all? There is a big over-arching plot-line that we periodically add to, much like revealing plot in a comic book. There are side-quests, puzzles and challenges. A lot of the game is simply world exploration and trying various items and abilities in the different settings. We admit the artwork is lacking, which we are working on, but make up for this in the simple, yet descriptive texts.

One thing my friend and I think about as we create this game, is not as much about what the public wants, but what we find entertaining and we would like to play. Plus, the engine running the game is a thing of wonder (designed ourselves). To add content and how the game plays seems simple, but beneath the covers, it is very robust. We constantly try to out-do ourselves or reinvent ourselves. We still think up random scenarios, and see if they are possible with the engine.

I don't know if we'll ever reach WoW levels, but that doesn't matter. We're enjoying what we are creating.

Comment: Re:Narrative != Gameplay (Score 1) 131

by PegamooseG (#27881417) Attached to: Storytelling In Games and the Use of Narration

Video games are like any media of fiction. It's typical that the crap seriously outweighs the polished.

I think some commenters are losing focus. Not every videogame needs to have a good storyline. In many genres, the gameplay outweighs the plot. Do you really need or even care about storyline for Tetris, PacMan, or any first-person shooter? Not really. What about board games? Do you really need a plot for Monopoly, chess, or Settlers of Catan? Nope.

Good storylines are more essential for the role playing and interactive fiction genre of games. Storylines should to do the following:

  • Define environment
  • Provide goals
  • Define character
  • Provide information

Pretty much the same as written fiction. If these elements are not necessary to play the game, then odds are the game itself does not need to focus on a storyline. It's superfluous at that point.

Comment: Re:This isn't news...been this way since before 19 (Score 1) 243

by PegamooseG (#27530565) Attached to: GameStop Selling Games Played By Employees As New

Hello there fellow ex-Babbagarian. I worked there a long time ago in a city far, far away (Store 9... Which no longer exists)

This is old news. And not just Babbage's and GameStop. I know of other software stores that have allowed this. The main reasoning behind it is so the employees can familiarize themselves with the products so that they are more informed when the customers have questions.

I don't mind used software or display software, as long as the disc isn't all scratched up. It's not like a write-once form of media is going to catch a virus (as opposed to ye olde days of 3.5" floppies). The same sentiment goes towards DVDs.

I think it would be a lot worse in other types of stores where employees could be trying out food or undies. 8(

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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