Gamecraft

This blog is all about the craft of making games, and in particular, computer games. Gamecraft involves a broad range of topics, including design, development, quality control, packaging, marketing, management, and life experience.

Name: Gregg Seelhoff
Location: East Lansing, Michigan, United States

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hot Flaming Death

Our web server crashed... HARD.

Perhaps you have noticed that this blog, along with my main web site, SophSoft.com, has been down and non-functional for a couple of days. The web server hardware that was running these sites (and several others) got completely fried on Sunday.

When I say "fried", I mean truly fried. The AMD processor in the box overheated and filled the area with a nauseating burning electronics smell. If anybody asks, the amount of time it takes for an improperly cooled CPU to self-destruct is about 5 seconds, and when that happens, it stinks (in more ways than one).

We were already contemplating a system upgrade anyway, and since finding a replacement for this aged processor would be considerably more hassle and cost than replacing the entire box (with one three times the speed), we acted upon the latter option. This also gave us the opportunity to dump Windows 2000 Server in favor of Ubuntu Server (Linux).

So, after building a new server box and installing a new (to me) operating system, the hardware and software now seem to be working properly. Note that "properly" is not quite "as desired", and there is still much configuration to do in the coming days (including recovery of our secondary sites), but at least our two main sites are back together.

[Insert image of Phoenix rising from the ashes.]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Curmudgeon Day 2007

Once again, I celebrate my favorite major holiday today.

Today [Friday, November 23] is/was Curmudgeon Day, which is traditionally celebrated by remaining at home and doing whatever one wants. The fact that Thanksgiving provided both the first significant snowfall of the season and an abundance of leftovers, the observance was fairly convenient for us this year.

To read more about this holiday that has been celebrated for decades, here are my previous posts on the topic:

Curmudgeon Day 2004
Curmudgeon Day 2005
Curmudgeon Day 2006

Please do not confuse Curmudgeon Day with the pretender, "Black Friday", which has been debunked by Snopes, the premier urban legends site. Although my blog only extends back a few years, I proclaim that Curmudgeon Day predates all other claims on this day.

I will note that this particular date is significant as the birthday of Spanish King Alfonso X [1221-1284], who wrote (or perhaps commissioned) Libro de los juegos (English: "Book of the games"), which is one of the earliest and most important books containing game rules. This book, finished 724 years ago, forms part of the foundation of our industry.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thankgiving 2007!

I hope everybody has a great Thanksgiving day (even outside the US).

Following tradition, here are the things for which I am thankful this year:

On the business side, I am thankful that we have been productive and successful this year, that business is definitely on an upward trend, and that we have a clear roadmap for the next several projects and updates. We managed to finish Vista-friendly versions of all of our products, including Pretty Good MahJongg, Action Solitaire, and Most Popular Solitaire, before the consumer release date, Pretty Good MahJongg won a Shareware Industry Award, and we released Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, expanding onto a new platform.

On the personal side, I am very thankful that my immediate family is happy and healthy. My wife is actively volunteering in our community, my older son is enjoying his first year at Michigan State University, and my younger son started his high school career by being cast in their production(s) of Working that will travel to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Thanksgiving 2005
Thanksgiving 2006

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 1.01

An update to our Mac solitaire game is now available.

Goodsol Development has released a product update, Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 1.01. One can download or purchase the update, or find out more about the game, at the Pretty Goodsol Solitare Mac Edition web page.

Due to customer requests, this update adds two new variants to the solitaire game, Gaps, which can be found on the 'Preferences->Rules' menu. Some people really wanted the option of unlimited redeals, so that is now available. Since this makes the game impossible to lose (without quitting, that is), and hence no real challenge, we also added an option of only four (4) redeals, which is easier than the default two (2) redeals. This easier (but not unlosable) option provides some challenge but makes most (if not all) deals of Gaps winnable, with some effort.

Fortunately, the release version of the title contained no showstopper bugs, but we did fix a couple of aesthetic issues, along with one annoying problem that made the random deal selection when starting a 'New' game considerably less than random. Ironically, it had similar symptoms to a bug reported and fixed during beta testing, but the cause was completely unrelated. More on that in the future...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

National Games Week

Start playing games as a family tradition this week.

The week of Thanksgiving, in the United States, has been declared National Games Week. This year, that means November 18-24, 2007. Although the original promoter, Games Quarterly magazine, has ceased publication, there is a MySpace page for National Games Week dedicated to its continuance.

Here, it is a short work week, leading up to our biggest holiday for traditional family gatherings, followed immediately by a day dedicated to just staying home. What better time could there be to enjoy the simple pleasures of playing games with friends and family. I encourage you to break out the board games, or maybe a deck of cards, and enjoy a timeless activity experienced around the world for centuries. Better still, use this opportunity to start a game night tradition in your household or neighborhood.

By the way, the crocodile at my door tells me that Nashanull Keel-a-Zeeba Day is this week, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Working on stage

ELHS Theater is performing Working through November 18.

This weekend, the East Lansing High School Theater program began a two-week run of the musical, Working, based on the book of the same name by Studs Terkel. The play opened last Friday and runs through next Sunday [November 18] afternoon. The next performance will be Wednesday at 7:00pm, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30pm, and then "closing night" (for this incarnation) at 2:00pm, all at the East Lansing High School Center for Performing Arts.

I attended the show last night, primarily to see my son, William, who was cast in the named role of Anthony Coelho, a stone mason. Although I had not heard about this musical previously, I certainly enjoyed myself. It is unusual in the fact that there is not a plot, per se, but rather individual vignettes examining different personal working situations, taken from interviews. There were some portions that were surprisingly moving, especially considering that the whole cast are teenagers. "Fathers and Sons" was particularly emotional.

What makes the ELHS version of Working special is that the cast has been invited to perform the show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland next August. This is reputed to be the largest art festival in the world, and only about 60 schools from the US are invited each year; East Lansing has the only program in the State of Michigan that was invited for 2008. It is a Big Deal (and I am proud that my son gets to participate).

The trick, of course, is fund raising in order to allow the (slightly different) Scotland cast to make the overseas journey for a week or so. We are looking for sponsors and/or a major benefactor to help provide the approximately $150K it will take to get the cast and crew to Edinburgh. The theme of the show is such that character/job sponsorships and product placement are possible. (We have already "donated" $750 ourselves.)

Anybody interested in helping out can view the promotional video (on YouTube) entitled, Working Our Way to Scotland. (For fun, see if you can spot William rehearsing in his Pretty Good Solitaire t-shirt in the video.)

Tickets are still available for the remaining (Fall) performances for $10, of which $2 is a contribution toward the Edinburgh trip. I already have my ticket for next Sunday, so maybe I will see you there.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 1.0

Our first ever product for Apple Macintosh was released today.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition is now available from Goodsol Development.

After many months of development, the first product we have developed for Mac OS X has been shipped, and I must say that I am quite happy with the end result. The title received a significant amount of polish even since my New platform: Max OS X post a couple of weeks ago, so I think that the slight release delay was beneficial. You can also read what Thomas Warfield wrote about Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition in his blog.

The title itself is a game containing 30 different types of solitaire (as a start), which is a universal binary for both Intel and PowerPC Macs, and it runs on Panther (OS X 10.3), Tiger (10.4), and Leopard (10.5), the latest "big cat" that was released a little more than a week ago and reportedly sold 2 million copies in its first weekend.

To try our new game, download a 30-day evaluation version, or just buy a copy here.

Now that the program is finished (the initial version, anyway), the project source code is properly archived, and the wishlist for version 1.1 is filed, my hard work is over and I get a chance to catch up on a serious backlog of non-programming work. At the same time, the marketing work is really just getting started, and then we will have a decent idea of how the Macintosh game market stacks up to that on Windows.

Stay tuned...