Thursday, February 10, 2011

Zenburn theme for Xcode 4

I finally upgraded to the GM seed of Xcode 4 today. It's a bit of an adjustment process as usual, but so far I really like what I see.

One of the biggest annoyances is that Xcode 4 doesn't automatically take many of your Xcode 3 settings during the update. Most egregious is the lack of theme compatibility. My favorite theme is the Zenburn theme (I use a similar theme in Visual Studio).

I've taken the liberty of converting the theme to Xcode 4 format and posting it for download here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

My first game is shipping February 3 (the personal story behind War of Words)

Always the dream

When I was in middle school, I decided I would create games for a living. I found some friends and created a little seventh-grade "company", Double C Productions, where we created state-of-the-art text adventure games in QBasic. This was in 1992. Then 3D happened, and I got completely left behind by the math and art requirements.

In 1995, at age 15, I got my first "real" job as a graphic designer. In 2002, I became a waiter, then a restaurant manager. In 2006, four years out of college, I finally "grew up" and got back to my roots: software development. But it wasn't games, it was enterprise business intelligence software. It did give me some real-world experience with the software development lifecycle: development, release, support.

In two days, nearly five years after that, my first game will ship.

Of add-ons and fame

But let's go back again, to 2005. That's when I started playing World of Warcraft. I'd been playing MMOs since 1998 (EverQuest), but WoW presented me with an interesting opportunity: add-on development. I ended up creating one of the first add-ons for WoW (it was the 262nd add-on on Curse, if you can believe it) -- HitsMode. That add-on is still alive and well, and it even has a modern successor.

In 2009, I created a little add-on called AVR Encounters. That add-on landed on the front page of MMO Champion (a huge thing in the WoW world), and netted me nearly a million YouTube hits. I was a bit of a celebrity. Then, around 3 months later, AVR Encounters became one of only around three add-ons in the history of the game to be intentionally broken by Blizzard. My run at fame was over, but my taste for game programming wasn't piqued.

But, I hear you saying, add-ons aren't games! So why am I telling you this? Because my add-ons are used by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of players. These players run the gamut from hyper-intelligent to hyper-stupid. I've gotten thousands of comments and hundreds of tickets, and I was starting to understand what supporting a game must be like. It was a valuable experience.

But it wasn't enough.

Then, everything changed

In the summer of 2010, I stumbled upon the old journals of Jordan Mechner. He is the creator of the original Prince of Persia, and the screenwriter of the 2010 movie by the same name. Mechner was a true prodigy: an artist, programmer, and writer. He has an attention to detail and a strong concept of what makes things "fun". Plus he speaks at least five languages, and at one point lived in Paris six months out of the year. He became, that day, my idol.

I spent an entire day reading through all 96 pages of his journals, which encompass his life from 1985-1993. Mechner reminded me a lot of myself -- although he's got some talents I don't have -- and it was almost scary. Yet he had used his talents immediately -- even during college -- to create commercial games. And I hadn't.

It was a wake up call.

Time to write a real game

Games have come a very long way since Mechner's day. I don't have a 100 million dollar budget or a team of artists. The scope of modern console and PC games is far beyond what I am capable of. But there is one platform that is still approachable. It reminds me, even, of those days back in 1992 where myself and a few other classmates hacked out our games and dreamed of the possibilities. That platform is mobile.

So, in September of 2010, I bit the bullet. I bought a Mac and set out on my first project. I wouldn't be able to do some triple-A first-person shooter. I couldn't create an MMORPG or even a good platformer. Since I'm not an artist like Mechner, just a graphic designer (there's a difference), I was a bit limited in my approach.

But I did have a good idea.

Thus was born my first game: War of Words. This is initially an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad game, but I'll port it to Android and other platforms if it's successful.

The general premise can be summarized in three words (the mark, I'm told, of every great piece of art): Scrabble with bombs.

That right there should get you thinking in the right direction. If you want to know more, I've got the marketing story all ready to go over at You should check it out. It's free (ad supported), and it's fun.

Maybe my next game will be a shooter or a platformer, or even the next WoW killer. Maybe I'll create the next Prince of Persia. Who knows. Until then, enjoy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How to tap a 5 liter mini-keg

On a whim, I brought home a 5 liter mini-keg of EKU, a German pilsner. Figuring out how to open it was a bit tricky, given that all the text on the keg is written in German. In fact, since this was the first time I'd ever attempted to open one of these, I was quite stumped. I Googled around, and came up dry. So I stopped back by the market where I bought it and asked the guys there what to do.

Turns out it's quite simple, and you don't need any extra hardware. No taps, no adapters, no kegerator.
  1. Pull up the lever on top and twist it hard counter-clockwise. The plastic won't break on you, and you do have to twist very hard.
  2. There's a big (usually red) lever at the base of the keg. Pull the top of the lever down hard. Then take the lever by the hand and pull the entire thing out from the keg. It will travel maybe an inch or so away from the keg, pulling a plastic bar with it.
  3. You're done! Now just twist the bar at the base of the keg to the left when you want to pour the beer.
The CO2 and everything is built in already, and it's fed into your glass by gravity.

Most people recommend chilling a keg in your refrigerator for 10 hours if it's completely at room temperature. If you just brought it home cold from the store, I'd still recommend letting it sit in there for 2-4 hours, depending on how long it was in your car.

I'm not sure yet how long these kegs last once opened -- I'll be experimenting with that this week.