Tag Archives: Day9

Day[9] 30-Day Project!

Dear all,

Recently Sean “Day[9]” Plott announced his 30-day project challenge. I’m super excited about this, since this provides an extra bit of motivation to tackle a particularly tricky problem. In addition, this is also an incentive to update my blog a bit more regularly.

Thinking about what to do, I considered working on the expansion to my game Albedo. However, since the expansion is already very far along in the development, I feel that this would be against the spirit of the challenge. At least against the spirit of the challenge the way I perceive it.

The next idea was to do a simple re-theme of my game Das Katastrophenspiel set in the e-sports realm with prominent people from the Day[9] community. This would have been too simple and not create much value.

So instead I am aiming to take one of my more complex games that is at the idea stage and design it to the point that I have a very rough prototype ready. Before Das Katastrophenspiel, I designed 5 other board games (A super hero game, a secret agent game, a vampire game, an Age of Torridan game, a simplified 4x game), but they were always ripped to shreds by my play test group. Now that I’ve actually completed a few projects, I feel it is the right time to dive back into more complex games, since both Das Katastrophenspiel and Albedo are quick filler games, but I would love to add something else to my portfolio.

Here is a rough breakdown of the project:

Description: Designing a medium complexity board game from the idea stage to the first prototype (alpha).

Week1: Learn how to use Tabletop Simulator (TTS)

Week2: Work on the design (cards, mechanics, events, etc.)

Week3: Continue with the design, but also port it over to TTS

Week4: Test & Iteration

 

All the best,

Kai

#36 San Francisco road trip

Well met, my friends!

It’s late, but I figured I’ll write about it anyway, before all the details fade away. This blog post is about my USA trip in March 2014 that I mentioned in the previous blog entry.

Saturday 15th of March:

I arrived in Los Angeles, after more than 10 hours on a plane. I did not manage to sleep during the flight. Instead, I watched the following five movies: Escape Plan (IMDB score 6.8), which was an 80s style Schwarzenegger and Stallone action movie, despite being from 2013. I’d say it was decent, but the best scene was Schwarzenegger’s typical move, where he grabbed a stationary machine gun, carried it under his arm and mowed down hordes of attackers. The next movie was Ender’s Game (IMDB score 6.9). Strange enough, they sorted it in the “family” category, even though it was pretty dark. Unfortunately the writing excuses guys already spoiled the ending for me, otherwise I might have ranked it higher. Next up in my ranking was Thor the Dark World (IMDB score 7.3) and then the Wolverine (IMDB score 6.8). The latter is a dip down when it comes to the IMDB score, but I liked it best out of the four. I did not want to gamble on the last movie, so I re-watched Lost in Translation (IMDB score 7.8), which is still great on the second viewing.

After this movie marathon, I felt pretty knackered, but I wanted to stay awake for as long as possible in order to beat the jet lag. Following a slightly modified tip I read on Daniel Negreanu’s twitter account, I also tried to reset my food clock in addition to the sleep clock. Negreanu phrased it as “Don’t eat x hours before you plan to go to bed in your new time zone”, but I changed it to eat according to the local time, even if you are not hungry. Basically it is the same advice that holds true for sleeping: you just follow the habits of the new time zone, even if it means over eating on the first day.

The guy at the rental car place looked like the actor Jeffrey Tambor from arrested development. Since I was alone on this trip and didn’t have someone to look at maps during the drive, I also rented a GPS. When I complained that the rubber suction pad to fix it to the windscreen was missing, the guy told me: “It is forbidden by California law.” Instead, the GPS was affixed to a sandbag, which was put on the dashboard. Weird.

Sunday 16th of March:

I walked around Beverly Hills and was shocked to see that there were a lot of vacant shops for rent. I guess with all the commerce shifting online, it should not have surprised me that much.

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Despite the popular claim that fast food is so much cheaper than healthy food in the USA, I found a bag of mixed vegetables for 1.19$, whereas the frozen pizzas cost 3$.

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So even in the USA the Herbertz diet would be affordable. That’s my “don’t try this at home!” diet of replacing my usual dinner of pizza and fizzy drinks with vegetables and water, which allowed me to go from 94.4 kg (207 lbs) to 79.5 kg (175 lbs) over the course of a year.

Monday 17th of March:

At 6:30 in the morning, an earthquake of magnitude 4.4 woke me up. A lot of people on my twitter feed commented about it.

I missed the opportunity, because I went back to bed. Hours later, I also mentioned it, before leaving Los Angeles. Originally my plan was to drive around the coast with a few stops and then to reach my hotel in Santa Clara in the evening. I picked Santa Clara, since it is 50 miles from San Francisco and other locations, which would allow me to take day trips. Also, hotel rates in San Francisco are more expensive than the ones in Santa Clara. However, I misjudged the distance to get there from Los Angeles a bit, so after driving along the coast for a while, I had to abandon that plan and head to the highway instead. If I were to do it again, I would split this one day trip up into two days and visit a few places along the way. On the way I noticed a bill board that advertised the in-N-out burger (check out Daym Drops’s review) 16 miles away. From all the different burger places (Johnny Rockets, KGB, Heart Attack Grill, in-N-out and probably some others that I forgot) we tried in Las Vegas last year, I liked that one the best, so I made sure to stop there.

One of the odd things about driving in the USA is the way warning labels are arranged on the pavement. The argument is that you are speeding by and read a single word like “signal”. Then a bit further down the road, you see another word “ahead” and are supposed to combine it to “signal ahead”. However, anyone who isn’t a mole and has half way decent eyesight will see both words at once and read them from top to bottom as in a book. The notices then become “ahead signal”, “clear keep” or “xing ped” (pedestrian crossing).

Tuesday 18th of March:

The highlight of the day was meeting up with my buddy Dr. Bob (not the one who appears on google image search) at the Fire Station. When I mentioned that I wanted to take a day trip to San Francisco, he suggested to take the Cal-train, which is as fast as going by car, but is cheaper and more convenient than driving and paying for parking.

Wednesday 19th of March:

I followed Bob’s advice to take a day trip to San Francisco. The Cal-train is indeed pretty nice, but I should have boarded it at Sunnyvale, which is in a cheaper zone than the one I started from and it has more trains that stop there. By accident I walked past the GDC in San Francisco. In the meantime, they’ve pulled Day[9]‘s talk from the free to view section of their website, but Nika Harper‘s talk is still available as of writing this.

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I walked through China town, expecting it to be a few streets like in London. Instead, it was quite extensive. As you can see in the picture, people in San Francisco know that you are supposed to turn your tires when you’re parking at an incline.

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Eventually I reached Fisherman’s wharf, where I saw the sea lions.

In the evening I met up with my friend Martha for dinner. The very next day she flew to London and met up with mutual friends. I told her that I had been eating a lot of Mexican food during that trip, but when she enquired about that, I had to admit that it was mostly Chipotle. That counts as Mexican from a European perspective, right?

Thursday 20th of March:

Although Bob suggested to see Alcatraz instead, I drove to Alameda on Thursday. They have the decomissioned aircraft carrier Hornet there, which was turned into a museum. I certainly recommend seeing it, but it’s essential to go there after lunch. Apart from vending machine snacks, there’s nothing to eat on the ship and there is nothing near by either.

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There were two guided tours on the ship, which were included in the ticket price. First, I joined the one that showed the flight deck, the tower and the bridge. The second tour went down to the engine room and showed that the commands from the bridge would then be cross referenced on a chart to see how many RPM would correspond to a certain speed in knots. If the main bridge and the secondary bridge were gone, the procedure was to manually reset the rudder and then turn to one side by using only half of the engines. In addition to the tours, there were a few areas that one could freely visit. Since the Hornet was also the ship that welcomed the Apollo astronauts back, they put the mobile quarantine station on display, where the astronauts had to live for a few days until they were transferred to a bigger quarantine facility for a longer duration.

Friday 21st of March:

Before driving back to Los Angeles, I took the opportunity to visit the Winchester Mystery House.

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Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures inside, because some film studio reserved exclusive film rights, but they haven’t even started working on their movie. Wikipedia has a whole list of haunted sites across the world and apparently the Winchester Mystery house made it into the top 10. It’s certainly worth a visit, if you are in the area and have two hours to spare. Even though I did not manage to do so, I would recommend booking the tour for Friday the 13th when they do special flash light night events. Spooky!

Saturday 22nd of March:

As mentioned, the highlight of the day and of the whole trip was the Day[9] meeting with its separate blog entry.

Sunday 23rd of March:

Unfortunately it was time to go. A bit more than one week is a nice duration in the sense that the 10+ hour flights are justified, but apparently it isn’t long enough for me to get homesick. I certainly could have stayed longer, but since I’ll be back twice more this year, it didn’t matter all that much.

It’s strange that out of all the people, who were queuing up for the security check, I was the only one that opted out. They didn’t even have any regular gates anymore, so I was told to step through the Terrahertz scanner when it wasn’t turned on. The security person, who operated the scanner, was alarmed at that and asked around what was going on, so I mentioned that I was getting the pat down.

In the waiting area after the security checkpoint, I waited in line to get a pizza. The start of the line wasn’t clearly marked, so everybody was confused. The dude next to me used that as a conversation starter and I found out that his name was Pierre and that he was going to Japan for a week. My advice for him and his buddy Sean was to memorize the few characters that they needed, like the one for the stop they want to get off of the train or the ones for the tuna mayo onigiri (there’s one that looks like a mirrored E and another one that looks like a smiley face…). Later on, as we were all waiting to collect our pizza, he complimented a girl about her leopard trousers. Her name was Britta and even though she’s American, she lived and worked in Munich, so she spoke both English and German without any foreign accent as far as I could tell.

Then Pierre says to her: “Do you have a social network, like a facebook or twitter, where I can add you? Is that weird, because we just met?”

That was some serious channeling of Carly Rae Jepsen right there, but it actually worked!

On the flight back, I only watched one movie (Red2, IMDB score 6.7). This time around I managed to get some sleep, so I wasn’t as jetlagged when I arrived back in Germany.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#35 Day[9] Meetup March 2014

Well met, my friends!

I just came back from the Day[9] meetup at the Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ. Repeating the ritual of the first meetup, we went to the dessert place Haus afterwards (thanks for the coffee and waffle, Sean!). Again, I did not manage to tell my story of how I almost got mugged in London or about that funny night out on my UK road trip in 2011, but since the conversation developed into other directions there wasn’t a good opportunity to share it. In general I’ve found once more that I am a lot better in one on one situations than I am in group conversations. For example, I met up with Michael, who organized the meetup (again, thanks for that!), for lunch and we had a good time talking about anime, computer games, game design and other topics until we met up with Jeff and Melanie later on (EDIT: Where we also had a good time – but I was a lot quieter then, by contrast).

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However, at the BBQ I took myself back and faded into the background, mostly listening and only interjecting a comment here and there.

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From left to right (I apologize for any misspelled names): Travis, Heather, Kevin, Jimmy, Melanie, Michael (in front of Melanie), Sean, Brit (in front of Sean), Jeff, Jason, Evanne, Kai, Kevin, Chris, Ross.

At the BBQ, Sean greeted me with “Good to see you again. How is the book going?” I was pleased that he remembered my novel, since I brought a copy for him. It’s still in the raw alpha stage, but I am convinced that with the feedback from my alpha (and later beta) readers, I can shape it into something worthwhile and entertaining. That said, I hope Sean and my other alpha readers do get some enjoyment out of the book in its current incarnation.

Of course I’m still not ritzy enough to justify flying in for dinner and dessert, so I actually arrived in the USA a week ago and went on a little vacation. I’ll have a blog up with the highlights from that California trip, soon. Nonetheless, just like last time, this was the highlight of my vacation – it was really great to meet everyone (or meet again in case of one third of the attendees) and hopefully I’ll see you all some other time (MLG Annaheim, perhaps?).

Until then,

pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#15 Nike is right

I am, of course, referring to Nike’s slogan “just do it.” This is good advice, but somehow easier said than done. Listed below are a few things that complicate “just doing it”. I’ve included some advice (or rather, for the most part, links to other people’s advice) to tackle these challenges.

Analysis paralysis

People get caught up with weighing the pros and cons of different ways of dealing with a problem. Most of the time, figuring things out in detail to choose the optimal course of action isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s only going to cost a lot of time, without contributing to the solution.

In part 3 of day[9] daily #342 Sean Plott advocates being more resolute. Around the 8 minute mark he states that he spends very little time in this deliberation mode and that in his opinion it is better to decide to do something than it is to figure out what the best solution of two different options is. If you have a moment, go watch the entire daily, as there is more awesome stuff in there, for example his take on the benchmark he uses in all walks of life (at around 14 minutes).

Seemingly herculean tasks

Most things look daunting when viewed in their entirety. When faced with a huge challenge, it is easy to despair. Procrastination is not so much a sign of laziness, but rather avoidance of what seems to be an impossible task. The late Randy Pausch lectured on the subject of time management. Not all of his advice proved to be useful for me, for example the four quadrant to do list does not work for me – interestingly enough, he mentions in the same talk that he does not use the four quadrant to do list either. His tip to split big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and to start with the ugliest one of those is spot on, though.

Jumping back and forth between tasks

This used to happen to me a lot – I would have so many things on my to do list that I felt I was neglecting important tasks, while working on one of the items. I switched between different things, which resulted in none of them getting properly done. It is much better to prioritise the to do list and then to tick things off one by one. In order to facilitate that, I found it useful to devote dedicated time slots to certain things, so that I can shut out all distractions and focus on one task. Case in point, we are at a certain bakery/coffee house for the Thursday writing sessions and every Saturday I’m at the library to write my novel.

To summarize

When you need to get something done, don’t spend too much time weighing the pros and cons of different options; don’t deliberate. Split up the task into smaller, easier to handle portions. Find a time and place to work on these tasks without interruptions.

See you next time,

Kai

#10 Meeting the Day[9] community

On the 18th of May, I flew to London to hang out with friends, but left for Las Vegas on the 20th of May. I can see why people, who don’t play cards, tell me that Vegas is only interesting for a day or two. However, if you are playing poker, it’s great fun. Tournament poker can be a cruel game sometimes, so by mid thursday my profits amounted to an impressive two dollars…

That said, I am fairly happy with how I played. Besides, the most important thing is to enjoy the time spent, which I did, with winning merely being a plus.

On Friday the 24th of May I flew to Los Angeles and met up with some people from the day[9] community for korean BBQ. I actually made the mistake of walking all the way from my hotel near USC to where the BBQ place was – one and a half hours and some sun burn later, I arrived at the place, the Haejangchon Korean BBQ.

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Since it was still early, I continued walking around the city a bit, stopping at coffee shops and fast food places to A) get something cold to drink, B) cool down inside an airconditioned place and C) use the free wifi there to check facebook and twitter. I did manage to go all the way to the walk of fame, but took the subway to go back. No way I am walking again.

When I got to the place at 17:45, it was packed. There were a few people sitting outside and one of them looked familiar, so I asked him “Are you Chris by any chance?” Fortunately he was and so I had just found the early arrivals of the day[9] group. By the way, if you do not know who day[9] is: He is a celebrity shoutcaster / commentator / video producer, mostly known for his involvement in starcraft with his webshow, called the “day9 daily”, running Monday to Friday. A good introduction to what he does is the often quoted daily #100. He has also got over 150k followers on twitter – for reference, as of writing this, Boris Becker is shy of 200k followers.

Anyway, we chat a bit and eventually everyone gets there, including Sean “day[9]” Plott himself.

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Despite having a reservation, we still had to wait and were then spaced apart on several tables. The place is just that busy, which means that it is pretty damn good. Originally Megumixbear, another Starcraft celebrity, was supposed to join us, but alas her car broke down. Ah well, maybe next time. Here is a picture of me with some of the other attendees. Funny thing, at this table we’re two computer scientists, one electrical engineer, one aerospace engineer and one physicist.

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I’m not exactly sure what the thumbs down was about, as everyone had fun and the food was great as well.

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Here is a close up of what the barbecue looks like, although this was the more exotic stuff. We had “normal” types of meat, too.

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The crux of being the guy with the camera is that you don’t get too many pictures with yourself. For a while Sean joined our table and we ended up talking about various stuff – I bothered him with my excitement about the new XCOM and my work in progress. To my surprise, he said something to the effect of “Oh yeah, send me a draft when you’re done.” The first draft isn’t even ready and then it’s going to take a while until a half way decent, polished version is finished, but I’ll take it at face value and have added him to my list of beta readers :)

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After the BBQ we headed over to “Haus” for dessert and talked some more about all sorts of things.

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This went on till about 22:30 and then Michael, who actually organized the meeting (thanks for that!), me, Jeff, Andy and Alex still lingered and talked for another hour. Jeff and Andy kindly gave me a ride to my hotel. All in all a fantastic evening with great food and awesome people. Definitely the highlight of my USA trip so far.

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