In the Future, Everyone Will be a News Reporter

There’s a bookstore in Mebane, NC that regularly sells books for a quarter each, which makes it easy to pick up off-the-wall things. On one visit, I found a copy of The Dilbert Future (Scott Adams). Copyright 1997, it offers Adams’ vision of the 21st century.

I’m not a particularly big fan of Dilbert, although I often enjoy the cartoons when I come across them. I can’t say I feel I’m missing out on much by staying out of the corporate world. Academia has its own ups and downs, of course, but I at least know how to swim in that sea.

I like to read predictions of the future, written in the past, both for how ridiculous people imagined 2014 to be, and how right they were.

Take, for example, Prediction 52 in The Dilbert Future:

In the future, everyone will be a news reporter.

Adams wrote, “People will have access to software that constantly combs the Internet for ‘small’ news that is relevant to them.”

Of course, the Internet was a thing in 1997, but it looked more like this: { link } – clearly not the information-blitz we know today.

So how many news reporters are there? Here’s a stat. As of today, there are almost 75,000,000 WordPress sites alone, not counting the other blogging platforms. Not all of those sites are technically “news”, but there are 75 million people with something to say, and at least a handful with something relevant… which raises a new question:

Is this a good thing?

In Future Shock (Alvin Toffler, 1971), Toffler introduced the idea of “overchoice,” the benefits of diversity and individualization being cancelled by the complexity of making a selection.

In a world where we can have news tailored to our own interests, opinions, and ideals, we risk hitting a standstill, a world which merely consists of an echo chamber parroting what we want to hear and leaving no room for growth.

But I want my voice. And I don’t see why I should get to put up a site and say my thing, but not let anybody else do the same. So now we have hundreds of millions of voices. But people like to listen more than they like to talk. Right?

Spoiler: Just about as much as the Internet is treasure trove of civil debate and dialogue.

The problem isn’t the number of voices. It’s the lack of ears. Spend a few moments browsing a large web forum, and it’s easy to get the impression we’ve lost our ability to listen to an opposing viewpoint and respond in a respectful manner. Or maybe we’ve never had that ability at all. The forum for Gentoo had a very colorful assortment of political mud-slinging. Note, this was a support forum for a flavor of Linux. Let’s not even touch on DeviantART, YouTube, or Facebook.

We, as a species, need to learn to listen better.

And read more.

So go pick up a copy of The Dilbert Future if you’re into past predictions about today. It’s an interesting read.

Ry Recommends: 3 out of 5 cubicles

Mara of the Ori Adventure Game Development

I thought I’d leave an update on my adventure game-making endeavors. Building an entire game from scratch has certainly been a challenge… more so because I’ve had to learn to use a new programming environment. I’ve had a good head start on some of the artwork, but there are so many little things that need to be drawn up.

Below are a few rough screenshots. They’re pretty simple and need some polishing, but they’re the product of a partially-complete engine that’s about a week into development.

1

Win a date with Ry the Squirrel!

 

If you’ve read both installments of A Conundrum of Eggs, you may recognize the two scenes below. Here’s the schoolhouse that was inspired by the “Little Lulu” cartoon, and the scene where Mara is instructed to study herself by looking up her own nostrils…

 

2

If you can’t look up to yourself, who can you look up to?

… and the three stars.

Converse with the stars, but don't burn out your retinas.

Converse with the stars, but don’t burn out your retinas.

 

I’m pretty pleased with it so far. Something not illustrated is the volume of code I’ve written. Most of my efforts have gone into the game’s engine, which supports most of what I’d like it to. I grew up with many of the LucasArts titles: The Monkey Island series, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and so on. I’d really like to capture the feel of those games, from the interface to the sometimes quirky dialogue and bad puns.

At some point I’d like to at least have a playable demo up, so that I can show the mechanics that still images don’t illustrate.

The main challenge is time. It’s not enough that the code works. It has to work efficiently. 60 frames per second is considered the standard goal, which means the computation for every frame has to finish within a little more than 16 milliseconds. I was a bit surprised at how easily that time can be wasted, especially if I want this game to run on tablets and phones. One poorly designed block of code in the wrong spot can obliterate any hope of a 60FPS mark.

In any case, I’m hoping to have some more substantial screen captures, and maybe a demo, shortly! One more thing I need to do – figure out my goals for this project.

New Projects for 2014!

So far 2014 is off to an odd start. I came down with a cold, and I had a hard drive die on me. Granted, neither of these things are as bad as could be. The new semester has not started yet, and I make backups. So I seem to have averted a sad tale about how I should be backing up my stuff.

Protip: go backup your stuff. Now 😉

I usually don’t make resolutions for the new year. New Years Day is typically a time to reflect on yourself and where you’re headed. But I do that on a consistent basis anyway. Nevertheless, I’ve had time to contemplate the inner regions of my soul, and have the following to consider over the next few weeks.

  1. Why does every episode of Downton Abbey start with a generous shot of a dog’s butt? I need to get to the bottom* of this. There’s a story here, I’m sure.
  2. I’m no longer buying mechanical hard drives.
  3. Clean the virtual shed.

I’m a “data squirrel.” For a while, every time I upgraded to a new hard drive, I dumped the contents of the old one into a single folder. This new drive was then dumped into it’s own folder on the next upgrade, and so on and so forth. I have virtual Matryoshka dolls that go back to ~1989. You know who has the high score in the family copy of Dungeon of Shalan? Me. And I have the high score table to prove it.

I also have my copy of Monkey Island. Sadly, I don’t have the Dial-A-Pirate that goes with it… not that I couldn’t make a new one. (Thanks, Google!)

I’ve been toying with the idea of making a game or two to help promote An Ember in the Wind. The trick is to find something that would appeal to the sorts of people who may enjoy the book. I think a SCUMM-like point-and-click adventure game (like Monkey Island!) would be just the thing. I’ve also been wanting to experiment a bit more with the presentation of the Mara of the Ori riddles. This would be a good way to do both. And maybe I could make a tacky copy-protection device, like Dial-A-Squirrel.

The best part is, I already have a pretty good library of scenes. Throughout the past year I drew a lot of scenes from Fordham Forest, and they link together pretty well. I’m not thinking anything too big – although larger than a “roomisode.”

The hardest part will be doing animations. Most likely, I’d base the game off of the entire “A Conundrum of Eggs” series (including the third part that hasn’t been published). Most of my efforts will go into animating the two playable characters, Mara, and Ry the Squirrel. I’ve not studied animation very much at all, but I’ve also never been opposed to learning new things.

In the meantime, think about this. It’s 2014.

2 0 1 4.

2  0  1  4.

Isn’t that weird?

* sorry.