Archive for the 'Games' Category

Of quests and bookmarks

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

I'd like to see more software nudge people in the direction of GTD's low-stress productivity.


World of Warcraft organizes your quests according to where you discovered them, not according to where you can make progress on them. You can easily have your character in the right town but forget to advance one of your quests.

Since the game's quest organization is so unwieldy, it limits players to 25 quests. This forces some players to abandon quests with the intent of picking them up again later. But more importantly, "only write down the most important stuff" is the wrong message to send to our children.

Having to maintain your own lists outside of the game makes playing the game too much like work. If instead, the game subtly taught players how to work effectively, they might have more time to play.


Thunderbird's default set of color labels reflects priorities and reasons (important, work, personal, to do, later). These labels don't really help move messages out of the inbox.

Instead, Thunderbird should suggest contexts and non-action sets (home, office, errands, waiting for reply, reference).


Firefox has the distinction of containing three dangerous stuff magnets: the bookmarks menu, the bookmarks toolbar, and session restore. I've seen several coworkers fall into the session restore trap, and it's not pretty: with hundreds of tabs, Firefox can take minutes to start.

I like Jono's suggestion of replacing bookmarks with features that speak more directly to use cases like to-read, sharing, and reference. Firefox 3's tags make reference possible but not much else.

To-read is the trickiest, since it can't really be organized. Separating to-read from sharing and reference is enough to keep those other categories clean, but to-read has to work if it's going to be used. Maybe Firefox can include hints about how to use to-read effectively, like having an "airplane" button you click to open all of them in tabs just before you disconnect from the tubes. Or maybe Firefox can keep those items ready for reading without the overhead of having them open in tabs all the time.


What other software could encourage people to discover contexts and the next-action principle? Where else can workflows be improved, so collection buckets are emptied naturally, and users don't need to make a special effort to "stay organized"?

Tools of Satan

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Last night, while I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that religious days of rest might seem arbitrary to people living near the International Date Line. I got up and searched Google for "international date line" sabbath, thinking I might at least come across someone else who had also wondered about the same thing. What I didn't expect to find was multiple pages arguing that the International Date Line is a tool of Satan. I also found a lengthy rebuttal. Who knew that datekeeping could be so controversial?

Could this be turned into a game? Perhaps one player picks a seemingly uncontroversial object or concept, and another player must invent a story or argument that makes it out to be either the root of all evil or mankind's salvation. For example:

PODASIP: Spoons are corrupting and should be eradicated.


Friday, August 3rd, 2007

I saw some DEF CON attendees playing DEFCON today. Hackers playing a game of global thermonuclear war... reminds me of a movie :)

Pictionary for geeks

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Majken got me hooked on an online game called iSketch. It's similar to Pictionary: a word or phrase is chosen randomly, and one player tries to draw it while the other players try to guess what it is. We play with the "computer terms" list, which includes phrases like "dynamic link library", "personal computer", "arithmetic and logic unit", "hexadecimal", "Mozilla", and "intranet".

I'm playing right now with a few friends from the Mozilla community. Come join us in the user-created room called "Foxymonkies"! IM me or email me your AIM screenname if you want me to IM you next time we play.

iSketch requires Shockwave. I've played on Windows and Mac, mouse and touchpad.

Party games

Friday, August 19th, 2005

Given that I like Cranium Hoopla, Taboo, Telephone pictionary, Boggle, Clever Endeavor, and Apples to Apples, what other party games should I try?


Friday, April 22nd, 2005

Tontie is one of the most addicting games I have ever played. In this game, you whack aliens by pressing digit keys on the number pad corresponding to their positions. The aliens become more diverse and the game gets faster as you progress through the levels. It took me a week of gradually improving my skill to be able to reach and later beat level 20.

Some remaining Tontie challenges for myself:

  • Using the second code (start at level 11 with winged silver hammer and 5 hearts), get all upgrades and reach level 20. Right now I have a much easier time if I start on level 1 (without a code), because I can usually get a golden hammer by the time I reach level 11. But levels 1-3 are boring, so it would be nice if I could skip the first 10 levels.
  • Get from level 11 to level 20 without using any continues, starting with no code or the first or second code.

Updates on my life

Monday, January 17th, 2005

Graduate school

I'm the TA for a discrete mathematics class. My responsibilities include running a Monday discussion, holding an office hour, and grading tests. I've led one discussion so far, and it wasn't as hard as I expected. One student even commented that I seemed to be prepared (hah!). In addition to TAing, I'm taking an undergrad class in cryptography and a graduate class in computability and complexity.

Overall, I'm not enjoying graduate school. I don't have many friends here, classes aren't particularly interesting, and I don't know what I'm going to research. I enjoy thinking about the computational complexity of puzzles and games, but that doesn't mean computational complexity research is for me. I'm interested in what it takes to write secure software and design secure user interfaces, but I don't know if those are real research areas.


I'm no longer listening to Claremont Shades, USC Sirens, Blackmore's Night, Sting, Sixpence, Alanis, No Doubt, Vienna Teng, or Máire Brennan continuously. Instead, I'm listening to Evanescence - Fallen (mostly Bring me to Life, Whisper, and Imaginary), Joan Baez - Play Me Backwards (especially Stones in the Road and Through Your Hands), Strunz and Farah - Americas, and James Taylor - Greatest Hits continuously. I discovered Evanescence after hearing three college a cappella groups perform versions of Bring me to Life at two concerts in one weekend.

I found out that the song from Final Fantasy 6 that I feel like I've known forever is called "Terra's theme" or "Tina's theme".


I'm addicted to a puzzle game by Pāvils Jurjāns called Net. I discovered it by reading Selene's game notes, which mostly covers RPGs. I think it is NP-complete, but I haven't thought about it carefully. I haven't played much Minesweeper (NP-complete) or Marble (I don't even know if it's decidable) lately.

I've also been playing RPGs. I played Wild Arms (ok) and Chrono Cross (good) over Christmas break. I tried Vagrant Story but didn't like it. Now I'm playing Xenogears. I like it so far, but it's very easy to get lost in 3D areas such as cities and forests. I will probably play Final Fantasy 9 next.

All of the RPGs are for the Playstation, so I've been them using an emulator called epsxe along with Pete Bernert's graphics plugins, some of which are open source. Playing games using an emulator has several advantages over using a console system: I can change the game's speed on the fly, save or load at any time, and play at the same time as my brother. It also has several disadvantages: I have to tweak the emulator settings for each game to keep it from freezing, and I have to choose between pirating the games and Playstation BIOS (illegal) or buying a Playstation and the games and then downloading them anyway (ridiculous).


Cal Animage Beta has been showing one episode a week of Midori no Hibi, Bleach, Samurai Champloo, Kyou Kara Maou, Phantom Memory Kurau, and Tactics. Midori no Hibi is my favorite of these series.


I loved Kinsey. My favorite scene was the one with the lesbian woman (not a sex scene). The religious right's response to the movie made it even better (more Kinsey-related links). I liked The Incredibles and Garden State. I didn't like Team America, and I found Mean Creek confusing.

Keepers of Lists

I contributed high-scoring items to Signs You Are Not Drunk Enough, Reasons To Move To Canada, and Signs You Should Stop Writing Items For Keepers. I contributed more items to Signs You May Be A Terrorist than the person who started the list. Over half of my items have been getting getting positive scores recently, which is a welcome change. I submitted five new lists, which will be accepted or rejected for publication over the next few months.

Existing personal projects

Pornzilla and Thumbs have been getting a lot of hits, even though I have not put much effort into them lately. The top five search phrases that bring people to are "porn" (150/day), "pornzilla", "thumbs", "best porn", and "free porn". (The next two are not porn-related: "bookmarklets" (25/day) and "burning edge".) I've only been updating The Burning Edge once a week, in part because the Firefox trunk isn't very exciting right now.

I'm way behind with incorporating feedback and submissions for bookmarklets and Thumbs.

StarcraftGamers on UCSD Starcraft flyer

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

The Starcraft flyer I photographed and blogged made its way to a site called StartcraftGamers. The site has an article about the flyer and the associated research.