How to Be Polite

life, opinion

Most people don’t notice I’m polite, which is sort of the point. I don’t look polite. I am big and droopy and need a haircut. No soul would associate me with watercress sandwiches. Still, every year or so someone takes me aside and says, you actually are weirdly polite, aren’t you? And I always thrill. They noticed.

Politeness buys you time. It leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. And yet — many of them are now great friends.

An excellent piece by Paul Ford on the often underestimated value of politeness.

Missingno. In Pokemon Fusion

programming, ruby

I’ve made a small update to the Pokemon Fusion site, and added Missingno. as a hidden pokemon.

I was inspired by the incredible Mewtwo x Missingno. fusion artwork that was posted by StarvingStudents on his deviantART page

Missingno. appears whenever there is an invalid ID in the URL, so acts as a fun 404 page. You can try it out here

Pikassingno.

The glich images were generated with ImageMagick (the Rmagick ruby gem in particular), using the spread function to displace pixels by a certain amount. In this case, I also shrunk the image first to exaggerate the pixelation, and it brought it back to normal size afterwards.

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filename = "pokemonimage.png"
img = Magick::ImageList.new(filename)
img.resize!(40, 40, Magick::PointFilter)
img = img.spread(2)
img.resize!(160, 160, Magick::PointFilter)

The Magick::PointFilter option is what allows us to preserve the blocky pixels when we resize, because otherwise ImageMagick will try to smooth out the edges for us.

As a finishing touch, I also sprinkled in some pixels of the purple and orange that are used in Missingno.’s sprite.

Censoring Chinese Scammers

funny, news

Q: What do you do when you’re being scammed by a Chinese scam artist?
A: Use their country’s internet censorship against them.

LINE, the hugely popular Japanese messaging app, has been seeing a recent surge in scamming activity. In the most common scenario, the scam artist will gain access to a user’s account and message their friends, asking them to purchase online gift cards and send the serial number. Many people were targeted by this scam, and it received some mainstream media attention.

But once it was determined that the majority of the scam artists were Chinese, the users began fighting back in a hilarious way.

The magic word is “Tiananmen Square Incident” (天安門事件). By sending this in the chat, the scam artists now risk having their network activity flagged by Chinese censors, and subsequently having their connections cut off. Most of the time, the scam artist will proactively delete their account to prevent this from happening.

Creative ways of dealing with scammers are always fun to see, but this is a wonderfully elegant solution that gets immediate results.

Scaring away the scam artist

via @16go_rider

Creating Fun

game, opinion,

My long-standing goal, in both work and personal life, is to create “fun”. I currently make games for a living, so I’ll be focusing on games for this post.

What is Fun?

Games like Flappy Bird and 2048 show that as long as you have one crucial element that provides fun, even the simplest of games can be a huge hit. And in fact, for games like these it is necessary that they be the simplest of games, with no other elements distracting from that core nugget of fun.

The makers of Threes went through a tremendous amount of creative iteration before publishing their game. They considered the game system that eventually would become 2048, but decided that it didn’t fit their criteria for what makes a game “good”. I would imagine that during the game design process they prioritized the game’s strategic depth, such as the lack of a clear correct way to play. They nixed 2048 because it’s relatively easy to score high if you stick to one corner, and they felt that this detracted from the game’s potential.

As it turns out, those elements that they felt would make the game less good in fact ended up making the game more fun, and led to the huge success of 2048, which implements the simpler version. I’m not arguing against the quality of Threes, which was widely acclaimed for good reason. My point is simply that more people found 2048 to be more fun.

「面白い」を創る

game, opinion,

仕事でも、プライベートでも、自分の昔からの目標は「面白い」を創ること。 ゲームを創る職についているので、今回はゲームの話が中心となる。

「面白い」とは?

Flappy Bird2048のようなゲームが見せてくれたように、 根本的な面白い要素さえあれば、どんなシンプルなゲームでも大ヒットする可能性がある。 むしろ、これらのゲームは最もシンプルであることが必須で、根本の面白さの邪魔をする要素がない、というのも成功の要因だと言える。

Threesの製作者は、凄まじい量のブレストと改善を行った上でゲームをリリースした。 その途中で、いずれ2048としてリリースされるゲームシステムを検討したが、彼らの思う「良いゲーム」の定義に当てはまらなく、ボツにされた。 2048のシステムだと、一つの角に寄せて操作すると簡単に高得点が出せるので、それが「正しい」遊び方になってしまう。 おそらく、彼らはゲームとしての深みを重視して、それがゲームの良さを損なうと考え、別のシステムを創った。

結果としては、ゲームの「良さ」を損なうと疑われた要素はゲームの「面白さ」につながり、単純な方のシステムを適用した2048が全世界で大ヒットした。 実際Threesのゲームとしてのクオリティーはかなり高く評価されていて、Threesを否定するわけではない。 ただ、いくら客観的に見てThreesが良いゲームであっても、「2048の方が面白い」と思った人の方が多かった。

Euclid the Game

game

Euclid The Game is a puzzle game that challenges you to use simple methods like drawing circles, translating lines, and bisecting angles to solve geometric puzzles. Very addicting, and it made me remember just how powerful tools like a compass can be.

Nobody. Understands. Punctuation.

writing

Peter Welch has published an excellent piece on punctuation and writing style in the English language.

Yes, you can use punctuation in incorrect ways, but that does not mean there is only one way to use it. A friend recently told me publishers don’t care whether you use an oxford comma or not, as long as you pick one and stick with it. This is stupid. If punctuation obscures or distorts the meaning of a sentence in an unintended way, it is wrong, but apart from that, punctuation is about rhythm. An Oxford comma is not a flip switch in an author’s voice, it’s a decision made in the moment to maintain the flow of the idea. Momentum, syncopation, rhythm and pattern make a sentence flow, because writers are trying to transfer the voices in their heads into yours.

I own a copy of The Elements of Style which is one of the most prescriptive books around regarding what “good writing” is. Though Welch’s essay has a nearly opposite message, urging writers to do what they must at the expense of constrictive rules, I love both for describing excellent writing and leading by example.

I do believe that there can be a single guiding principle for good writing. At their core, the two contrasting works in fact have the same core message: be deliberate.

San Francisco Is Dead. Long Live San Francisco

opinion

Gary Kamiya has an excellent article in San Francisco Magazine, talking about the many factors and consequences of San Francisco’s economic growth.

(I)f present trends continue, the city could soon become a moated citadel of info-money, accessible only to venture capitalists, Twitter engineers, and the creators of hookup apps.
[…]
This prospect worries me. As someone who loves San Francisco’s maverick tradition and its class and ethnic diversity (I celebrated both in a book I wrote last year called Cool Gray City of Love), I find the idea that my beloved town is on the verge of becoming another Manhattan—a picturesque but increasingly expensive, homogeneous, and sterile burg—distressing, to put it mildly.
[…]
And yet, the political, cultural, and class war that has erupted over what is happening to San Francisco—call it the Change—strikes me as wrongheaded to the point of surreality.
[…]
I’m all for rushing the barricades when there’s an enemy to fight and a battle that can be won. I’ve engaged in my share of such battles. But it’s time to reckon with reality: There is no enemy here. Or if there is, it’s an enemy that won’t be defeated. What has hit San Francisco in the last couple of years can be summed up in one word: capitalism. And that is a tsunami that no seawall can keep out.

I love what San Francisco has been, and I sure hope I also can love what it’s becoming.