Friday, February 21, 2014

Reinventing the Video Game

I like video games. I've played many great ones. But there are some problems that get in the way of the reality of the game. I'm talking specifically about games like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted, Call of Duty, etc. What I mean is mission-based, action games, open-world or not, 1st or 3rd person.

Problems With Games

1. The character you are playing with dies. And then is immediately brought back to life. 
2. You fail a mission. And then you get to try again as if it never happened. (Especially problematic when it's a stealth mission, or you're trying to save a hostage who dies, etc.)

Reasons For These Problems

1. Character development. In order to feel attached to the game/story, we need to feel attached to the characters, which means playing with them for the whole of the game, even after they die.
2. Games are designed with missions. To beat the game, you have to beat the missions. Which means replaying them until you do. 

Solutions For The Problems (not the reasons)

1. If a character dies, he's dead. 
2. Everything that happens, happens. There's no re-dos. If you fuck up a stealth operation, there's not going to be a second chance. You'll have to find a different way in. Or attack in some other way as a diversion to enable a second stealth opportunity. 

So How Does This Work 

And what kind of game could this create? Well, I'm going to use the Grand Theft Auto franchise as a model for this thought exercise. 

First up, you'll always need to be able to play as a character. So we need an unlimited number of playable characters. One disadvantage will be that you won't be able to offer an unlimited number of recorded voice options. (But you might be able to record a few voice options, and then use random voice effects to create a seemingly near infinite number of options). 

In the Grand Theft Auto world, I could see a non-playable character in charge of a crew. An aging Don who controls the puppet strings. The crew could consist of four slots, for example. And the characters that you play with could level up, and players could grow more attached to them. If one of them dies, the player could recruit street-level thugs to replace their slot in the crew. 

One exciting possibility would be the opportunity for the player to consider who lives and dies on their own crew. If a new recruit gets shot (but not fatally), you could decide for the other character to continue on with the operation and leave him for dead. But if one of your long-time characters gets a non-fatal wound, you could bail on the operation and drive him to a hospital. 

- - -

As for the "if it happens, it happens" solution, I think it involves restructuring the entire game. In 2007, I wrote that missions are limiting and a better solution is objectives. 

You'll need lots of objectives. Big arching ones, that include smaller sub-objectives, and other medium and smaller objectives that are their own activity and provide their own rewards. 

Big ones could include wiping out a rival gang/family/business. To do that you might have to destroy offices across the city. If you go stealth on the first offices, you would face less opposition on the remaining ones then if you go in full-force. 

Instead of a final mission, I would probably design a final objective such as an assassination. It's up to you to prepare and figure out how to do it. And if you fuck up, your target will move. He's not going to stay in the same mansion and wait for you to try again. 

- - -

There's a lot more that I haven't thought through, but I think this would be a good start.

Edit: It would also be not that hard logistically. You get a save slot for story mode and it's a mandatory autosave. Whatever happens, happens.

I could post this to reddit and see if anybody in the comments has ideas to add on.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Olympics Alternative

I never thought of this, but this is a really good idea:

A lot of good ideas baked into here. Top-notch facilities already exist. You don't need to build an olympic village or the massive infrastructure that only lives for two weeks.

Right now, NBC is streaming the games for the U.S. but only if you have an authorized cable provider, which still boggles my brain. Why can't I watch some ads to watch curling or hockey live on the internet?

Also the idea of countries not competing, makes a lot of sense. Yes people have national pride, but can verge on war/racism if you think about it for too long. The concept of teams surrounding sponsors is a little strange at first, but could actually be cool. For example, the hockey players could be one giant fantasy draft.

I know this is sort of stupid, but I think people might get into companies that are competitors. Team Coke vs Team Pepsi. Google vs Facebook. Maybe?

- - -

What is really intriguing here? Is that this idea wouldn't have to only be for an alternative to the Olympics. This could be the future of the Olympics. Why not use existing structures all over the world. You could still have the opening ceremony in a brand new NFL stadium or foreign equivalent.

Friday, February 14, 2014

#Sochi2014: Future Schedule

In 2010, Mrs. Hoagie Central and I got really into the Winter Olympics. It seemed like every night there was exciting action. Shaun White. Lindsey Vonn. Apollo Ohno. Hockey, Curling, Figure Skating for the wife. 

This year, seems bland, boring, and not much going on. 

I thought I would track down what's left of interest to me. 

Men's Hockey

Quarterfinals: 4 games on Feb 19
Semifinals: 2 games on Feb 21
Bronze game: Feb 22
Gold game: Feb 23

Men's Curling

10 nation in a round robin, only four advance to playoffs. Currently looks like Britain, China, Sweden and Canada. 

Semfinals: 2 games on Feb 19
Bronze and Gold games: Feb 21

Women's Curling

10 nation in a round robin, only four advance to playoffs. Currently looks like Canada, Sweden, and two others up for grabs. 

Semfinals: 2 games on Feb 19
Bronze and Gold games: Feb 20

And Jamaican bobsled: Feb 16-17. 

#Sochi2014: USA vs Russia, Men's Curling.

I started watching in the 8th end. US was up 6-5 but Russia had the hammer. The 8th consisted of mostly knockouts and Russia was left with a clean sheet for their last rock. They chose to burn it and keep the hammer for the 9th end.

In the 9th, the last shot for the US seemed to me to be a mistake. There was one Russian rock in the house, and the US did get closer to the button in front of it, but it seemed very possible for Russia to knock out the US stone, and get two points. On their hammer throw, they did knock out the US stone, but they also nicked their own. They got one point and gave up the hammer. A blunder.

Throughout the 10th, the US had a stone about 4 feet away, and Russia had one on the button. What followed was a series of Russian guards and US peeling said guards.

Here's what it looked like with US about to throw its last two stones. (The second stone indicator in the top left was blinking)

Here you can see the second to last US (yellow) stone has appeared near the guy's feet. It nicked another stone and was not a great shot.

So two stones to go...and my NBC online feed cuts out. My 30-minute viewing pass expired. To keep watching I had verify my TV provided. I don't have one. I still don't understand this policy.

Regardless, there were two stones to go. Russia placed their last red shot and it was down to the US skip to get closer with his yellow hammer. Here's the result I found on twitter:

Russia gets one point. Wins 7-6 despite not having the hammer in the 10th.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Papa John's has the best Quality Control

I deleted my name and address, but the message is undoctored.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Cumulative Big Ten Standings

Possibly inspired by the current struggles of the Illinois basketball team, I was curious about the cumulative standings for the Big Ten over the years. 

I had to get organized to figure this out. First up, I wanted to give equal weight to football and basketball, so I sorted each team's winning percentage by sport and season (instead of total records which would favor basketball teams since they play more games). Second, to balance schedules, I'm only considering conference records. 

Instead of using 2001-2002 which is unwieldy, I've organized everything by school year and have shortened both programs to be labeled by the start of the fall school year. For example, the 2005 Final Four run is for this chart considered the 2004 Basketball season. 

I thought it would be interesting to sort both by sports and eras, the four years I was in school, the years after, and combined. 

So here's my college era:

Although it seemed our football team was historically awful, freshman year helped. 8th out of 11. And the top basketball program for those four years. Combined 5th out of 11. Not too shabby. The overall leaders in the Big Ten for my college era: Michigan and Ohio State.

Here's since I've graduated:

Football 11th out of 12. Basketball 6th. Overall 10th. A rough stretch. Meanwhile, Ohio State has led both sports.

Well, here's where it all comes together. Total standings since I became an Illini:

Football 11th out of 12. Basketball a respectable 4th. Overall: 8th out of 12. Slightly under .500.

If you scroll through all the images, Illinois has the same pattern. Basketball always better than football. The last column tells the whole story. Ohio State and Wisconsin have been the best. Minnesota and Indiana the worst.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Food Breakdown: Cost/Nutrition

I had this idea. So here it is. 

First the raw data. I picked a few foods in each category. I color-coded the categories so once they were sorted, it would be easier to spot patterns. The data was pulled from PeaPod, and should of course be considered approximations.

Consideration #1: Price Per Ounce

This is purely a "how much does it cost for what you get" evaluation.

Interestingly, drinks are the cheapest things in the store. Dairy follows (with the cheese exception). Meat and snacks are the most expensive. 

Consideration #2: Calories Per Ounce

This ignores cost and instead measures how calorically dense a food is. 

About what you'd expect. A huge range here, from the calorically-rich mayo and snacks all the way down to produce and drinks. Surprising that Coke comes in under onions. Also, ice cream? Fluid ounces might explain that one. 

Consideration #3: Price Per 100 Calories

This combines the previous two evaluations. You can look at this two ways. What's the cheapest way to fill up (the bottom of the chart) or if you are going to spend $20 on groceries, what will net you the least calories (the top of the chart). 

I'm a bit surprised at the range. I figured they would be big ranges in the first two considerations, but I thought it might balance out. Nope. If you're tight for money, hot dogs, white bread and snacks will fill up for less. Options like produce and chicken breasts will get you less calories per your grocery budget.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Dip Analysis / Super Bowl Menu Plan

A few months ago, after hearing MATES make Onion Dip by mixing a packet of Lipton onion mix with a tub of sour cream, I tried it. It was interesting. It was good. It was pungent. It was brown, not the white with green flecks sour cream and onion dip (sometimes labeled French Onion dip, even though it always the same). Honestly I preferred the store bought tub of dip. And it's not like using a packet of dry soup mix is really that homemade anyways.

Then last week, I saw this.

For starters, I had never heard of Buffalo Chicken Dip. I feel like I've been missing out.

In addition to my store bought sour cream and onion dip, I feel like there are three dips that I need to find/craft recipes for. This doesn't include the excellent guacamole, for which I've perfected my recipe over the years. And I've never made any salsas, just because there are so many good ones ready to buy. (In start contrast to gauc, which I will never buy in a store.) Anyways, these three are:

7-Layer Taco Dip
Buffalo Chicken Dip

- - -

I almost made taco dip last week, but realized that it might cost $15-20 to buy all the ingredients. I'll add it up in a moment. First, I don't like tomatoes. Second, I don't hate them, but I don't really care for refried beans either.

So here's my custom recipe:

Taco Dip

Seasoned ground beef / chorizo mixture
Shredded cheddar
Sour cream + squeeze of lime juice
Diced red onion
Diced jalapenos (jarred might be best for this)
Shredded pepper jack + cilantro

Serve with tortilla chips.

Even without the beans, I'm up to 8 layers. If I was making it vegetarian, I probably would use beans, just go easy on them. And yep, it looks like it's about $20. So maybe not ideal for the Super Bowl. This seems like it's own event.

- - -

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I've never made this. I've never tasted this. I've never even heard of this until last week. All the recipes seem pretty similar, though I would never used canned chicken.

2 cups of chicken: grilled, shredded
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 cup of Frank's red hot or wing sauce
1/2 cup of blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup of shredded pepper jack

Combine in a baking dish, 20 minutes at 350F. Perhaps some finely diced onion would add extra flavor?

- - -


So I grew up loving this. My first memory of it I think was at the 55-10 Super Bowl. I just looked it up and I was 6 for that game, so it's very possible. Growing up, it was just Velveeta and Rotel. And it's great. 

In doing the research for this, I found two recipes that look really good. One uses Velveeta and is simpler. The other uses a combination of shredded cheeses. I guess I'll have to make both one day. 

one package velveeta
one can rotel
one can green chiles
one onion
one tube of jimmy dean hot sausage

- - - 

Mmm, dips. 

- - - 

So this got me thinking about the ideal Super Bowl menu. And I'm a bit particular. First off, it's the Super Bowl. You don't want to be in the kitchen at any point. So I'm all about frozen foods and things you make ahead of time. Some things I think are a bad choice. Guacamole, while amazing, will get brown if you set out a bowl for a few hours. Chili is fantastic, but I don't really want to sit down with a whole bowl of something. 

I think Wings are essential. Blue cheese and ranch should be available. 

You can't have enough chips and dip. I would buy Ruffles + French Onion Dip. Plus Tostitos + Queso/Buffalo Chicken Dip/Taco Dip

I like hot foods, so some Jalapeño Poppers (cream cheese filling) and Mozzarella Sticks are good options, and they're vegetarian. 

I think barbecued Lil' Smokies are a nice touch. If you add meatballs, get the mini ones. Or just as good would be Pigs in a Blanket. 

Pizza is not essential, but always welcome. I'd cut into small squares so everyone can have a bite or two.

So far, everything is minimal preparation. That's good. I think there's room for one homemade option that shows you know how to cook, you're just choosing not to. 

I would endorse Homemade Soft Pretzels + Queso. Or if you wanted, bacon-wrapped dates or bacon-wrapped chicken bites. Basically bacon-wrapped anything. 

I think that about covers it. Let me know if I missed something.

Edit: some other non-essential possibilities include your classic Kettle Chips, Cheez-its, you could do a full nacho bar if you wanted. If you have a sweet tooth, you could get some chocolate covered pretzels or Mint Milanos.

Monday, February 03, 2014

SB48 thoughts

So I was pretty bummed when Denver advanced to the Super Bowl. I was dreading being surrounded by all the hype. (This was my work on Friday.)

But now, eh, them making the Super Bowl wasn't so bad.

- - -

(Of course, as a Chiefs fan I would have loved to make the Super Bowl even if it ended up like that. I'm still waiting to experience a playoff win. I know I'm just bitter and jealous of the Broncos success. I'm embracing that.)

- - -

Now that I live in Denver, "this" is a big deal to me. Let me explain. I'm very much looking forward to the Brock Osweiler era. My dream is walking in to work after the Chiefs dominate the Broncos. Seeing sad Broncos fans because Kansas City hung 48 on them. This year, I had the opposite happen. Twice Denver beat the Chiefs and I had to be miserable for a bit.

The Broncos will be bad again. But if they had won last night, there would have been a halo, hangover effect. If in 2020 Denver goes 5-11 but they had won last night, people could still be wearing their Championship t-shirt and license plate frames. But now, it's very real that Peyton will retire without winning a title in Denver. And then they will bad and the Chiefs division-winning era could be upon us. (No guarantees there obviously, just hope.)

Peyton might come back for one or two more years, but everything went right for them this year. It's very possible they won't be a top team at all by next January.

- - -

Good for Seattle.

The Mariners were founded in 1977, no titles.
The Sonics were founded in 1967. They won it all in 1979 but then were stolen away. (Sore subject.)
The Seahawks were founded in 1976.

So last night was a long time coming. Good for them.

- - -

Good for Lynch.

This was his 7th season, a long time to be great for a running back. 4xPro Bowler. Also seems like a cool guy.

- - -

Good for Harvin.

He's struggled with injuries his whole career. Seattle gave up a lot to get him, gave him a lot of money, and the Super Bowl was his first impact for them. Worth it.

- - -

Good for the Sports Guy.

I know this is weird. But the Seahawks had come off two straight 7-9 seasons and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round. He was the 6th QB taken. And somehow Simmons picked them to win the Super Bowl. And they did, just a year later.

- - -

Also, Welker is 0-3 in Super Bowls. So Peyton's 1-2 is better.

- - -

I still don't believe in Wilson as a QB. I didn't think that he would be able to win in today's passing climate. Even discounting that he had the perfect situation (running game, defense, coaching) he won the Super Bowl, made plays, looked good doing it. If I could pick any QB to be on the Chiefs, Wilson wouldn't be in my top 5. But he's already proved me wrong.

- - -

So the formula for winning the Super Bowl is... you need a great QB and you need a great passing defense. Plus everything else.

something to look at when i feel sad

Sunday, February 02, 2014

"I don't always play in the Super Bowl, but when I do, I prefer to throw game-killing interceptions."

Broncos have the most Super Bowl losses in history.

It was the third-worst Super Bowl loss ever. First, of course is the Broncos 55-10 defeat.

Peyton Manning has the most playoff losses by a QB.

The opening safety was the fastest score in SB history.

This prediction is enjoyable.

If the Chiefs lost 43-8 in the Super Bowl, they would have been called frauds.

There will be more to come...

Saturday, February 01, 2014

should've, would've, could've

There were 3 Avs games that I had marked to potentially take Brit to this year. As it turns out, we probably won't go to any, but maybe in the fall.

Anyways, I pay special attention to those games and imagine how enjoyable the game would have been.

The first is happening right now. And it's Colorado 3, Buffalo 0 after the first period. That would have been fun.

The other two are: Blues on March 8 and Sharks on March 29.

But the Sabres game is the one that I had basically chosen and was browsing tickets for a while. Mainly because they're terrible and I wanted to take Brit to a W.

Edit: Final is Colorado 7-1. Most goals they've scored all season. Would have been fun to see that many goals, but not as exciting as tense 4-3 game.