How not to fix burnout

January is a good time for retrospectives. As I'm writing this, my team is planning a "best failure of 2018" contest, so I thought it's a good opportunity to write down my personal entry.

Here's the story of that time when I left a team to fight burnout, and lost something more important in the process.

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Multiplayer in retro games

Old NES games typically supported two-player mode, but the designers' approach towards multiplayer was often surprising, especially with cooperative titles. Some of modern game design principles simply didn't exist at the time, which led to curious situation that we learned to take for granted.

Let's look at some examples:

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Document-Driven Meetings

In my previous post, I argued that meetings tend to be much better if they have a driver and a well-defined objective.

I'd like to invite you to a little thought experiment. Assume there's only one possible meeting objective: to collaboratively write a document. Can you fit each of your meetings into this shape?

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Fun Facts about Tetris

The original release of Tetris was pretty comprehensive already, even though the graphics used text mode.

At least three versions of Tetris have been released on NES:

  • BPS
  • Nintendo
  • Tengen (Atari)

The BPS version was the first to be released, but it was tough to play due to very awkward controls. Nintendo's version plays much better. Tengen's own version (dubbed TETЯIS) has a long story to it since it was subject of a copyright dispute. It ended up being quickly pulled off the shelves after Atari's loss in court. This is a pity, because it had a two-player mode and a lot of polish. Here in Poland it was often available on bootleg "9999 in 1" cartridges. (Note that in the 90s in Poland there was no official distribution of Nintendo products, but every flea market sold Famicom clones and bootleg carts.)

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2018 Coderetreat & Game of Life

Nov 17 was the Global Day of Coderetreat. I participated for this kind of event for the first time.

Coderetreat is a day-long, intensive practice event, focusing on the fundamentals of software development and design, away from the pressures of 'getting things done'.

The essence of the format is solving the same problem multiple times in consecutive sessions, each time with a different person.

I can confirm a saying that it's "the opposite of a hackathon". In both you have a chance to reset your mind by adapting a completely different mode of work for the duration of the event. But they’re also on the opposite ends of a spectrum: While hackathons are all about focusing on delivering value quickly (forgoing methodology), during a Coderetreat the focus is on methodology and there’s no value delivered by definition - the problem is chosen to be mundane, and the outcome ends up ritually deleted after each session. The only trace is what you learned.

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How X-COM: Terror from the Deep builds tension

I've been checking out the 2012 installment of XCOM recently. I used to play a lot of the classic X-Com titles from the 90s (UFO: Enemy Unknown and - even more - X-Com: Terror from the Deep), and I admit, I have high hopes for the remake. I could potentially like it even more than the original, but after a few hours in I have exactly one major problem...

Where on Earth did all the trademark horror go?

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The games I play, part 3: Shmup

The shmup, or the shoot'em up, is the oldest well-defined game genre. Dating all the way back to Space Invaders, Tempest or River Raid, the principle is simple: you're controlling a spaceship (or a plane, or a magical girl) and shooting at things that come your direction while dodging whatever they fire in your general direction. Do games get simpler than that?

I have a special place in my heart for shmups because of all the time I've spent with them as a kid, starting with the legendary Raptor. The shmup, together with the platformer, helped define my concept of entertainment. It also taught me the imporant truth that games can be hard... and that it's okay if they are. (Starting over is fun.)

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The games I play, part 2: Metroidvania

Have played Super Metroid? Or, say, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon? These are truly remarkable games! A Metroidvania is a game that resembles at least one of them. By inference, it must be great too! Are we done? I think we are! Thanks!

...are you still here? Okay, okay, I'll tell you some more.

You are a hero! What's your goal? Defeat someone evil? Find out what happened on an abandoned space station? Or maybe just find your way to safety? Maybe! Either way, there's a big area for you to explore. Be prepared: there will be a lot of combat along the way...

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The games I play, part 1: Roguelite

The original idea was to start with "roguelike" here, but unfortunately I'm not able to do that. The only roguelike that I spent a long time with is Angband (and I haven't even finished it once). However, show me something like Spelunky or Necrodancer or Risk of Rain and I'm guaranteed to spend a few evenings with it.

I'm not surprised if it's the first time you hear the term "roguelite" or "roguelike-like". I really think we should come up with a more approachable term for this basic idea. Let me explain it in one paragraph:

A roguelite is a game that you can finish in a few hours tops, but that you're not going to finish on your first attempt. It's a game where you're going to lose and then you're going to start over. However, losing is fun because playthroughs are short and expendable and you can quickly learn from your mistakes. Starting over is fun too because every single playthrough is going to be different: you will keep discovering new content and the challenges won't get close to repetitive for a good while.

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