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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The games I play: intro

"Hey, this is Kos! Have you met Kos? He is a passionate gamer."

I get that a lot during introductions. The next line usually sounds something like "Hey Kos, nice to meet you, what games do you play?" sounds like a simple question, but I never seem to be able to answer that!

I could probably get away with something like "Old games" or maybe just "Factorio" and it would be mostly true, but hey, I can do better! Let's give it a little more thought...

Among all the random titles that I happened to launch, I can pinpoint a few genres that just resonate with me the most. I'm not a hardcore gamer and I have not explored any these genres to the core, but there's a super high chance that if you show me a game from one of the following genres, it will resonate with me instantly.

Here goes...

GIC 2016, Poznań - day two, continued

Okay, I admit - my recollection of events from here onwards is rather fuzzy. Might be not enough coffee, but it's probably related to the fact that at some point I got less scrupulous with note-taking and instead spent a good chunk of most lectures slaying hydras. However, after a valiant effort, I somehow managed to still walk away with a few pages of notes...

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Pokémon Go is a subtly broken game, and here is why

but more importantly, it's fun, go outside and play it!

Honestly, it's rather easy to pick at this new game because of the horrible bugs and overloaded servers. I really hope that Niantic rewrites the game client from scratch without Unity (they should afford that after such success, right?), so that we get better battery life and, hey, maybe even we could run the app in the background and hatch eggs without awkwardly keeping an unlocked phone in the pocket. We'll get there. We've got to work with what we have: Niantic released what looks like a prototype and I think that's cool! All lean startups are supposed to do that, no? "If you're not embarassed by your release, you don't release early enough" and stuff.

But that's not why we're here! Complaining about bugs is not constructive. It's also tempting to rant about the game's approach to micropayments, but let me leave this for another day. (Should I still call them micropayments when a bag upgrade and two bunches of lure modules total up to half of Minecraft?)

Instead, let's talk about something more civilised: Game design!

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