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Archive for May, 2013

What Ludum Dare has Done for Me

May 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I originally posted this on April 9, 2013 on my blog on Gamasutra. Cross-posting here, as I should have done before.

I first learned of Ludum Dare last August. I wasn’t in time to participate, but I was able to play a wide variety of interesting games. That got me fired up — I definitely wanted to participate in December’s 48-hour compo (hereafter LD48). I hadn’t programmed in years, really, but I was signed up for an Intro to Computer Science MOOC and was pretty sure I would be capable of pumping out something come December.

Participating in Ludum Dare #25

When December and its LD48 came around, I was not at all confident in my abilities. I had successfully brushed up on basic computer science concepts and learned some new things, but the MOOC had been taught in Python instead of the C/C++ I originally learned in. I could do some things with Python, like perform computations and output things to IDLE, but I had no clue how to do things like play sound and draw graphics. To make things worse, I live in Japan, which meant that the event would be starting at noon on Saturday for me. In order to be functional for work on Monday, I needed to get to bed around midnight on Sunday, leaving me with only 36 hours to make my game. In short, my limitations were many. Read more…

An Example of International Copyright Helping Nobody — Not Customer, nor Developer, nor Publisher

May 27, 2013 Leave a comment

This is cross-posted from my blog on Gamasutra.

This is the story all about how
My mind got flipped, turned upside down.
I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there,
And I’ll tell you how Apple’s customer service punished me for wanting to make an in-app purchase.

The Setup

When I make calls to customer service centers, I don’t usually have a normal problem. That’s the benefit of being more computer-savvy than most; I already know to check the cables, try restarting, clear the cache, etc. This time my problem was simple. I was pretty sure I understood the cause of the problem. When I made this call, I expected to be told there was no help for it and to be on my merry way, but Apple went a step further than that.

Here’s my unorthodox situation. I am a U.S. citizen living in Japan. I have a U.S. iTunes account, with which I’ve been merrily buying things for who knows how many years now from both the U.S. and from Japan. A little over a week ago, I got an iPhone from my Japanese phone carrier. I got it all set up and had no problems using my U.S. iTunes account with the Japanese iPhone.

I already had licenses for some iOS apps, from a time when my best friend got himself an iPhone and let me borrow his iPod Touch for a while. I added to that some new apps, including NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower. I decided that I wanted to make an in-app purchase, and that’s where I hit a snag.

My phone politely informed me that I couldn’t make in-app purchases and suggested that I contact customer service. Hmm, I thought. Maybe it’s because I have a U.S. iTunes account and am in Japan. So I tried making a purchase through a VPN. That didn’t succeed, either. So I called the U.S. Apple customer service.

The Punchline

I’m not going to give a full run-down of the call. In summary: I told the customer service rep what was up. He got me to give him my user ID so he could “see if [he] could find anything on my account.” He was gone for a couple of minutes, and when he came back he told me that they’d put a note of some kind on my account to keep it from allowing me to make any purchases outside the U.S. in the future, that I was in violation of the Terms of Service for having done so at all, and that I would still have access to things already purchased.

His conduct was kind of insulting; he got amazingly defensive in anticipation of hostility which was never going to come from me. He was just doing his job. I was in violation of the Terms of Service, which I should have read more thoroughly. I understood that he had done what he’d had to do to comply with Apple’s policies. And that those policies had been put into place because of international copyright law.

I also understood that international copyright law is the devil.

Here’s How This Hurts Everybody

First, the obvious one: I, the customer, am impacted. This decision to half-lock my account so the iTunes servers will pay attention to my global location infringes upon my life by making it so I can’t buy anything with that account. Yes, I can (and do) have a Japanese iTunes account for making purchases, but then I am stuck with getting my apps in Japanese — if the apps I want are available at all. Assuming the games I want are there, I don’t want the mindless games I play before I fall asleep to be in a foreign language. Furthermore, although I can use both accounts with my iPhone, I can only use one at a time. It’s incredibly inconvenient, at best. My motivation to buy anything is drastically reduced — not to mention the fact that the soft-boiled chicken egg of faith has cracks in the shell now.

Two, it hurts the developers. Why? Because even if I want to buy their software… I can’t! You have an amazing new game on the iTunes store? Fantastic. I’ll buy it when I go back to the states. If I ever go back to the states. Because I might not. If I do, it’ll be years from now. Hopefully I’ll remember that your game exists when the time comes.

And third… it hurts Apple itself. Because every lost sale is a sale that Apple doesn’t get its 30% cut of.

So if — as the customer service rep suggested — these policies are in place because of international copyright law… who the frell is this law helping?

Cross-Country: A Game for Teaching State Names and Postal Abbreviations

May 25, 2013 Leave a comment

I sometimes make board games for use in my English classes. Today I’d like to tell you about the most recent of those, Cross-Country, which was designed to use a map of U.S. states as the board.

Cross-Country Board

Read more…

The Soul of BitSummit

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This was originally posted on March 9, 2013 on my blog on Gamasutra. I really should have cross-posted it here in the first place. BitSummit is awesome and I am proud to have helped out with it. I fully intend to help again next year.

So, BitSummit happened on Saturday. It was a one-day event organized by James Mielke and Q-Games with the goal of helping Japanese independent game developers expand their reach. Epic Games, Unity, and Valve were in attendance to promote their tools and western media representatives from outlets including Wired, IGN, and GameSpot came to see what the game developers already had to offer.

The presentations were mostly informational, but James Mielke had the opening speech, in which he talked about his reasons for organizing the event. With the world of independent game development expanding, he feels that it’s a shame that talented Japanese independent developers see less recognition for their efforts. Japanese developers have a different pool of cultural expectations and experiences from which to draw, he pointed out, and the games they make reflect that. Mielke believes independent game developers in Japan have a lot to offer the industry, and that’s why he put BitSummit together.

BitSummit T-shirt back

The BitSummit T-shirt back was deliberately designed to include not just video game icons, but references to other parts of Japanese culture.

Read more…

Beauty and the Beast (TV, 2012)

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Two nights ago, right before bed, I got caught up on watching Once Upon a Time and found myself surprised by one of the, “if you like this show, maybe you’ll like one of these” recommendations.

BatB 2012 - Title

Beauty and the Beast? The font didn’t make it look like the 1980s show, but… a quick Wikipedia disambiguation search confirmed my suspicion that someone had rebooted the classic TV series. (It wasn’t until later that I realized I probably could have just clicked through the recommendation to find this out, but hey. I’m a nerd. Google FTW.)

I went to sleep, but not before posting this.

BatB Tweet

When I got up in the morning, one of the first things I did was start watching the show. That ended up being just about all I did with my day. Because for all the ways this reboot differs from the original, it still retains the core premise and feel of the original love story. Read more…

My Students are Awesome

May 10, 2013 Leave a comment

I don’t know the third person in this conversation — I assume it’s one of my student’s new friends at his high school. Still, I’m pretty damn proud of him right now. His English really is clunky at best, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t try. I can’t take all the credit for this; my JET predecessor was better at encouraging the students to try than I am, I think. But still. <3 This made me very, very happy.

awsome student on Facebook

Trailers that Get the Wrong Reaction

I saw Iron Man 3 at the theater last weekend. It was a good movie, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about an ad before the movie which starred this fine gentleman:

Bruce Willis in GI Joe 2

One of the trailers was for the upcoming G.I. Joe movie. Once the trailer had ended, there was a commercial for G.I. Joe pens. I didn’t pay much attention to the details of this Amazing Pen Offer, but it was very Japanese. So very Japanese that they used a clip of Bruce Willis saying “Nice,” in the movie, subtitled in a bubbly pink font with a heart at the end. Read more…