Posts Tagged 'Games'

October 9, 2009

Facebook games, the datacenter, and you – film at 11

Ok, I admit it. I am addicted to Facebook games. For those of you who are a bit “long in the tooth” you might remember a series of games from a certain era where all you did was walk around and try to figure “it” out, but you really didn’t know what “it” was. Zork for instance was my favorite. In Zork you simply walked around and talked to people, touched walls and things rumbled, and picked up and dropped items. etc. Now don’t misunderstand, you didn’t see this happen, it was all in your head because the only thing on the screen was text. Think of it like the hit TV show LOST in text and you were John Locke. Are you LOST yet? Here is an example:

Facebook has taken us back to the world of Zork but now you can almost see what is going on. Let’s use the early on Mobster style games as example number one. They were sleek and simple; do a job, fight someone, whack someone on the hitlist, write a script, find a bot to do it all for you and become a “made man”. Now, the main idea in these games is ad generation and page views, so when the techies of the world figured out how to cheat, um I mean make the game more efficient, it was time to add some new ideas to the games to keep you more in tune to your monitor and the ads on the page instead of your bot! Enter the flash games, they are shiny and I like shiny things! Maybe the word should be polished. There are a few farm simulation games that are very popular. A couple of them have over 18 million monthly active users. Who would have thought that everyone in the world wanted to move to Texas and become a veggie farmer, or berries, or raise animals and fruit trees? I have to say that the new games are to carpel tunnel as Krispy Kreme is to clogged arteries. You have to click and then click a little more and then even a little more. You have to do tasks, so you can do jobs, so you can move up in levels so you can do more tasks to do even more jobs to make more money and it just keeps getting more involved. Maybe there is a flash automation system out there I can find to do it for me!

I am going back to the farm idea for a minute. When I started out I had a couple of small plots and I would plant different crops. I had a few animals walking around and a fruit tree or two, some fences, some green space in between and flowers. I began to notice that some of the extra shiny things got in the way and made my farm very inefficient. I began to streamline, one crop, no green space because that is just wasted, no animals, just plant the whole screen, harvest and plow, rinse and repeat. It is now very profitable, easy to manage and I don’t have to worry about this crop will be ready in 2 hours, that crop will be ready in 2 days, etc. It just works!

So I have just described SoftLayer to you in a nutshell. At first we tried many things, streamlined it, got it down to a very efficient science automated “it” and then wrapped products around “it”. Our products are shiny, we don’t waste space, we have one crop, and it just works!

September 28, 2009

Game Time

It’s Sunday morning and I’m leaving the NOC to make my morning rounds of the Washington, D.C. datacenter. Grumpy and tired I walk through the double doors into the fluorescent glare of the server room. In 30 paces the colorful eth bundles of our servers come into view and then I realize. I love the sound of server fans in the morning.

The past year and a half at SoftLayer’s newest datacenter have been incredibly stressful and rewarding. Those who endured have gained my respect. Personal differences have subsided and camaraderie has formed. Of course anyone would wonder how many tech nuts does it take to make a clan? And from the glue of hardship was born Team Orange DOW2.

You might wonder why people who work together so much (sometimes for 12+ hr shifts) want to spend more time with each other. I mean, haven’t you had enough already? The answer is that we already have so much in common and finding a few extra hours to hang out together online is a joy we can’t get enough of. Of course, the entertainment value of an innovative RTS like DOW2 is multiplied immensely when played with friends. Of the other SoftLayer members of Team Orange DOW2 I am the newest to multiplayer gaming and am impressed by how much tech goes into it. Numerous options for in-game chatting (Team Orange uses Mumble, which has the least lag and cleanest interface), hi-powered video cards (1.5GB onboard ram!), dual core procs running on Win7 RC, live-streamed replays with on-demand libraries, and much more.

Everyone has heard the theory that gaming has pushed the boundaries of computing, but I believe it is more likely that datacenters like SoftLayer have pushed the boundaries of networking and helped make advanced tech more affordable to the ravenous mass of online gamers. The number of mega-powered game servers hosted by SoftLayer is a testament to the unholy integration of gaming and networking, and to that all of us closet gamers must say, “moar please!”[sic]

November 3, 2008

Simplicity

What if I asked you to guess the name of a video game that came out within the last 10 years, and has sold more copies than the Halo series, the Half-Life series AND the Metal Gear series? No, it’s not Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and it’s not Pokemon. It’s not even made by one of the “serious” game development companies. The game that I’m talking about is Bejeweled (published by PopCap), a simple online flash game that has garnered 25 million purchases and more than 350 million free downloads.

The secret to PopCap’s success lies in creating simple, easy to use games that the average person finds fun. They’ve built an entire market segment from the simple beginnings of Bejewled, and now offer more than 50 games for sale, and even more in their free download section with almost a billion downloads between them. The “casual gaming” market is so large that the Nintendo Wii has almost been completely taken over by casual games.

By why has the industry taken off so much? Sure, casual games can be easy to make. I remember whipping up a version of Bejewled in a VBA form that I built as an Excel macro so I could play it in my “business software” class in high school. The real secret is that these games are easy to pick up and play, and in that sense they’re far better than their competition for people who are busy, inexperienced, or just plain tired.

People these days have less and less free time, which means they have less time to learn the function of the right trigger in crouch mode, run mode, driving mode, flying mode, stealth mode, raspberry jam mode, etc. The instructions for Bejeweled (“Swap adjacent gems to align sets of 3 or more”) are almost as simple as the original Pong’s instructions (“Avoid missing ball for high score”).

That’s what we try to do here at SoftLayer. Our portal is specifically designed to be used by people who just don’t have the time or inclination to perform menial repetitive tasks manually. From configuring a load balancer to rebooting your servers to performing notoriously difficult SWIP requests, the portal handles it all for you. Of course, the task we’re trying to help you accomplish is a lot more complex than “avoid missing ball for high score,” but we try our best to make the process as easy as possible. Maybe with the time saved you can come up with a new business segment to send more server orders our way, but I’m betting you’ll be playing Bejewled, or Peggle, or Zuma…

-Daniel

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February 28, 2008

Companion Cube

For the gaming/programmer community, Portal is THE GAME. Seemingly from nowhere, this game burst upon the scene and took the nerd world by storm. Excellent storyline, snappy dialog, challenging puzzles, and an awesome space-warping gun combine to create an incredibly memorable game.

Nearly overnight, the hacker lexicon got some new words and phrases. This guide will help you make sense of most hacker conversations you may hear that refer to Portal.

The Cake is a Lie

The artificially intelligent computer that runs the series of puzzles (known as the Aperture Science Computer Aided Enrichment Center) goads your character along by stating that "cake" will be served to you if you survive all the tests. However, graffiti on the walls of the center proclaim otherwise... stating that the cake being promised is a great, big lie.

Hackers generally use this phrase either as an icebreaker or as a description of a situation where somebody is motivated to do a difficult task for a promised but unverified reward.

I'm making a note here: Huge Success!

At the end of the game, the computer gives you your final review. At the beginning of the review, it says "This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: Huge Success!"

Like Trekkies shouting "Qua'pla!" (Klingon for "Success!"), programmers are now known to say that they are "making a note here: Huge Success!"

The Companion Cube

The Companion Cube is an inert storage cube imbued with a personality by the game programmers to trick game players into carrying this cube throughout a puzzle, but then requiring them to destroy it at the end. They did such a good job, however, that game players have become attached to this "Companion Cube," going so far as to build little paper models or buy plushies of this "character." Generally, you'll hear a hacker talk about how they would never let go of their companion cube, or something along those lines.

Aperture Science Thing We Don't Know What It Does

Programmers find long multi-word names for products to be humorous. The game developers played on this concept:

  • It's not the lab. It's the Aperture Science Computer Aided Enrichment Center.
  • It's not a storage box. It's an Aperture Science Weighted Storage Cube.
  • It's not a button. It's an Aperture Science 1500 Megawatt Superconducing Super Button.

The joke is to take, say, a mouse, and turn it into an "Aperture Science Rotational Axis 2 Dimensional Vector Detecting Peripheral".

Now You're Thinking in Portals

With this guide handy, you can start to understand the conversations of your Portal crazed coworkers. You will no longer be confused when a coworker bursts out laughing when holding a slice of cake. You won't wonder why he has a background with little hearts all over it, displaying a strange box. You can now safely laugh at any name longer than 4 words, knowing that it's most likely a joke. This won't help with any of the other strange things developers say, but at least their conversations should be a little more transparent now.

For more information, check Wikipedia, or better yet, Watch the trailer and play the game.

-Shawn

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