PSA: Pretty Good MahJongg and macOS Sierra

Public Service Announcement

Pretty Good MahJongg Mac EditionIf you are currently using Pretty Good MahJongg Mac Edition, whether purchased from the Mac App Store or downloaded directly from Goodsol Development, we recommend waiting for the next update before upgrading to macOS Sierra (10.12).

Do Not Upgrade (yet)

Apple is scheduled to release macOS Sierra, the next version (10.12) of their operating system (formerly: Mac OS X) today [September 20, 2016].  As of the final beta version, there is a change (as yet unidentified) that breaks Pretty Good MahJongg Mac Edition.  We are actively working on a solution, and we will publish an update as soon as a fix is available, but in the meantime, we suggest keeping El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11).

Thank you.

SophSoft Relaunch

SophSoft, Incorporated jumps back into the fray.

SophSoft, Incorporated - custom game developmentAfter a respectful (and necessary) period of readjustment, while SophSoft, Incorporated and Digital Gamecraft™ added a second office on the west coast, we are making our public reappearance.

It has, admittedly, been a while since I have made any concerted effort to market our development services or published games, or to comment on industry events.  Instead, I have retrenched to focus on our core concerns: key clients, business organization, and (of course) financial stability.  Having made significant progress on all fronts, it was time for us to again perform those functions that go beyond simple maintenance to actually growing the company.  To that end, I am not only committing time to this effort but getting more assistance in areas that I can efficiently delegate.

Here is a quick roundup of the news (past and upcoming):

SophSoft, Incorporated

Over the past year, we have continued our previous development work, most notably for Goodsol Development, with whom we have been working for 15 years (later this month); there have been several releases in that time, and many more are still scheduled to be shipped (for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS) during the rest of 2016.

We have added to our collection of mobile devices (iOS, Android, and Windows) for development and testing, as we have continued to improve our knowledge and experience on all three platforms.  (I can neither confirm nor deny reports that Apple Watch, Android Wear, Apple TV, and Android TV are included in our forthcoming lineup.)

As a departure from games, development is underway on a new line of productivity tools that aim not only to enhance our bottom line, but also (actually, primarily) to significantly increase our internal efficiency and organization.

Digital Gamecraft

We have continued to support (albeit not promote) Demolish! Pairs for iOS, while we have been making progress on an Android edition.  This progress on a new platform for Demolish! Pairs has gone from fitful to steady, and it is now increasing in velocity.  We have some new marketing prepared, including an online playable version (in HTML5).  Expect new features and new platform announcements fairly soon.

In addition to that title, our next game is already under development.  This one will be the first of our “Gamecraft Classics™” series of classic board and card games, and it represents an early step along our roadmap of upcoming titles in five major genres, as well as a few experimental (‘one off’) titles.  All of these games feed into our SophPlay™ System for robust game development, strengthening its foundation.

Finally, plans are in place for renewing and enhancing our presence on social media, expanding from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ into more places for community.  Follow us via these links now and experience the resurgence as it happens.

Still More…

As noted, we now have offices in both East Lansing, MI and Los Angeles, CA, and it has been a chore getting our infrastructure working (together) in both places.  Now that we have stability, we are enhancing our capabilities with new, faster servers.  Although the switch-over and retirement of older hardware is still in progress, users should experience more responsiveness and better reliability (if not now, then within a couple of weeks).

As ‘no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy‘ (in this case, the challenges of limited resources and product discoverability, primarily), there is no doubt that our goals are ambitious and our priorities will change.  However, as an entrepreneur, I find that merely maintaining the status quo is more stressful than risking failure.

Welcome to 2016!

This year is poised to be the “Year of Cool” (so read on).

Digital GamecraftHere we are a couple of weeks into 2016 and, having fully recovered from our year-end break, and I have already seen enough to declare that 2016 is the “Year of Cool”.

For many years, my definition of a “cool” product has been something that is really intriguing, enough to make somebody want it, but is ultimately not worth buying, or just generally pointless.  It is the kind of thing that you may be excited to receive as a gift, but very quickly begins to just collect dust.

It seems to me that early October, 1929 probably felt like one of the coolest times in the history of the United States (not that anybody would remember it that way).

Note that there is nothing wrong with “cool”, per se.  It is wonderful that we (some of us) have the luxury to pursue cool stuff for the mere sake of it.  It is enviable that certain products and people exude such a sense of style; equally, it is undeniable that without any actual substance, they are not particularly beneficial in the long run.

PinballsFor example, a collection of ball bearings is definitely one of the coolest things to see and handle, but it does not really have a function until they are put into a pinball machine (or a bearing, I suppose 🙂 ).  My friend used to have a box filled with dimes; surprisingly cool, so much so that I have often thought about recreating this, but it illustrates my point nicely.

This year, for the first time in decades, I had a motivation for paying attention to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.  Perhaps this skews my perspective, but most of the “innovative” products that got “everybody” (i.e., the tech press) talking seemed to elicit the necessary question: “Why?

Now several products I saw did have benefits for a particular market.  I was intrigued to see the Nima portable gluten tester, but only because my family happens to be affected by Celiac disease.  Of course, Stern Pinball is always worthwhile.

It remains to be seen if any of the “game changing” technology touted as the next big thing will actually have any lasting general impact.  (Light bulb speaker, anyone?)

Here’s hoping that your 2016 is fantastic!

Curmudgeon Day 2015

The holiday is needed now more than ever!

Stay Home. Do What You Want.This is the 12th straight year that I have written about Curmudgeon Day on this blog, and every year the situation gets worse.

The purpose of Curmudgeon Day is to avoid all of the insanity associated with the commercialism attached (incorrectly) to the day after Thanksgiving in the US.  Some may call it the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season, but the idea that it is the most profitable day of the year is a myth.

The practice on Curmudgeon Day is to stay home and do whatever you want to do, but most importantly, do not go shopping.  Granted, it can take some planning, especially if you are not in the practice of keeping your pantry full and cooking for yourself, but it is much safer not to join the frenzy, as well as better for your mental health.

Since the first blog post here in 2004 (which was already many years after Curmudgeon Day started), the crowds have gotten bigger, the number of deaths have increased (from none), and the abuse has spilled into Thanksgiving, our family’s most sacred holiday.  The only way to stop this idiocy is to refuse to play that “doorbuster” game.

Instead, stay home and actually play games with your family, or work on your hobby, or read that book you have been meaning to find time for, or, if you must, just watch the disturbing images of shoppers acting like stampeding cattle on television and learn the names of all the people killed underfoot this year.

I urge you, most seriously, to make a stand.  Celebrate Curmudgeon Day!

Quest for a Happy Thanksgiving

A Classic Adventure Story for 2015

Legacy of the Ancients - classic RPG from Quest Software/EAMany years ago lived an adventurous little halfling.  (Don’t call him a hobbit, as some folks are offended if you use the term; only they can use it.)  After years of toil for nothing but scraps of copper, he decided that he was not happy and moved to rectify the situation.  He left the city and returned to a small town on the edge of nature and sought his fortune panning for gold.  Initial successes suggested that this could prove lucrative and, in any event, he was pleased to pursue his real adventure, instead of the pale imitation that had been sold to him previously.

However, as the years progressed, there were lean times.  Some years the stream dried up completely, and even when there were enough gold nuggets to indicate that fortune was imminent, it never came to pass.  As the successful years became fewer and the struggles more regular, he became less happy, though he still pursued his dreams.

Then one day the stream suddenly stopped flowing entirely.  After an initial panic, our hero made due for a while with the few grains of gold he could find in the quickly drying mud, hoping that the water would return.  Alas, upon further investigation, he discovered that the mountain people had dammed the stream in an attempt to keep every last scrap for themselves.  With the coffers empty and the cupboard almost bare, he relented.

So, the halfling and his warrior princess, who somehow continued to believe in him, left their rustic comfort and moved to a bustling metropolis.  He accepted a position mining for gold, and he decided to imitate his friends, the dwarves, by putting on a smile and singing a happy song.  “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go!”  To his astonishment, it worked.  Though the mine was much twistier and confusing than he was led to believe, he found a place of comfort and a way to enjoy himself.

Besides, minted gold coins beat the hell out of irregular nuggets of gold among the rocks.

And so our Adventure begins…

As a player, I was able to complete the first level, in which the halfling travels faraway to the big city and has to find suitable accommodation once there.  This was actually harder than it sounds, involving not only normal adventuring and RPG aspects, but also elements of time and resource management games.

In the second level, the halfling has to deal with remote threats from an evil villain and a crazy witch, all while facing the prospect that the gold mine may not stable.  I was able to play to the end of this level by concentrating on the most imminent issue, and properly equipping the warrior princess to dispatch the witch, we she did, albeit not without first having to bait her with some of her personal treasure.  I just finished that level.

For the next level, as far as I can tell, the goal is for the halfling to seek out the evil villain, who survived the previous level, and destroy him.  Armed with a war chest from vanquishing the crazy witch, along with significant information about the villain’s strategic weaknesses, it looks like our hero will be able to both defend his “castle” and take down the malefactor without too much trouble, though the villain is too dimwitted to realize this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Outside of the game, this year I am thankful for all of my friends, both old and new, who provided support during the challenges and continue to keep me connected.  I am thankful that my family has managed a significant level of upheaval in the last year with grace and fortitude, especially my wife, who sacrificed a great deal to move to Los Angeles with me.

I am especially thankful that my choices this year, though not free of ramifications, have worked out essentially as planned, that I have been able to greatly expand my opportunities, and that I have found comfort within a brand new adventure.

Oh, yeah…  I am thankful that tomorrow is Curmudgeon Day!