AWESOME Solitaire AR

Digital Gamecraft™ is delighted to announce its latest development project, AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition™, shipping in July.

You have known us as the development force behind the award-winning, best-selling, and most numerous Solitaire games, Pretty Good Solitaire, Goodsol Solitaire 101, Most Popular Solitaire, FreeCell Plus, and A Little Solitaire for iPad (to name a few).

Today, we announce the upcoming availability of AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition™, the world’s first augmented reality Solitaire product shipped with its own AR hardware.

Imagine being able to take all your favorite solitaire games with you wherever you go.  Play FreeCell on the wall of a building.  Find your Spider moves spread out over a city block.  Meet people on the street and explain to them that, “The game is called ‘Klondike‘ and, yes, there are many different types of solitaire.”  See the cards right out in front of you, almost as if they could be real, physical objects.

Best of all, AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition will come with premium augmented reality hardware from our friends at DAQRI, which hardware you can also use for, you know, other stuff (when not playing solitaire, of course).

Unique Features

  • includes hundreds of types of solitaire, complete with rules on how to play
  • ability to select virtually any size playing cards and tableaux up to 1 mile wide
  • play multiplayer mode and fight strangers for the cards you need to win
  • choose between two hardware configurations based on quality of neighborhood
  • ships with special “decks” of 52 cards each for low power desktop operation

Prices

Professional system, includes AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition software, DAQRI Smart Glasses, and two decks of standard playing cards – $7495

Even more professional system, includes AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition, DAQRI Smart Helmet, and 4 decks of Poker size playing cards – $call for price

Solitaire gang discount on fleet purchases – call for details

Preorder now!  Due to anticipated overwhelming demand, orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis, so reserve your place in line today.

 

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.

TableTop Day 2013

Digital Gamecraft supports TableTop Day.

TableTop DayThis Saturday, March 30, 2013, is International TableTop Day, a day devoted to playing games.  It was created by Geek & Sundry as an extension of their TableTop web series, in which Wil Wheaton (*) introduces viewers to various board games and, of course, the fun to be had by playing.

On March 30th, 2013, we ask you to go to your friendly local game store, neighborhood coffee shop, school auditorium, community center, or host a game day at your home and play more games.

This is a cause that Digital Gamecraft supports 100%.  This date corresponds to our (semi-)regular Saturday game night here at the office/home, so we will be hosting an International TableTop Day party, just a little larger than our usual gathering.  If you are in the East Lansing [Michigan USA] area and would be interesting in attending, email me (seelhoff@sophsoft.com) for an invitation.

TableTop Day 2013

Small sampling of TableTop and traditional games available.

We will have several of the games featured on TableTop in the past, including Ticket to Ride [Europe], Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, Fluxx (we hope!), Dixit, and (new arrival) Zombie Dice, as well as honorary member, Cards Against Humanity, which we discovered through a Wil Wheaton tweet, plus other favorites such as Bohnanza, Apples to Apples, and many more.

(*) When I met Wil Wheaton (once), back when we were both a bit younger, we talked for quite a while about video games (in particular, ST:TNG, “A Final Unity, on which I was Senior Software Engineer) and I never realized his love for table games, nor he mine, obviously.  [Look for a separate blog entry in the future.]

Wherever you are, please take the time this Saturday to play games, in person.

International TableTop Day 2013

Solitaire for iPad… almost.

After months (years) in development, it is nearly here.

Mystery Icon for iPadToday, Goodsol Development (almost) announced our upcoming iPad games in their newsletter (issue #176).

In the “iPad Versions Coming” section, Thomas Warfield indicates that there are now development updates at http://www.goodsol.com/ipad.  The first two planned releases are still called “App 1” and “App 2” (not their actual names 🙂 ); for a little bit of intrigue and fun, I have included the iPad icon for the former above.  Feel free to submit your guesses for the actual name.

“And, by the way, I think the iPad games are going to be very good.
We’ve spent a long time trying to make them up to the standards of our
Windows and Mac games.”

As another Gamecraft exclusive, I can tell you that the app attached to the above icon has now entered “release candidate” status, as we prepare to run the gauntlet of Apple App Store submission.  Stay tuned…

Are you kidding me?

Where Gamecraft has been recently.

As regular readers will have noticed, this blog has spent a little time offline, and even more time without new content, although even occasional browsers will see that it now has an exciting new look.

In the past two months, we have had crashes of our most important Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows systems (in that order).  These were significant setbacks in and of themselves, but when a microISV is producing at full speed, and roadblocks are encountered, something has to give.  In this case, this Gamecraft blog was one of the casualties.

The initial Mac OS X issue was a terminal hardware failure of the primary development system, but it was compounded into a major problem by Apple’s ill-advised deprecation policy, since no new replacement hardware would run the version of Xcode and build tools we use to support all of our Mac customers.  (Say what you want about Microsoft, but they treat developers way better than Apple.)  We finally resolved the development issues by obtaining and installing old server versions of OS X in Parallels, but we are still screwed out of being able to properly test under Lion, Snow Leopard, or Leopard without buying old used equipment.  [insert appropriate expletives here]

The Linux (Ubuntu) issue was a bootstrap failure on our web server caused by a power outage during a major upgrade (and assisted by the new procedure of displaying update text and requiring user input to continue, without which the window of “opportunity” would have been much smaller).  Once it became clear that there was not going to be any reasonable way to recover/continue, it was not too bad rebuilding the system, and a little bit (including the entire database for this site) survived intact without requiring restoration.  Unfortunately, the server configuration (i.e., the hard part) was not fully recoverable, so that took some time to get working (and is still not completely to my liking).

The Windows issue stemmed from a (poorly timed) decision to upgrade my primarily development system to Windows 7 prior to public release of Windows 8 (a.k.a., Windows Ugh).  I almost always do clean installations, rather than upgrades, for my Windows systems, but the above issues suggested to me that I should do a 32-bit upgrade to minimize the disruption.  What I did not know is that in the interest of “security”, Win7 no longer supports the domain controller we have been using internally for many years, so the upgrade could not sign in, so it could/would not access the user information for my account, so the Start menu, registry, and other user-specific settings were all gone.  Result: All of the program files were installed, but the products ranged from working if manually launched to completely unusable.

After all of this, as a side note, everybody in the office experienced a tenacious respiratory illness that interfered with productivity as well.  (I would draw a parallel, except that only in the physical world was a virus involved.)

So, at present, all of our systems are back in working order.  We used the opportunity to improve our Mac OS X development process, including the introduction of code signing to support Gatekeeper, and the builds are running on a faster machine (which almost counterbalances the slower virtualized system).  Likewise, we ended up maxing out the Windows system memory and installing Windows 7 (64-bit) from scratch, giving better performance all around (except for the few old 16-bit tools I still used, which no longer run).  For the web, we decided to build a better blog (first) and then devote appropriate attention to our other sites, which, frankly, had been mostly neglected.

In the meantime, of course, we have remained steadily engaged in development, producing several new game versions and upgrades, as well as progress on a few new products, so expect a number of announcements (many after the fact) soon.

In the future, we will be utilizing the new and newly rebuilt development systems to full capacity, producing new and updated products for a multitude of different platforms, including (primarily) iOS, Windows, and Mac OS X.  Our new web sites will (also) be announced here as they are published, and we have plans to begin publishing game reviews for both Indie and AAA titles.

Please be sure to subscribe to our feed.  Thanks!

U.S. Supreme Court supports video game freedom of speech

Video game restrictions ruled unconstitutional.

In a decision affirming two lower court rulings, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that states do not have the right to restrict or prohibit video games sales based on violent content.  Video games are now a legally recognized form of free speech.  The case in question is known as Brown [originally Schwartzenegger] (Governor of California) v. Entertainment Merchants Association, or just Brown V. EMA, docket # 08-1448.

The case was originally argued on November 2, 2010, and although a ruling was expected by June, it was something of a surprise that it took this long to publish. The Court calendar indicated that today was the last regularly scheduled day for making a ruling, and apparently the end of June deadline for decisions, though not inviolate, it taken fairly seriously.  (It would, however, have been amusing if a video game decision had slipped.)

The wait was worth it, as the decision was clear and unequivocal.  It rules, explicitly, that “Video games qualify for First Amendment protection.”  Further, it rules that the proposed law in California (and, by extension, any similar law) does not “satisfy strict scrutiny”, so the original (correct) decision was upheld and the law has been completely struck down.

Read the full decision here (PDF, 485K) [includes 2 page summary]

Additional commentary to follow.

Supreme Arguments

Video Games have their day before the Supreme Court.

On November 2, the case of “Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, et al., Petitioners v. Entertainment Merchants Association, et al.” (docket # 08-1448) was argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Oral arguments began at 10:04am and lasted exactly an hour (until 11:04am).  The format was an initial argument by the petitioners (California), followed by a response from the respondents (EMA), and then a rebuttal by the petitioners.  Each side is represented by one (speaking) attorney, and the Justices interrupt them (and each other) at whim with questions and arguments.

As discussed originally in my post, Video Games facing Supreme Court review, the case concerns the law passed in California that would prohibit sales of games with “deviant violence” to anyone under 18 years of age.  The law never went into effect and was ruled unconstitutional by two lower courts before being appealed to the Supreme Court.  Hopefully, as discussed at Meaningful Play 2010, this case will put the legal question to rest once and for all and allow the industry to have an open debate.

Surprisingly, the transcript of the oral arguments in the case (PDF) is actually fairly entertaining to read.  The Justices are nowhere near as dry as one might expect, and there were moments of actual laughter.  The case is also very interesting in the fact that the normal ideological lines of conservative versus liberal seem to break down, so there are no easy predictions as to how individual Justices may vote (and Clarence Thomas did not speak at all).  In fact, press reports differ on which way the Court may be leaning.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the oral arguments in this case:

“I’m concerned about the producer of the games who has to know what he has to do in order to comply with the law.  […]  But a law that has criminal penalties has to be clear.  And how is the manufacturer to know whether a particular violent game is covered or not?” — Justice Antonin Scalia

“Well, I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games.” — Justice Samuel Alito

“Would a video game that portrayed a Vulcan as opposed to a human being, being maimed and tortured, would that be covered by the act?” [answer: “No, it wouldn’t…”]  “So if the video producer says this is not a human being, it’s an android computer simulated person, then all they have to do is put a little artificial feature on the creature and they could sell the video game?” [answer: “Under the act, yes…”] — Justice Sonia Sotomayor

For more coverage, you can listen to the story from National Public Radio (or read the NPR transcript) or see the associated stories in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, or read the story on Kotaku for a perspective from the game media.

A ruling on the case in expected by June, 2011.

Gamecraft 2.0

This Gamecraft blog gets a face lift.

After nearly 5 years and exactly 250 posts, it was about time to update the appearance and features of this blog site, so here is the new Gamecraft 2.0.

Obviously, the aesthetics have changed substantially (and are likely to do so again in the future).  Technologically, I have switched to WordPress, from Blogger, and the entire publishing path is now internal (rather than editing remotely and hosting locally).  This change also means that the blog is generated dynamically from posts stored in a database, rather than a large collection of static(-ish) pages.

One of the nicest new features is the addition of a search function for the blog.  I was able (after some manual editing) to import all of the previous posts into this new blog (the ‘Older posts’ category), though I chose to lose (rather than relink) all of the comments in the process.  I did, however, retain the original Gamecraft site at http://blogger.gamecraft.org for archival purposes.

I know that there will be some teething pains as I relaunch this blog, so please let me know if/when you find issues.

Thanks! 🙂

Duke Nukem For Never

Surprise (NOT)!

As you have probably heard or read, 3D Realms, the developer of (the aptly named) Duke Nukem Forever, has gone out of business. The company website now features a big “Goodbye” message on the front page. The story was reported even in the mainstream media, including this BBC News article.

The release date for DNF has always been “When it’s done.” This scheduling choice seems to put a product on a slow train to vaporware, and I posted about it being way past expiration three years ago: A Long Time Coming. I could rehash the history, but game industry news site Shacknews has posted an updated article (originally from 2007), The Brief Long History of DNF: Post-3D Realms Edition, detailing a dozen years of unfulfilled promises and hype.

So, now Duke Nukem Forever is finally toast, all of the developers have been laid off, the company is gone, and the product is going to remain unpublished. The saga ends here, right?

Not so fast.

Next comes word that Take Two Interactive, who in 2000 (perhaps unwisely) purchased the publishing rights to this title (from another publisher) for $12 million, and reportedly (probably unwisely) renewed this agreement with 3D Realms in 2007, is now suing for breach of contract. Of course, they (definitely unwisely) never provided any development funding for the title, so there is not much left there to get…

… except the source code. Take Two immediately filed for an injunction to get a copy of the source code “to ensure the code is preserved and remains unharmed” while it prosecutes its lawsuit, as shown in this article about the release of the court documents.

Now it is revealed in this Gamasutra article that “3D Realms has not closed and is not closing” after all. They merely fired (sorry, “let go”) the entire Duke Nukem Forever development team due to lack of funding. Still, they (i.e., unnamed 3D Realms representatives) “believe Take-Two’s lawsuit is without merit and merely a bully tactic“. Really? Interesting.

Here is what we know:

  1. Company management did not do what it would take to ship this game.
  2. The development team did not do what it would take to ship this game.
  3. The publisher did not provide what it would take to ship this game.
  4. Incompetence reigns in this matter, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
  5. It will probably be another year before this matter is finally settled.

This whole story is a case study in poor choices and a wholesale failure of anybody involved to recognize and acknowledge the [situation] this has become. Trains wrecks are fascinating, though.

Always Bet On Duke.” – I don’t think so.

Second place in Class A1

The ice racing season ends with a good championship position.

The points championship in MIRA (Michigan Ice Racing Association) is over, and I finished in second place in my class. I raced in Class A1, which is front-wheel drive cars, racing rubber-to-ice, first driver. (The A1/A2 split allows two different drivers to participate using the same car for more fun!) I finished the year with two wins (which is two more than my previous total for all 12 previous years of ice racing), and I was competitive, especially toward the end of the year.

2009 MIRA Series Points – FINAL STANDINGS

Going into last weekend, I still had a chance at the championship, but with the cancellation of the Saturday event, there were not enough points left for me to either win the championship nor lose second position. This turned out to be a blessing, as [ob Game Development] the recent beta version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, version 2.0, expired, so I stayed home and worked for the whole weekend instead.

Rumor has it that the person who won the championship has been racing (in various forms) for 35 years and this is his first ever championship, and he did beat me more often than not, so it was well earned and well deserved. (I have won a TSD Rally Championship before.) This year was my best showing in MIRA since I first raced back in 1985, when the group was only a few years old.

There would be some non-points racing this weekend if it were to happen. A few hardy optimists are still holding out hope for one last event, but it is currently almost 60 degrees here (in the overnight hours), and the forecast calls for temperatures well above freezing until Monday (and beyond), so it is very unlikely.