Fall in East Lansing

#whymichigan

After an unusually warm summer here in Michigan, which happened to correspond to lots of upheaval and several unusual activities for me, the weather broke with a minor thunderstorm a few nights ago; in came the cool fall weather that characterizes the change of season, and it looks like it plans to stay for a while.

As much as I love hot days, especially those that others sometimes find unbearable, I think that I really enjoy the early autumn in East Lansing the most.  It is still warm enough that everybody is outside, yet cool enough to sleep in the evenings (and that damn air conditioning can stay off).  We get some rainshowers and occasional thunderstorms as the different air masses interact.  Soon, the maple trees will start turning beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow, and the smell of falling leaves will permeate the fresh air.

This is fall.

(Yes, I know that technically the autumnal equinox is not until the 22nd of this month, but the change of seasons is not only about one astronomical event on a particular day.)

Another aspect of this time of year here is that East Lansing (Go Trojans!) is a big college town, home to Michigan State University (Go Spartans!), which has more than 50,000 students; that is more students than permanent residents of the city.  From late August into September, the influx of students, including some 10,000 incoming freshman, provides so much energy it is almost palpable.  (The increase is traffic is also unmistakable, but still nothing like larger cities.)  There is really nothing like a home football Saturday when all of the above combine into a uniquely exciting experience.

With the university and so many students, there is a lot of diversity of interest, many resources, and loads of young people who are here for the express intent of learning, which makes for a primarily uplifting environment.  Whether one is into science, the arts, sports and games, public service, natural recreation, business, or almost anything else, chances are good that you can find (or make) an opportunity here.  In just my field, there is the Game Design and Development Program at MSU, a student organization, Spartasoft, a top academic conference, Meaningful Play, and Digital Gamecraft is not nearly the only game developer to be based in East Lansing (though we are, by far, the oldest).

Whether coincidental or not, this impending change in season has corresponded to a noticeable uptick in productivity on the most important end of my personal task list.  In particular, I have been really able to dig into development recently, with two iOS projects getting ready for release, one product update very soon (i.e., already submitted to the App Store) and a second one (for a client) making great progress toward completion.  I have also been able to get back on the bike, literally, and pick up where I left off on my exercise program.  The scenery is just lovely, and the weather is perfect.

That is just one reason why Michigan.

[Note: The following just happened to come up randomly from my music collection while I was writing this post.  It seems appropriate, so enjoy.]

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

Why I Am Thankful This Year

I have many reasons to be thankful this year:

  • On the business side, I am thankful that my company (SophSoft, Incorporated) continues to survive in a difficult and challenging industry.
  • On the development side, I am thankful that I have a large list of interesting projects on which to work and that I still get excited about programming games.
  • On the marketing side, I am thankful that I have been able to restore the new server and this blog site to something resembling its prior glory.
  • On the employment side, I am thankful that I have an excellent team of elite programmers who can pull off amazing projects and from whom I can still learn.
  • On the social side, I am thankful that I have some astonishing friends who are truly wonderful, giving me something to which I can aspire.
  • On the family side, I am thankful that my family remains so wonderful and continues to support me and each other, even when times are tough.
  • On the personal side, I am thankful that I am still healthy and active and that I can be comfortable without compromising my values or integrity.

I wish great happiness for all of you on this special holiday.

Gregg Seelhoff

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!

SophSoft West

Now (also) coming to you from Los Angeles.

SophSoft, IncorporatedDigital GamecraftIt has been quite a while since I posted a Gamecraft update.  The last six months have been filled with “opportunity”, and the upshot of it is that I have relocated to Los Angeles, California.

Structurally, SophSoft, Incorporated and Digital Gamecraft still continue to operate from our Michigan office, and nothing substantial has changed in terms of client services or product development.  Practically, of course, having the company principal living a couple thousand miles away from the home office presents interesting challenges (some of which are still being resolved).  I am definitely in a period of adjustment, both personally and professionally.

So, what am I doing in California?

I am out here to pursue a great opportunity in the burgeoning field of augmented reality, bringing my years of experience in game development, coupled with my abilities in quality assurance and robust programming, to bear on a young industry that is just beginning to show its enormous potential.  That, however, is a topic (well, several) for another post.

For the moment, though, I am still transitioning from living in the Midwest to residing in the second largest city in the United States, and now that my West Coast office is up and (mostly) functioning, we are looking to resolve the remaining logistical and technical challenges inherent in running a business with offices in two different states.

Please stay tuned!

Curmudgeon Day 2013

Stay home, stay safe, and do what you wish.

Stay Home.  Do What You Want.This is the tenth year I have written on this blog about Curmudgeon Day, the Friday after (US) Thanksgiving Day which is traditionally observed by refusing to leave the house, instead staying home and doing whatever activity you choose.  The day has been recognized for decades, and others have tried to misappropriate it, especially recently, attempting to rename it and twist it to their wicked ends.  Nevertheless, I remained committed to the original intent and observe faithfully.

Click here for more information on Curmudgeon Day.

Alas, I awoke this particular Curmudgeon Day with a headache, probably due to too much poor television before bed time, but that problem is resolving itself now.  This post is the first significant thing I am doing today (after sleeping in), though I did some design for a project that is near and dear to my heart at the technical start of the holiday (before going to bed), and I plan to revise the design more and then work on implementation.  Since I actually under-ate yesterday, I am looking forward to lots of very tasty leftovers, too.

If you support the idea of Curmudgeon Day, please like our Facebook page.

Our local NPR station just referred to today with the words “traditional holiday” and then, in dishonor of those who are shopping, played the ominous Night on Bald Mountain, by Modest Mussorgsky. 🙂

Curmudgeon Day 2012

I Stayed Home and Did What I Wanted.

Curmudgeon DayI have been writing about Curmudgeon Day for the last 8 years, which posts you can find in the Curmudgeon Day category.  The holiday itself is much older (predating the pretenders), but it has taken on additional significance this year.  This Thanksgiving was the first time one of our guests had to leave early to go into work at a retail outlet, for a midnight opening, under the implied threat of dismissal, making this particular practice a form of quasi-slavery, which must become unprofitable.

Now, I encourage you to join the cause by visiting and liking the Curmudgeon Day page on Facebook.  If you are so inclined, please also post there about your non-shopping activities; I have already done so.

“We now return to our regularly scheduled program.”

2011: Year in Review

Overall Performance Grade: C+

As we officially begin 2012 after taking our annual two week “break” (during which I actually worked every day), it is a good time to do a quick review of the past year at Digital Gamecraft and SophSoft, Incorporated.

What went Right

We started the year with enthusiasm and energy.  A new product, Demolish! Pairs, was designed from the ground up for iOS, the artwork went from specification to final in short time, and a playable alpha version of the product was programmed within a few months.  Internal procedural changes brought better efficiency and productivity (and require few changes going forward), and our marketing and social media efforts got off the ground late in the year.

Additionally, our collaboration with Goodsol Development passed the 10-year mark in September (and continues on).  We shipped 10 different SKUs of Goodsol projects for publication, as well as 5 more that remained unpublished for various reasons.  We ended the year strongly with another 2 products essentially finished, one of which will be published this week (while the other will remain a private bonus for beta testers).

What went Wrong

Despite the quick development of Demolish! Pairs to a playable alpha version, it did not ship during 2011, which was one of my primary goals for the year.  In fact, I/we did not manage to reach any of the three challenging goals I set (business, individual, or family).  As noted at the beginning of the year: “no excuses allowed.”  I failed to meet those goals.

Although the Goodsol projects were flowing early in the year, during the second part of the year, I (personally) got bogged down in the development and testing of two lesser features for Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, along with the 50 new games added, and the beta test became much longer (and more tedious) than anticipated.  That was not ideal.

What went Horribly Wrong

Of course, the worst and most significant occurrence of the year was the loss of my close friend, business partner, and artist, Rick Tumanis.  That, alone, colored the whole rest of the year a little darker.  (City Pulse recently included Rick in their remembrance of 10 people who died in 2011.)

Final Evaluation

In the end, I awarded a grade of C+ for overall performance in 2011.  Looking back, although specific goals were not met and perhaps productivity could have been higher, the fact remains that we are still here and viable, several products were published, new games were implemented, and progress was made towards our long term corporate goals.  Even in light of a major setback, we still left the year in better shape than we entered it, hence a slightly above average grade.

How did your 2011 wind up?