Friday, September 25, 2009

Line management 101

Or, how to annoy multiple people at midnight.

There's an indie horror movie making the festival/art house rounds right now called Paranormal Activity. The trailer makes it look like Ghost Hunters done by amateurs where they actually find something. I put it on my "to watch" list.

Then I noticed that the art house theater down the street was having a midnight screening tonight. It was the only screening in Boston, and it was one of the ones where you RSVP, but you're not guaranteed a seat. Those of you who notice timestamps on posts might guess where this is going.

Having done several midnight movies at this theater, showing up a half hour early is usually plenty to guarantee a good seat. So I wander over there at about 11:30. When I arrive, I notice that the line is coming out along the street instead of going back toward the parking lot. Chalking it up to stupid people, I get in line, pull out my phone, and start reading (did I mention that a nice Kindle feature is that you can also sync your last read page to the Kindle app on the iphone and keep reading it there?), content in my proximity to the door.

After about five minutes, a guy with postcards comes by. The guy ahead of me asks him if we'll all get in. Postcard guy says he doesn't know, but they were coming this way with wristbands. He then wanders off. A half hour goes by (it's now 12:10), and we hear a cheer from near the door. The line doesn't move. At around 12:25, we start going forward. As we draw even with the alley that contains the door, I realize that what's happened is that the line has wrapped completely around the block, and I'm on the wrong end of it.

It's about this time that a different official sounding guy starts yelling that if you don't have a wrist band, there isn't a seat. Turns out that they handed out all the wrist bands over a half hour ago, but they never bothered to come down the line and tell us unlucky folks that we weren't getting in.

Now, I have no problem with not getting in. I showed up late, that's my fault. But if you have 500 seats and 500 wrist bands, once you've attached those to 500 wrists, you know that your theater is full. Your next (and only) job is to continue walking down the line to tell the rest of the people waiting that they shouldn't bother. It's an incredibly basic part of line management, and they didn't bother to do it. So instead, I got to stand in line for nothing for a half hour too long.

It's minor, but it's really soured me on wanting to see this movie. If it ever gets a wide release, I'm actively not going to bother going to see it. I'll toss it on my Netflix queue, but it's going to be a low priority. It's a good example of how a poorly-run promotion can easily lose as many potential supporters as it gained. Instead of telling everyone how disappointed I am that I didn't get to see this sweet movie, I've now gone on for several hundred words about the annoying line practices. That won't get the asses in the seats. At least, not my ass.

And now I have to go occupy myself for another hour while I wait for the coffee I drank to stay awake through the movie to wear off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We don't need no steenking paper!

I got a huge suprise on my birthday when kt got me a Kindle. I'd been wanting one for a while, but hadn't gotten up the gumption to get one. Turns out kt has 100% more gumption than I do. Probably due to her awesomeness. I've had this thing for almost two months now, so I figured I'd write up some thoughts.

First, it's damn small. I have it in a case, so it's slightly bulkier, but whenever I take the case off, I'm always amazed at how thin and light it is. That's awesome. The screen is exactly as paper-like as you've heard. When it arrived, it had a plastic film with a diagram of how to plug it in and turn it on. When I took the film off, the diagram stayed. It was being displayed by the screen, and completely looked like it was printed on the plastic. The screen is almost completely non-reflective. This is awesome when reading outside. Or really any time.

For those of us who sometimes ride on crowded trains or busses and have to hang on with one hand, reading can be tricky. Particularly when trying to wrestle a 1000 page Stephen King hardcover into submission. The Kindle has the "next page" button on either side, under your thumb, so one handed reading isn't a problem. Of course, it's also possible to bump it accidentally, and the "previous page" button is only on the left, so that can be kind of a pain.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that you basically have to start buying your books from Amazon, and the prices aren't a ton cheaper than the print versions. Personally, I have no problem with that, because I've never operated under the illusion that when I buy a book/movie/game that I'm paying for the physical component, but rather the creative effort that produced the content. Still, a lot of people feel like digital copies of things should be cheaper than physical copies. For those people, the Kindle isn't going to make you happy. However, I certainly don't mind having fewer books to sit on shelves. I can definitely see a future Chuck who has one bookshelf filled with elaborate leather-bound collector's editions of a select few books that are worth it (I'm hoping for a fully illuminated and illustrated version of Lord of the Rings), and everything else in electronic form.

Yet for those who crave cheap books, or those who want to convert their already-purchased physical books to electronic format, all isn't lost. There are hundreds of completely free public domain works both on Amazon and at various other websites that are totally legit. I've got the complete Sherlock Holmes waiting to be read. The other option is to locate "alternative download sites" that can provide copies of the books that you already own. You've paid for them, so as long as you maintain possession of them, I feel you're entitled to an electronic copy. The Kindle also lets you download the first ~30 pages of any book they sell as a trial, which is a pretty good way to find new books. Amazon also gives away free current books from time to time. Long story short is that through various means, I have 43 books on my Kindle, of which I've paid money for two.

Since I have that many books, including all the books from the series I'm currently reading, I haven't had to make use of one of the major features, which is the free wireless. You can shop and buy books directly from the Kindle, and they automatically download. You can also shop on a PC, and then have any books you buy delivered directly to your Kindle. It's very slick, and could be handy if you somehow finish your last unread book on the thing.

So is it worth the $300 price? I think of it like the iPod. You didn't buy an iPod to save money, you bought it for the convenience of being able to carry and listen to music wherever, and do it more conveniently than you could with a CD player. This serves the same purpose. It's smaller than most books, and easier to use in certain situations. Like with mp3s, you lose the nice bits of physical media. There's no cover art, no big shelf of books/music to impress guests with, and it's certainly not as romantic to curl up with the Kindle in front of a fire with a cup of tea to read. But it's sure as hell easier to travel with, which is definitely something I'm looking for right now.

As a lifetime bibliophile, it kind of pains me to write this. In my own small way, I'm contributing to the inevitable demise of the physically printed word, and that's certainly very sad. But in a way, the transition to digital media might actually bring the status of a physical book back to where it was in the days before Gutenberg. Back then, a book was an almost revered object, something rare, to be treasured. Now, books are basically disposeable, sometimes more useful for propping up a broken table than for their intended purpose. Would it be such a bad thing to keep the written word accessible while returning the physical book to it's past glory? Not in my book.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It was a hard day's night

We had our unofficial Beatles release party the other night. It could be differentiated from the official release party because it had 100% fewer white russians made with Bailey's instead of milk, and 100% fewer tequila shots. However, the lack of tequila shots meant that the unofficial party had 100% fewer extremely bad ideas.

So we had the party. We started playing the game at around 6:15pm. I turned it off at around 2am. Kt's dad sang for the entire time, along with everyone else at various points. We did ever song in the game at least twice.

It was an awesome time. I really liked seeing everyone finally getting to see this thing, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. So that was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Beatles have landed

It's finally arrived, and it's been a long time coming. There's good vibes all over the office today. Heck, even Deval Patrick thinks we're awesome.

I'm really looking forward to the mini-release party on Saturday. After spending so long looking at a game during production, finding every little thing that's wrong with it, it's easy to lose perspective and forget about all the many things that are right with it. You guys playing it for the first time are my fresh set of eyes. Really, for me, a game isn't officially out until I've gotten to play it with the folks that I care about. (Hopefully) seeing all of you excited, happy, and having a good time is the point where all the incredibly long hours of frustration when it's all coming together pays off.

So I can't wait to get everyone over and give this thing a shot. Hopefully it doesn't suck.

After the party

I just got home from our release party. I stumbled off the train at about quarter past midnight. As I made my way home, I happened to look up, and saw a bus headed toward me. Through the window, I could see a guy cradling a Beatles: Rock Band bundle in his lap.

I smiled the rest of the way home. Yup, The Beatles is officially out. Holy crap.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kurt is rolling over in his grave

The new Guitar Hero game comes out today. Their new thing is to include actual musicians that you can choose to play as. That's a bit strange, but fine.

The trouble is that when they create the animations for the musicians, they hard code the animations for the song. Which can also be fine, and means that the musicians move exactly the same way every time you play the song.

The trouble happens when you combine those two things. Since you can have any character play any instrument on any song, you get some really strange things going on. Here's some examples from Youtube.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but there's something very strange about seeing Cobain in something like this game in the first place, and even stranger seeing him miming Flava Flav.