April 23, 2014

Hamlet’s Hit Points Applied to User Experience Design

A Thing I Always Say is that the beat analysis system from Hamlet’s Hit Points can be used to look at much more than what we traditionally consider as narrative. News broadcasts, commercials, and political speeches all resound with the emotional up and down beats that engage our attention over time. One area I’ve never thought to examine, because I know nothing about it, is user experience design—the methods used to navigate us through web sites and keep us from closing that tab.

Matt Leacock, who we in the tabletop world know better as the genius designer of Pandemic, knows a lot about user experience design. In his civilian identity he does it for Sococo, a virtual office space site. And in the presentation below he applies beat analysis not only to the play experience of his board game Forbidden Island, but to the process of engaging with a site like LinkedIn. This last choice is not coincidental, as he’s speaking to designers from that company.

The entire talk will well reward your time, even if you don’t care about user experience design. It includes great insight into his process, the development history of Pandemic, and even the German market’s preference for meeples over abstract pawns.

Thanks for the insights, Matt!

April 22, 2014

Hardware Store Found Poetry Corner

“Do you have screws with white heads? I don't want to paint.”

“No. Do you have white-out?”


“You can put that on the heads.”

“Buddy, I don't white-out nothin’, buddy.”

April 21, 2014

That Demon Within

In Dante Lam’s That Demon Within, now in limited North American theatrical release, a tightly-wound police constable (Daniel Wu) loses his already tenuous grip on reality after donating blood to a stabbing victim. The beneficiary of this reflexive act of altruism turns out to be the Demon King, cop-killer and leader of a ruthless armed robbery ring. The intensity of Wu’s internalized madness places him alongside Keitel and Cage in the cinematic cop-on-the-edge hall of fame. Nick Cheung, previously seen as the soulful MMA trainer in Lam’s rousing fight pic Unbeatable, vibrates with grinning menace as the Demon King. Lam’s oppressive, wildly expressionistic direction situates the audience inside the protagonist’s skewed reality, even as it keeps up the cat-and-mouse crime thriller tension. As such it recalls the director’s previous portrayal of a policeman’s spiral into insanity, the classic Beast Cop.

Cinematographer Kenny Tse again shows that Hong Kong is the world city that was made to be photographed in beautiful digital.

Lam knows how to escalate a third act, and here serves up an outer conflagration to match it’s anti-hero’s inner disintegration.

A must-see for fans of Feng Shui, gritty crime flicks, and hallucinatory cinema.
HK movies now routinely show up on streaming services, so if you can’t catch it now, remember That Demon Within for later.

April 04, 2014

March 28, 2014

Ken and Robin’s Tiny Dolls Talk About Stuff

In the latest episode of our eerily familiar podcast, Ken and I talk PC/NPC asymmetry, clone dolls, starting in media res, and murdering Alexander the Great.

March 11, 2014

Special ID

If you watch action movies for the storylines, you will find much to deride in Special ID. If on the other hand you want to see Donnie Yen direct some inventively punishing martial arts sequences, you can now catch it in a limited theatrical release in North America, or grab it on iTunes. Yen plays an undercover cop caught between his triad boss (Collin Chou) and his triad protégé (Andy On.) At one point the case takes him to the mainland where he meets a winsome/comically strident female counterpart (Tian Jing.) Other than that it's, shall we say, loosely plotted. But what you’re there for is the action--particularly the climactic car chase/martial arts battle which is possibly the best combo of those two elements you could hope to see.

The subtitling is tad iffy for a Hong Kong flick getting an English-language theatrical release nowadays.  Weirdly, at one point the translator drops in a line from Glengarry Glen Ross. Yes,  you’re right, triad guy. You should keep your mouth shut until you know the shot.

March 06, 2014

Digital Tool Use

Right now I am working on Feng Shui schticks specific to the foes the heroes fight. (The new edition abandons the PC/NPC symmetry of the original.) Inventing crunchy bits is a job of fits and starts, ideal for idle thinking while running errands. But without a way of quickly noting an idea, it vanishes. Dictating rules bits into the phone does, however, have its perils.

Level Stick

After a successful attack with an outcome of five or more, the outcome target euro needs to Downeymeade increases by one until Boloco's down.

The Birds: Listening

Click here for the complete strip archive.
Stuck in mobile mode? Click here for image file.

February 28, 2014

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Elves Don’t Listen to Podcasts

In the latest episode of our half-Usonian podcast, Ken and I talk meaningful F20 fights, animal spies, publishing your homebrew, and building an unbuilt utopia.