The past two years working for Amazon have taught me a ton about the importance of moving fast with simple tools. (Quick reminder, everything on this blog is my own, and does not represent the opinions of my employer.) One of the core reasons I decided to move off Wordpress was its complexity. It was a powerful tool, but I wasn’t always sure what it was doing on my behalf. I’m just displaying some formatted text, I don’t need a database, and admin control panel, user accounts. I don’t need to worry about keeping a whole suite of software up to date. Now I run simply with tools I’m very familiar with – Markdown, Ruby, nginx, and git.


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For a number of reasons, Wordpress wasn’t working out for me. I didn’t have time to curate comments, I had serious concerns about its security, and it was really overly complicated for what I’m doing. (Which is writing the occasional blog post.) I’ve replaced it with the static site generator Jekyll. Writing everything in Markdown feels natural and quick, and I don’t need to do anything too fancy. You may notice that some of the existing blog posts don’t render correctly. I’m periodically going through and touching them up, bear with me while I finish up the transition.


The Something Awful forums run an annual game development competition. Participants are given one month to design and develop a video game based around a rotating theme. Everything, from planning mechanics and developing ideas to the actual creation of assets and code needs to take place between 12:01AM July 1st and 11:59PM July 31st. It’s a mad whirlwind of activity as developers, artists, and musicians come together to attempt to complete something worthwhile and still meet commitments to their jobs, friends, and families.


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I had watched a classmate play bits and pieces of this game, and passed it off as another pixelated indie game cash in. You know the type – designed to tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of our generation, ultimately offering nothing of substance – so I brushed my classmate off and didn’t think twice about it. A few months later that image appeared on Reddit, along with a whole host of people screaming bloody murder about how wonderful the game was. Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps I hadn’t given the game a fair shake.


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Recently, I’ve become re-enamored with an old school board game: Diplomacy. This board game, set in Europe around the turn of the century (19th-20th century, that is), features gameplay similar to Risk or Axis and Allies. The key difference in Diplomacy is that the gameplay is entirely free of luck. There are no dice rolls, no random chance, your strength comes entirely from the other nations you can con into helping you. It is a game of wicked social engineering, where every player is trying to get good intelligence on every other player. It is not uncommon for players to ‘release’ a tidbit of information to one player, and see how long it takes to find it’s way back to them from a different player.


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There are a number of useful algorithms that every game programmer should be aware of and know how to code. One of my goals is to explain how these algorithms work and provide code samples. If the algorithms have a cool visualization, than I’ll try to provide one of those as well. Without further ado, let’s start with our first Better Know An Algorithm (BKAA) with The Marching Squares Algorithm – THE FIGHTIN' SQUARES! What does it do? You’ve seen the output of this algorithm all over the place. When you use the magic wand tool in Adobe Photoshop, it produces the ‘ants marching’ perimeter of a colored area. Marching Squares gets its name from the way it works – it takes a square area of an image and marches around the perimeter of an object.


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