Ken

Jul 152018
 

Hello friends, welcome back!  So much has happened since September:

  • In October and November I moved some material around and effected renovations on our build site!
  • in December we built out the arcade!  On December 30 we had our special Demo Day soft opening, and it was excellent.
  • Then on January 27 we had our Grand Opening event, when we opened our doors for realsies.
  • February is a bit of a blur!  I worked at the arcade 7 days and 180 hours for 6 weeks.  In this period We had our ribbon cutting with the Howell Chamber of Commerce.
  • March … I think it was oddly hot or cold a lot, not remembering much about march.
  • April was Spring Break, and we booked 100% for 7 straight days!  This was by far the most challenging week for my staff and I.  Every day, we sold 153 VR sessions, which is our entire capacity.  And each week thereafter has been if not a bonanza, then at least prosperous.
  • May I also remember as being cold or something for some reason, I think the sky was angry at us, but I don’t remember the details and I think I spent most of my time inside, at the Arcade.  Oh and I had my Birthday party at the Arcade and famous Earth scientist Rick Sanchez was there!!
  • June saw lots of new business come in the door, I think a lot of loose ends were tightened up and and processes narrowed down.
  • It is now July and we have been open for over 5 full months.  I am so proud of my staff for getting to this point and growing into the team I knew they could be.

You can learn more about Ctrl V at our website:

www.ctrlv.ca

Better yet, book a session, and come see me, because it has been a real joy building something wonderful that so many people have come to love.

My private life is doing fine, I was a workaholic starting in December and after slacking off for so much of the previous year it was nice to be fully engaged and active in my work again.  My diet is great, I started Beach Body in December guided by my cousin Erin, and I held on to it for a good long time.  And I regularly reboot into the program and am pleased with the results.  Part of my successes here have been drilling down meal prep into a science.  Now I can just walk into my kitchen, and in 2 hours flat cook 12 awesome meals, and freeze 8 of them.  This has allowed me to eat good healthy delicious food without spending my life in the kitchen.

My diet at work has NOT been stellar when I have fallen off beach body.  Huge masses of Pizza pass through my doors on the REG.  Ice cream cake too.  It usually gets left in the freezer, and I subsist on it in my lonely hours there after close.

Have gone to the gym 0 times but practiced yoga a fair amount, and more importantly I rebooted my solo practice, the development of which is critical to my next stage of development.  I swam in the ocean a few times but not for long due to some very strong currents at my home beach.  Brighton Ave is and has been a surf beach ever since Sandy changed the landscape so maybe I need to start swimming elsewhere.  I did the War at the Shore Triathlon and my time was atrocious due to lack of training.  Still I enjoyed the race and it’s fun to get together with actual athletes from time to time.  So, my health is good, I’m still fat but not so fat I can’t go for long runs or bike rides, and I do both these things as frequently as I can.  I think I’ve run at least 30 miles this year, almost all of it on sand, and most of that is the two miles and back from Brighton Ave to Pier Village, or sometimes Ocean Place, or 7 Presidents, or North Beach, or this one time parking lot 3 on Sandy Hook (when I overshot Donovan’s Reef by a fair clip by accident and negligence).

In books, let’s see, I think I started reading the Gunslinger books again back around December.  And I finished the final one last week.  I also read the new one, the 4.5 dark tower novel.  I enjoyed the books immensely, especially Wolves of the Calla which was new to me this time (my first time through I quit at Wizard and Glass.  Possibly because WotC had not been written at that time…

I have been playing LESS games lately… Started Fallout 4 VR, started Skyrim VR, started Final Fantasy III, and also VII on the MAME cabinet I got at the arcade.  Oh yes, we got a MAME cabinet with every classic arcade game and console game on it.  It’s awesome and everyone loves it.  So I can (and do) play Star Control II at work.  However I have quit Pokemon Go entirely, and in Ingress I have effected a semi-active retirement lifestyle.  There’s just no time to play games, when I’m playing games all day.  I keep up with the VR industry through a variety of online sources, and while I have not spent any of my time in a developmental role (though my staff does),  I try to keep up with the latest advances and releases.  So, yes I break my own rule sometimes.  That rule is: Play a little, every day.  It seems strange to me that there were weeks, maybe a couple weeks back during our opening, when I broke this rule.  I was so focused, I couldn’t even spend 5 minutes in Space Pirate Trainer.  But that’s what happened.  I’ve also cut my Elite: Dangerous habit to a couple minutes of stick time every week, when it used to be many hours a week.  I miss space.  I miss my guild.  But my work here on Earth still calls to me, so here I will remain, for a bit longer.

 Posted by at 11:55 pm
Sep 032017
 

So, you know by now I only keep this blog to ignore it for months or years at a time. I would say it’s doing its job perfectly, and the guys at Dreamhost are doing a perfect job of maintaining this non-record of my life’s story here on earth. Don’t worry I’ve been updating, you can catch me on the Facebook and now the Instagram as well. I even post to Twitter, but I still don’t engage in much tweeting, outside of promotional bulletins for my new business. Really if you want news from me, go click the social media buttons over there on the sidebar, and find me on the other side.

All is well here with me. Here is the story so far:

In October of last year I founded OutlierVR, my own personal LLC to serve my growing research and development inquiries into the new Virtual Reality technologies that just manifested out of the ether two years ago. I was finally going to publish my VR game! Also, we maybe have something to do with bitcoins!

As I built the foundation of the company, the larger purpose of it became more and more clear. Someone needs to build the VR Arcades here in the US, because that hasn’t been done yet. Who better than me? Part time VR developer, and full time business and engineering generalist, former teacher and lifelong video gamer.

So by December of 2017 the focus of my research shifted. It almost immediately led me to what I identified as the industry leaders in VR arcades: a group out of Waterloo, Ontario known as Ctrl V Partners. They were exactly 1 year ahead of me. They knew in January 2016 that this would have to be a thing, and they went and did it. Yes, while I was convalescing from my broken arm and spending most of my time playing Elite Dangerous in VR, these guys were out there constructing the superior business model, costed it out perfectly, did all the normal things like operations and marketing, and along the way they invented at least a few
industry best practices. In January I went to visit these guys with an interest in partnership, and since that time I have been playing a game I call “catch the hell up” with my new franchise partners. They’ve given me a thousand fantastic new ideas, and quietly convinced me to discard at least 20 awful ideas I brought to the table.

Carefully, around New Years Eve, I etched my new business plan into whiteboard ink…

1) Find a town
2) Build VR Arcade in town
3) ???
4) Profit !

You wouldn’t belong how long step 1 took. OK maybe you would. It took four months. We signed our lease at Howell Plaza on April 20, 2017. It took three months on top of that for the landlord to finish dividing the space. But around the second week of August we were able to get in there to start renovations.

Since agreeing to buy a Ctrl V franchise, I have been occupied much of this time building the business itself. Each new day finds me buzzing around like honeybee, I’ll spend some time doing operational things like setting up utilities, hr, and payroll. I have lot of interactions with my contractors, landlord, and architect to get the space into the shape I want it in. I had quite a fun week going up to Waterloo in July to complete my franchise training. I spent a week up there just working a few shifts at the flagship arcade just to see what it was like. They taught me a lot of what I needed to know, I had fun working there, enjoyed some time pub crawling with my ingress family. August was spent procuring necessary supplies for the rough build out, which should be followed by the complete build out, and then… testing, fine tuning, demo days, soft opening, all which I fully expect to happen in September. After that… we open!

I hope you will all come to Ctrl V Howell and some see me very soon!

 Posted by at 1:24 pm
Jan 132017
 

So, I gave it my best effort, but I have to sell my macbook. I like parts of it – backlit keyboard, form factor, touch pad, ergonomics in general, there’s a lot of stuff done right! Honestly, having this 13″ power house in my hands is very cool.

BUT,

I’m way better at using PC’s. Sure I’ve used an Apple II as a kid, but I really didn’t git gud at computers until I got the 486 and read the Dos and windows manuals. I’m a PC guy, have been since I was 14. I’ve built them, upgraded them, programmed them, maintained them, debugged them, used them. Almost nobody can make those same claims for macs. And the problems people complain about when using PC’s? I’ve been living with and working around those problems for so long they’ve ceased to be problems. I don’t have malware issues, I have good user habits. Mucking around with drivers and codecs isn’t a problem for me. It’s a problem when I’m trapped in the walled garden, and I NEED to muck around with drivers to make something work, and I’m not allowed to.

Really, I only got the thing because it seemed like everyone who was a developer used them. I can kind of see why. But macs are useless for games. It seems like developers seem to sort into two categories: gamers, and mac users. I can’t continue to lie to myself about which category I fall into. Really, the mac is great for a work machine, by virtue of its utter useless as a recreational machine. However as a game designer / arcade owner, I must now embrace a fusion of work and play as my future.

Working around the macs limitations is a PITA too. The tiny screen is a blessing and a curse. Coming from my old HP desktop replacement, it’s a real difference. Sure I can take this thing anywhere. But when I arrive, I’m confined to working into this tiny box. Even if I hook up an external screen and USB hub and keyboard, it’s still tough for me to get around.

I’m trying to think of something I can do on the mac that can’t be done on the PC.  maybe develop iOS apps in their native environment, which is a real advantage, I agree with the purists on this.  Or use Sketch, which is mac only.  But really, for cross platform apps…. Google and Open Office have my back.  Adobe’s stuff works great on PC too.  So do all the game engines I love.  Why am using a Mac, the only PC which is physically incapable of EVER supporting VR?  That’s what it comes down to, I suppose.

So, anyone want to buy the latest 13″ macbook? It’s got a crazy powerful processor and more space and memory than I need.  Not VR ready.

 

 Posted by at 1:32 pm
Jan 082017
 

Hello All, here’s the state of the union:

Game: Still stalled on Audio.  UX part also stuck.  Will get unstuck soon.

Business Plan: I’ve started building the seed of the business.  It exists mostly in a composition book, and done mostly in pencil.  I’ve addressed funding, branding, location, operations, deployment, staffing, and various other minutiae and they’re all getting sorted out.

Other Games: Dormant, I have a simple environment built for super ball pit mania but have not advanced on it yet.

Other Games: Arizona Sunshine went on sale, and audacious as it was, I bought a $40 game on Steam, played it myself (which I never do!) and was blown away.  That was the game of the year, it was amazing and what’s even more surprising is that it only ate through 5 hours of my life.

Twitch: I’ve been uploading twitch streams of various MR style play on my part, and even shared it with my guild in Elite Dangerous.  Still at least my Youtube is getting populated at this time, making and sharing movies has never been my focus, and I don’t really want to go in this direction.  However I do want the avenue open to

 Posted by at 1:22 pm
Dec 212016
 

New high score!  27150!

Some tweaks to my play area fixed some problems.  First, I re mapped it so the back of the room is now the “front” direction for Steam VR.  This necessitated recalibrating the camera, but that process goes a lot faster after you’ve done it 20 or so times!  The camera is also repositioned to capture more of the action… there’s still a lot going on you can’t see, I need additional green screens and higher ceilings to fix that.  For some reason the “floor” in steam VR is off, it thinks the world ends at my ankles.  shrug.  It’s not worth remapping to fix though.  The work continues!

 Posted by at 9:12 pm
Dec 212016
 

Well, we have MVP.  I made a mixed reality trailer of my favorite game, Space Pirate Trainer!

 

 

Some problems with it.  It defaulted to flac, not mp4, so I can’t edit it with the software I know.  The capture card for some reason is sending up very choppy images, so it looks like I’m moving around in some kind of weird time bubble.  I have no idea why.  The chroma key detecting the screen is pretty sloppy, which is probably due to the lighting, which needs improvement.  I only have one green screen, so you can only see one vector instead of a whole bunch.  The camera angle is lousy, and too close, it needs to be set farther back and up more.  This will mean re calibrating it but I’ve kind of got the process down from doing it 30 times today.  What else.  There’s probably a scaling issue between the two cameras, I don’t think they’re mapped perfectly, I was kind of guessing at the resolutions, but until I get the image less choppy there’s no way to know for sure!  Other than that… well, see for yourself.  I dodge lasers like a pro, and got a new high score, 14900!

There’s more than one way to do mixed reality, and my approach was a kind of hodge podge of other techniques pioneered by my colleagues.  The point is, there’s an unlimited number of correct ways to do MR, and a hundred ways for me to improve my process.  This is just a first step and it was lots of fun taking it!

 Posted by at 5:02 pm
Dec 162016
 

(Cross Posted from G+)

In Xi’An, you can take the subway to any of the four city gates (each something of a large citadel), climb up onto the city wall and… rent a bike.  The wall is well over sixty feet wide, and one of very few intact after China’s recent cultural revolution.  And it runs rectangular a total of 18 km – two walls of 6 km running east-west, and two more north-south running 3 km.  Making ancient Xi’An 18 square km rectangle.  The city has since sprawled well beyond these boundaries, but somehow the walls here have survived, when the walls in almost every other city are almost completely erased.  I visited over 10 cities in China, and while they all had walls at one point – only two remained.  This one, and the one in Hangzhou.

With many interesting “portally” things along the way – and even more plainly visible on both sides of the wall.  The inside teems with commerce and culture, the brilliant progress of a city that is nearly three thousand years old, and the outside more of the same, but growing less focused as the city sprawls away off into the grey, misty, filthy air, off into the distance, as only a Chinese capital city can.  Those hazy construction cranes in the background smog are an omni-present symbol in modern China.

 Posted by at 2:52 pm