Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Diving - Triangle Game Jam 3 - Music Game

Video links (Recommended viewing in H.D.): youtube, vimeo.

The 3rd Triangle Game Jam was last weekend! Hot off the presses, the game I worked on: Diving. (The other games have not yet been posted on that website yet -- we're all busy catching up after speding the whole weekend making games)

The theme was Music Game, similar to how music and video can be used to make a music video experience. The theme was inspired by Reset.

In Diving, the gameplay is subtle. The game is primarily delivering an experience well tuned to the music. I'm pleased that our design captured the mood of the music, synchronized to the lyrics, and also the piano notes.

The actual gameplay mechanics allow you to steer left and right as you chase the ring down into the depths. While that's a bit simple, the concept of the woman at the railing, jumping after the ring, and swimming down after it ever deeper, is the real point. The game is designed to never let you actually catch the ring, it's always just out of reach and lands on the ground always at the end of the song. As the song closes and the woman just about reaches the ring, there's a fade to black.

The song and concept seed were Adrienne Walker's, and I contributed significantly to the final design we presented.

Brett Brown (Title Art) (Electronic Arts)
Derek Ehrman (Programming) (Atomic Games)
Vincent Scheib (Gameplay Art/Programming) (Emergnt Game Technologies)
Adrienne Walker (Programming) (Emergnt Game Technologies)

The song was Feathers by Man Man.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Email Organization Scheme for Outlook 2007: How I Efficiently Triage Email

I process a lot of email. (Beautiful pixels take a lot of email to make these days.)

Many emails are in conversation threads. Some emails are very important, and must be responded to, while others I can soak up when I have time or choose to skip over.

I'll discuss the system I use in Microsoft Outlook 2007.

Here's what it looks like:

The mechanics of it:
  • I leave email marked Unread until I explicitly mark it read (CTRL-Q)
    • I turn off automatic marking as read (Menu: Tools: Options: Other Tab: Reading Pane...)
  • I flag message for Follow Up (with times, e.g. Today, Tomorrow, Next Week, or a specific date).
  • I read email from the "Unread or For Follow Up" folder.
    • (You'll find this under your Mailbox tree, in "Search Folders")
    • This displays all messages not yet read, or flagged for follow up.
  • I use a custom view:
    • Make a a new view by copying one and making changes
      • Menu: View: Current View: Define: Copy "Messages with Auto Preview"
    • Group By...
      • (set "Select available fields from" to "All Mail fields")
      • Start Date (Ascending)
      • Importance (Descending)
      • In Folder (Ascending)
      • Conversation (Ascending)
    • Sort...
      • (set "Select available fields from" to "All Document fields")
      • Category (Ascending)
      • Received (Ascending)
      • (say "No" when closing window and asked if you want to show Category field)
    • Other Settings
      • Auto Preview: Preview unread items
      • Reading Pane: Right
    • Automatic Formatting...
      • Only Me
        • Condition: Where I am "the only person on the To line"
        • Font: Underline
  • I make important email folders "Favorites"
  • Our teams use many public folders, and I make them favorite folders for the ones I track
    • (You must make the public folder a favorite public folder, then a favorite email folder)
  • I use several rules to presort items
    • Route emails to topic specific folders whenever possible
      • e.g. sales staff, partner companies, email lists
    • Flag items for follow up later
      • e.g. items I need to review weekly are flagged "next week"
      • Delete means "trash it, I don't need it any more, but just in case keep ~6 months of deleted items"
    • I purge deleted items manually
  • My Inbox means "I haven't bothered to sort this", and accumulates lots of email
    • I don't read out of the inbox, so it doesn't matter much if it builds up
    • I do periodically move everything in the inbox to a folder "_save-generic"

Now, how do I use this?
  • Emails arrive and I triage them.
    • I select the "Unread or For Follow Up" folder.
    • I hit the Home key to get to the top.
    • I scan over the large pile of unread messages, and first at a quick glance:
      • Delete anything obviously not important.
      • Move to Folder anything that should be sorted
        • This greatly improves grouping of items in this "Unread or For Follow Up" view, beyond just filing things away for later.
        • I use the toolbar icon which remembers the most recent folders I've put things into.
      • Mark as read (CTRL Q) anything trivial I can ignore .
      • Flag for follow up anything substantial I can't handle right now.
        • Tomorrow, this week, next week, or a specific calendar day if needed..
      • Anything remaining I need to handle right now.
        • I flag these by just clicking on the "flag", which is effectively "Today".
      • My email I should handle is now all sorted by a follow up date.
      • I hit F5 to refresh the view - hiding all messages marked Read and with no flag.
  • After triage, emails are displayed in groups sorted by the time frame I need to review them.
    • I read emails, and after doing so mark them as read, leaving them flagged if I still need follow up.
    • As emails are dealt with, I delete them if appropriate, or click their flag to mark them as complete (which removes them from this list).
    • I can easily push items futher away in time if I'm getting backed up, or "read ahead" if I'm ahead of things

The major benefits:
  • I can easily push items into the future and not deal with them right now - they'll come back to my view at an appropriate time.
  • Long conversations are all grouped together, automatically. And they can easily be hidden/rolled up from the view.
  • I can easily sort several emails into folders, which groups them together in my view. Thus related emails can be grouped together, even when they have unrelated subjects lines.
  • Public folders allow me to go to that topic at an appropriate frequency (every few hours, daily, weekly), and making them favorite favorites makes them easy to see.
  • New High Importance emails are at the top of the list, while ones I've look at can be pushed down for later.
  • Emails will never "fall through the cracks".

The shock to new users:
  • The email view is padded out vertically quite a bit.
    • True, but the sorting and grouping benefits are worth it when you're tracking dozens to hundreds of emails.
    • You get used to it pretty quickly.
    • For select folders I use a different view that has 1 email per line. You can always toggle 2 views for your need.
  • Explicitly marking all emails as read is a pain.
    • Multi-select and marking entire conversations read at a time helps.
    • This is what keeps emails from falling through the cracks.

- thanks for the cc image of the hamster shredder.