I wrote earlier that Balance of the Planet for the iPad would be played in real time instead of being turn based. What this means is that once the game is started it can proceed with its initial settings from beginning to end without user intervention. That wouldn’t be much of a game so at any time the user can make changes to the game parameters to achieve their desired outcome.
The controls at the top of the screen are used to control the game’s real time progress
The individual controls themselves are pretty familiar for those who’ve played real-time-strategy (RTS) games in the past, games like Dune II, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, StarCraft, and Age of Empires. If you’re not a aficionado of the genre here’s how tapping on the various icons would affect the game’s real time progress.
The dateline to the right of the controls shows the start and end dates of the game. In the free version of the game the dates would be fixed but in-app purchasing one of the add-in scenarios could give the gamer the option of setting the start and end dates.
The progress bar timeline between the start and end dates shows where you are in the game. As the game progresses the indicator moves from left to right. Once the game ends you can “scrub” the indicator to the left, from Jan 2114 to Jan 2014, to review the games history and possibly learn things you did right or wrong, information you could apply to future games.
Chris is worried that I won’t be able to implement the tax histogram charts I’ve designed in the space available.
As to the layouts themselves, I am dubious that you’ll be able to make those histograms workable. The absolute minimum width is one pixel per year, which would require only a hundred pixels of width, but with margins and such, it could bite into the other areas.
On the left is my initial design which mirrors Chris’ original 1990 design on the right (I’ve moved the controls for changing the taxable amount underneath the chart, Chris had them elsewhere on the screen).
What’s not immediately apparent in my design is that the square window that contains the histogram data is merely a view into a small slice of all the data collected so far. Once the game starts each chart is built up column by column, left to right. Once the initial view is filled up, the older columns disappear off to the left.
By tapping and holding on the chart you can “scrub” left or right to display the entire data set.
I’m talking with Chris Crawford about bringing Balance of the Planet to the iPad.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Chris’ work, the original Balance of the Planet was an environmental management simulation released in 1990. The goal of the “game” was to influence society towards a more sustainable ecological footprint by funding various subsidies with money raised by taxing polluters.
While trying to make things right, the player can also explore the causes and effects of various environmental problems through a point-and-click hypertext network of 154 factors.
Overall very advanced for its time with the ability to change the formulas behind the calculations and save your modifications as a bias – pro-nuclear, pro-environmentalist, pro-industry, etc.
In 2012 Chris launched a Kickstarter campaign to update Balance of the Planet. It failed to get funded.
You can download his prototype here (though it doesn’t have all the features shown in the video).
My iPad design follows Chris’ redesign – reducing the taxes from ten to six and the subsidies from thirteen to five.
Couple of highlights about this design.
- iPad only (maybe iPhone later)
- Real time instead of turn-based (pause; speed increase/decrease controls at top)
- Taxes/subsidies window touch scrolls (the charts flip 90 degrees in horizontal orientation)
- Filterable chart built form top-to-bottom (vertical orientation) or left-to-right (horizontal orientation)
- Cause/effect area to explore the hypertext network of causes and effects (displayed in chart area; pauses program)
I’ll post more about my design as it evolves.
I heard yesterday that Frederick Pohl died.
I’ve only read a couple of Pohl’s books but happliy found two of them still on my shelf (hopefully I can pass them on to my daughter if she develops an interest in sci-fi).
I haven’t read either book in years but have kept them because they were great books. I still remember the gist of each.
Roger Torraway of Man Plus is a retired astronaut involved in a government program to re-engineer a human being so they can survive unprotected on the surface of Mars. When the current candidate dies unexpectedly, Torraway must step up to the plate and allow the scientists and engineers to turn him into something more than human. His personal journey to retain his human feelings, hopes, and desires as his humanity is stripped away piece by piece in order to insure humanity’s survival is fascinating and imaginative (there’s also a nice twist at the end revealing who’s actually behind the Mars Man Plus project).
Bob Broadhead of Gateway is on a different sort of journey. A food miner on Earth just scraping by, he wins a lottery to Gateway, a space station built into a hollow asteroid by a vanished race known as the Heechee. Inside the asteroid are thousands of starships pre-programmed for destinations throughout the galaxy. The kicker is that no one knows which ship goes to which destination – a trip out could result in returning with a piece of alien technology that could make a prospector incredibly wealth or returning dead. The entire book, with chapters alternating between Roger’s time on Gateway and future conversations with his robotic therapist, leads up to the Roger’s last trip, a culmination of all his dreams and all his horrors.
Both books were written in the late ’70s (Man Plus in 1976; Gateway in 1977) so they’re probably a bit dated but I’m sure the ideas and the drama hold up. I should read them again when I’ve got the time
Just got back from a fantastic seven day trip to Costa Rica with Robin and Katie,
More to come soon.
As a software developer I’ve been “remote-ready” since August of 2009. At Trimble I’ve worked for teams where I wasn’t co-located with the rest of the team members and from January of 2012 I’ve been working exclusively out of my home office.
I recently started a Remote Worker group on Trimble’s Yammer account and thought I’d put the links I’ve posted to that group here for future reference.
Sometimes you don’t always have the luxury of working with the latest digital technology.
Double Robotics – telepresence for under $2000.
Double is the simplest, most elegant way to be somewhere else in the world without flying there. The minimalist design and intuitive touchscreen controls allow you to freely move around without inconveniencing others. You can stay at eye level, whether sitting or standing, by adjusting your height remotely, which makes conversations fluid and real. Retractable kickstands will automatically deploy to conserve power when you are not moving around. Efficient motors and lightweight design give Double the ability to last all day without recharging the battery.
Cool, amazing, and a bit creepy (especially the museum scene with a mixture of humans and mechanisms).