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Lightwood Games Blog

I have moved all my game development related posts to http://www.lightwoodgames.com/blog and this is where I’ll be writing from now on.

Please grab the new RSS feed or use the clever Facebook tools to “like” it if you’re interested in what I have to say about mobile games.

You’ll spot my posts over there.  They’re the ranty ones :)

Chicken Dinner

This post here been moved.  Please click here to view it on the Lightwood Games blog.

Game Hack!

This post has been moved.  Please click here to view it on the Lightwood Games blog.

The comfort zone

Am I still a poker player?

It’s an interesting question. Is there such a thing as an ex-poker player?

I don’t think it ever leaves your system. Just like you can never be an ex-alcoholic. Or like that band on X-Factor a couple of years ago that claimed to be “ex strippers“. I didn’t buy it. Once you take your clothes off for money, you’re a stripper, right?

I haven’t played online poker in quite some time. It wasn’t necessarily conscious decision to quit, but just the way things came together.

At the end of 2009, the site I was playing at the most was about to restructure its frequent player program to take away many of the benefits I’d come to rely on to make it worth playing. I was way past the recreational stage and if I couldn’t produce numbers to show that I was making money, I wasn’t going to play.

Unfortunately, I relied on what was effectively 60% rakeback from this particular iPoker skin in order to show satisfactory results. I’d show a small loss at the tables but cash out a few hundred dollars in net profit every month thanks to the perks. Since then I played odd tournaments on Poker Stars, but never got myself back into the right frame of mind to take it seriously. Playing online poker to make money takes commitment and discipline and this was at a time when I was getting busier than ever in my work.

I was long past the delusion that I could “go pro” with poker and use it as a primary source of income. I still enjoyed playing – by which I mostly mean that I enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing I was getting out more money than I put in – but it was either a way to pass an evening or to fill some spare clock cycles on a quiet work day. Although I never consciously made this decision, it was essentially a choice between finding a new poker site where I might expect to eek out $10-15 per hour for my spare time, or filling my time with low-paying contract work – undercutting everyone to build a portfolio.

You want a complete mobile app for $50? Ask me 2 years ago.

You want to know if that gamble paid off? Ask me at the end of the year.

I have played live poker exactly once since I last went to Las Vegas. That’s not particularly unusual. Combine a decent tournament with the chance to visit somewhere new – like, err, Stockton – and I might be interested. Otherwise, I steer clear. But I am looking forward to playing again on my next trip to Vegas – even through by then O’Shea’s will be gone, and I’m still mourning the passing of the Sahara.

However, I do think there are parts of the poker mindset that stick with you day-to-day, no matter how out of practice you are.

Is something good value? Am I the sucker here? I think he thinks such-and-such, but what does he think I’m thinking? How can I exploit that?

Meh. Poker player. Passive aggressive sociopath. Who can tell the difference?

Of course I find myself yelling “string bet!” and sighing “don’t splash the pot” at the TV almost every time I watch anything that has a poker scene.

And I do keep seeing parallels between what I was trying to achieve with my poker play and what I’m trying to achieve now in business. Of course it’s a gamble. If I didn’t think I had the best of it, I wouldn’t be doing it. And I absolutely want to maximise my edge wherever I can.

Assuming I’m able to articulate them, that is most likely what I will be writing about here.

So, yes, I still consider myself to be a poker player. I just don’t play cards much any more.

Many days later

It took some time to click the “Add New Post” button, but the blogging voices in my head are strong and apparently there’s things I want to write about in order to try to quieten them. I’m not sure this is the right outlet, but it’s what I’ve got.

So then. This all fell apart two summers ago. I suspected the end was in sight as I just didn’t have time to keep writing as regularly as I wanted to, but I thought I’d least get to the end of one last trip report. Once I broke my arm, it pretty much ruled out me having anything interesting to write about.

In fact I just went back and checked what photos I had taken after the accident.  Basically nothing.  A shot of some floor tiles at The Orleans (they have little silhouettes of their jazz alligators on them, which is pretty cool) and a video of a slot club promotion that I couldn’t even be bothered to watch the whole way through.  I wondered whether it might have been possible to reconstruct at least some of what happened in the last 21 days of that trip – but it seems not.

So, much as I hate having left things hanging that way, and I always detested “sorry it’s been so long since I blogged” posts, let’s move on.

In the past 20 months:  Claire and I broke up.  Katherine and I got engaged.  I’ve not played any online poker.  Just haven’t felt like it.  I took Katherine to Las Vegas and she seemed to enjoy it enough to want to go back again this year.  T-44.  She wrote her own trip report, so I didn’t have to :) I transformed my company from being software developers for hire (who dabble with mobile apps) into a games studio (that does a bit of contracting on the side).  I expect this is what I’ll be writing about more than anything these days.  Oh, and I discovered that I do like sushi after all.  Now there’s almost nothing I won’t eat.

So what next?  I don’t know.  I have ideas in my head that I have to write down.  They’re quite likely garbage.  You might see some of them.  I just needed to post something here first to mark the passing of time, and to see whether anyone was actually still reading.  Not that it matters.  I just thought that if anyone is still hanging on, you deserved a little update.  You got a very little one.  Enjoy.

Day 7: Be prepared

I’m a little disappointed this picture didn’t turn out clearer.  You may just have to take my word for it.

Back to school – be prepared.  With this excellent range of alarm clocks, pepper sprays and stun guns.  For those wishing to be discreet in their classroom defence activities, there’s even a “stun pen”.

This is perfectly normal?

Day 6: Steve Wynn is watching you

The Wynn proudly announced a new iPhone app today and I was keen to see if they’d managed to make a better job of it than Harrah’s or MGM.

Oddly, for a casino that went to such great lengths to create the world’s most unusable and slow-to-load web site, they’ve plumped for an off-the-shelf app by Mobile Roadie, crowbarring a platform designed for musicians to just about fit rather than creating their own monstrosity from scratch.

It’s nothing special, but I imagine the priority with creating this was to give iPhone users a way to actually get information about the property without needing to create a non-flash web site, and in that respect it’s a success.

Now they just need to give web users a similarly straightforward way to find what they’re looking for.  In fact, I’d much rather use the app to find information about the Wynn than have to put up with Steve Wynn’s narration while trying to catch the section I’m looking for as it flies past my mouse pointer.

Here’s what bothers me though.  A bit later in the day I noticed that the location services indicator was stuck on on my phone.  It took me a while to figure out why, and I killed every app I could find that looked like it might still be running, and even rebooted the phone.  Still something was watching my every movement.

Eventually I found it from the location settings.  Wynn must have asked if it could check my location, but I generally don’t care about that to start with and say yes to everything, as it’s easier to switch it off than give permission later if an app does happen to do something awesome that uses your location.

Having now played with the app and realised that it actually uses location for nothing except, presumably, tracking who is using the app, I turned it off.

And then, magically, the location services indicator in the title bar just disappeared.

The location indicator in the title bar is a new feature in the latest iPhone operating system.  Notably, the Wynn app hides the whole title bar when it’s running – so you can’t tell it’s watching you.

It’s one thing checking where users are when they launch an app to track distribution.  Some might find it a little invasive, but really it does no harm.

However if you keep polling the user’s location for no good reason, even when the app isn’t active, and without any function in the app needing that information, it’s nothing short of stalking.

Is this the next generation of casino surveillance? Who’s to say they’re not also secretly taking your picture using the iPhone 4′s front-facing camera and hooking it into the casino’s facial recognition system?

Probably not possible on the Mobile Roadie platform, but maybe that’s just a front after all.

I’ll get my tin foil hat eh?

Would you like sushi with your boobies?

Don’t ask me why I’m getting texts from a titty bar.  This was actually on Claire’s phone anyway.  Rather random.

Day 4: Slippery

Look at this magnificent array of novelty slippers, which were on display in the prize cabinet at the Four Queens as part of their July promotion.

I was almost certain one of these would always be the bottom tier prize and so I felt the chances of walking away with froggies on my feet were pretty high.

Usually when we stay there, they give us three free nights, all the food we can handle and $200 in free play for showing up.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.

Sometimes, when there’s a slot promotion running at the same time, the free play isn’t included; instead the promo usually works out about the same value based on the action needed to keep this offer coming, you just get paid at the end rather than up front.

This time the promotion awarded a paltry $20 in free play, and to make matters worse we got stiffed on the slippers too.

It’s a novelty wall clock.

The James Dean theme of the clock still confuses me.  I don’t get it at all.  Especially when the way you pick your prizes is by selecting from a number of tins.  And those tins all have pictures of Elvis on.

If there’s some six degrees of Kevin Bacon connection between Las Vegas and James Dean (or even Elvis and James Dean) that I haven’t figured out, could you fill me in?

The clock is huge, too.  Maybe 15 inches across.  I’m not one to throw away casino tat, but I’d have to really like this to make it worth packing to take home.  And, as you may have gathered, I’m not a fan.

So if anyone actually loves this, or desperately wants a new clock, you’ll have to ask me really really nicely :)