Brainstorming an StL FGC Event

Ever since I attended Combo Breaker back in May—and quite honestly before that—I have been thinking about what would be necessary to bring a regional fighting game community event to the St. Louis area.

The Midwest has a good number of regional events. So why not something here in St. Louis?

I want to take the things I have learned from paying attention to various events and in the small picture I was able to form from volunteering at Combo Breaker and apply those things to creating a new event here in the St. Louis metro area for the FGC. I figured I’d sit down and compose some of my thoughts about this concept and process while I reach out to other TOs to get their thoughts.

Basic Principles

The event should be:

  • Fun. We should have a realistic understanding of the capacity of the space and metro area and make sure we can serve attendees by providing them with a well-run, on-time, and professionally-managed event.
  • Well-located. We should find a venue that is willing to work with us in crafting a positive, professional, safe, and exciting location, in terms of the available facilities, room accommodations, stream capacity, and walking-or-transit-distance food and entertainment options.
  • Open. As much as possible, we should be open, available, and communicative regarding as many aspects of the event as possible. This should include costs, schedule decisions, and community concerns. We should gather feedback from attendees and report on that feedback after the event is over, then act on that feedback in successive years.

Existing Knowledge

From volunteering and listening to what TOs have said and how other tournaments are operated:

  • We need to set expectations well ahead of time. Things like game rules, scheduling slots, codes of conduct, and player on-time expectations should be written out and communicated repeatedly and as early as possible.
  • Events like this can run on time. By setting those expectations for being on-time, training judges properly, and having overflow time built into the schedule, the event can be created in a way that it should stay on-schedule (or at least as close as possible).
  • We have examples and other TOs to learn from. This doesn’t have to be from scratch. Events like this have been done before and have been done well, and we can learn from and build on that knowledge to create something uniquely St. Louis but still in the image of other established events.
  • It’s not going to be big the first year. People probably don’t want to take a chance on a new event with an unproven staff the first year it’s out. The goal should be to make the event the best possible event and build reputation over time. That’s how you grow.
  • It needs a time of year that stays away from as many major events as possible. Yeah, right. Have you seen the calendar recently? :) But with St. Louis heat/humidity, I’m thinking late March is a pretty good target. It avoids the pre-Evo road of Combo Breaker and CEO. It’s usually not crazy cold, but it’s not summer, either. And it avoids both hockey playoffs and the beginning of baseball season, both of which will affect hotel availability in this city significantly.

Open Questions

It’s really hard to get started with this thing when there are clear holes in knowledge that appear to have been passed from TO to TO through private channels rather than in the open. Because of this, I have questions given that I have not been involved in an event beyond the floor-level. Here they are, and if you can help me with these, please drop me a line and let me know.

  • How do you plan for demand? To reserve space, I have to know how much of it I’ll need. And that contract is going to have to be signed MONTHS ahead of time. How do you find out what that number of people to plan for is?
  • How do you cover costs? All the math I have done on venue fees tells me that they are not going come close to covering the costs that such an event would incur. I want the event to be cash-positive, mostly because I can’t afford to eat any costs we don’t make up. Where does the money come from?
  • How do sponsorships “work?” This is pretty unclear to me. Is there a standard “agreement” floating out there? How do you set rates when you don’t know the size of the event?
  • How much organizational prep is necessary or desired? Do we set up an LLC for the event planning purposes? A bank account? An accountant? Does the event have to pay taxes or report taxes on payouts?
  • What are the actual event planning priorities? I know the things I want out of the event in a perfect world, but it’s not a perfect world. From a logistical standpoint, what do I focus on first?

Again, if you can help me with some of these questions, please let me know as I know that the time available to plan an event for next year is rapidly dwindling and I might already be looking at planning something in 2018 instead. I’m willing to think long-term here. I’m not leaving St. Louis, I’m not leaving the FGC, and after having a great experience of my own at other events, I want to help others have a great experience here.

I’ll update here as the process continues and time allows.

Street Fighter V Unlock Web Request Sample

There was an interesting post on r/kappa (warning: subreddit isn’t completely SFW) today talking about unlocking colors for characters in Street Fighter V without having to really grind Survival mode, which interests me because that’s annoying to have to do it per-character and per-costume.

(I’m going to hide the remainder of this behind a jump because it’s going to get long and it’s going to have a bunch of API request dumps in it. You probably don’t want to read those if that’s not what you came here for.)

By the way, after I wrote this and before I published it, the complete list of codes was published in a thread on r/kappa as well, so now I’m pushing it out there. I was holding onto it for disclosure’s sake, but now it’s in the open and there’s no reason for me to not publish it at this point.

Continue reading

Summer Games Done Quick – What to Watch

It’s around the Fourth of July, so that means it’s time for two things:

What is Games Done Quick?

If you have never watched Games Done Quick, it’s a grouping that happens twice a year where people from all over the place get together and “speedrun” games, which is exactly what it sounds like: they are going to try to complete a whole bunch of games as quickly as possible.

The marathon is to collect donations to support Doctors Without Borders (the summer beneficiary of donations), which IMO is a worthwhile organization, so I support and would encourage you to donate during your favorite game or an impressive run.

The whole thing lasts about a week, and there are runs around the clock, so there’s a lot to take in. If you have or haven’t watched, there are some specific runs on the schedule I wanted to point out, so if you are interested in those games or at least want to see what the whole thing is about.

Where Can I Watch It?

Games Done Quick is broadcast on Twitch, here:

https://www.twitch.tv/gamesdonequick

The broadcast will start at 11:30 Central Daylight Time tomorrow (Sunday).

A Brief Glossary

You can find the schedule here, and there are some terms you’ll see in there that might need some explanation:

  • The “per cent” of a run indicates what’s necessary to complete it. In general, there are two types of runs:
    • “any%” means completing the game via any means possible
    • “100%” means collecting everything possible in the game and hitting any and all milestones, such as collecting every item in a Zelda game
  • Some games will run with a specific term in front of the per cent symbol; that’s unique to that game and will indicate a shortened form of the game but not as short as an any% run.
  • For instance, “Low%” means trying to complete the game while collecting as little of the in-game items as possible.
  • “Glitchless” means the runner is not permitted to take advantage of anything unintentional in the game to progress more quickly. (It’s open to debate per game.)
  • Other games will have some stipulations, and they’ll usually be explained as the run starts.

My Picks to Watch

Keep in mind that the schedule can and will change because setups and some games may run over their predicted time, so you should consult the master schedule to make sure a game hasn’t significantly moved before you tune in.

Here’s the stuff I’m looking forward to and think you should watch (all times are Central Daylight Time):

  • 19:48 Sunday – Metroid Prime any%, which is a bizarre introduction to how people beat games quickly by abusing glitches throughout the game, such as going out-of-bounds of the game map to break the sequence of the game.
  • 08:31 Monday – Actraiser Professional Mode, one of my first and still favorite Super Nintendo games. I really want to see how you finish this in around 30 minutes.
  • 11:48 Monday – Mega Man 3 any%, probably the best Mega Man game being run this week.
  • 23:26 Tuesday – Contra III: The Alien Wars any% Hard, which will have insanely optimized strategies for defeating the bosses in each stage.
  • 14:44 Wednesday – Metroid: Zero Mission any%, which is the best Metroid game on the schedule. It’s pretty neat how little runners will collect to blast through the game.
  • 18:42 Wednesday – Quackshot any%, which you should watch because one of my mutual followers, YellowKillerBee, is running it.
  • 07:55 Thursday – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link any% warpless, always a skillful run through the most difficult Zelda game.
  • 16:20 through 19:26 Thursday – The Bethesda RPG block, where people will complete a bunch of Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, and they will do this in completely insane ways to showcase how broken these games really are.
  • 11:04 Friday – Super Mario World All Castles 3-way race, which is easily the best race on the schedule – they will show all three players at the same time and the race can hinge on tiny, tiny imperfections in the runs.
  • 20:02 Friday – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time any% glitchless, which will be nice because GDQ does not often do a glitchless run through this game. The glitched run is ridiculously short and skips almost the entire game, but this should be more detailed.
  • 14:14 Saturday – Final Fantasy VI any% Sketch Glitch, where you’ll see someone run through a game that takes most people 40-plus hours in 10% of that time. You’ll also learn about step-counting and how it’s used to manipulate random encounters in the game.
  • 18:29 Saturday – Super Metroid any% 4-way race, which is basically the capstone run of the event. There’s a huge bidding war with donations to either save the animals at the end of the game or let them die. It’s fun to watch. :)

That’s most of it. I hope you decide to give it a shot and find something to watch and enjoy. If you haven’t watched speedrunning before, it’s an interesting video games discipline and it takes pretty crazy mental focus and hand-eye execution.

MY FIGHT MONEY

With Street Fighter V patch 1.04 came the removal of the concept of Zenny and the full opening of content in the in-game store. With more content in place and a better idea of the in-game currency-to-real-money equivalents, the Capcom DLC plan is a lot more obvious now.

If I were to ask you which fighting game has been the most egregious with pricing DLC content, you’d probably come back to me and say “Dead or Alive 5: Last Round,” which up until today is exactly the same answer I would give myself. They have a lot of DLC and collecting it all costs a lot of money.

If you thought that was crazy, though? Buckle up.

DOA5LR

Let’s just get down to numbers and what you get for the money. We’ll assume:

  • You didn’t go with the Core Fighters stuff but instead bought the full game. And you bought it at release for $40.
  • You aren’t buying any DLC on sale.
  • You want everything you can get.
  • You are buying bundles whenever you can (we’ll talk about the SFV season pass later) because I don’t have the time to track all this DLC down individually.

Also, almost all costumes are available separately for $2. (Some of the packs, specifically ones that were pre-order DLC, are only available in sets.)

There are 35 characters in the base game.

Here’s the breakdown:

Add everything up:

  • Game is $40.
  • All DLC together is $531.
  • If you buy everything, you get 633 costumes and 1 character.
  • Purchasing in packs, this comes out to less than $1 a costume.

SFV

OK; pay attention, friends.

Assumptions:

  • You bought the season pass (which you should; it’s a 50% savings on the DLC characters + battle costumes).
  • You are paying full price – no sales.
  • You are not using Fight Money to buy anything. (Right now, there is a limited supply of it, especially if you don’t want to grind Survival.)
  • You want everything because maybe you are creating a setup for a tournament and you want people to be that extra bit happy.
  • You are assuming the end-of-2016 character count, which is going to be 22.

Note that other than the Season Pass, none of the content is available in bundles or packs. It’s all a la carte.

We’ll group the content together to make it easier to figure out.

  • Street Fighter V: $60
  • SFV 2016 Season Pass: $30
    • 6 characters.
    • 6 Battle Costumes.
    • 1 stage. (Guile)
  • Story Mode costumes: $44 ($2 each)
    • 22 costumes.
  • Battle Costumes: $64 ($4 each)
    • 16 costumes. (assumes you did not pre-order and get the one included for doing so but you do have the six from the Season Pass)
  • Summer Costumes: $4 ($4 each)
    • 1 costume. (so far – Karin; data mining has shown at least four more are coming)
  • Stages: $12 ($4 each)
    • 3 additional stages (assumes you have Guile stage from Season Pass)
  • Stage Variations: $6 ($2 each)
    • 3 stage recolors

Data mining has also shown at least one more series of costumes is on the way.

Add everything up:

  • Game is $60.
  • All DLC together is $160.
  • If you buy everything available, you get 6 characters, 45 costumes, 3 stages, and 3 stage recolors.
  • The average cost per costume is closer to $3 (and should edge closer to $4 over time because only Story costumes are $2).

To give you an idea, if we assume the game will have four sets of premium costumes for just the 22 characters we have now, you’d be looking at $350+ worth of DLC – and that’s before more characters show up. And it’s certain more characters are coming. And they might end up charging for colors 3-10. (We should have been more careful when we said we’d pay to unlock those.)

I might go into the Fight Money economics at some point just for fun; we’ll see. But this is a good picture of the DLC situation for SFV as it stands right now, and it stands to be expensive.

“Real Support”

If you have talked with me, my skepticism with regards to Avyd and what they are doing should not be much of a surprise at this point. (I hesitate to talk about it much because there are good people I respect who are doing business at and with Avyd and I am of course always worried about causing hurt.)

I need to say something about this, though.

Today, they are talking about the support they’ll offer as part of their service:

This reminded me of the job posting they’d put up a couple of weeks ago, about which I’d intended to say something more directly.

The listing is here, but I’m assuming that it will expire at some point, so I’ll put the pertinent bits below:

Responsibilities

  • Customer Service Representatives are responsible for handling our Client’s highest level of service issues to ensure customer issues are resolved in an efficient and timely manner. Agents provide knowledge and expertise to all online customers to effectively resolve any service-related, while balancing both the needs of the customer and the business.
  • Use empathy with the customer; allow them to vent frustrations, while staying in control of the conversation and maintaining focus.
  • Must be able to multi task
  • Follow up with customers to ensure issue has been resolved
  • Will be answering customer support tickets, inbound calls, and support chats.

Successful Candidates will have:

  • Previous Customer Service experience
  • Proficient in typing and computer skills
  • Energetic and motivated personality
  • Gaming knowledge
  • Available to work nights and weekends as needed
  • Be fluent in English
  • Team player
  • High School Diploma or equivalent

What We Offer:

  • Unparalleled work environment
  • Unlimited growth from within
  • Paid training
  • Continued development beyond entry level
  • Travel opportunities
  • Career advancement into management

On its own, that’s mostly fine. It’s a lot of attention-splitting, and the bit about nights and weekends without specifically stating what that means is a little concerning.

And then you get to the stuff about “growth” from the support position. It’s so much of a focus that it’s literally half of the bullet points in the list of “What We Offer.” It’s a red flag, especially when you hit this part:

Job Type: Part-time

Salary: $10.00 /hour

I don’t suppose I need to state that this is in an office and not remote, because the job posting should lead you in that direction on its own.

This is troubling because it doesn’t see support as a worthwhile career in and of itself. I am growing to understand that my current employer is somewhat unique in this, but I want to see the idea and the respect for support professionals continue to grow.

User support has been my full-time, salaried and benefited career for the last six years. It supports my entire household. I have had different responsibilities and been on different teams, but through the whole thing, I have been well-appreciated and been given the ability to build my career on having pride in the fact that I make our customers’ and clients’ lives easier, and that the ability to do so in an exceptional way is deserving of being a full-time employee.

The wage and (lack of) benefits in this Avyd job posting is sadly reflective of how a lot of tech sees support. Support is a place where you go to wage slave until you earn yourself a place as a supervisor, when you make a bit more and maybe get full-time, and then after even more time you might end up in charge of support for something and possibly get a salary and benefits. Or you have the (often just a) pipe dream of learning another skill and changing job responsibilities, which is seen as a promotion simply because you aren’t doing support.

I’m proud to work somewhere that prides itself on seeing professional support as a career, helping people build that career by supporting them and helping them develop, and giving those people good compensation, good opportunities, and good resources with which they can make the services we provide amazing experiences for the customers who pay for them. We make all employees who don’t work in support do a rotation in support every year, and every new hire regardless of position does front-line support for the first three weeks.

User support and respect for the people who work it is foundational to the culture here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter your industry, I encourage you to consider making it just as important to your company as well.

And yes; we are hiring.

Prelude to Combo Breaker

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The road started yesterday morning, very early. We tossed the kids in the car and started on our way.

The weather was pretty crazy a good chunk of the drive up to the Chicago area, including this rather impressive-looking cloud formation:

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Before arriving at Pheasant Run for the 4 p.m. check-in, we decided to do a bit of a tour with the family to visit various locations from our college years—where we met and then got married, so a bit special to us.

After taking them around the Concordia University area, we met my in-laws for dinner and enjoyed some family food while we waited to take off for the venue.

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The floor wasn’t open yet (it opens up at noon today), and I had to be up for the volunteer orientation at 10 p.m., so we took the time to enjoy the resort and have some fun. So far’ it’s been a great stay and everyone is having a good time.

I got a good peek at the show floor, which is seriously impressive and I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing.

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If you are interested in following along while I see what I’m capable of this weekend and just play some games, meet some people, and have a good time, here’s my schedule and links to the brackets (with links to streams if my pool times are scheduled for stream). I’m also judging some brackets to give back to the community.

PLAY – Mystery Game: A1 – 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Friday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_myst_a1
(http://www.twitch.tv/teamsp00ky)

PLAY – Tekken 7: B1 – 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Friday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_t7_b1
(http://www.twitch.tv/tekken)

ADMIN – Street Fighter V: E2 – 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_sfv_e2
(http://www.twitch.tv/bgcallisto)

PLAY – Killer Instinct: F1 – 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_ki_f1

PLAY – Street Fighter V: G4 – 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_sfv_g4
(http://www.twitch.tv/bgcallisto)

ADMIN – Tekken Ball: H1 – 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_tball_h1

PLAY – Tekken Ball: I2 – 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_tball_i2
(http://www.twitch.tv/tekken)

The floor is almost open – time to get playing. Here’s hoping to no 0-2!

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WordCamp St. Louis Presentation: Code Review

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Howdy! I just finished giving this presentation at WordCamp St. Louis 2016 about code review: about why and how you should do code review on your projects.

The Presentation

Here’s a SlideShare embed of the presentation deck:

And you can download the source Keynote presentation file here.

References

I referenced a bunch of things in my talk and mentioned that you could find those sources in this post, so here’s the list in the order you’ll run across it in the presentation:

Have any questions?

If you have any questions, comments, corrections, or whatever, please contact me. I’ll be happy to hear from you.