Treehouse

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I somehow missed this when it was first published, but Kotaku has republished a really fascinating look at Nintendo’s Treehouse division, what they do, and the amount of work they contribute to making their North American localizations what they are.

Say what you will about Nintendo’s hardware, its recent software design foibles, or their crazy attitudes towards online services—they know how to do localization well. And it’s a team that appears to have long-term cohesion:

After a brief tour of the facilities, I was ushered into one of the conference rooms—I think it was the one named Magikoopa—to meet with some of the core members of the Treehouse, all people who have been there for at least a decade. With me was Nate Bihldorff, best known for writing English for all of the Mario & Luigi RPGs; Leslie Swan, who helped found the localization department almost a decade and a half ago; Tim O’Leary, a grizzled veteran translator; Rich Amtower, who helped localize several Final Fantasys and other big Square RPGs; and Reiko Ninomiya, who ran translation on the critically-acclaimed (and super-popular) Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

It’s an enormous amount of work to translate some of the games Nintendo is producing:

“[We spent] three years working with the development team, cause again they consulted us really early, talking about [in-game events] and some things like that,” said Reiko Ninomiya, who headed up localization on New Leaf. “And then actual heads-down in the files… a year and three months.”

And somewhat unsurprisingly, there’s a strong culture of saying “no” to things that won’t work:

That’s the big question: how does the Treehouse decide what to bring over—and what not to bring over?

“Well, actually we have an evaluation system in place here,” said Leslie Swan. “And through that process we get the game in, do an evaluation of it to determine what we think the sales potential is, and it comes down to essentially if we don’t think the sales potential is great, we don’t do it.”

Give it a read; it’s pretty fascinating. No matter what the future holds for Nintendo, with their current mainline console flailing in a competitive market, I hope they never lose this kind of thing.

VIP Workshop 2014 Recap

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My colleague Sara just posted the “official” recap post for this year’s VIP Workshop, which I attended and at which I learned quite a bit and had a great time. A quote from the writeup that stood out to me:

We again had some great flash talks from VIP clients and partners, and this year’s presentations included talks from CBS Local, Re/code, USA Today, Digital First Media, BlueHost, The New York Times, Tribune Broadcasting, and Interactive One.

These are all top-notch clients doing amazing things with WordPress and the WordPress.com VIP service, and I get to work with them every day. I love that.

If you want to see my thoughts on the workshop, you can find them here.

What to Buy: Earth Day Edition

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This is a test run for a type of post I’ve been thinking about starting up for a while, which is taking a look at the game sales that run on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network and letting you know if anything going on there is worthwhile. I might even bring up a Steam sale once in a while.

For instance, last week was pretty spectacular on XBL and I wish I’d told more people about it. Both Batman Arkham games were only $5, which is a great deal.

Ground rules for this list:

  • I’ll only be recommending digital purchases. I don’t purchase physical game copies anymore and neither should you.
  • If something’s not worth it, I probably won’t link to it, but I’ll usually link back to the pages that announce the sales so you can see for yourself.

So hey, this is a week and there are some deals out there. Pity they’re only interesting on one service.

tl;dr: Save your money for Child of Light next week.

Xbox Live

Don’t even bother. NBA 2K14 is on sale at a pitiful 17% off on Xbox One, but the game and some DLC are 50% on the 360. Need for Speed: Rivals is on sale at 50% off, but only on 360.

That’s it. After last week’s blowout, this is disappointing. Full list is here.

PlayStation Network

PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate HD has been added as free with PlayStations Plus. Oh, boy. Tower defense.

There are a handful of other discounts for Plus members right now, none of which are very deep, on some Batman games, such as Arkham Asylum and Origins, and LEGO Batman 2. It looks like there’s already a sale on those things going on at the moment, but I can’t find the information on it.

The best thing is probably the 20% off offered to Plus members on Octodad: Dadliest Catch, which comes out on PS4 later this week.

Full list is here.

Going GitHub

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I have a handful of half-baked code ideas sitting around; often I have more ideas than I have time and/or skills to implement.

What’s different about today is that I’m finding that when I get one of these ideas, the first thing I’m doing is setting up a GitHub repo for what I want to do. (Consequently, I have two completely empty GitHub repos to my name, and one that’s a fork I haven’t worked on yet.)

The interesting thing about this is that it doesn’t ever cross my mind that I shouldn’t be sharing the code I end up making. There’s no benefit I can find to hiding what I’m doing or not learning publicly. It’s possible that someone could come across my projects and tell me that I’m doing things super-wrong, but even if that happens, at least I’ll know that I’m doing something in a less than optimal way.

And I don’t think that is going to happen, anyway. Being open is the only way to be, because no matter what I think I’m going to do, I’m pretty sure there is someone else somewhere who has wanted to do the same thing, or might be interested in the ideas I’ve had.

And when that happens, there’s a chance, no matter how small, that someone will come along and contribute to the projects. When that happens, it provides me with a chance to learn from someone who probably knows more and better than I do.

2014 VIP Workshop: Photos

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This past week, I was happy to attend the WordPress.com VIP Intensive Workshop with my colleagues and some of our clients, spend time with them chatting about all things WordPress and VIP (and even some things not), and learn a ton of things myself—including attending a security workshop taught by my colleague Mike Adams.

The last dinner we had as a big group (both the VIP team and our clients) was a fantastic time and we had some great conversation. (Special guest photographer on some of these shots is the one, the only Peter Slutsky.)

As you can see, the grounds where we stayed, learned, and worked for three nights are just fantastic. It rained a bit much in the early going, but once the sun came out it was beautiful and just a great place to retreat and spend time building relationships with the people who make WordPress.com VIP what it is.

Some shout-outs are due post-event:

All these people (and more) had a bigger impact on me than they probably think. I saw—time and time again—people talking about problems and then going and starting to solve them, collaborating on the potential solutions, and walking away having learned something.

It was the first time it struck me how much of a community WordPress developers (and really, developers of all stripes) tend to be. And it was about fixing real problems not just for themselves, but for other people who would run in to those same things down the line.

This is why I’m renewing my effort at upping my game, engineer-wise. This is something I want to be a part of and contribute to. I want to have these conversations more often.

Now, if I can just clone myself so I have enough time to get everything done…