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Games High Fives

Downtime Is Bad. Handling It Well Is Good.

As a career support person, I wanted to take a few minutes out of my lunch break today to mention that the support posts on the @BungieHelp Twitter account yesterday were really good and an example of How I Would Have Done It that sadly, I don’t see very often.

For the unaware, Destiny 2 has a “weekly reset” cadence, where every Tuesday at a specific time, certain cycles in the game reset intentionally and events tend to come and go. (There is also a smaller daily reset.) Patches always coincide with this reset time, and yesterday’s reset included the 2.7.1 update.

There was a bit of a problem with the update.

The problem was discovered within 30 minutes of the patch distribution and service availability, and 35 minutes after that, Bungie took the entire game down to prevent further problems from happening.

The very next tweet was one hour later, and contained the following information:

Let’s talk about why this tweet is good stuff from a support standpoint. It runs what is essentially the Support Playbook in my opinion. It:

  • States the current status or progress of the issue (“we think we’ve found it; give us a bit”),
  • Gives a general forecast for what to expect (“game’s going to be down for a while as we figure out how to fix it”), and
  • Provides a timeline for follow-up information (“we’ll talk to you again in about an hour”).

True to their word, Bungie continued to update players on a regular cadence:

Each one of these tweets follows the same pattern, which is IMO essential to a good support interaction, whether over Twitter or another medium such as email or ticketing systems:

  • State the problem
  • Give an update on progress if possible
  • Tell the client/customer when they will hear from you next
  • Execute on what you have promised

This is actually quite difficult to do on Twitter effectively due to the character limit.

The full solution for the problem was detailed in the next update:

And then this update doesn’t promise a further update, as the problem is identified and the fix is underway, with an ETA for service resumption—and presumably, everyone is heads-down planning for the eventual response that will be needed when everything is back up:

There was a follow-up tweet when the service was brought back online, which ended up being less than 20 minutes later than their initial estimate. Pretty good. :)

The icing on the cake, though, is this tweet, which is pretty fantastic:

It’s a super-concise list of exactly how the rollback affects players and what they can expect when they log back in. (“Silver” is the paid microtransaction currency in Destiny 2.)

If you work in support, take a look at your own interactions and look for these patterns. Are you informing clients or customers in a timely fashion, giving them information as available and verified, and providing estimates for when they will hear from you next? If not, consider updating your handbook or processes for support interactions in an emergency response or disaster recovery situation.

Kudos to the Bungie player support team for this series of interactions; I was quite impressed to see them throughout the afternoon and evening, and remarked as such to friends as the situation was going on. I can only imagine what the disaster recovery process was like behind-the-scenes, but it appears to have been very effective, as at least in my estimation, the speed of this issue ID and data recovery operation was impressive for what I can only assume is a very large database.

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High Fives

Tofugu Swag Drop

(I apologize for the lighting quality on all pictures in this post; it is late and I did not feel like messing with it beyond getting clear images.)

I wanted a Crabigator sticker for my laptop now that I’m digging in pretty hard in learning my kanji via WaniKani, and noticed that the Tofugu store was having a pretty rad sale on pretty much everything.

Turns out they have a pretty great set of WaniKani stickers, so I ordered a package that included those stickers and a tenugui with one of their illustrations. They showed up today, and I love the merch:

The stickers are nicely-rendered and high-quality vinyls, and the tenugui is also pretty great. It’s slightly small to fit around my giant gourd as a headband, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to use it that way.

But the coolest thing was this hand-written postcard that came with the merch:

Kristen, I want to say thank you for taking the time to personalize my order, and I hope this will be a good year, as well. I’m a few weeks back into rejoining WaniKani now that I have purchased a subscription, and I’m already hitting those points where I level up my kanji and unlock a stack of vocabulary, causing me to run like I’m being chased by the boulder at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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Games High Fives Markel!

Combo Breaker 2019 Is a Go

This will be my fourth year attending Combo Breaker, and my third year helping staff the event. Combo Breaker is an event like no other, staffed with amazing people who go the extra mile and ensure the experience is top-tier for everyone involved.

I’m not even sure yet what I’ll be doing this year staff-wise, but I’m excited to find out. I’ve run brackets, helped with security, manned the TO desk, done A/V setup and lighting, and generally been available to help with anything needed.

Is this the year I submit a commentary reel and get behind the mic? Stream run? Run emcee for an Auction Tournament? Camera op? My quest to do literally everything I can behind the scenes at a fighting game major continues.

Think about attending and find out with me. Over 700 people have already registered, and it’s only been a few hours. Come celebrate the best of the fighting game community in the Midwest for one weekend to start the summer. I promise you’ll have a great time.

Plan to be in the west suburbs of Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. Don’t miss out.

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Fails Games High Fives

Discord Joins the Fray!

Steam looks vulnerable, so it’s only fitting that others are jumping at the chance to steal some marketshare. First Epic and now Discord:

So, starting in 2019, we are going to extend access to the Discord store and our extremely efficient game patcher by releasing a self-serve game publishing platform. No matter what size, from AAA to single person teams, developers will be able to self publish on the Discord store with 90% revenue share going to the developer. The remaining 10% covers our operating costs, and we’ll explore lowering it by optimizing our tech and making things more efficient.

90/10 split is ambitious. And I hope this kind of competition combines across more than one storefront to give both developers and players more options. I just wish they hadn’t followed that paragraph with this one:

We will also empower developers to communicate with their players by improving Verified Servers, extending their ability to add great content to the Activity Feed, and more. We believe if we iterate and work with developers, we can reverse platform fragmentation in the game industry while connecting developers and players closer together.

The last thing we need (on PC) is a different monopoly to take the place of Steam. The best possible outcome for consumers is competing storefronts that don’t rely on onerous DRM, so we can purchase and download from the store of our choice but not be limited to running eighteen launchers—and take advantage of sales that might compete with each other over time.

Consoles are, of course, a different story altogether.

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High Fives Markel!

Lambert–St. Louis Terminal 2: 2007 vs. 2018

I’m on my way to WordCamp US today, and I’m flying out of Terminal 2 for the first time in over ten years. I hardly recognize it; it’s been significantly built-up at some point.

I had a vague memory that I’d taken some pictures the last time I was here, and I was correct! A quick run through my stuff on Flickr gave me these images from 2007:

Compare those to these pics I snapped today. The Vino Volo location is where that blank wall in the last shot used to be.

It’s really quite impressive. The whole thing is brighter, cleaner, and significantly busier than I recall it being.

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High Fives WordPress

Automattic and WordCamp Vendor Booths at WordCamp US

Some shots I took of the various booths my colleagues set up at WordCamp US. I love the creativity on display here.

WordCamp US has been great.

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High Fives Markel!

Destiny 2: Month Two Gallery

I find myself hitting the screen capture button fairly often in this game, which is kind of nice. It gives me a record of what I’ve been doing and the things I’ve been messing with in the game.

My son and I are still playing together almost nightly, and it’s been a lot of fun. And we recently joined SafeGamers, giving us some groups we can play with who are respectful of our time and of us—a welcome change from a lot of online gaming experiences.

I’ve managed my first Destiny series raid, and cleared it a few times since then. I expect fewer screenshots next month, if only because I’m exhausting a lot of the content in the game prior to the first DLC release coming this December. (And I included the Legacy screenshots, which showcase some pretty neat art from various experiences I completed in the first game. I’m hoping my next Legacy is much more complete.)

Also, I’m aware there are some resolution problems with the carousel for these images; if you want to see the (much sharper) originals, use the button that appears when you are browsing the images in carousel.

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Games High Fives Markel!

Destiny 2: Month One Gallery

I have a lot to say about Destiny 2, and keep meaning to write about it, but for now, I thought I would post a little gallery of the screenshots I’ve taken over the first month of the game, especially as I’ve been playing through it with my son and it’s become family time. :)

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Games High Fives

Summer Games Done Quick 2017 Viewing Guide

My summer vacation has started, which usually means it’s almost time for Summer Games Done Quick. GDQ is a twice-annual speedrunning marathon, and each one lasts for a week. The summer one tends to be my favorite; the runs can be a bit more laid back and the charity is preferable to the one they use for the winter marathon.

You can find the channel for GDQ on Twitch any time you want to watch. The full event schedule is posted here, and there are some things you should know about it:

  • The schedule can and will change throughout the event, so if there is a game you are really interested in watching, you should check the schedule the same day of that game and also a bit before it’s supposed to come on the air. Runs are unpredictable, so there’s natural fluidity to the time slots.
  • For different types of games, there are different run categories. Pay attention to things like:
    • 100% or any%, the two most frequent run completion types – one involves collecting or doing everything a game has to offer; the other is just getting to the end of the game as fast as possible.
    • Restrictions like glitchless, 2 players 1 controller, co-op, and the like. This will give you more information regarding the general atmosphere of the run.
  • Runs have an estimated time to completion, which will give you the approximate time you’ll need to watch the run.

Keep in mind when watching these speedruns that many of them will involve the players going through the game in ways you haven’t in the past. If a run doesn’t call for glitchless or other restrictions, you’re likely to see things done to intentionally break the game and skip large amounts of the actual intended gameplay. This takes some getting used to and can look really weird the first time you watch a run for a favorite game.

That said, if you just relax and watch some people play games while using quite frankly amazing execution, muscle memory, and crazy amounts of practice, you can have a pretty good time. I suggest you find games you have played and liked on the schedule and trying to watch those to get started.

If you aren’t sure, here are some runs I think are likely to be great this week:

  • Sunday
    • Luigi’s Mansion any%, no OOB (out-of-bounds). The restriction means the runner can’t break the constraints of the levels to get places the game didn’t intend, so this requires going through a decent amount of the game, and is estimated at around an hour.
    • Metroid Prime 100%. Some people really find these runs interesting because there is good execution necessary, but I frankly find them boring because large amounts of the run take place out-of-bounds. If you want to see a game get broken, watch this.
    • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, any% glitchless. One of the all-time great games, played to full extent, in 36 minutes. Should be fantastic.
  • Monday
    • Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, Ultimate. Watch people wreck this game with what is essentially playing angles very carefully. Looks reckless, is actually super-controlled.
    • Mirror’s Edge, any% glitchless. A game that was designed with multiple paths in mind. Speedrunners have no doubt found all the super-fast ones, and the execution necessary for this should be impressive.
  • Tuesday
    • I Am Bread, any%. I say this because I tried playing this game and found it inscrutable and impossible, and this runner is going to beat it in 15 minutes and make me feel really old in the process.
    • Pokemon Puzzle League, 1P Stadium, Super Hard. Puzzle game execution at this high a level is always impressive.
    • FPS Block of games, starting with Half-Life. Every game here should show super-impressive play, even with glitches.
  • Wednesday
    • Ninja Gaiden 3, any%. Watch this and then remember how hard these games are and hate yourself immediately.
    • Marble Madness, any%. See above.
    • Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Richter any%. The finest 2D Castlevania pre-Symphony, done in 25 minutes. It’s likely you aren’t familiar with this entry in the series (it was on Turbo CD), so you should give it a peek.
    • Mega Man X2, any% race. Four runners play side-by-side, trying to finish first in a live situation. X2 has a super-optimized run that is really impressive to watch and easy to grasp.
  • Thursday
    • Shadow of the Colossus, NTA. I personally don’t think this game is as awesome as a lot of people do, but the run should be impressive.
    • Portal, inbounds. Should be one of the more amazing-looking runs of the whole event.
    • Chrono Trigger, any%, no wrong warp. Puwexil is one of the best RPG runners to watch. His commentary during the run (and the “couch commentary” helping him along) will be great and will explain exactly what’s going on as he does the run. CT is also a great run.
    • Tetris: The Grand Master block. You should watch this because I won’t; once you have seen these runs once, you have seen them all, but this is Tetris at a level that’s more instinct than reaction. TGM is way harder than any Tetris you have played (they will play on arcade hardware).
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, all dungeons, swordless. I don’t even know how you would do this, so I’m going to be watching this one with fascination.
  • Friday
    • Super Mario Series Warpless Relay Race. Great games, done head-to-head, and with relay handoffs to boot.
    • Metroid Block. Always one of the highlights of any GDQ. Usually tight races, high execution, sequence breaking in a lot of cases.
  • Saturday
    • Dark Souls 3, All Bosses. Watch someone rip through this game with way less health than you would ever try to play with and weird items you didn’t think about using.
    • Super Mario 64, 120 star. Every star. Every level. A game that requires crazy-cool execution and looks rad when people pull it off.
    • Earthbound any%, glitchless. An RPG to send the marathon into the sunset, and a run that even today is still being rerouted and changing to be more efficient.

There’s plenty more I could have put in here, but these are the things I’d suggest to anyone who asked me about GDQ and what they should peek in on.

I hope you watch and have some fun doing so. Please consider donating to the event!

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High Fives Markel!

New Laptop Time!

I’m fortunate to work at a great company that refreshes our laptops with new tech every couple of years, and today was MacBook Christmas for me: my new Touch Bar MacBook Pro showed up.

Whenever I do a laptop refresh, I choose to install everything new instead of using a system transfer, specifically so I can reevaluate what apps I use, whether there are other options available, and find new things in those apps’ settings that I might not have seen before.

As part of this process, I’m going to do a series of blog posts showcasing the apps I use on a regular basis and explaining why I choose to use them and how they fit into my personal workflows.

Once I have them going, I’ll post a link to the archives here, but if you’d like to know when I post them, feel free to follow my blog. :)