aphantasia–cannot visualize

Published on Tuesday, February 09, 2016 By Frogboy In Life, the Universe and Everything

My wife and I recently came across a show that referenced a person who had the inability to visualize images in their minds. 

My immediate reaciton was, “Of course they can’t, nobody can.  We call those hallucinations.”  I thought it was absurd to suggest that people could just conjure up an image in their minds. 

Turn out, I’m the defective one: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/science/aphantasia-minds-eye-blind.html?_r=0

So in my case (which for 45 years I assumed was the same for everyone else), I can’t close my eyes and visualize say an apple.  If I see someone and close my eyes I won’t recall anything I just saw.  I couldn’t identify their shirt.   Unless I explicitly memorize it, I won’t remember a visual detail (like what my son’s glasses look like – I have no idea). 

To me, you close your eyes, it’s dark.  Sort of “Duh, of course.” 

I was aware that I could not easily recognize people.  Put one of my friends at the mall here and I wouldn’t recognize them easily.  But until the show we watched, I had no idea that people could actually visualize an image in their mind.  For me, it’s pretty mind blowing.

I *am* wearing the kiddie gloves

Published on Monday, February 08, 2016 By Frogboy In Internet

It never ceases to amaze me that someone online will direct something vile my way and expect me to just turn the other cheek simply because I’m “powerful” (whatever that means).

What they don’t understand is me shining a spotlight on them is about as kiddie gloves as I can get. 

And frankly, they’re lucky to get the kiddie gloves.  I know ignoring them doesn’t work.  Being polite doesn’t work.  Social Justice Warriors aren’t interested in truth or fairness.  They are only interested in raising their own standard amongst their own kind.  And I’m under no obligation to be a prop in their quest simply because I could crush them.  My advice is:  Leave me out of your reindeer games.

The Tragedy of the Torian civilization

Published on Wednesday, February 03, 2016 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals


The Tragedy of the Torian civilization

by Brad Wardell



The First Enslavement

Once upon a time there was an aquatic world filled with kind, gentle people.   Their pre-industrial civilization was discovered over 100,000 years ago by a Drengin automated probe.  Despite being over 20 light years from the Drengin home world, the Drengin were intent to  conquer it.  The Drengin constructed a stargate and using automated probes, towed it to the Toria.  The process took over 70,000 years.

To put this in perspective, when the Drengin stargate reached the Torian home system, Neanderthals still walked the earth.  Once engaged, the stargate allowed Drengin forces to make the 20 light year trip from Drengi to Toriain less than a month.   Conquest was swift.

While peaceful by nature, the Torians fought back. Over many many generations, the Torians used every advantage their aquatic world provided over the Drengin, whose own world has almost no standing water.  Eventually, merely a few centuries ago, the Drengin abandoned the world and the Torians destroyed the Drengin stargate.

The Second Enslavement

The young humans of Earth introduced the Torians to the new technology of Hyperdrive.  Hyperdrive works essentially the same as a Stargate except it can be equipped directly to a ship, negating the need for the massive stationary constructs.  The Torians quickly expanded creating the Torian Confederation.

When the Dread Lords returned in 2225, the Torians were amongst the first to answer the Terran Alliance call to form a coalition to defeat them.  However, at their seeming moment of triumph, the Drengin Empire, which had stayed out of the conflict, struck quickly conquering the Torian Confederation and reoccupying the now developed world of Toria.

For the past 15 years, the world of Toria has been been plundered by the Drengin Empire.


The lost fleet of the Terran Alliance has recently returned from the pocket universe that the Dread Lords had been trapped in.  Gone for 16 years, they carry with them artifacts of immense power that they have used to swiftly push back the Drengin Empire from Arcea and relieve the embattled forces of the Altarians.   Now they have arrived at Toria and the Drengin have fallen back.  A new government, the Torian Regime has been hastily set up as the Torian begin to try to rebuild. 

The occupation has left the Torian people fractured and somewhat xenophobic with many extremist movements now gaining influence over the traumatized population.

This is the story of the Torian Regime’s growth in the contentious Arcturus sector.

Never Again



The Torians were always seen as a threat to the Drengin because unlike the other races, Torians had no problem colonizing water worlds in large numbers.


The planet Elata, a world that had been ignored by the other powers because it is a water world makes a fine starting point for the Torian Regime.



The Arcean Empire are present but without a universal translator, the Torians were unable to communicate.  The Regime quickly made diplomacy a major effort.


Early exploration also showed that this region of space was rich in rare resources. Resources that would aid the Torians in re-establishing themselves as a major power.


The Torian science corp. made it their business for the Torians to catch up and with any luck surpass the other powers in the sector.


By early 2246, the Torian Regime had build a working relationship with the Arcean Empire.  Both had suffered at the hands of the Drengin.  While the Drengin held only contempt for the Torians, they had a grudging respect for the Arceans whose world was not fully conquered by the Drengin.



The Torians quickly laid claim to nearby resources

As the Torians began to scout further from their worlds they found more and more resources that were simply beyond their reach.  The Torians required considerable special, by alien standards, efforts to travel in space due to their aquatic nature.

Ultimately the decision to make a new, deep range, construction vessel to tap into the remaining unclaimed resources was given approval and the new construction ship, the Nourisher class was designed.


The Nourisher contained an aquatic pod to allow Torians to travel deeper into the sector


Forgivenss or Vengeance



Lord Kona, the only remaining military leader from the original 2178 space race alumni, has not lost any of his malice.

The Drengin presence in this sector meant only one thing: Military research.


The Torians would never allow themselves to be conquered again


Return of the Korx

During the early years of the space race, the mercenary Korx were a power broker.  Their dominance of the galactic economy came to an end when the Drengin exterminated them.  Using biological warfare, the Drengin commited multiple acts of genocide.  First, against the Drath Legion and second, against the Korx.

Not all of the Korx were on the home world when the Drengin attacked.   With the Drengin’s grip on the galaxy loosening, they have reappeared as keepers of the Baazaar.


The Korx, recognizing the Torians as a potential good customer, paid for their first mercenary.


Silvainout, one of the most famous pilots in the galaxy, fought heroically for the Drath Legion. With no civilization to defend, he now puts is services up for hire. Services the Torians are eager to make use of.


The other mercenary is Prince Viturian, the son of the owner of what was once the largest bank in the galaxy.

With such military geniuses, the Torians began to look towards Drengin space and revenge…


The Drengin were not that close to Torian space.  Moreover, the powerful Iridium Corporation was nearby.


To strengthen ties with the Corporation, a trade mission was sent.



With friendly relations with the corporate overlords of the Iridium set, it was time to begin planning how to invade the relatively weak Drengin presence in this sector.



The Torians reproduce faster than any other civilization. And while few will admit this openly, it means that Torians are a little more expendable in war.  This is one of the reasons the Torians have always favored swarms of small fighters instead of a handful of large capital ships.


The potent and deadly



Meanwhile, the starbase, “Vengeance I” quietly awaits the arrival of the fleet to take out the Drengin military.


Fire, Pain, Death

If the Torians had a human calendar, they might notice, with some irony, that the war began on January 1, 2247. 





The Drengin military on the world was much more powerful, but with any luck, the attack would take them by surprise.


It would be a very very close battle. The Mercenaries were the key.


But as good as the Mercenaries were, the Torian ships were…not so good.   Soon, only the Mercenaries remained.  The Mercenaries, however, outclassed the Drengin ships dramatically.



The Prince’s heavily armed ship was small but the Drengin’s weapons struggled to get through its armor.


Alone now and outgunned, the Prince accepted his fate.


Goodnight, sweet prince.



The Torian battle fleet was annihilated.

News of the defeat spread and the aggression of the Torians combined with their military weakness caused other races, including the Arcean Empire to declare war.

The Torians quickly sent their top negotiators to visit the Baazar in the hope of hiring new Mercenaries.  That was when the horror became clear:



The Korx are selling to all comers. 

Many of the Mercenaries were already hired.  This was unexpected to the Torians who had naively thought they were the only customers of the Korx.  The Korx had made them feel so special and unique.

“You are unique,” Izon the Korx said. “Just like everyone else.”

With the Krynn and Drengin bearing down on the Torians, their only hope were the mercenaries.  Thankfully, the early investment in resource gathering had paid off.


The massive capital ship, The Pursuit, was happy to accept the credits.


The Krynn quickly learned the power of The Pursuit.


Unfortunately, the Krynn had many of their Raider class destroyers to spare.   A fleet of 6 approached Elata


The massive Krynn fleet arrived with only The Pursuit as a serious threat.  If you look closely, you can see the tiny interceptors of the home guard…

The Pursuit put up an amazing fight but ultimately could not stand up to the onslaught.


Soon, the Krynn had eliminated the Torian spacefaring capability.

For the moment, it appeared the Krynn might leave the Torians alone.

Then something worse happened.


The Drengin constructed a military starbase near Torian space to extend their range.



In desperation, the Torians began selling ancient relics of their civilization to fund hiring more mercenaries.

The diplomats hoped there might be someone who could help.  But everyone was at war except, of course, the Iconians.


The Iconians weren’t at war and they certainly had no love for the Krynn.


With the help of the Iconians the Torians had a chance.

However, bringing so much instability to the region upset the powerful Iridium corporation. War was bad for business.


The Irium were angry with our meddling in the region but were willing to accept financial support.

However, the humans were not willing to be bought.




The Drengin invasion fleet

With the reinforcing of Elata, the Drengin fleet backed off. For now.


The Iridium finally make their long expected move.



Invaders enter the region.  The Torians had enough military to repel one attack but have 3 targets. 


The Last Stand


The Torians were back to their last colony in the sector.   Defenseless. Its shipyards destroyed. No money for mercenaries.  No allies to help. The Iconians hade made peace with the Krynn.


The Iconians had made peace with the Krynn and returned to their traditional neutral stance.


Unopposed, the Drengin conquest fleet arrived






Vengeance cuts both ways.  The Torian regime’s lust for revenge on the Drengin Empire caused it to not look closely at the relationships had established with the other powers.  While the Torians were collecting resources to hire mercenaries, the Drengin were forming friendships of trade, treaties and good will with its neighbors.  When the Torians attacked the Drengin, it destabilized the region.  The Terran Alliance stepped back, withholding its protection.  The Irridium corporation were unimpressed with the loss to their business and the Krynn Syndicate, always willing to fight for money proved to be regime’s downfall.



The Mercenaries of the Korx made a good showing – for all sides.  But as powerful as they are, they are only one tool of many available to civilizations to execute on their policies.  The Torians foolishly believed that the Mercenaries could be exploited to with them a war single handedly (and the person running the war didn’t realize how much the AI had improved since 1.5 but that’s a different issue). 

Galactic Civilizations III: Mercenaries is released on February 18. Visit www.galciv.com to learn more.

Media tour bound with nothing to wear

Published on Sunday, January 24, 2016 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

I’ve been making the journey from Michigan to San Francisco for literally 23 years now.  I know San Fran better than I know the downtown areas around here.

Second Street in San Fran is a location I have become very familiar with over the decades.  And now I go for the first time in a long long long while.

I have mixed feelings about it.   On the one hand, I do enjoy showing off our software and games and there’s the opportunity to see old friends.  But on the other, nothing makes you more conscious about time than doing something for 20 years. 

I have my polo shirts.  Though, actualy right now I’m wearing my Gas Powered Games sweat shirt.  I always wondered why Chris had sweat shirts made. GPG is located in Seattle. Do they wear sweat shirts in Seattle?

Anyway, hopefully my demo skills aren’t too rusty.  More to come.

I’m outliving my usefulness

Published on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

I’m officially a cranky old man.

Everything. Is. Crap.

Sometimes I just feel so much despair because of the sheer incompetence I see with companies with vastly more resources than I do wallow in.  If, for instance, Microsoft can’t write a freaking search algorithm for the Windows store or some high profile game’s trailer looks like it was put together by marketing interns it tells me that my dream of retiring and throwing money to hire people to do the things in the areas I have 20 years of experience is just a dream.

There’s an interesting book called Outliers. It makes a compelling case that people who are awesome at a given thing (hockey, music, etc.) are that way only partially due to native talent but mostly because they’ve got 10,000 hours of expertise in that area.  At some point, after that level of expertise has been reached, the individual moves on.  They sell their business or change careers or retire. 

So I’m pretty depressed about the whole thing.  I’ve been doing this for 25 years now.  You can collect a lot of 10,000 hours in lots of areas. Some useful (budgeting) some not so useful (OS/2 device drivers). But at some point, everything starts to become frustrating. You don’t want to have to re-explain, for the thousandth time, an algorithm you’ve written dozens of times or the tricks needed to do video editing fast or the right tools to crank out an article quickly or how the proper layout for a website or any other number of things.

I have seen this issue creeping up for years. I just had hoped that I would eventually just throw money at the problem.  What really brought the despair home was seeing the new Star Trek Beyond trailer.  Such total crap. It means even marketing departments with massive resources still can’t grasp their own demographic. There’s no hope.

Anyway, I’m just ranting.  I’m getting old.  I can’t believe it’s happening but it’s true.

Latest Intel Skylake drivers appear to fix Surface Pro sleep issues

Published on Monday, January 18, 2016 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

For some months users have complained about the Surface Pro 4 consuming several % per hour of CPU while sleeping.  In December, Microsoft indicated that they were working on the problem.

In December, Intel released a driver update to their Skylake drivers. By default, these drivers won’t work on a Surface Pro.  However, users who download the .ZIP version, extract and then update the drivers via device manager can enjoy the benefits today.


The Results

As you can see, the new drivers result in sleep using less than 2% per hour (instead of 6%). 



Previously, the chart below would have two Intel related processes consuming substantial power during sleep.  The December drivers seem to have addresssed this.



To Install

So why haven’t these been released yet to Surface Pro users? They’re not yet validated by Microsoft.  Thus, the only way to get it is to download the .ZIP file and extract it and install them the old-fashioned way. 

image image image


Use these at your own risk.  That said, I’ve been using them on my Surface Pro for about a week to test the changes they’ve made.  For those who were suffering from excessive power drain during sleep, these appear to address it.


[Download here]

Competitive Analysis: Is Microsoft serious about its online stores?

Published on Friday, January 15, 2016 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

Is Microsoft serious about its online media stores?


Movies & TV

Let’s say you want to buy an episode of Rick & Morty.  This is what you get if you use the Microsoft store:


No previews. No star ratings.  Not even movies get a star rating.  The little “i” brings up a barely formatted tooltip. How did this even ship?

This is what the home page looks like:




Going over to music the situation is better.  You get a few highlights and you quickly get to the top sellers as a LIST.


If you click on a song you can preview it. Better.

But what does it lack? Once again, no ratings and no popularity concept that lets you know that this particular song is the one that everyone’s referring to.



In the games section you are treated with yet another UI. I want to emphasize that each of these screenshots represents going to a different tab in the same Store app. 


So now they have picked games out for me. I suspect they picked the same games for you too.   So now they’ve discovered ratings which is a nice start.  So the games section of their store does seem to be decently made UI wise.  If you click on a game you get to see reviews, related items, and lots of other useful info.



Click on apps and you are treated to yet another layout.  Remember, this isn’t supposed to be some web page.  I am running their “store app”.  Imagine using the Android store or iOS store and having the layout and features drastically change like this.


The selected app page is identical to the selected game page which is to say it’s pretty good.

You can definitely tell that the Apps and Games part of the store is more mature than the others.  That said, there’s no excuse for Microsoft allowing their user experience for the media content to be in this kind of shape in a shipping product.

Apple’s Turn

This isn’t to imply that Apple has it nailed either.  Their music, TV and movies app suffers similar layout inconsistencies.   But here’s the thing, they make it very easy to get to the top charts, they have ratings, they have samples.

Here’s what their TV show equivalent looks like:


Compare that to:


On the Windows store if you click on the little “i” you get something like this:


No preview.  as basic as it gets.

Here’s what it looks like on iOS:


You can watch a prevoew of it. It has an actual layout.  It’s just more polished in every way.

It’s baffling that Microsoft would invest so much in an area that they clearly have set themselves for failiure.  They have a great product with the Surface Pro and the upcoming Surface Phone could woo people away. Except, of course, who wants to migrate to this awful media ecosystem? 

For now, I’ll happily use my Surface Pro as my go-to mobile device but I don’t see myself buying any media for it.

Restore Maximum Power State to Surface Pro 4

Published on Thursday, January 14, 2016 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

My Microsoft Surface is a constant companion.  It is absolutely central to my workflow.

One of the challenges I’ve had with it is battery life.  There’s a lot of things you can do to help with your battery life but one simple thing I’ve done, for now, is to set the max CPU when on battery to 99%. 

Setting the max CPU to 99% prevents the CPU from going into Turbo mode.  For me, this accomplishes two things:

(1) I get roughly an extra hour of battery out of the system

(2) I don’t get the annoying fan when I watch videos


Set your maximum CPU while on battery to 99%

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Download and run http://draginol.stardock.net/files/SP4_Max_Processor_State.zip 


Step 2:  Go to advanced power settings and go to the new option: Processor Power management


Set the on battery to 99%.


There is no step 3. 

You should notice the behavior difference fairly quickly on battery.  For one thing, when you have Edge running on an ad intensive site or are watching a video your CPU speed will not go nearly as high (on the other hand, it won’t get power throttled to 0.5Ghz either which is a big benefit).



Hope this helps.  Feel free to comment if you have questions. 

Ashes: Pre-Mortem #1: Game Design Process

Published on Tuesday, January 05, 2016 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

This week I did a blog over at Gamasutra talking about the importance of interesting choices:

Read the whole thing here: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/BradWardell/20160104/262961/Ashes_of_the_Singularity_PREmortem.php


Let’s look at StarCraft II:


In Starcraft, you have to build a Supply Depot before you build a Barracks.


Now, look at Ashes 0.71 alpha:



See the red lines? Those are poison choices.  Newbie traps. 


So we’ve made some changes that you’ll see in the beta:


We’ve renamed the “Cruiser Factory” into the Armory.   You have to first build the factory to build the armory.  You also have to build the Factory before you can build things like Smarties and many other things.

Now, you experts might think “Nobody would build missile defense structures as their first decision.”  Actually, yes, lots of people do.  And it’s always a bad choice.

Again, you can read the whole thing here:  http://gamasutra.com/blogs/BradWardell/20160104/262961/Ashes_of_the_Singularity_PREmortem.php

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