LineRider: I Want to Clone this on XNA

Things are beginning to look up for me being able to do some XNA-based projects in the new year. I need a couple realizable games to tackle. I have one designed that I’ll never be able to get approved (it’s called “Fanaticize me!” I think I’d get in trouble even by describing the playing pieces).

I’m thinking it would be a better idea to do a physics-based simulation a la Line Rider. I’d never heard of that particular one until today. It looks like a lot of fun (of course, for me, it’s more fun to program it than to actually play it).

Backseat Playground: GPS-Enabled Automated Storytelling / Game

Backseat Playground is a research project that developed a GPS-based game for kids. It seems more like a (great) storytelling system more than a game. Basically, it uses the GPS and location-awareness to introduce game elements, e.g., when it sees that you’re driving over a bridge, it presents you with the opportunity to “explore” the river with that SCUBA tank you picked up in the last town you drove through.

What a great idea. Any story is made infinitely more appealing by tailoring it to the invididual. To present a long car-ride to Grandma’s house as a detective story is a brilliant innovation. I wonder, though, if the better approach would be to feed the parent plot points as they drove, as that would be infinitely more enthralling for a kid.

Lives of the Ancient Geeks

Scientists have reverse engineered the Antikythera Mechanism, a sophisticated analog computer that was known to have calculated lunar phases and a luni-solar calendar. Newly reported is that it additionally calculated lunar and solar eclipses! Additionally, it may have (correctly) modeled the moon as having a slightly elliptical orbit. The Mechanism predates by at least a thousand years other devices of similar complexity (I’m not sure if that claim is restricted to Western technology or includes the Chinese).

I often fantasize about what life must have been like for an ancient geek. Both the career challenges (“You battle the Hittites without me, I’m going to look at the stars. Again.”) and, more amazingly, the induction. Sure, you’re going to figure out that the moon waxes and wanes regularly. The seasons, complete with solstices and equinoxes? Given the relationship to food, I’ll grant you that. But how in the world do you model lunar and solar eclipses that only occur a few times per lifetime, in a time when you are absolutely beholden to clouds, correspondence is limited to trading routes, and the vast majority of learning is transmitted orally? Or the irregularities of orbits when your instruments of measurement are your eyes and fixed stars? Just incredible.

It gives me hope for the future of programming. However we program the computers that run the United Federation of Planets, it won’t be with text files containing linear descriptions adhering to context-free grammars.