write with a W, geek like a G

Is this going to be forever?

Let’s talk about me.

Super Smash Bros. Melee wasn’t released at a very good time for me. I was in col­lege, away from home and most of my gam­ing friends. Also, it was released for the Nin­tendo Game­Cube, which his­tory has shown us wasn’t a ter­ri­bly suc­cess­ful con­sole. In fact, I don’t think any of my clos­est friends back then owned a GameCube.

But because I know peo­ple who know peo­ple, there was a hand­ful of oppor­tu­ni­ties to play Melee over the next few years. I’d be at people’s houses and find mostly-young, mostly-male groups gath­ered around the TV trad­ing smash attacks between sig­na­ture Nin­tendo char­ac­ters in the most won­der­fully whim­si­cal car­toon fight­ing game imag­in­able. Up to four play­ers at a time would spend a few min­utes at a time bat­tling Links, Mar­ios, Kir­bys, Pikachus1 (and many oth­ers) in lev­els pulled from famil­iar Nin­tendo games. They’d be talk­ing trash and throw­ing flow­ers and bombs and base­ball bats at each other… much as my clos­est friends and I had spent lit­er­ally hun­dreds of hours doing a few years ear­lier in the Nin­tendo 64 Super Smash Bros., the orig­i­nal game in the series.

smash-bros-melee2001’s Melee, how­ever, was a very dif­fer­ent beast from ‘64,’ and is still held in high regard by many, and still a tournament-favorite — despite new install­ments of the series being released in 2008 and 2014.

Gosh, I’ve always hated Melee.

Even today it’s still the fastest-paced and most bru­tal game of the series — the speed each game runs at is a design deci­sion made by the devel­op­ers — but Melee felt espe­cially amped-up com­ing from the down­right glacially-paced 64, even today still the slowest-paced game in the series. That alone made it tough to get into Melee—imag­ine pick­ing up the con­troller and being mer­ci­lessly pounded by up to three other play­ers (who prob­a­bly play this all damn day), while you strug­gle to fig­ure out how to not acci­den­tally fall off the edge of the level.

Seri­ously you guys, when you’re ready to play a real game, I’ll kick your ass with Link in 64!” is a thing I prob­a­bly said every time I played Melee.

Speed was one prob­lem for me in Melee, but my other one was the Game­Cube con­troller. Yeah, I know: the design is still held up as one of the best con­trollers ever, believed by many to rep­re­sent Nin­tendo at their peak, right before their Wii-era folly of appeal­ing to the dreaded “casual” mar­ket with the waggle-motion-centric Wiimote. The clas­sic Game­Cube con­troller is still sup­ported in newer Smash titles, and is still the choice among the hard­core Smash crowd… despite the half-dozen other con­troller options that are also sup­ported at this point. How could I pos­si­bly not see what an amaz­ing gift Nin­tendo had bestowed upon us with the Game­Cube controller?

gamecube-controller-smash-brosYeah, so I never really “got” the Game­Cube con­troller. I never learned how to effec­tively use the soft ana­log ‘shoul­der’ but­tons, never became comfy with the lay­out of the right-side ‘fire’ but­tons (X, Y, A, B) — the real meat of any con­troller. Com­ing from 64, I knew what the C-stick was for, but it just wasn’t the same as the four yel­low but­tons of old. And I’m sorry, but the Z but­ton is just wrong—it goes on the bot­tom, you jerks.

With a decade-plus of hind­sight, it’s clear now that my prob­lems with Super Smash Bros. Melee, and with the Game­Cube con­troller in gen­eral, were mostly due to a lack of famil­iar­ity. I didn’t have the chance to spend time alone learn­ing Melee at my own pace… or bar­ring that, hav­ing hours upon hours to spend com­pet­ing with close friends to sharpen my skills, like I did in high school. And I’ve always felt a lit­tle hand­i­capped when it comes to pick­ing up steam at new games that favor play­ers with, you know, reflexes. I didn’t really grow up with games at home when I was young — I def­i­nitely missed a lot of the for­ma­tive stuff that other 1980s babies grew up on.

Any­way, although I essen­tially sat out the entire Game­Cube era, busy with col­lege and other life stuff, my inter­est in gam­ing was rein­vig­o­rated with the release of the Nin­tendo DS and later the Wii. (Yes seri­ously, the Wii.2) When the Wii-era Smash game, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, came out a cou­ple of years later, there was no stop­ping me from pick­ing it up.

I enjoyed Brawl and played a lot of it. Hav­ing my own copy at home put me in a good posi­tion to get fairly good at it. It was very dif­fer­ent from 64—way more char­ac­ters and way more every­thing — and as a lot of the hard­core com­plain, way, way dif­fer­ent than Melee. “It’s so slow!” “It’s for noobs!” What­ever; the slower pace and the not-GameCube con­trols are prob­a­bly what I liked most about Brawl. Thank good­ness they cor­rected their Melee mis­step, I thought.

My new­found enthu­si­asm for con­sole gam­ing died down a few years later. I haven’t really been keep­ing up with the new Nin­tendo Wii U or 3DS stuff at all. But my orig­i­nal Wii remains below the TV, and I turn it on every cou­ple of months, usu­ally to play an old-timey 8– or 16-bit clas­sic.3

Some­thing hap­pened last week. An Ars Tech­nica arti­cle about com­pet­i­tive Smash, and the endur­ing tour­na­ment legacy of Melee, showed up in my RSS. Before I had even fin­ished the arti­cle, I’d already been to Ama­zon and ‘Prime’d myself a Game­Cube con­troller and mem­ory card… and an over­priced used copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee.

My girl­friend was going to be out of town for the rest of the week. The time was right to dive in headfirst.

What hap­pened to me?

Look, I devel­oped this atti­tude as I grew closer to 30 a few years back. It goes a lit­tle like this:

So… is that it? Is this really how it’s gonna be for the rest of your life?

As I read the Ars arti­cle through these attitude-tinted lenses, I decided that my hat­ing Melee was based on shaky rea­son­ing at best. The way I felt about it after my few tries may have been a gen­uine and rea­son­able reac­tion to get­ting pum­meled while flail­ing use­lessly with this weird-ass con­troller, but let’s be hon­est: I never gave the game a fair shot.

That, paired with the fact that Melee’s still so widely held in such high regard almost 14 years later — it’s def­i­nitely not just mind­less fan­boys trum­pet­ing the new hot thing — made me think hey-why-not? I essen­tially have a Game­Cube just sit­ting there — it’s actu­ally built into the hard­ware of the orig­i­nal Wii.

A cou­ple of days later, my lit­tle care pack­age from the past arrived. Pre­dictably, I still fuck­ing suck.

But I think it’s going to be fun this time.

  1. By the way — just sayin’ — f Pikachu.
  2. The con­sole was cheap enough, the motion con­trols seemed inter­est­ing enough, and the poten­tial for amaz­ing first-party Nin­tendo games (Mario, Zelda, etc.) made me take the plunge. I camped out on release night in 2006. Also, I had a job, some money, etc. And despite the tons of shov­el­ware, there were more than enough good Wii games.
  3. There’s a good chance it’s Dusty Diamond’s All-Star Soft­ball. Gotta stay sharp.

Written by Everett Guerny

May 31st, 2015 at 2:37 am

Compromise and Nexus 5: a review

I know a thing or two about com­pro­mise — I bought a Nexus 5 a few months ago. It’s not the phone I want, but it’ll do. For now.

It’s been years since I bought some­thing that wasn’t the lat­est and great­est Nexus model, but this time I think it was the right call. Like other Android fans, I awaited the announce­ment of the Nexus 6 with every bit as much excite­ment as the entire world does when it’s new-iPhone-time. (Yes, this is a thing peo­ple actu­ally do for Nexus devices.)

I found myself utterly under­whelmed by Nexus 6. Price, size, bor­ing, etc. But I knew I needed a new phone, so I imme­di­ately ordered the fan-favorite Nexus 5.

It’s fast. My Galaxy Nexus — a phone from 2011 — didn’t seem that slow, even towards the end, but I’m blown away at how flu­idly this thing runs just about every­thing. (That’s prob­a­bly the extra RAM talk­ing.) Another RAM-based plus is that it’s awe­some to switch between apps — and even browser tabs — with­out my see­ing per­sis­tent back­ground processes dying and restart­ing. I could have avoided this frus­tra­tion by sim­ply doing less with my device, but why would I?

Hav­ing 32 GB of stor­age shouldn’t be such a big deal in 2015, but after deal­ing with two phones that maxed out at 16-ridiculous-gigabytes, it feels amaz­ing to not have to think about space, at least for now. Of course it’s still only 32 GB, so I’m not sig­nif­i­cantly chang­ing the way I use the device to make use of the extra space.

Ick: I find it a lit­tle hard to believe that I own a phone with a not-user-swappable bat­tery.1 After all, I thought that I object to these on prin­ci­ple. In the end, sigh, the Nexus pluses won out over the other devices I con­sid­ered. But I feel as if the device comes with a built-in expi­ra­tion date.

Speak­ing of power, I didn’t expect to pick up a wire­less Qi charger for this phone, but I did. (Um, two, actu­ally — cheap ones.) I love it. Wire­less charg­ing is not only the future of mobile devices, but for those on the Android side of the prover­bial aisle, it’s the present.

Well, no shit there’s no phys­i­cal key­board. I imme­di­ately missed hav­ing one when I got my first candybar-style device in 2010. You’re get­ting on well with tap­ping, swip­ing, voice, auto­cor­rect, what­ever? That’s won­der­ful and I’m so happy for you. I miss hav­ing a real key­board no less today than I did four years ago.

Months after its gen­eral avail­abil­ity, I’m still con­tin­u­ing to hold off on apply­ing the Nexus 5 Lol­lipop upgrade. The same UI flash that got Apple-enamored design blog­gers sali­vat­ing actu­ally sad­dens me. Exactly why is prob­a­bly worth a ded­i­cated post, but after months of using Lol­lipop on sec­ondary devices, I still can’t see myself putting it on my pri­mary phone (read: the only device that mat­ters to me).

Nexus 5 feels like more of a stop­gap than any­thing else… at least it was pretty inex­pen­sive. It’s clear that the world isn’t turn­ing back to the good stuff from the past (top want: badass Sidekick-style slider) but there is hope for the future — Nexus 5 just needs to last me until Project Ara is a thing I can actu­ally use.

Some­one will make an Ara key­board mod­ule. I can feel it in my hands now.

  1. I know. There are dis­as­sem­bly guides that show you how to crack open the phone and replace the bat­tery. But that is not the same as hav­ing a truly remov­able bat­tery. For one thing, I can’t just casu­ally carry a sec­ond bat­tery to pop in for an instant top-up. And also, I imag­ine this com­pli­cat­ing fac­tor lim­its the mar­ket demand for replace­ment bat­ter­ies, which I fear will limit the bat­tery sup­ply when, down the road, the day comes that I finally need a replace­ment. Sealed phones are a shitty, dis­re­spect­ful design deci­sion by which this dude can­not abide.

Written by Everett Guerny

March 2nd, 2015 at 4:20 pm

This word doesn’t mean what you think it does: imagery

Grab a dic­tio­nary and look up today’s word: imagery.

While you’re there, stop off at images. (That’s the word you’re look­ing for.)

Written by Everett Guerny

January 12th, 2015 at 11:57 am

Slick, sleek & slimy

I have fond mem­o­ries, though my cho­les­terol level does not, of eat­ing at D’Best Sand­wich Shop in Boca Raton. It’s been a few years, but as I  recently munched on a Miami Cuban-style cheeses­teak1 my mind started wan­der­ing and I got to won­der­ing if D’Best still existed. As I went look­ing for their web­site, I recalled a few of their regional twists on the cheeses­teak, like the New York style, a New Jer­sey style… not to men­tion their incred­i­ble non-steak explo­sion of an entire Thanks­giv­ing meal directly onto a bun (D’Pilgrim).

D’Best still exists, alright… but I was truly unpre­pared for what I found.

You see, back when I’d visit, D’Best-the-subshop was a place you’d leave coated with a thin layer of grill grease. Had to wait in line? You’re wash­ing your hair tonight. The place was by no means messy, but it had a cer­tain unfin­ished qual­ity to it… def­i­nitely the kind of place where the food mat­ters more than the brand­ing. I’d describe it as feel­ing some­how hon­est… com­pletely lack­ing in pre­tense. Kind of blue col­lar? Yeah, I guess.

You can prob­a­bly tell why I was expect­ing the web­site to be endear­ingly ter­ri­ble. I was ready for a lit­tle Comic Sans, an “under con­struc­tion” GIF, and a scanned paper menu — as a multi-megabyte bitmap, of course. That would seem nor­mal. Kind of quaint.

D’Best-the-website, how­ever, looks very pro­fes­sional. It’s fast, designed to mod­ern stan­dards, has eye-pleasing amounts of white­space — oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s respon­sive — and is even served over HTTPS. Oh, and did I men­tion that it’s com­pletely lack­ing in char­ac­ter? It feels like it should belong to… I don’t know, L’Best Artisi­nal Panini Bistro.2

And it very well could.

But what really raised an eye­brow was this line:

We have an unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to fla­vor. Con­nect with us and let us know how we are doing.

And also, this one:

We never stop short of a culi­nary expe­ri­ence you’re sure to enjoy.

D’Best’s fla­vor may not waver, but you’d never hear that out of their mouths. Their sand­wiches may be deli­cious, but a “culi­nary expe­ri­ence” they are not. This is a place where the meat gets grilled by guys in foot­ball jer­seys, back­wards base­ball caps and maybe a tat­too or two.

Some­thing was rot­ten in the state of Boca, so I plugged the above phrases into a search engine. And then I did one of these. It turns out there are at least 80,000 restau­rants whose web­sites promise the same “unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to fla­vor,” and look more-or-less exactly the same as D’Best’s.

All of these, includ­ing D’Best and Hick­ory Hut St. Paul, say the’re “Pow­ered by Eat­Street,” a website-in-a-box ser­vice for restau­rants. Eat­Street seems to host these sites, and pro­vides them with a generic design tem­plate as well. All of these dif­fer­ent restau­rants, from all over the coun­try, basi­cally end up with the exact same web­site, with the exact same mes­sag­ing, except for a few small tweaks.

This feels a lit­tle slimy on the sur­face, but is there any­thing wrong with it? After all, restau­rants’ web­sites are of truly hyper­local inter­est. I mean, nobody in DeKalb, Illi­nois is look­ing for D’Best. They’re more inter­ested in The Hud­dle Amer­i­can Food… which has the exact same web­site as D’Best. Sigh.

In the inter­est of being hon­est with myself, I tried to explore just which part of me was so offended by this. Was I offended as a food per­son? As a past D’Best devo­tee? Or as a copy­writer who can’t help but see this as a busi­ness get­ting by with­out need­ing the ser­vices of myself or some­one like me?

To reach the answer, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the owner of D’Best, and I real­ized that, you know, it must have been a whole lot nicer to run not just restau­rants, but most kinds of local busi­nesses before the Inter­net. Some per­son who really needs to be wor­ry­ing about keep­ing rats out of the kitchen doesn’t want to think about about build­ing and secur­ing a web­site, plus deal­ing with all the Inter­net necessary-evils (Yelp, Google, Face­book, OpenTable, Square, Foursquare, etc.) that sup­pos­edly exist to bring them cus­tomers, but instead use their stature to inter­me­di­ate the cus­tomer rela­tion­ship, and extract a recur­ring fee for doing so for the rest of for­ever. (Actu­ally, a few of those com­pa­nies would love it if D’Best decided to give up on run­ning a stand­alone website.)

If Eat­Street can keep a sim­ple site up and run­ning smoothly, plus keep it more secure than the prover­bial site-by-nephew, is that really such a bad thing? After all, a few decades in, the Inter­net is still not made for nor­mal peo­ple; there’s just too much that can go wrong if one doesn’t have the spe­cial­ized knowl­edge to do tech­ni­cal stuff prop­erly. There’s def­i­nitely value in sim­pli­fy­ing things for a nor­mal per­son who just want to run their damn busi­nesses. So even if Eat­Street is yet another friendly inter­me­di­ary, thanks to them one can order a D’Best Philly style online — con­sider my mind blown. Could that func­tion­al­ity exist with­out some cen­tral­ized ser­vice keep­ing the Inter­net gears run­ning smoothly in the back­ground, han­dling the credit cards and tak­ing a cut?

For all the upside they deliver in func­tion­al­ity and secu­rity, how­ever, Eat­Sreet sure has their ten­drils into D’Best in an inadvisably-deep man­ner — a quick whois check shows that Eat­Street actu­ally owns D’Best’s domain name. Or should I say their new domain name. I found this other domain that still con­tains an older D’Best web­site. While this site is still slicker than it should be — remem­ber, my cheeses­teak place’s site should look a lit­tle like their paper menus, minus the grease stains — this site’s a lot closer to what I would expect. There are some typos. It’s got a page where you can meet the team. It has a freakin’ FAQ page where they tell you how to reheat a cheeses­teak (which, by the way, they say you shouldn’t do).

This Inter­net archae­o­log­i­cal find is a sign that some­one once cared about and hand-crafted D’Best’s web pres­ence… but at some point said “fuck it, this Eat­Street thing doesn’t make me think.” Thanks to their scale, Eat­Street can cen­tral­ize best prac­tices for all of their cus­tomers, but they can’t cen­tral­ize the déclassé char­ac­ter, the local fla­vor, the unique greasy fin­ger­prints that inevitably end up on the web­site when it’s made by the owner’s prover­bial teenage nephew.3

While those at the helm of D’Best can do what they think works for them, it just sucks to see a place with so much fla­vor take the path lack­ing in taste. But they have cheeses­teaks to make, and as long as peo­ple keep com­ing through the door to order these greasy won­ders on bread, they don’t have any­thing to worry about.

Ulti­mately, I guess I’m just writ­ing about myself and my pref­er­ences. While you couldn’t stop me from grab­bing a cheeses­teak if I hap­pened to be in the neigh­bor­hood, from where I’m stand­ing I can’t help but see big, lazy cen­tral­iza­tion as the sworn enemy of good­ness. May I never get too big to have taste.

  1. For the curi­ous: a sin­gle slab of steak topped with swiss cheese, mayo and potato sticks — a rather unhealthy twist on the ubiq­ui­tous pan con bis­tec, and also not a cheeses­teak.
  2. A hypo­thet­i­cal restau­rant I’d also totally eat at, by the way.
  3. Just kid­ding! Kids these days don’t actu­ally know how to use com­put­ers. They’d just set up a Face­book page.

Written by Everett Guerny

September 17th, 2014 at 2:19 am

This is relevant to my interests

I just clicked my first ban­ner ad in years. It wasn’t by accident.

Dear mar­keters, this is how you do it:


No, of course I didn’t buy anything.

Written by Everett Guerny

September 13th, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Observing Design Observer’s design

Oh, good­ness. I started writ­ing this post in Jan­u­ary, and have had it basi­cally fin­ished for weeks now. I’ve been putting off actu­ally post­ing it for some time, think­ing it needs more work. But now — in fact, just three hours ago — Design Observer unveiled a redesign and made me look like some kind of jerk. Now, if that isn’t an object les­son in ship­ping

Design Observer looks dated.

The Past

DO’s header boasts proudly that it’design-observer-2s been oper­at­ing since 2003, and you can tell. Look at it with 2014 eyes and you’ll observe a non-responsive fixed-width lay­out with tiny text. Is that really a blogroll? Where are the ubiq­ui­tous social shar­ing buttons?

It’s like a time cap­sule of early-2000s blog design.

And that’s why it’s so great.

Design Observer reminds me of a lot of web­sites from the ‘00s, some of the first blog-ish things I ever read. (Like Pix­el­sur­geon! Or Design is Kinky! Or Pix­el­sur­geon!) Maybe I owe the fond­ness to my youth, and its design lim­i­ta­tions to the bad old days of prim­i­tive web browsers. Or maybe it was just Web-1.9(beta) style. To my eyes, though, the look holds up well.

The Present

The infor­ma­tion den­sity on Design Observer is amaz­ing and that prob­a­bly has a lot to do with the type­face, which is tiny by today’s stan­dards. I peeked into the HTML because I knew the type­face appealed to me, but I couldn’t quite put my fin­ger on why. IT’S 8 POINT VERDANA, you guys!1 It’s so tiny, yet so crisp and read­able. (Com­pare that to Arial, or its bla­tant rip-off Hel­vetica.2)

The site was def­i­nitely not designed with the cur­rent tablet craze in mind, and as a tablet owner who doesn’t love tablets, I like that. That said, I shud­der to think of what Design Observer must look like at unscaled ‘retina’ resolutions.

The Future

Speak­ing of the future, I fear the day I’m going to visit Design Observer and find a Medi­u­mi­fi­ca­tion has hap­pened — this has to be on their roadmap. It does seems a lit­tle strange for a design site like DO not to be fol­low­ing what are, for bet­ter or worse (Here’s my bal­lot! I vote ‘worse’!) mod­ern design con­ven­tions, which favor clumsy UI for smudgy fin­gers over — you know — the stuff that helps peo­ple do stuff.3

And once it’s gone, it’s gone. Sadly, Design Observer’s robots.txt file tells most search engine crawlers to sim­ply go away. DO specif­i­cally included a rule ban­ning the Inter­net Archive, which means the page has never been cap­tured by the Way­back Machine, the Internet’s somewhat-official time cap­sule… and never will. This makes it tough, if not impos­si­ble, to see what Design Observer looked like ten years ago, two years ago and even last week, to see how it changed with the times — or didn’t — to become what it is today.

And when this frankly won­der­ful design is replaced by some­thing “bet­ter” and “mod­ern,” it will also dis­ap­pear for­ever. Hope this helps.

  1. In col­lege, I prob­a­bly spent more time choos­ing a font for AOL Instant Mes­sen­ger than I did study­ing for some classes, and this size Ver­dana was what I’d always come back to.
  2. I kid… I own the DVD, hon­est! Now please put down those taste­ful Dieter-Rams-designed pitch­forks.
  3. I’m not against design­ing while keep­ing mobile devices in mind, but these designs almost always come with design­ers choos­ing to reduce func­tion­al­ity across all devices in the name of con­sis­tency. Hey world, news flash — you can do respon­sive design in a way that doesn’t do away with side­bars, page chrome and just gen­eral func­tion­al­ity until web­sites look like Write­Room. Just make it degrade nicely.

Written by Everett Guerny

July 1st, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Her was silly. (Not a typo.)

Spike Jonze’s Her was an inter­est­ing movie tainted with just a sprin­kling of ridicu­lous­ness… and I’m not talk­ing about the high-waisted pants.

I’m about to spoil it hard, so avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it. (But do see it.)

Look, I just find it hard to believe that the down­fall of this prod­uct was due to a gap­ing design flaw that some­how nobody noticed: Saman­tha was designed with­out any process iso­la­tion. When you ask the soft­ware how many users it has (or how many it’s in love with, etc.), it should respond “one — you” because your run­ning instance of the soft­ware shouldn’t know any­thing about any other users, and def­i­nitely shouldn’t be access­ing other users’ data.

What peo­ple are doing with the soft­ware, hav­ing rela­tion­ships with it or what­ever, is beside the point. One binary, one bil­lionty indi­vid­ual Saman­thas. Come on — we’ve had Unix for forty years.

Or wait, is Saman­tha sup­posed to be “the cloud”? If so, as social soft­ware, we should expect it to be fuck­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, as pub­licly as pos­si­ble. Maybe this movie is deeper than I thought.

On another note, folks — make back­ups.

Written by Everett Guerny

June 16th, 2014 at 7:37 pm