The Procrastination Engine

I have this need to create. Unfortunately, I also have a lot of things that consume my time, leaving 'spare time' immensely valuable to me. I've devised a system that allows me to get things done while also balancing the things that are important to me. One of these days, I'll code something up that does all this (Timeful was close, but alas, Google bought it and wrecked it), but I thought I'd write it down here - it's a useful technique on paper too.

  1. Create a TODO list with everything you might want to do, INCLUDING entertainment time. Open-ended things should have time limits. Large things should be broken down into single-task chunks (or treated as open-ended tasks)
    • Watch Netflix with my wife for an hour
    • Play Overwatch with my son for an hour
    • Update calendar
    • Edit podcast episode for an hour
    • Plan #gmparty episodes (requires an updated calendar?)
    • Start Too Quiet proof of concept
    • Write blog post about productivity system
       
  2. Assign each task an expected utility value of 1-10. In economics terms, utility is the expected satisfaction or value that one gets out of a thing. Important things have more. So do really fun things.
    • [3] Watch Netflix with my wife for an hour
    • [3] Play Overwatch with my son for an hour
    • [8] Update calendar
    • [2] Edit podcast episode for an hour
    • [5] Plan #gmparty episodes (requires an updated calendar?)
    • [5] Start Too Quiet proof of concept
    • [9] Write blog post about productivity system
       
  3. When you have time to do a thing, always do the highest value thing on the list.
    • [9] Write blog post about productivity system
       
  4. Every time that you work on something on the list, adjust its value:
    1. If you complete the task, remove it from the list
    2. If you don't complete the task, reduce its value in the list. I typically reset entertainment tasks down to 1, but halve the value of ongoing 'productive' tasks.
    • [3] Watch Netflix with my wife for an hour
    • [3] Play Overwatch for an hour
    • [8] Update calendar
    • [2] Edit podcast episode for an hour
    • [5] Plan #gmparty episodes (requires an updated calendar?)
    • [5] Start Too Quiet proof of concept
    • [DELETE] [9] Write blog post about productivity system
       
  5. Every day that something is on the list, increase its value. I typically double values because that makes important tasks increase faster than non-important. However, that means that the lowest value tasks hit the top value in about a week (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128), as I usually max out at 100. But do what you want.
    • [6] Watch Netflix with my wife for an hour
    • [6] Play Overwatch with my son for an hour
    • [16] Update calendar
    • [4] Edit podcast episode for an hour
    • [10] Plan #gmparty episodes (requires an updated calendar?)
    • [10] Start Too Quiet proof of concept

      Edit: doubling values falls apart in long-term usage, as tasks quickly get to the max and just stay there. Something needs to be figured out for a long-term time scale. Go logarithmic instead of exponential, perhaps?
       
  6. Repeat, adding new tasks as needed. If something new is really important, feel free to add it to the list with a value higher than 10, so that it can work alongside things that you've already ignored for a few days... but I'd argue that such tasks shouldn't really go into the Procrastination Engine if they're that important.

This system allows you to simply add stuff to a list, and forget about it until it's time to do it. The more things get ignored, the more pressure is added to do those particular things.

Note: a todo list that allows priority sorting is useful, but most only give you a low/medium/high priority. That's not really good enough.

Rediscovering a hobby

It all began with The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Somehow, I found the game during my wandering on the internet, and after purchasing a PDF copy of it, I wanted to write a companion app that would take the provided story hooks, randomly select one and provide it to players instead of them having to select something from the included story hook appendix. So, I made it. Then, I contacted James Wallis to get permission to publish it [I did get permission. Look for it later this year. --ed]. A few weeks into the project, however, Mr. Wallis offhandedly mentioned the Bundle of Holding website. My wallet has never been the same since.

I was one of those 'aspiring gamer-collectors', where one acquires games in order to read them and never actually plays them (I used to play regularly, but stopped after University as friends moved away). As a result, I amassed a large collection of cool indie RPGs, The collection started getting too big, and I didn't even have a regular gaming group, so I got more choosy. I started looking at reviews, then I found the wonderful world of Actual Play podcasts. What better way to evaluate a game then to listen to a group playing it. But my particular strange tastes didn't have too many podcasts that played them. At the time, the only podcast I could find that had a play session of Monsterhearts was the One Shot Podcast. After listening to it for months, it rekindled my love for role playing games (and even got me out to some improv classes) . Then the creators of the One Shot Podcast Network, James D'Amato and Kat Kuhl, started talking about a game they were going to launch on Kickstarter called Noisy Person Cards. It struck me that I could leverage what I built for Munchausen and make something that worked for NPC. A few hours later, I had it, and the way things go, the app became a stretch goal on the Kickstarter campaign [the goal didn't get met, but I still have the prototype kicking around].

Sometime after the NPC campaign, I decided that I wanted to actually play the games in my collection and to that end to try to get through my backlog, I spun up the InDices Podcast, recorded a few episodes and started a regular-ish Monster of the Week campaign. It went a bit on hiatus over the summer, due to vacations and other work issues, but I hope to get it going once again soon. But I digress...

Because of that earlier interaction, with NPC, James D'Amato and I got to talking idly about wanting a peer group in which analog game developers could just bounce ideas off of one another and help get past the barriers that have tripped them up as (usually) solo game devs. 10 minutes later, I had acquired gmparty.com, and had a prototype teaser site up within the week and a youtube channel waiting for content. A bit more scheduling work and I had lined up a couple of groups for the first two episodes to be recorded in early September, as soon as I got back from a family vacation. The show worked out beautifully, And that brings us to today, where I'm considering where GMParty will go, what will happen with my game prototypes, my companion apps, and all the relationships I'm building in this new aspect of my world.

I am EXTREMELY thankful for the luck that has brought me to this point, and especially for the people that have been there since the beginning and along the way (though it is very much the beginning still).

Announcing: Game Maker Party

If there's anything that helped me in my 20-year-long career in video game development, it's my luck in collaboration with other phenomenally talented developers. My recent foray into analogue game development has me feeling a bit lost. I don't have the same regular check-in that I get from peers at my day job. The openness of the game-dev communities on twitter and G+ is fantastic, but I found myself wanting that real-time group experience. So many times in digital game development, the core of my idea combines with another and together we build something amazing and lasting. Having a regular event that allows for that kind of mash-up culture and serendipity seems very nearly essential for creativity.

To that end, after some idle twitter chatting wherein I realized this is actually a Good Idea™, I'm creating Game Maker Party (website to be available soon at gmparty.com). It's a periodic analog-only game dev remote workshop and support system. Participants will join a video chat and talk about what they've been working on since the last Party and raise issues and concerns and half-ideas that might need some more brainpower. Very casual, very much a gathering of friends and peers. GMParty will also stream the game dev chats for people to watch live, for fans of the individual developers, or just people interested in behind-the-scenes, or breaking into game development.

Analog game devs interested in this should contact me either here or email or G+ (+AndyBerdan) or twitter (@andyberdan). Once I get a better idea of interest, we'll figure out timing and event size and duration.

Worldbuilding

Ideas can shift your entire world.

Imagine you walked into a space -- a space that begins life as an empty box. The walls were blank. There were a few pieces of furniture, distinctive and styled, oddly out of place with the stark white room. The lights came on and projectors flickered into life, painting the bare walls with a world of imagination. Suddenly the contents of the room made sense. The ornate desk nestled into a cosy alcove decorated with images of stuffed manticores, dragonets and even the rarest basilisk (whose eyes were stitched shut for safety).

You had entered the space holding a small book with a screen instead of pages. Opening up the book revealed diary entries that you made in the past, talking about your innermost feelings. Turning the page revealed a list of spells and incantations. One such spell, titled "Promethean Fireworks" caught your eye. You ran your fingers over the runes and the spell vanished from the book. Thunder rolled as the walls erupted into a fantastic display of flame and spectacle, ending with a phœnix being borne aloft on fiery wings. You lit one of the manticores on fire, and its scorpion tail now forever resembles a charred match.

And yet, on another day, the book you were given contained listings of nanotech programs and routines for hacking through black ice.

A week later, the book featured musical passages that inspired armies to war... or peace. The very walls echoed with music as the ghosts of the battlefield rose to join the chorus.

The week after that, the book featured another musical that contained personal anthems that a chorus of witches sang to bring their spells into being... or just to make scones.

A month later, it is instead a portable control panel hooked up to the inner workings of a giant robot, and every subroutine seemed to trigger a theme song in Japanese, complete with blazing special effects visible out of the main control room you inhabited.

This is the world I want to build.

However, it's a big hairy idea, and going from zero to Mach 3 is not practical. I feel like a reasonable experience can still be crafted using similar concepts on a tabletop scale. In other words, personal digital "props" married to a tabletop role playing system that is custom-built around this hybrid experience.

The Roaster's Creed

This is my coffee. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My coffee is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

My coffee, without me, is useless. Without my coffee, I am useless. I must fire my coffee true. I must roast better than my enemy who is trying to outroast me. I must outroast him before he outroasts me. I will...

My coffee and I know that what counts in war is not the beans we roast, the noise of first crack, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the cuppings that count. We will roast...

My coffee is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its origins, its acidity and its flavours.

I will keep my coffee clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God, I swear this creed. My coffee and I are the defenders of my sanity. We are the masters of our mind. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!


Adapted from the US Marine Corps' Rifleman's Creed. If it's not obvious.