Isaac Blake

Computer science student and game developer

Hexes are ways for Homegrown players to further interact with models they build. Put simply, players can use a basic visual scripting system to give their models life and help them interact with the world. (Homegrown is a work in progress and is not at all ready for players, but I've been working on it for quite some time now.)

Each hex has a “root condition” that causes the hex to work. These conditions are split into triggers and gates. Triggers are conditions in the in-game world that players might want their models to observe: it's nighttime or daytime, it's sunny or rainy, a player just pressed a key, a player just said a special phrase in the chat, a model announced something (this works something like a function call), or something else. Gates are conditions that are true or false based on the states of other conditions. They are logic gates, and for now the game has three of them: And, Or, and Nand. Each gate can have any number of inputs.

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Homegrown is a W.I.P. open-source game I've been working on off-and-on for about a year. It's a multiplayer game in which players grow and build up their own small islands, accepting other players as visitors (and collaborators, should owners extend permission). Players can open up shops to trade their goods and invite N.P.C.s to their islands who trade with players and interact with the island. Players can also add behaviors to animate their in-game models and make them interactive.

Rarely do motivation and free time align, so I'm taking development slowly but surely. A lot of the groundwork for these systems is already laid. As of now, I have accounts management, server connections, models (i.e. block placement, removal and selection), syncing of models, syncing of multiplayer player movements, and world and inventory saving. Frustratingly, not much of this is worth showing off to friends and family; it's hard to see the work I've done on the surface level. The game isn't a game yet but a collection of conversing, interactive systems.

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A rambling discussion of online communities, from Facebook and Discord to an ideal of the entire web as a community and the Fediverse as our burgeoning compromise

Companies like Facebook and Discord, who provide very centralized, siloed community-building services, might claim “decentralized community” is an oxymoron. They'd argue that centralization is necessary for a community, that the very definition of a community is a single place where people come together to share ideas and keep in touch.

Indeed, both websites have a rules page about their respective “communities”. (Facebook's here and Discord's here. Facebook proclaims on the first line: “Every day, people come to Facebook to share their stories, see the world through the eyes of others, and connect with friends and causes,” and this frames Facebook as a massive community (containing many smaller ones, also locked to the platform).

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In an early cloudy August afternoon, my family and I walked to the tip of Great Diamond Island, where we’re staying for a few days. At high tide, Little Diamond Island is visible across a stretch of blue-green water, with just the thin ends of grass blades breaking the surface. But when we arrived at the shore, low tide was just an hour past.

Between late-1800s-era houses, flowing grass and bright wildflowers, we approached the narrow, muddy sandbar connecting the two islands. Cross-island joggers passed us as we strolled along the sandbar, our voices loud and our eyes turned down. The mud was laden with snail shells, clam shells, and barnacle-covered rocks and bricks. We chatted over little fish (were they minnows or tadpoles?) darting around in tide pools. We were probably all wrong; both only live in freshwater, not the saltwater of Casco Bay.

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My grandma recommended this book to me after she borrowed it from a friend of hers. She told me it had lots of references to coding and technologies she didn't understand, but she said I might enjoy it. I did, thoroughly. With qualitative depictions of programming languages like Ruby, websites like Hacker News, and a web designer for a main character, the book is a testament to Sloan's knowledge of hacker culture during the recession. My own limited knowledge cannot vet all of it, but the parts I knew felt authentic and fun. It was thrilling to read such a well-researched novel, and for me, its accuracy was its biggest draw.

The plot was generally enjoyable but sometimes felt slow-moving and predictable (sometimes Sloan drops just a few too many hints). Additionally, although the book sometimes reads like a mystery or detective novel, (and this might be minor spoiler, so beware), it isn't totally possible to predict the ending. While I could predict what story's big resolution would be, I could not have predicted the all-important details of the resolution. This (minor) deus ex machina frustrated me, and I felt a little cheated. After the main resolution, the rest of the story falls into place predictably.

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