On Why Digital Fails

Oct 30, 2014

WoTC delivered another blow to digital support for their system again today. Many, myself included, consider that a failure but why do they repeatedly fail to deliver useful tools? It all begins at what you define as a useful system.

First and foremost, people desire electronic documents so they don’t have to haul around pounds of books. Most publishers have adopted that approach. Even WotC with the release of hundreds of older titles. Still, they have been silent regarding new releases. By all signs, they have the intention of once again failing to produce any eReader compatible documents. This is a company that is firmly in the physical world in the form of Magic the Gathering. It should be no shock that they want print first and foremost.

They have also failed to deliver digital capabilities on not one but two releases now. Did they ever have a 3/3.5 strategy? I cannot recall. Hasbro is a physical media company. Somewhere upstream is a VP or P who has absolutely no concept of the internet or its abilities. Worse, is the subsidiary, WotC cannot communicate a digital strategy up that chain. Is that pure speculation? Yes it is. But the track record of Hasbro/WotC fucking up digital on the Dungeons and Dragons front cannot be denied.

Here is a tip: More and more gamers want digital books. It’s that simple, no matter what your people say. If they can go to college without lugging 8 pounds of books, its pretty obvious they don’t need hardback RPG’s any longer.

On the utility front, first and foremost quit jacking around. Most of this stuff is simple. Encounters, treasure, spells, spell books. Pure awesome randomness can do that. Where you fail is on the character side.

And that’s where WotC and I agree to disagree. It is probably too difficult to code. Too convoluted. Character creation went sideways in the Gygax era with 1E. The exponential complexity in subsequent editions makes a digital partner balk…at least it should.

Also, if you want to hammer on creative websites, WotC, perhaps you should rethink that. They are driven by consumers of your product to do what you keep failing to do. Perhaps you should encourage them. Or hire them. You know, to do that plan, that you continually fail to accomplish.

Random College Majors / Degrees

Oct 29, 2014
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From the random search query department, I selected ‘random college major’ from the massive list of oddball queries my site receives. Oddly, college majors vary a lot across the various higher education facilities. Enough overlapped to result in the Random College Major Generator.

I attempted to retain even the most oddball of majors. I did toss out a few that were close duplicates and one I found offensively labelled. The latter was quite odd coming from institutions that are generally far more politically correct than I am. I’m still on the hunt for oddball majors I may have missed. One never knows.

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Restaurant Name Generator Update

Oct 18, 2014
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Given the launch of the Modern Business Generator, it was time to refactor some other utilities given the massive increase in available names. First and foremost, I expanded the Restaurant Name Generator to utilize the new database in addition to the original list. Additionally, it is now possible to select specific categories of eateries to refine the results.

Similar to eating establishments, I added the Hotel and Motel Name Generator which includes RV Parks, Bed & Breakfasts and other lodging services in addition to traditional hotel names. Results can be refined by category if desired.

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Random Modern Business Names

Oct 17, 2014
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I love random names. Especially the strange, odd, esoteric, cool stuff people come up with across the world. I’ve long wanted a business name database and I finally procured one. It is pretty massive at 21 million entries for the U.S. I’m pretty certain there is not 1 business per 15 residents, which lead to the original data conversion.

However, many of the entries are not useful for my context. They did not contain a NAICS or SIC code that usefully designated the business. Not to mention that many entries are duplicated. Plus the expected duplication of names across the nation. After trimming, taming and normal data tweaks, I ended up with about 5.5 million entries. I retained the duplicate entries across states because I may want state specific names at some point.

Presenting the information is a challenge. If it is too fine, selecting between categories is a nuisance. The general industry classification breaks out 700 odd entries. Moving it up one level in the NAICS standard still results in 99 categories. For some purposes, 99 is better but fails with specific desires. Scrolling through 700 entries isn’t happening with the 3 second attention span of most web users.

So I’ll start with 99: Modern Business Names. It is somewhat useful. The data needs additional cleanup and frankly 99 categories is far too many. In the months to come, I may split out what I believe are interesting industries into individual generators. I have a few in mind.

If there is a particular industry that would be useful, let me know. Or if you want to drill down into 700 different categories, I’m open to that as well. Until that happens, coarse will work.

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Migrating toward Mobile Friendly

Oct 7, 2014

I’m slower than molasses in a northern winter but am gradually migrating toward a mobile friendly layout for the the generators. In keeping with my minimal design, it should be a reasonably straight forward process. With any significant change, I expect a few hiccups and layout abnormalities.

While the blog has long had a mobile friendly theme, the generators were stuck in the last decade with a fixed-width, static layout that was tinier than a snail anus for small devices. I’m likely going to drop the side bar menu entirely and use the maximum space for results. Still, I’m waffling on some choices so pages and layouts will be in flux for the next few weeks.

Yell at me if you find anything broken. I’ll deserve it.

World Wide City Name List

Sep 24, 2014
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For those that love to browse names rather than generate random results, I’ve launched my latest list utility — The World Wide City Names. As the name suggests, the city, town, and village names from over 100 countries are available as alphabetic lists. There are a few edge cases where no data is returned that I need to rectify. Still, the number of folks looking for city names now have an alternative choice.


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Convergence 2014

Sep 22, 2014

The 2014 venture into the Colorado Rockies is complete. The event was once again held at the base of Mount Evans at 10,000 feet in the University of Denver Alpine Field station. Holding the event at altitude is not without risk — one of our five participants had regular touches of altitude sickness. Nothing major but it did sideline him on occasion but never progressed to the point I needed to haul him back the thicker air of the Denver area.

We had five participants this year from 3 states. Three of the five flew in prior to the event. Role playing games were slim as I failed to prepare anything prior due to other responsibilities. So card games were the name of the game for most of the weekend — Magic, Munchkin and Drinking Quest.

The newest participant, Garrett, ran the one RPG over two sessions. He used the Big Eyes, Small Mouth RPG with the players involved in an alternate modern fantasy environment. It was odd. It was strange. It was a heck of a lot of fun even if it wasn’t what I expected.

Many thanks to all the guys who always make the weekend enjoyable. Glad you could come up and looking forward to 2015. I may have to invest in a oxygen bottle.