Possibility and Probability

Python, AI, and other fun stuff


Finishing what ya start

The other day I had a great idea for a video game. Not your typical, "hey wouldn't this be cool?!?" type of idea, but a mind-blowing, so-funny-it-should-be-illegal, type of idea. I was inspired to try and bring this vision to life, so I pulled out some notebooks and began trying to rough out my characters and plot lines. "This game is gonna rock..." I thought to myself.

Then a strange sense of deja-vu hit me. I'd done this before. But if I had done this before, where was my epic video game? Then it hit me, its sitting on my computer rotting inside of my CVS repository.

About 2 years ago I decided to I needed to write a RPG engine. Well, more precisely, I decided I needed to work on my Java skills a bit and that making a 2D, top-down RPG would be a fun way to do that. So I set about working on the engine. No script, no ideas for a story, just Wasteland as an inspiration of what I wanted to end up with.

So I began coding. And designing. And recoding. And testing. And more coding. When I finally stopped, I had the basics of what I wanted. Watching the program run, you could guess it was a video game. I had/have grand expectations for the backend scripting system, but I have never gotten around to implementing it fully. And that is the is the problem, I have not finished what I have started. Yet here I am wanting to start writing a new game.

Looking over the vast expanses of the net I see that this seems to happen to a lot of people. Good idea, a great start, loose some steam, make a few changes, loose more steam, dead stop. I flipped through a game design book (one of the Game Guru books, I don't have the title in front of me) and I saw a nugget of advice: "Finish what you start. Start small, something easy like a puzzle or a tetris game. Finish it compeletly then move on to the next project and repeat. Soon you'll be writing networked 3D shoot'em ups that look spectacular."

Looking back at the number of half-finished projects I have on my computer, I think this is a really great idea. So I've decided that I will do this. My first target is a prototype of a NxN sliding puzzle that I started for a homework assignment (see this entry for details). Its a nice little program so far, but it needs to be finished then polished. Thankfully python is easy to read so I can get back to this pretty quickly. Hopefully I will be able to crank this out soon, and that will give me the motivation to go back and finish my little RPG engine. If everything falls into place, I could then use that engine to implement my killer idea. Easy as 1-2-3, right? ;) I guess time will tell.

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Probability and the Lottery

The other night on the news there was a story about a local man who has a "sure-fire" system for winning the lottery. (Unfortunately I can't find a link to the story) Basically his method was to study the numbers that have come up in past drawings and use this combined with some other techniques to figure out what numbers were more likely to be drawn. Using this method he won a little over a million dollars a few years ago.

And of course the piece also featured a statistics professor from school talking about how this strategy wasn't going to make anyone rich. She had all of the usual arguments and randomness and probability which of course were glossed over because they don't make as good of a news story as someone who has found a way to "beat" the system.

But the professor did have one great line that I really liked. It was something like: "The best that these systems can do is lower your probability of losing." I chuckled when I heard that because if the odds are 40 million to 1 of winning, that means that lowering you odds of losing by a little bit means that the odds of winning the money is still several million (probably 39,999,999) to 1.

So I had to laugh a little bit on that one. I wondered how many people who saw that story went out and picked up one of the many books about lotto strategies that the story featured. But the one question the piece never asked is:"If these systems work so well, how come there aren't more millionaires?" ;)

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