Awesome anise cookies

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You ask, we tell!  Here are the homemade anise cookies we were nomming on for today’s Odd Ball.

Italian anise cookies (modified from Food.com)
COOKIE

* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 large eggs
* 2 teaspoons anise extract
* 2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour [may need a bit more, but keep them light!]
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 2 -3 tablespoons milk

ICING

* 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 3 tablespoons milk
* 1/4 teaspoon anise extract

Directions:

Prep Time: 40 mins

Total Time: 1 1/4 hr (took me less!)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. [or grease 'em, that's what I do!]

2.  For cookies, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. [I used a spoon, a couple minutes, they were fine] Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add anise extract.

3.  Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in your mixer [or, beat on it with a spoon], then add 1 T. milk. Add another third of the flour and another 1 T. milk. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).

4.  Use a 1 T. cookie scooper to make simple round drop cookies – use wet fingers to pat any rough edges OR for an Easter-Egg look, roll 1 T. dough into an elongated ball.  [I just put vaguely circular blobs on the sheet with a silverware spoon as a scooper, tucked in edges]

5.  Bake cookies 10-12 minutes (they won’t be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like). [In my oven, it took just a bit longer for the very bottom to be honey-brown, and that was just right]

6.  For icing: mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze. HINT: When I make the icing, I make it thick but then I microwave it for 10 seconds so it is thin enough for dipping. Also, I like to divide the mixture in thirds, and then add ONE DROP of food coloring to each batch (pink, green, yellow). [I don't *own* food coloring or sprinkles, but I left that part in -- great hint on the microwave though!]

7.  Hold cookie in your hand and turn upside down so you can dip the top half in the glaze; turn over and immediately top with sprinkles so they will stick. [let the warm glass drain off of the cookie after you dip it or they'll be half sugar glaze, and you'll run out -- I drained mine, and barely had enough]

8.  Allow icing to harden overnight [but grab a couple warm -- they'll be an amazing mix of glaze, fluffy cake, and lightly crisp bottom]; then store in air-tight containers or freeze. [or as we did, just leave them on a plate in a cool room -- until devoured -- they won't go stale]

[Our yeild was 24 2.5-3" cookies]

Shava Suntzu interviews Philip Linden for New World Notes

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Read it here!

From Gamasutra: The Curious Case of the Vampire Cow

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Just published Zynga’s Vampire Wars:  The Curious Case of the Vampire Cow on Gamasutra.  Wonder what Fish/Tuna is doing when he’s not madly obsessed with art and virtual worlds?  Insight here…

Learning from Zynga (and some future hints on us!)

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[published on my Gamasutra blog]

Metaverse Journal notes that in May Zynga’s userbase on Facebook declined — but will it more than make up that 10% on other platforms?  Zynga is in the process of distributing themselves more widely (Yahoo, MySpace, iPhone,…) so the reduction may be out-migration to different social platforms.

That’s why Zynga isn’t in danger — they have some good news coming this year, I’ll wager — but there are also reasons why we “traditional” game companies should be happy to see Zynga spread and grow in total.

Zynga is making it ok for middle-America (not to mention middle-[pick a country that's wired]) to be gamers.

I’ve seen City of Eternals and Kingory as well as Zynga games move people off of Facebook gaming and onto web- or client-based strategy or MMO gaming. I have no broad data, but my bet is that much of this is going into the F2P world.  Of course, that includes Turbine’s DDO and will include LOTRO shortly — so this is another trend we should be watching!

As a long time gamer, it’s a really amusing process to watch, often involving repeated choked up cries of “I am not a gamer!” combined with increasing hours gaming, followed by a hunger for more complex games than Facebook’s platform tends to foster.

Facebook games have scared the hell out of the games industry because they go broad rather than deep.   And that means fast money.  People will outgrow broad-over-deep, and look for something richer.

Social [network] games are a feeder to the established game companies, much in the same way games like Club Penguin is already.  Remember when Club Penguin came out?  Were you deafened by the chorus of moans from older gamers and parents?

But Club Penguin, Puzzle Pirates — and social [network] games — are going to drive an entire generation to what we’ve thought of as Gaming, and social [network] games will feed new cohorts from boomers to millenials (disproportionately women, I’d predict) to subscription and F2P games, where community is also key.

My company is creating a cross-game virtual world platform and entertainment hub for MMO gamers, to which we hope to add licensed gateways into the major games, to add the social facilities that the gaming titles don’t want to develop.  We’ll have taverns/cantinas, rich emote vocabularies, jukebox music/video — adding a third dimension to the current metagame.  And like social networks in 2D, we’ll create an environment that promotes and creates brand evangelism for the licensors.  We believe in learning from Facebook, and using those lessons to bring MMO communities together.

Shava Nerad is CEO of Oddfellow Studios, Inc. which is developing a virtual world which, among other things, hopes to be a social nexus for MMO gamers.

News and musings from E3 press

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Just thought I’d jot down a couple notes on what I’m reading today from the news from E3.

We’re really interested in models of MMO marketing that involve virtual goods and F2P mechanics.  Our hope is to put our environment into a setting where the “game” is optional, and the virtual goods (avatars, skins, clothes, toys, content,…) are overwhelmingly desirable and affordable. (We gotta eat, but we want to give away what we can!)

So, I read this article from Massively — and interview with the marketing minds behind browser game/virtual world Gaia Online, with some interest.

I agree that the model they take (and close to one we want to adopt) takes more care and feeding.  But really, that’s the value added on the Internet, these days, right?

Chris Davis, of Gaia, said:

Be prepared to invest your time and resources into really doing it correctly. Because it take a lot of time and effort to do it correctly. There is a lot different business from, you know, slapping a banner up. From an advertising stand point and certainly from a content and creative standpoint, it’s a lot different business from just aggregating news, for instance, which is so popular right now. So it takes a lot of time and investment in the right creative resources, the right production resources, development resources, and, of course, all the different components to run a company. People may not take [that] as seriously as they need to as they enter the space. It’s very time consuming, but very gratifying, too.”

We hope so! :)

Then we saw this article on CNN, covering E3, which mysteriously doesn’t say anything about how Steam has already transformed the subscribe-and-download-to-play landscape, before “cloud computing” became a particular term of art.  Represent!

We’re also pretty excited about the increasing acceptance of downloadable content (too many links to list!), since that’s a mainstay of our desktop plans.

p.s. if we ever exhibit at a game conference, if we have booth babes, I guarantee equal time for the booth hunks.  Or none at all.  Although, models for Tuna-textured swag would be fun, but then why would we go for *scantily* clad?

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Odd Ball themes, 6/20-21/2010

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We really rarely do anything special with the Odd Ball themes, but sometimes they catalyze stories and conversations.  But I figured, why not post them in advance for folks who are curious about them?  I always end up using the Odd Ball themes as an excuse to pour through Wikipedia’s by-date events, which is just fun.  For a while, I was doing a daily “Today in Geek History” tweet on Twitter, but it got too much like work to do it every day.  Sunday and Monday are enough.

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

June 20th would be the 101st birthday of Errol Flynn, swashbuckling actor of the first half of the 20th century.  In addition to being the pre-eminent star of the genre that comes to us today in the Pirates of the Carribean and such, and gives us a very unrealistic image of piracy, he was a notorious womanizer and has been accused of spying for both the Nazis and the Allies.  Go fig.  Come swash your buckle at the Odd Ball, June 20th!

June 21st is a particularly special Odd Ball, because we’ll have live music through the grace of the magnificent Jana Kyomoon in an unexpected collaboration in celebration of SL7B (but still at the usual site, since SL7B grounds don’t allow megaprims!).

Pierre Omidyar by Joi/Flickr (CC) A 2.0June 21st, we also celebrate the 43rd birthday of a man who holds partial blame for my presence in Second LifePierre Omidyar, who with his wife Pam founded eBay, and now hold forth in philanthropy and hyperlocal journalism in Hawai’i.  Pierre wanted to create a world-wide bazaar, but he and Pam also created the Omidyar Network, an early social networking site for social justice and nonprofit activists from around the globe.  This site was responsible for bringing the Better World Scouts into SL, whose members include In Kenzo and many other of my oldest friends in SL.  It was when the BWSs created Camp Darfur and it got such a great amount of international real-world press that I realized that Second Life might not be just a knock-off of There.com with beaches and tanned yuppies.  So, if it weren’t for Pierre, I wouldn’t be there.  (Plus, while I was executive director at The Tor Project, the Omidyars supported us with an Enzyme Grant, so extra points in my book!)  Get bazaar at the Odd Ball!

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Reflections on the Linden diaspora

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As I write this, I’m on the Feng Wah bus that runs between Boston’s Chinatown, and New York’s.  The Chinatown busses have grown up a little bit — the Feng Wah actually stops at the South Station bus terminal now, instead of down on the main, but narrow drag through Chinatown — I’m doing the cheapest trip to NY I’ve done since I was a teenager, I think.

I’m going to a(n un)conference on the “real-time web” sponsored by ReadWriteWeb, and I got the ticket almost by accident.  Marshall Kirkpatrick, the executive editor at  RWW, tweeted Sunday that the three people who got in touch with him with the best insight into the real-time web would get free passes to the event.  I wasn’t considering going (especially if it wasn’t free — the tickets are about $500 and it’s not my core business these days!), but I clicked through to the event description anyway.  On the event page, I found a doubled quotation mark had made one of the links out unusable.  I tweeted the news back to Marshall, and followed up with a tweet that said, “the rise of the real-time web will be doing a service to the economy, because no community manager in the US will be unemployed.”

Which brings me to my personal thoughts on the layoffs at Linden Lab this week.

Fish and I were sad today to see the list of Lindens we know axed from Linden Labs.  In his case he took the news with a lot of pathos, but for myself I have to admit, a long career in business has me inclined to take this kind of news with set teeth.  I’ve been waiting for something like this since I heard that people like Pathfinder (John Lester, now an advisor to Oddfellow Studios) and Maedbh, both outward oriented Lindens, parted with the lab.

The fix is in.  I suspect LL is making themselves an attractive target for acquisition.  The depth of the cuts makes me wonder if they already have a suitor with its own support staff.  Regardless, this is why businesses make these kinds of cuts — because someone else is going to take over and they already have the people in place to take those roles.

At least, I kind of hope I’m right there, because if I’m not, my last ounce of understanding of Mark Kingdon just evaporated.

After my initial sad and grim anger on looking at the list of casualties, I have been trying to “think forward” on the issue.  And here’s the most positive comparison I think I can make.

Mark Kingdon has seeded a diaspora that will improve a lot of other companies.

I’m part of a similar, mostly more gradual diaspora.  In the early 80′s I was a young engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation — DEC to its friends — who at the time were the top of the field for mid-range computing.  Mid-range in those days basically meant anything bigger than a desktop (and remember, the IBM PC wasn’t out yet, and the Mac was a distant dream), and smaller than the IBM “big iron” that was required for some of the most intense transaction processing for businesses like banks.

The DEC VAX was the sweetheart of the industry — this was the machine, less powerful than your desktop, that was used to render the special effects for the original Star Wars movie in 1977.  It was an agile, versatile machine, and ran either DEC’s own VMS or a version of BSD Unix.  DEC was the kind of engineering company I can only aspire to emulate — one very hard to develop in this age of VCs and taxes on dividends (but that’s another rant).

My project there was ground-breaking.  We licensed the PLATO system, a transformative project in itself, and threw millions of dollars at it to create the IVIS (Interactive Video Information System) system, an authoring system that included interactive color graphics, video, sound, and dynamic flow programming for adaptive systems.  The original intent for the system was educational software, but we also invented the touch-screen kiosk during my tenure there, because we found that the same interface we used for education made for some very slick and (at the time) futuristic marketing displays.

But then in 1984, the PC really hit, and we were delivering our programs on a $17,000/seat solution — we couldn’t compete with educational software (more media-primitive but still) delivered on the cheap $5000 PC desktop.  As often happened at DEC, our group broke up, and while some of us went to other jobs at DEC, a lot of my group’s leadership went off with Negroponte to start the Media Lab at MIT.  Not having the grace of a degree, I wasn’t invited to that crew, so I decided it might be time that I’d picked up enough skills to go home to Vermont and be able to make a decent living in my hometown (yet another story!).

The point is, that since 1984, there’s not a job I’ve had that hasn’t been tinged with lessons I learned at DEC.  There’s hardly a professional event nationally or locally in Boston where I don’t run into DEC “alumni,” and there’s an instant understanding between former DECcies.  It’s like having come from a really great engineering school like MIT, but the reputation and culture made you part of something regardless if you were an engineer, or a sales droid, what have you.

DEC eventually got sold to Compaq, which got sold to HP.  But the important legacies for DEC are in the American culture of technology innovation.  The group from Spitbrook Road, where the VMS operating system lived, went on to help create the best parts of the Microsoft operating systems, allowing Microsoft to build servers for serious business work.  Hardware engineers scattered from “we make it all” DEC to a dozen or more areas of hardware design and production and improved the breed, as a whole.  Even our sales guys spread the very modern, customer-centric, dare I say social media and relationship savvy style of DEC sales that is only now getting real recognition in many big businesses.

So, I feel like not only was I part of something, as this infant terrible Chief Software Engineer for a kickass company, but I am still part of something nearly 30 years later, a web of deep blue thread running through the drab cloth of American business and engineering culture, making everything a bit brighter.

And, getting back to the recent pogrom at Linden Lab, this is Mark Kingdon’s gift to the world — like the Chinese driving out the lamas of Tibet in 1959, he is taking some of the best front-facing people from the company he inherited, and sending them out into the world to improve the rest of his industry.

I can’t say I believe it’s a good thing individually or collectively for anyone involved right now.  I’m frankly really worried about Linden Lab’s (well, really, Second Life’s) future.  But if you wait 30 years, maybe there will be a bunch of gray hairs like me, looking back and thinking, “Maybe having that project canceled was a good thing for my career — and for a lot of other things, too.”

What neurochemical rewards do games need?

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Another post on my Gamasutra blog becomes a featured post — this time on whether we should be describing “achievements” in games or neurochemical rewards, and how those decisions shape our market.

RMT/no RMT – Do we need a new Bartle Test? on Gamasutra

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Yet another Gamasutra post promoted by editorial. Check it out here!  Today, I wonder if the idea of Achievers from the classic Bartle Test hasn’t bifurcated into “fair-play” and RMT Achievers — do we need to acknowledge a basic rift in gamer framing? (Say that ten times, fast!)

Another Gamasutra blog post promoted by the editors!

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Today my blog post, Serious War Games, Serious as Life and Death, was promoted by Gamasutra’s editors.  I’ve been blogging on their site while I wrestled WordPress to ceding to my will, the last few weeks, but I think I’ll remain doing my general games blogging there, and save my posts here for issues specifically for our game.  Meanwhile, follow the link and enjoy!  And feel free to comment either here or there.

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