Looking Ahead To 2017

While it is tempting to try to predict and pontificate, I think it’s high time I stopped doing that. As entertaining as it is, predicting the future, even broadly, is something I’m beginning to see as a pointless exercise. Looking back is useful, and I want to do some of that here. But I’m more interesting in starting to talk about what’s next for me in 2017.

A Year of ‘Meh’

While the year was far too “exciting” politically, and the loss of so many artistic luminaries in one year still stings, from a technological point of view, the watchword for me was “meh”. Seriously, “meh”. It held one ironic twist (at least in my mind), but otherwise, it wasn’t a very interesting year.

Artificial Intelligence and AI got overused (and I don’t expect that to change this year). Any algorithm or solution that was slightly more complex than Bubble Sort suddenly became “AI”. Most of the so-called “artificial intelligence” is only “artificial”, and not terribly “intelligent”, and that is sad. That the media pounced all over it like it’s the invention of the silicon chip is worse. Breathless proclamations about AI taking over everything, and handwringing about the loss of jobs to AI (which, so far, have amounted to zero, basically) were facile at best, and annoying at worst. Real AI is probably coming, but we’re not even in the “organic molecules in primordial soup” stage of that just yet. I don’t think I see Skynet looming in our future, ready to take on humanity. Artoo, Threepio, Data and Bender will remain the stuff of fiction for a while yet.

Samsung made a phone that explodes (sort-of, mainly it just catches fire). Google was still largely dependent on ad revenue, and Alphabet depended almost entirely on Google. Google’s attempt to tighten their hold on Android continued. More and more music and other content was streamed, rather than out-right downloaded. More cords were cut. More
“PC stuff” shifted to smartphones, and away from traditional PC’s and tablets.

Apple wandered the landscape, treating us to so-called “courageous” acts (of sheer lunacy, in my mind) and half-baked products. We got an expensive notebook that isn’t miles ahead of the one it replaces (and is a step backward in some ways). We didn’t see anything on desktops, and all we got on the Apple Watch were platitudes instead of hard numbers. Their presentations said it all: long, tedious affairs with no focus and no real message. Everyone was on stage, and no one is in charge.

In something of an act of irony, Microsoft is now heralded by many as “most innovative”. The same company that was once considered stodgy, out of touch and living in another era. This is a company that showed us a dead-sexy all-in-one desktop that can turn into a big tablet. They continue to evolve Windows on Raspberry Pi. They put Dev Studio on the Mac and Linux. They put SQL Server on Linux. They are starting to break free from the legacy of Steve Ballmer and his “we’re a Windows company” mantra, moving toward a “Microsoft on everything” philosophy. Good for them.

A New Era For Me

Enough about the past. What about the future? I am taking a new step in a new direction in my career. This is the year I try my hand at game design and game development. I’ve always been fascinated with simulations, going back to my days as a university student. I used simulation tools of my own design for things like load testing back at EFA. Games are, in many ways, another type of “simulation”, and so far it’s been a lot of fun.

I’ve spent the past few months learning about, and working with, SpriteKit. While I played around with it on the new AppleTV, most of my time has focused on iOS. I now have the core of a game that is playable (although with a long way to go), and I’ve had others play test it to get opinions and feedback. So far, it’s been encouraging.

The new venture has yet to be named (but we’re close). I’m working with Jonathan Kohl, who is a smart person and who brings a different perspective on what we’re trying to accomplish. We still have much to do, but our goal is to having something on the iTunes App Store in the first quarter of this year. Of course, reality may intrude, and that date depends somewhat on how much we think this thing will cost. But we’ve set a target for now, and are working toward it.

Over the next few months, I’ll be revealing more about the company and the game. For now, though, what I will say is that it is a “retro-but-modern” game, inspired by video games from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. While iOS is the initial focus, we will likely add other Apple platforms over time (mainly the Watch and AppleTV, possibly the Mac). Anything beyond those is too far off to speculate on.

This has been a lot of fun. I’m not just writing code, I’m getting to work on graphics and visual design. I’ve had a chance to compose some temporary soundtracks and ambient music (until we find a real composer to help out) in GarageBand. I’ve learned a lot about game design, and I’ll be sharing more about that experience over the course of the year.

Next Year Will Be Interesting

Say what you will about whether next year is going to be good or bad for the world, if nothing else, it will be interesting. I’m going to try to focus on the stuff I’m doing, and continue to make sure it is fun and exciting. Sure, I expect that 2017 will simply be a continuation of some of the less savoury things that occurred in 2016. It won’t be roses and sunshine. The only certainty will be uncertainty.

But those are events largely out of my control. I’m going to try to control and manage what I can, enjoy what I’m doing, and endure what I have to outside of all that. Even if things may be murky in this world, I know that the sun will rise in the morning. This, too, shall pass. And in the mean time, I get to figure out how to fly spaceships and blow stuff up.

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