"The game was to take place on a windswept foggy Scottish island. The player would be under constant attack from zombies. The player would need to use vehicles to get around but vehicles would need fuel. Acquiring the fuel would be a big part of the game."

Z was only in development for "maybe a month or so", however. According to Vermeij, the concept proved to be a bit of a downer. "The idea seemed depressing and quickly ran out of steam. Even the people who originally coined the idea lost faith.

To be fair, gray Scottish landscapes are a bit of a downer even without the zombies.

Programmers like fantasy. Artists like zombies. Not sure why that is.

The over-representation of fantasy and zombie themes in games is such a bummer. My favorite series take place in contemporary settings and eschew the supernatural—it's too bad games like that are so few and far between.

I was really stressed out today and nothing I did made me feel any better until I said "at least I'm not Ilya Sutskever," and the tension in my shoulders immediately released.

Was delighted to be interviewed by Jerod on the Changelog for what must be the third time this year. This time, we discuss our approaches to managing dependencies (an evergreen debate), before moving onto discussing the emerging POSSE trend which I seem to have backed myself into with the updates I've made to the design of this website over the past year.

Here's an Apple Podcasts link, if that's more your thing.

One call-to-action mentioned in the episode: if you're interested in how this website or its syndication tools work, shoot me an email and I'll log your interest. Once enough people ask about it, I'll figure out how to open source or otherwise chart a path for others who want to wrest back control of their work from The Platforms.

From the department of Life Comes At You Fast:

Altman holding talks with the company just a day after he was ousted indicates that OpenAI is in a state of free-fall without him. Hours after he was axed, Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president and former board chairman, resigned, and the two have been talking to friends about starting another company. A string of senior researchers also resigned on Friday, and people close to OpenAI say more departures are in the works.

Today we learned (as if we couldn't have guessed) that Satya Nadela was furious at the news of Altman's ouster. It's not hard to imagine why: OpenAI's top talent could all be gone by Monday, start a new company they actually own shares of, and let OpenAI fall apart. If that comes to pass, something tells me the only "thermonuclear" lawsuit to be born this weekend will have been Microsoft's, in a bid to extract every last dollar it invested in OpenAI.

Anyway, you're not alone if you're feeling whiplash. Makes me wonder if Steve Jobs had access to our current era's instantaneous communication channels the day he was kicked out of Apple, would his acolytes have mobilized to such great extent that the board would have felt pressured to bring him back the very next day? (I doubt it.)

Elon Musk said on Saturday that he will file a "thermonuclear lawsuit" against non-profit watchdog Media Matters and others, as companies including Disney, Apple and IBM reportedly have paused advertising on X amid an antisemitism storm around the social media platform.

So, basically, "if your free speech on your website reduces advertising revenue on my website, then your speech must be curtailed in the interest of free speech." Got it.

He also said that "for speech to be truly free, we must also have the freedom to see or hear things that some people may consider objectionable" and added that "we will not allow agenda driven activists, or even our profits, to deter our vision."

I suppose it's still possible to view Elon as a once-in-a-generation genius if the generation you're referring to is the fascistic incel progeny of GamerGate.

Staples is getting thirsty

Earlier this year when Amazon announced Staples stores would start accepting returns, I figured Staples was trying to increase foot traffic to its failing retail stores. I did not expect that they would be so thirsty that they'd pay customers $10 to do so.

I'm sure they'll make it up in volume.

On-site in Louisville

Just got back from a lovely in-person meeting with my marketing colleagues in Louisville. Last night I said, "what a great on-site," before remembering the term is actually "off-site." But I contend that word no longer makes any sense when everyone is remote and there is no permanent office site! The off-site is as on-site as things get!

In a surprising move, Apple has announced today that it will adopt the RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging standard. The feature will launch via a software update “later next year” and bring a wide range of iMessage-style features to messaging between iPhone and Android users.

Didn't see this coming. Six years too late, but sooner than expected.

Apple's statement:

Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.

This is a welcome improvement—green bubbles should turn more aquamarine, I guess—but by no means will this eradicate the lock-in effect that iMessage has in certain markets, particularly the US. When Google and others started badgering Apple to adopt RCS they were implicitly arguing for the abandonment of iMessage, but that was never going to happen. Feature parity aside, the fact RCS is not truly end-to-end encrypted makes it a non-starter for Apple. Besides, there is no way they'd volunteer to wait on a standards body to approve new features in the Messages app. In spite of this news, we should expect the two class system of blue bubbles and green bubbles to remain largely unchanged—the green bubbles will just be marginally less shitty to deal with.

I suspect this is a calculated capitulation to get the EU to back off from forcing Apple to open iMessage to other platforms. I imagine Apple's argument will be straightforward: this is us adopting the modern industry standard to facilitate interoperability, and any further regulations by the EU would have no effect but to stifle innovation. Because their competitors spent all their energy lobbying for Apple adopting RCS (as opposed to opening iMessage), maybe the EU will go along with this.

One last thought: the "later next year" timeframe helps Apple's case in escaping the EU's imminent ruling on messaging platform rules, as most observers will probably fail to realize that Apple's adoption of RCS will not actually dissolve the blue-green class divide.

What is interesting from all this is how quickly it appears that Starfield has tailed down from its impressive launch, dropping down just two months after it released; by way of comparison, Skyrim’s original release had fewer players at launch in 2011, peaking at around 290,000, but didn’t fall below 20,000 players until almost seven years later in May 2018. (Two months after release, Skyrim was still on somewhere around 90,000 concurrent players on Steam.)

Keep in mind, Skyrim’s players are far likelier to be playing on Steam (both because it launched there and due to better mod support) than the official Xbox app, where Game Pass subscribers have always had “free” access to Starfield.

That said, it’s hard to read this without thinking about the chorus of anecdotal reports I’ve heard from people who’ve played Starfield: Bethesda successfully delivered another “one of those” games, but it simply lacks the magic and awe that gave Skyrim its staying power.

Personally, I think a lot of this is due to the game’s setting. High fantasy lends itself to dramatic moments celebrated by epic orchestral movements in a way that feels tacked on when applied to a sterile sci-fi environment. Fast travel between star systems in Starfield undercuts its sense of scale to a degree that manages to make it feel smaller than Skyrim’s technically-not-quite-as-big-in-aggregate map.

These combine to rob Starfield of what industry folks call “emergent gameplay.” A random hail from a starship feels like a procedurally-generated interruption, whereas a fellow traveler approaching you along a trail at night feels like a natural coincidence or kismet. Both might be random scripted events, but only one maintains suspension of disbelief. Similarly, knowing that I could walk thirty minutes and eventually reach a mountain in the center of Skyrim’s map lends credibility to its environment, but being forced to constantly fast travel between planets shatters any illusion that Starfield players are exploring a single connected universe.

As a result, Starfield is merely a good game. It’s more Fallout than Elder Scrolls. And where Fallout oozes with charm and satire, Starfield feels flat and mundane. The premise may be more realistic, but the world feels less real as a result.

Finishing Starfield’s campaign and then deciding to continue exploring its world raises the question, “why?” It would be like checking out at Costco and then deciding to walk another lap through the store. Maybe there was something you didn’t check off your list the first time around, but one imagines you’re going to impatiently hustle to get it and get out.

Why I started threatening and lying to my computer

As somebody who's spent the majority of his life figuring out how to make computers do what I want by carefully coaxing out the one-and-only correct commands in the one-and-only correct order, the relative chaos of figuring out what works and what doesn't to get LLMs like GPT-4 to do what I want has really pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Case-in-point, I was working on modifying a GPT script to improve the grammar of Japanese text—something I can fire off with a Raycast script command to proofread my text messages before I hit send.

I'd written all the code to talk to the OpenAI API. I'd sent a prompt to the computer to fix any mistakes in the text. It should have just worked.

Instead, running the script with a prompt like this:

And before you knew it…

While nothing has yet been confirmed, it appears people were able to figure out (or someone accidentally shared) Emergency Pizza codes that could be used over and over again by the same customer. This, obviously, isn’t how the program was intended to work.

Expensive bug.

During the M1 generation of Apple Silicon Macs, one area of controversy was whether the default 8GB of RAM was less of a performance bottleneck as it was under Intel Macs. The pundits contended that a paltry 8GB was unacceptably stingy on Apple's part, but in practice—and who's to say whether it had to do with the ARM CPU or the unified memory architecture or the blazing-fast SSD performance—no matter how much you threw at the M1 Macs, it never seemed to get bogged down by swapping out to disk.

Well, that era is apparently over, because the new M3 with 8GB is getting absolutely smoked by the same chip when it has 16GB to work with:

The 8GB model suffered double-digit losses in Cinebench benchmarks, and took several minutes longer to complete photo-merging jobs in Photoshop as well as media exports in Final Cut and Adobe Lightroom Classic.

If you don't watch the video, it's worth clicking through to MacRumors' summary for the charts alone.

I don’t do this often, but I’m ready to make an endorsement: Buttondown is good software. I’ve been publishing my Searls of Wisdom newsletter for 6 months now and it all just works. Plus, Justin Duke has been SUPER responsive to every question I’ve had.

If you’re thinking about decoupling how you keep in touch from social platforms, take a look. Referral link for $9 off: buttondown.email/refer/searls

Big day at work. Emphases mine:

Test Double’s mission is to improve the way the world builds software. We’ve done that by building great teams and great software—with a special focus on building things right.

Pathfinder Product’s mission is to unleash greatness through modern product management. They’ve done that by being passionate problem solvers—with a special focus on building the right thing.

That about sums it up. When you put the two teams side by side, it's uncanny how good a fit they are. Each has hired top practitioners in their field, united by an insatiable drive to make this broken, messy world of software work better for everybody.

And as much as I bristle at the word "synergy", it's really there in this case: brilliant product strategy goes nowhere without execution, and high-performance delivery is a waste of money if it drives you in the wrong direction. The real beneficiaries of that synergy, though, will be the clients that entrust Test Double to help them accomplish both.

Apple PR representative Starlayne Meza confirmed the company’s plans to The Verge. The company encourages those who have been holding out hope for a larger iMac to consider the Studio Display and Mac Studio or Mac mini, which pair a 27-inch 5K screen with a separate computer, compared to the all-in-one design of the iMac.

In the post-Jobs era, has Apple PR ever confirmed they had no plans to create a particular product like this?