Archive: June, 2014


I’m far from a data engineer, but every so often I’m curious about what’s going on in the web-based charting world for simple data plotting. Since late 2013 developer Nick Downie has been coding away on this framework, and I’m particularly impressed with the documentation and straightforward usage. It probably won’t be as in depth for hard core scientists, but for many organizations this could be all they need for simple analytics and stat dashboards.

Google design

Yesterday’s Google I/O keynote had it share of ups and downs but for me one clear highlight was their new “Material design” language for UX and the aesthetic look across web and Android. There’s a lot of interesting ideas here for the web, from well thought out typographic guidelines to a set of punchy color palettes to match the aesthetic.

Creating style guides

Susan Robertson over at A List Apart wrote an excellent post detailing why style guides are important for web projects and how they can help maintain consistency for a project over the long run. It’s a solid intro for those new to the topic.

The runtime performance checklist

Web developer Paul Lewis:

The majority of the time a user spends on your site is not waiting for it to load, but rather, using it. Therefore, user frustration can come from poor UI responsiveness, slow scrolling and jerky animations…

…With that in mind I want to highlight seven runtime performance problems that I see most often, and that your projects may suffer from.

Aligning type to baseline the right way using Sass

Developer Razvan Onofrei:

Setting a vertical rhythm shouldn’t be very hard. There are many tools out there that can even generate the CSS for setting your vertical rhythm on the scale you choose.

The baseline is the imaginary line upon which a line of text rests.
There is one problem with most of these tools: they bring the baseline concept into discussion without really tackling the problem.

In typography, the baseline is the imaginary line upon which a line of text rests. And it has to be aligned with the grid we use for establishing our vertical rhythm. That’s it.

But here comes the tricky part. We all know how line-height works and that the text will always be vertically aligned to its middle, NOT to the baseline.

Really enjoyed reading through the wonky breakdown between cap height, line-height and overall alignment on the web. I expect to play around with his alignment gist at some point.

Advanced web typography: justification & hyphenation

Designer Elliot Jay Stocks talks about typographic rules on the web:

To summarize: we can hyphenate pretty well, but justification still has a way to go, so I’m afraid to say that we’re not going to be using them together the way we do in print any time soon.

Do higher frame-rates always mean better gameplay?

If there’s one trusted source for hard-core analysis of game performance, it’s Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry unit. This post breaks down the pros and cons of locked 30 frames per second versus an unlocked, variable frame rate. If that sounds technical, it is, but writer John Linneman does a solid job of introducing the basics:

So the question is, should console titles be allowed to operate at their absolute fastest? Or should performance be capped in order to enforce the kind of consistency that [Driveclub producer] Paul Rustchynsky talks about?

The short response is that there is no definitive answer. Different games target different experiences with different priorities, and gamers themselves have their own personal opinions on what works best. However, by looking at key titles, we can build up a picture of what works for us, which perhaps puts some of our tech analysis pieces on specific games into context.

E3 2014: Day 00 press conferences highlights

I’ve said it before and will say it again here: Giant Bomb knocks out some of the smartest, funniest, and well edited coverage of E3 around. If you’re interested in the expo and have a half hour to spare (especially if you haven’t been heavily following news coverage like I have) it’s a wonderful recap on what’s happened so far. I’d expect a few more recap videos to hit the site later as well.

Microsoft and Sony at E3

The “day zero” E3 press conferences by the big two console manufacturers feel like a relic of the pre-digital era: largely predictable, bloated, expensive, and with a lot more emphasis on style and spectacle over details. Yet they’re still important to set the tone and general focus of the Xbox One and PS4 platforms over the next year. In that regard, both Microsoft and Sony had solid, if unspectacular, B grade efforts. Microsoft played it safe but remained extremely polished and focused in the process. Sony had some more interesting, diverse announcements but were marred by some poor pacing and presentation.


Judged strictly by presentation alone, Microsoft handily trumped Sony this year. To answer criticism from last year, they stayed laser focused on games. Though their briefing lasted over 90 minutes, it rarely dragged, with well-crafted transitions and trailers between the larger titles. Xbox head Phil Spencer was clearly on a mission to woo core gamers back to Xbox, and it did so by playing to traditional Xbox boilerplate: racing games, first person shooters, and fantasy medieval combat.

Yet even with a solid effort, Xbox’s exclusives felt underwhelming and almost completely unsurprising. Forza Horizon 2, Crackdown, Fable Legends and The Master Chief Collection are sequels or reboots on existing IP. They’ll likely be fun, but it felt like safe genre territory Microsoft has heavily covered in the past. Also, as more third party publishers go multi-platform, we’ll see Microsoft’s genre reboots overlapping with other publishers (e.g. Ubisoft’s The Crew in the same space as Forza Horizon 2, Bungee’s Destiny competing with Halo 5). Die hard Xbox 360 fans now have stronger reasons to make the jump to the Xbox One now versus last year. But without a clear exclusives victory on sheer numbers or originality, I don’t expect Microsoft to sway those on the fence between the Xbox One and PS4.


In contrast to Microsoft’s showing, Sony, at least on paper, presented a more interesting set of games. Their exclusives were fewer but packed serious punch: Grim Fandango is a classic, cult adventure game from famed designer Tim Schafer and was potentially the biggest surprise of the day. No Man’s Sky is a very unique, indie sci-fi darling and potentially more ambitious than any game shown at E3. Then there’s Bloodborne, a gory RPG from the creators of Demon’s Souls. Round that out with a few anticipated indie exclusives for 2014, most notably Hotline Miami 2, and Sony showed off an exclusive (albeit occasionally timed or console only) roster that was more diverse and daring than Microsoft. And Sony was able to go toe to toe with Microsoft on their own set of exclusive betas and DLC for a few big name AAA games—likely a reflection of Sony’s stronger momentum and sales heading into E3.

Almost all those news was revealed in the first hour. Then came a lackluster middle section that dragged with a scattershot focus and left viewers with more questions than answers. They hawked a graphic-novel TV series with only concept art to show; its ten minutes on stage killed the presser’s momentum. A firm date was set for an “open beta” for the Playstation Now streaming service but few details on games and pricing were offered. The Project Morpheus VR platform was glanced over while Sony’s Andrew House punched down at the Xbox’s Kinect. The PS Vita was mostly ignored; no bundle with the PS4, no price drop, and few standout games.

Moving forward

Overall, Sony’s presentation felt like a slightly larger missed opportunity compared to Microsoft, but neither side was particularly earth-shattering. One factor this E3 has made clear is that many hyped games have been pushed back well into 2015, so it’s unlikely Sony or Microsoft will have a big system seller on its hands this year. There are two notable exceptions: Destiny (a strong performance could overshadow the Halo series and thus help Sony) and The Master Chief Collection (which, if Halo fanatics show up in droves for, could help Microsoft close the gap.) Either way, it’s going to be fascinating to see how each company positions their consoles this holiday season. It’s smaller, intangible factors that could now make a deciding difference among those that haven’t jumped in this console generation.

Firebug 2.0

After what feels like an eternity in the web community, Firefox’s Firebug web debugger just released version 2. By now I’ve moved my development tools entirely to Chrome; their DevTools have continuously iterated and pushed the ball forward. But fans of Firebug should be happy. There’s a lot that’s been added, most notably code auto completion and console log grouping.