mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

A Tale of DLC, Told In Three Parts

Here are my feelings about downloadable content (DLC) served via three stories about three games I played recently that have DLC.

  1. Final Fantasy XV (FF15) - Although the story had some pacing issues, I really enjoyed FF15. But that enjoyment has not translated into enough of a push to power through the DLC. Even though I hype-purchased the Season Pass at launch, the only DLC I’ve completed is the Alternative Chapter 13. I also watched a YouTube video of the additional changes made to the final chapter in the game which we can call DLC engagement. But I haven’t diven into any of the Chocobros episodes or the multiplayer Comrades mode. And the DLC train is still going strong: there are another four character-focused episodes slated for 2019.

  2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) - I played BotW on the Wii U when it released and loved everything about it especially the storytelling. But having powered through the game in about a month when the two expansion passes - The Master Trials and The Champions’ Ballad - released in the months after, I didn’t even bother picking them up. I had moved on. A few months later I would end up playing this DLC but that’s only because I got a Switch and bought BotW to play it yet again (because it’s that damn good) and rode straight from the main story into both expansion passes. For the record, I wasn’t able to complete The Master Trials.

  3. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (XC2) - XC2 delivered a great, classic JRPG experience that capped off the amazing gaming year of 2018. DLC for XC2 ranges from new Blades, extra sidequests, New Game Plus, challenge modes, and an upcoming new story arc covering events before the main story of XC2. Of all the Xenoblade entries, XC2 is the first where I have pushed myself to get deep into the endgame: maxing out levels, filling out skill trees left and right, and taking on post-endgame bosses. DLC content has been plowed through in my path to JRPG completionist nirvana.

So what’s the conclusion here? I’m an interia-driven gamer: once I put a game down, I have trouble picking it back up. DLC isn’t evil to me; it can enhance an already great game or fill in holes from the original release. But even given all this goodness, sometimes your heart just isn’t open to launching that “I completed it” game again…

Throw Some Version Control On Your Jenkins

Years of doing Jenkins here and there has let me pick up some (perhaps unconventional) habits. One habit I’m willing to go to bat for is putting your Jenkins configuration and scripts in version control. And the best part: no fancy memory-leaking, performance-impacting plugins needed!

Just throw a jenkins folder in your repo and the execute shell of all your Jenkins jobs can start looking like this:

Sourcing bootstrap.sh will set up the environment for your Jenkins job. This should ideally be stuff that can be shared across all Jenkins jobs. In comprehensive-test-suite.sh you can do all the work our job needs to get done.

The benefits of a system like this:

  • Bootstrapping is written once and shared across all jobs. If you need to update your bootstrapping, it’s a one-time cost.
  • Updates to the worker script are tied to the accompanying changes to the rest of the repo to support them. No need for conditionals in your execute shell block.
  • If you bootstrap your own cmputer similar to the Jenkins bootstrap, you can run the Jenkins worker scripts locally to verify their behavior.
  • Whatever version control you’re using is far better than the JobConfigHistory plugin available on Jenkins.
  • I have seen Jenkins updates clobber job configuration. This protects you somewhat against the occasional Jenkins hiccup.

One important caveat to this setup is inside your worker script you’ll want to check for exit codes from calls inside there and fail if a non-zero exit code is found. If you don’t do this, components of your worker script may fail but if the overall script exits without passing through a failure exit code, your job will (erroneously) succeed! What does this working around this look like?

The step, try, next are brought in by sourcing jenkins-helper.sh. These functions allow grouping up chunks of work and checking the exit codes for all processes in those chunks of work after they’re completed. Basically all the steps between step and next that are preceded with a try will be executed and their exit codes will be recorded. When the next is hit, all exit codes will be checked for success. Check out jenkins-helper on Gist.

Hope that helps!

Manager Reads - High Output Management

The parade continues with what many consider a seminal book for managers: High Output Management by the late Andrew Grove.

Who recommended the book? My manager Ravi gives this book to all his managers. He reads the book every year and always finds something new and valuable during each read; certainly some high praise to say the least.

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The soft cover has a glossy finish and sticks to a basic color palette of purple, orange, and white. There are two random red lines straddling the title of the book which looks like some guidelines designers forgot to remove before going to print. The inside looks and smells like a classic book: classic font at a classic point size with classic leading. One oddity: the thickness of the letters sometimes varies between pages which looks really weird.

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? Although High Output Management came out in 1983, it’s still amazingly relevant and provides a clear North Star for all managers. Once you get past the somewhat dry first section of the book - The Breakfast Factory - you are in for heaps and heaps of useful information. The big takeaways that stuck with me:

  1. A manager’s output = the output of his organization + the output of the neighboring organizations under his influence. Your goal as a manager is to improve your own and your group’s performance and productivity.

  2. The single most important task of a manager is to elicit peak performance from his subordinates. This can be done via training and motivation. Train someone so they are capable of doing their job and then create an environment in which motivated people can flourish.

  3. No optimal management style exists. A given managerial approach is not equally effective under all conditions. The basic idea here is that everyone has a unique task-relevant maturity and increasing this maturity is an important pragmatic goal for a manager.

  4. Giving review is the single most important form of task-relevant feedback we as supervisors can provide. Improving a subordinate’s skills improves your output. If performance matters to you, performance reviews are absolutely necessary.

Favorite quote from the book? “The single most important resource that we allocate from one day to the next is our own time.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? Read it. Grove takes the often gut-driven world of management and delivers concrete, metholodical approaches to becoming a better manager and ultimately, building a better team.

Notes in Evernote? High Output Management is a treasure trove for anyone in a management position. Feel free to review my notes on 🐘.

Enjoyed this episode of Manager Reads? Check out more in the Manager Reads corner!

Amazing Mono-Green Dominaria Draft

A coworker of mine called up Wizards the day and asked them who the best drafter of all time was. He already knew the answer but the Wizards wizard would confirm it: “Mark Cerqueira.”

With my most recent draft of Dominaria a convergence of high skill and amazing fortune landed me with a pretty neat mono-green deck that made me truly worthy of the honor of greatest drafter of all time.

Here’s the finished deck that’s also viewable on MTG Goldfish.

I got very lucky with my three packs I opened because each contained great rare greens:

  • Pack 1 - Verdant Force
  • Pack 2 - Territorial Allosaurus
  • Pack 3 - Marwyn, the Nurturer

The Marwyn in the last pack (with the handful of elves I already had picked) really rounded out this deck well given it helped me ramp up more quickly into the more expensive cards at the end of my mana curve.

From there I have a nice selection of bigger bodies to bring out capped with TWO Verdant Forces to generate TWO Saprolings EVERY upkeep!

Boom!

E3 2018 Hype Starts Now

E3 2018 has come and gone and I’m already reveling in the fruits announced this year. What fruits?

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC - Challenge Mode - This DLC dropped yesterday and while its small in size, it’s reeled me really strongly back into XBC2. It adds a modest amount of content: two new Blades and a Challenge Mode that throws you into challenging (and sometimes tricky) combat situations. Why the hype? Those two Blades are Shulk and Fiora from the original Xenoblade Chronicles! I’m really feeling it.

  • Octopath Traveler Prologue Demo - Also releasing yesterday was the Prologue Demo for Octopath Traveler. This demo lets you play the first chapter of each of the eight protagonists in the game. You are limited to three hours of play, but the progress you make in this demo will carry directly over to the full game when it comes out on July 13th. This is awesome as it gives you an efficient (no time wasted since progress carries over) try it before you buy it experience. This isn’t the first time the Octopath developers have impressed me: they put out a different demo back in September, conducted a survey about it, and made some quality-of-life changes to improve the overall game experience.

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC - Torna: The Golden Country - This DLC will let us play through the fall of Torna that precedes the events of XBC2 by 500 years. This expansion appears to be large enough that it warrants a physical print with some gorgeous cover art to boot. Even though this expansion appears to be playable separately from the original story I hope at some point you’ll be allowed to carry over characters and Blades from the expansion into the main game. 🤞

While there’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate), stuff further out on the horizon (Cyberpunk 2077), and things that may not exist on any horizon (Final Fantasy VII Remake) it’s exciting to have some stuff out already and more stuff coming out very soon!