Friday, September 28, 2012

How to play Family Feud using Powerpoint without using the mouse

Name something you can't get
enough of during action movies.
This blog entry will explain how to run a Family Feud game using Powerpoint and keyboard shortcuts (i.e. no mouse clicking.)

This setup has been tested on Powerpoint 2007 and Powerpoint 2010, both using Windows. It may be possible to use a Mac, but I haven't tried this and don't own an iProduct. (If you want to buy me an iProduct I will happily try to come up with a solution for you.)

If you want to skip the background narrative and just grab the files you need, scroll down to "What You Need" below.


The non-profit organization I work for put on a family-friendly conference this past Summer and I was put in charge of "Family Fun Night". Since I'd always wanted to be a game show host, I figured this would be a great opportunity to try out a game of Family Feud.

So, months ahead of time I came up with questions, used a Google Survey to collect answers from the other employees, and secretly plotted to surprise our executive officers by having them play against each other during Family Fun Night.

Then I hit a snag. I'd figured that there must be some kind of cheap or free Family Feud software out there, but for the life of me I couldn't find anything useful!  I spent hours and hours Googling but turned up only expensive and/or junky solutions.

The closest thing I found to what I wanted can be seen in this video. It had a fairly decent Family Feud board, it had several good sound effects, it was FREE, and all I needed to do was fire up Powerpoint to get it going.  However, there was a problem.

The Problem

The problem was that the presentation had one critical flaw: you had to use the mouse to flip the answer boxes or choose strikes. Lame!! I mean no offense at all to the creator of that presentation; I just mean that it's lame to get so far but have to ruin the most fun and suspenseful moments in the game by mousing over the result before triggering it.

It turned out that there wasn't a lot the creator could have done - Powerpoint lacks the ability to use shortcut keys to trigger events.

I was just about to throw in the towel and write the Family Feud software from scratch when I stumbled upon a comment in some random online forum that led me to the solution.

The Solution

It turns out that while Powerpoint can't trigger events using shortcut keys, there IS a "tab order" that cycles through all triggers one at a time, based on their ordering in the Animation Pane. In other words, if I hit Tab-Enter, it will select the first trigger. If I hit Tab-Tab-Enter, it will select the second trigger. And so on.

That was close to what I wanted, but my modified Family Feud board had 11 possible triggers. If I'd inadvertently miscounted while tabbing, I'd reveal the wrong answer, which would be even more lame than mousing over an answer before triggering it.

That's when I discovered a wonderful little Windows utility called AutoHotKey. AutoHotKey allows you to do things like press one key in order to trigger an entire sequence of keys. In other words, if I press Ctrl-1, I could send a Tab-Enter. If I press Ctrl-2, I could send Tab-Tab-Enter. By combining AutoHotKey functionality with the Powerpoint tab order, I could do exactly what I wanted!

What this presentation does and doesn't do

Before I get to the good stuff, let me be clear about what this Family Feud Powerpoint does and doesn't do.

It does:

  • allow you to enter in pre-researched survey answers, one question per presentation.
  • allow you to mostly-dynamically play Fast Money (aka the final round).
  • have most of the useful sound effects for the game built-in.

It doesn't:

  • keep track of team names or keep score within the game itself. When I used this for real, I put the team names and current score on a white board. Note that the original Family Feud game I found did have this functionality, but it seemed too clunky for my purposes.
  • have a "buzzer" for a playoff round.  You can get high-tech solutions for pay, or low-tech for cheap.  For example, when I ran the game I had the contestants draw papers out of a hat, each with an animal sound written on it.  The contestant had to make that sound to buzz in, and the kids were able to be the judges of who rang in first.  It was a hit!
  • work on a Mac, though if there's some kind of AutoHotKey-for-Mac out there, that should be enough to get it to work.
  • come with any guarantees that this will work for you. I HIGHLY recommend you test it several times to make sure you understand how it works before you use it live.

What you need

You'll want to download the files you need in this zip file. Here's what's included:
  • Powerpoint files: Regular Round Template, Regular Round Sample, Final Round
  • Fonts for the Powerpoint files: EggCrate, Swiss911 UCm BT, Zrnic
  • AutoHotKey scripts: Regular Round, Final Round
  • [Update 12/11/2012]: Now includes extra sound files for use with the Final Round
You'll also want to download/print the judge instructions, which are not included with the ZIP file.

If you'd like to use a Family Feud theme song, here's a long one and short one.

How to set it up

Get everything ready:

  1. First, install the fonts. Double-click them and click "Install".
  2. Think of good questions and gather all the survey results. Ask about twice as many questions as you think you'll need, since some answer sets end up being duds. Then you'll need to sort the answers into natural groupings. For example, if you ask a question about pets, you'll probably want to group "collies" into the same category as "dog". Those groupings (and total responses) will be what you fill in the Powerpoint slides.  You'll also want an "answer key" that the judges can use.
  3. Download and install AutoHotKey and make sure you have the .ahk files from the zip file available.
  4. Depending on how sophisticated you want to be, you may want to recruit two "judges" who will help you run the game.  That way you can simply "host" and let them run the presentation.  See the judge instructions for details.  If you'll just be playing this for a small group, classroom, etc., you should be able to play regular rounds by yourself.  (You'll need help to do the Final Round properly.)
  5. Make a copy of the Regular Round Template for each question.

Get your survey answers filled in 

These instructions are using Powerpoint 2010; other versions may be slightly different.
  1. Open a "Regular Round" question file in Powerpoint.
  2. Write the question in the notes pane as a "sanity check" for the judges who will run the presentation.
  3. Show the Selection Pane (Home > Arrange (drop-down) > Selection Pane...)
  4. Deselect the "eye" icon next to XXX, XX and X in the Selection Pane.
  5. Fill in the answers and point values. If you have more than four responses, deselect the "eye" icon next to each "blank#".
  6. When done, re-select the "eye" icon next to XXX, XX and X.  (Be sure not to miss this step or the shortcut keys won't work as expected!)
  7. Save the file.

Final round:

Because of the nature of how the final round works, you can't pre-fill in answers.  Your judges will need to do the legwork.

Be sure to enable macros when loading the file each time!  Don't worry, I didn't do anything malicious =P  In fact, you'll want to look at the code and possibly change the "win" threshold.  On the TV show, the contestants needed 200 points to win.  If you surveyed less people or just want to make it easier to win, you'll want to lower that value.  To do that:
  1. Click Developer menu > Visual Basic
  2. On line 4, change "winThreshold" to be whatever value you want. 
  3. Click the "Save" icon and close that window.

How to play it

I won't go into the details here of how the game works or what to say at what times; I'll assume you know how to play Family Feud.  If you need a refresher, check out the Family Feud Wikipedia page.

The basic idea is that you'll play the host and your two judges will run the slideshow on your cues.  See the judge instructions for what they'll need to know and do.  You'll also want to write a script for yourself to follow.  Just watch the show a few times and make notes of what to say when.  Make sure it matches what the judges will have!

Legal stuff, etc.

I hereby give permission for you to use these files in any way you like: use, copy, distribute, etc., just don't charge for it. Please leave a comment below to let me know how it worked out. Videos and fun memories of your Family Feud game would be especially appreciated. Also, if you make any improvements to these files or methods, please share those in the comments as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to run a Warcraft II LAN party using modern-day computers

Since 2006 or so, I've hosted a Warcraft II (Battle.Net edition) LAN party at my house every year, usually right around Groundhog's day. There's no particular significance to that day, though there could be worse days to relive. We play for around 7 hours, stopping only to switch up teams, grab some pizza & chips to refuel, and then back to the bloodlusting. It's almost too much fun, hence limiting ourselves to once per year.

However, with each passing year, the 1995 PC Gamer Game of the Year becomes a little more difficult to get working correctly. Microsoft mercilessly removed support for the IPX/SPX protocol in Windows Vista (and 7/8), so you can no longer get Warcraft LAN games to run natively. And each year fewer and fewer people show up with laptops running Windows XP. There are ways to get Warcraft to run in XP using VirtualBox, but that itself has some "gotchas".

So, in case there are any others out there who would love to relive some memories with friends, I figure I'd post what I've learned. This is stuff gathered through hours of scouring forums and hours more of good old-fashioned trial-and-error. Honestly, I don't know WHY some of this even works, but it seems to nonetheless. If anyone can shed more light on the topic - or can suggest easier ways to do this - please comment!

Zug zug,


Setup under Windows XP (virtualized or not)
Warcraft may send IPX packets to the wrong network connection.
The solution is to enable IPX over only ONE connection.

Follow these steps:
  1. Install IPX protocol
  2. Disable NetBIOS (as it's unnecessary)
  3. Disable IPX protocol on all interfaces you *won't* use (leaving one – the connection you'll be using)

The IPX protocol properties should be set as following:
  • Internal network number: 00000000
  • Frametype: Ethernet 802.3
  • Network number: 00000001

If that doesn't work, uninstall the protocol and start over. Also check for "Client for NetWare Networks" and remove it.

Note: Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 do not support IPX! However...

Setup in VirtualBox (v4.1.8, running virtualized Windows XP)
  • Windows XP VM Settings > Network > Attached to “Bridged Adapter”
    • You MUST use a wired connection. Wireless won’t allow you to see the other games. Not sure why. Perhaps Windows places an abstraction layer over wireless protocols that drop IPX packets?
  • Windows XP VM Settings > Display > Disable 2D Video Acceleration
    • Otherwise you may get "Black screen of death" when switching to scale-mode, and you won't be able to get out. Even rebooting the VM doesn't necessarily help. It's bad.
  • Start Windows XP VM
  • Run Warcraft; it'll run in 640x480 resolution
    • VM Menu > View > Scale Mode (or Host-C; also Host-C to switch back)
      • If you get "black screen of death":
        • VM Menu > Machine > Insert Ctrl-Alt-Del > Switch back to Warcraft

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Camry idling too low after battery change

As all too often seems to happen, my car started having issues right before a trip.

In this case, it seemed like the battery on my 2002 Toyota Camry had finally died. Thankfully I was able to jump it to make the trip home for Thanksgiving.

Replacing the battery was easy enough thanks to the local Wal*Mart, but from that point on, the car would idle too low and the engine would just shut off! This was most concerning when I put in the clutch (manual transmission) on a highway off-ramp, the car shut off, and there I was without power steering. Yikes!

I figured it was some kind of computer configuration reset due to the dead battery, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. After a bunch of Googling, I discovered this page. There were only instructions for an automatic transmission, but after a little trial-and-error, I got it working (and added the comment about manual transmission instructions.)

I don't really understand cars... but once you throw a computer in 'em, I can at least relate =)