Month: April 2008

McCain Faults Bush Response to Gulf Storm

Articles like this one have been all over the intarwebs the last few days. I’m just curious why headlines aren’t more like, “McCain Says the Blatantly Obvious Three Years Too Late” or “McCain Speaks Truth to Power at Utterly Irrelevant Time.” Why the fuck does it MATTER that McCain’s criticizing the Bush administration? It’s conventional wisdom at this point that the response to Katrina was about as terrible as it could possibly be – McCain’s not “criticizing the Bush administration,” he’s saying things everyone already knows to be true.

Yet the press spins away.



Bleah. In a bit of a funk. Two of the guys I hung out with at work have recently left – one for Harmonix, and one for Bungie. If you made a list of the “most jealousy-inducing places to work in games,” the only other companies on the list would be Valve and Blizzard. On top of losing two people who were both really good and fun to hang out with, it really makes me wonder what I want out of my career in games, and why I am where I am.

Right now, things aren’t bad. I’m really happy with the state of the game we’ve been working on, and I think it genuinely has potential to address a really long-standing problem I’ve had with games in a really interesting way. It’s not “art” – at least, not yet – it’s just entertainment, but I think it’s entertainment that has the potential to be pretty damn good. The problem is that the company is hemorrhaging talent, and it’s at the point where there’s only one other designer (the guy I carpool with) who I know has what I’d consider real talent. There’s one guy I think is pretty good, two that I don’t really have any experience with, and one I think just doesn’t have it in him.

So, the thing is, even if this game gets put into the pipeline and gets a full budget, does this company have the talent to make a genuinely great game? Maybe. That’s about all the hope I can muster for the future. At the same time, if I ask myself, “Where else could I work?” the answers aren’t good. There’s the four mentioned above, but they’re in different places, and moving isn’t really an option I’m interested in pursuing. In the Bay Area, there’s EA Redwood Shores, Sega, Crystal Dynamics, Double Fine, Factor 5, Backbone, Planet Moon, Secret Level, 2K Marin, Nihilistic…

2K Marin’s obviously got a lot of hype – with Bioshock the critical and commercial success it was, they’re clearly pushing for a huge hit with Bioshock 2. Someone recently asked me why I hadn’t interviewed there yet, and frankly, the problem is that I don’t know what I’d do with a Bioshock 2. The gameplay mechanics weren’t what “made the game,” and the story… was done, in Bioshock 1. There’s nowhere to take that story.

You could do something thematically similar, but the things that made Bioshock distinctive and unique were really one-offs – you’d have to pull off something equally challenging and unusual, but in a totally new and different way. And *even if* you managed to pull that off, you’d only ever be the successor to Bioshock. It is in some ways, a lose-lose situation – not even enough of an interesting challenge to be motivating. Bioshock 2, unfortunately, is a game that *shouldn’t exist*, and as a result, I can’t really imagine wanting to devote two years of my life to that project.

Obviously, it’d be great to make something that was a commercial success – that’d be grand. But more than that, I want three major things:

1.) To work with people I enjoy working with

2.) To work on something I am personally proud of

3.) A sense of creative ownership (even with collaborators) over the work

Point 3 isn’t really gonna happen at any of the major companies, but point 2 would definitely be facilitated by working at a place that really knows how to make quality games. Point 1 is a tossup, and something that’s always hard to find – but not impossible. There have been times where I’ve really enjoyed working with the people I work with – they just haven’t lasted very long before the situations were shaken up.

Feh. If I were honestly totally motivated – to the point I’d need to be to *actually* start an independent development, I would work on something in the evenings outside of work. But I don’t. I have a tool I *should* be writing stuff for, but I can’t find it in me to sit down and work on it. Why is that? Fear of failure? I dunno. I can’t explain it. I should just do it.

iPod Touch

Oh – one other thing – having now spent some time with the iPod Touch – it’s an incredible piece of hardware. While it’s missing some of the functionality of the iPhone, the thinness it achieves as a result actually makes it feel really, really different. While the iPhone’s sort of chunky, this thing feels like a really … futuristic thing. I mean, what it really feels like is nothing. It’s just a screen – yet it’s also an iPod, plays video, surfs the web (in a remarkably useful fashion), tells me how to get places, allows me to read e-mail, blah blah blah.

More than just a really neat phone, or a really neat iPod, Apple’s onto something that feels like it could really be the future of computing. For what 90+% of what I need to do, if all I had was the Touch or an iPhone, I could do exactly that. The only limiting factor is the physical size of the screen, and the speed at which I could type on the thing.

I can’t say I have any good ideas about how to resolve those issues, but when they are resolved, which they obviously will be, this actually feels like it’ll be the future of computing.

work work

So, not really all that much to post. I guess outside work, there’s not a whole lot going on that isn’t hanging out at home, with the dog or random friends. Work’s actually going pretty well. I think we’re on the right track, and actually going to be making something that’s potentially quite good. I’ve got a prototype running with stuff I’ve hacked together with existing tech, and it’s actually fun to play. Stable enough that other people in the company can come by, check it out, and have a good time – more, they come back for more. That’s a really excellent state to be in for a prototype, so I’m pretty happy about that.

Got a bit of a cold last week which knocked me out for a couple days. Dealing with the f’ing city for permit stuff is a nightmare. Turns out, we can’t get any money of the $4,800 they charged us because the *previous* permits were “undervalued.” I went down to the city to ask how the F they can charge us extra for permits that have expired, but they basically said, “tough shit,” and that was that. It’s true the previous permits were undervalued, but they claimed that when re-opening expired permits, they do a revaluation as part of the process, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

So, fine – we’re out ~$5K, but more than that, it’s the last goddamn time I get permits for work done in our house. Fortunately, all that’s left is a remodel of the main floor bathroom, and I just don’t give a shit whether we get permits for that or not. Fuck those guys, “fair” or not.

The kitchen’s still awesome. Still getting a little used to the layout, and because the panel eliminated a couple units of cabinet space, the pantry area feels a little cramped, strangely, but it’s still pretty spectacular, and I don’t have any complaints about it.

We still need to paint. I keep putting it off, mentally, and as a result, end up putting it off in practice as well. We’ve gotta tape up, put some dropcloths down and knock out the primer and paint in a day or two. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but if we do that, it’ll be only the second room in the house that’s legitimately *complete* – the only other one is the downstairs bathroom. The downstairs bedroom would be as well, except for the window leak. Once that’s proven to be fixed, we need to repair the water damage, add trim to the window, then that one’s done as well.


Been sort of tired recently as well. Maybe it’s got something to do with the sickness of the previous week, but I’ve been feeling kinda run-down. Just sort of a loss of momentum as well. There was a period where I was painting the Mini, doing stuff on the house, etc. It was good – these days, I find myself looking at webpages all evening, which is a totally pointless waste of time. I feel like I’ve got to take control of my time again, and make sure that I’m doing something – even something entertaining – just not something tedious and pointless. I’ve got a couple small things around the house that need doing – a vent cover in the downstairs near the window in the living room needs installing, the Mini still needs to get its last couple coats of paint on the roof, and the lawn needs some serious weeding.

Still, work’s going well – the project is finally satisfying, on the right track, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. The guy I was having trouble with before has worked out – we’re working really well together, and I’m perfectly happy to admit that while my frustrations about the work environment were legitimate, my judgement about his potential and his personality were incorrect.