Month: July 2008

The One

So, for a long time, I’ve wanted to do some independent game development. And along the way, I’ve worked with friends to develop ideas that we thought would be cool – stuff we wanted to play. One of the things that’s been sort of weird about it is that we’ve often anticipated trends by about two years – a very “standard” development time for a game.

So, while a bunch of the ideas were good, they’re not as novel as they once were. There’s one in particular that I’m still pretty convinced I’ll make one day, but that one’s the most ambitious of all.

So, whenever I’ve said I wanted to do some sort of independent development, I’ve always felt like there was someone nipping at our heels – that the ideas had a fuse, and it hit whether we did it or someone else did. And the problem with that is that starting a company and pursuing a really innovative idea is extraordinarily difficult. What you want, I think, is to take an idea that isn’t particularly new or innovative, and put your own spin on it, and start a company with that. Known quantities – things that are predictable – things where your experience counts for something. But you’ve still gotta make it interesting.

I think this is the one: Bowling RPG.

Seriously. It’s ridiculous, I get it. But it’s perfect.

Wii Bowling is awesome. It’s visceral, accessible, and puts the player in the game in a way that almost no game before or since has. But there’s nothing to it. You bowl, and that’s it. It’s fine as a casual experience – something that you don’t dive particularly deep into. But it’s also not all about what videogames can do. There’s no long-term reward structure, there’s no story, there’s no progression of any kind other than a skill rating. There’s also no character. There’s no fantasy.

So, what if it were more? Your bowler starts as a member of his high school bowling team. You’ve got your character, a cast of your classmates, and the various other high schools you’re competing against in your bowling league. As the game starts, it’s about the competition, and working with your teammates to defeat the other teams. You bowl, using the Wii Sports mechanics, but you also get to talk to your teammates, get fired up over rivalries with the other teams, etc.

As the game progresses, you find that things are maybe more than they seem – that the bowling ball is more than a simple hunk of whatever bowling balls are made of. They’re conduits to something bigger. You start bowling more formidable opponents. They have techniques to throwing the ball – shouting names like in old kung fu movies, they can get the ball to skip across lanes, approaching the pins at a steeper angle than otherwise possible. They can hit the 7-10 split using what looks like supernatural technique.

You go on a quest to learn these techniques. You find the bowling master, on top of the mountain, and he tells you that there’s more to the world that you can see, and that you – and your teammates – have a destiny.

The deeper you get into the crazier side of bowling, the crazier the applications of the bowling mechanics become. Instead of simply bowling against pins, now you’re in high-noon style duels in the middle of a war-torn Times Square with a demon whose bowling arm is like Tetsuo’s mutated arm from Akira. As he sends his giant, car-sized ball, a flaming ball filled with crackling lightning, down the street towards you, tearing up the asphalt in its wake, you muster your last ounce of strength, call out some crazy technique, and you wind up and send your ball directly at it. Your small ball hits perfectly, shattering the demon’s ball, and it continues on its path toward the demon himself. As he spins desperately out of the way, your ball knocks down the skyscraper behind him.

Your teammates are an integral part of the story, and the bowling-based combat. You can combo attacks with them (multiplayer?), and each has his or her own backstory you learn more about as the game progresses.

The comic above is a soccer-themed manga called (obviously) Whistle. It’s a great example of a very straightforward but awesome execution on the sports manga formula. Plucky kid makes good with a small-town team, and works to defeat larger-than-life rivals. It’s great because the main character isn’t saddled with angst – he loves what he’s doing, and busts his ass to get better at it. It manges to be incredibly inspiring without being (too) cheesy. The cast of characters is diverse, lovable, and sympathetic. A game with this kind of cast of characters, with a mechanic that’s accessible and proven to be interesting…

Mechanically, it’s simple to make. It’s all in the story and the art, but the talent to make those things awesome is out there. It’s an idea that people are still chasing, because I think that there isn’t a game that uses the Wii to its full potential yet, and this, to me, does. So in that respect, there are undoubtedly people scrambling to find an idea like this, but I don’t think anyone would approach it quite in this way.

I think this is the one.

Strange Socialization

No, the picture’s not there for any particular reason, other than to just have a picture there.

Busy Saturday, but odd. Went to the Berkeley Kite Festival with Perlick (in from outta town for an interview), Colin and Jess. Had a great time watching some kite fighting, giant octopuses, and flying some kites of our own. Got a little sunburnt, which you can probably see as some rosy-cheekedness in the picture.

Then tonight, based on a text message I got in the morning, I went to a party at some high-school classmates’ house. People I haven’t seen in maybe six or seven years. At the party, sort of randomly, there were HUGE number of people I went to high school with. Some were personal friends, some were people I almost never talked to. Anne Hege, Jenessa Joffe, Madu Miller, Gabi Condi, Etienne Fang, Camilla Kardel, Soon Sohn, and Lara Moren. It was a bit odd – some of the people are always great to see – Jenessa, Anne, Etienne, with others, it was odd. Camilla clearly had no recollection of who I was, which is, frankly, probably for the best. We didn’t get along particularly well in eighth grade, but hell, that’s a lifetime ago.

Anyway – spent most of the evening talking with Jenessa and Anne, and had a great time. Strange how people bounce in and out of your life sporadically sometimes.

Last night, I made some cold-brewed coffee. Just took a bunch of coarsely ground coffee and dumped it into a pot with a bunch of water and let it sit for 12 hours. It’s supposed to have a strong coffee punch with less harshness and acidity, and sure enough, it did the trick. Tomorrow, I’m gonna jog out, get some cream, and make granita di caffe, which certainly *sounds* good. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

Three Things

1.) I like Apple’s customer service. They recently replaced the entire keyboard pan on my MacBook because the front lip cracked. Obviously, it’d be better if the lip hadn’t cracked, but the process was as painless and free as it should have been, and I’d be hard pressed to find a computer company whose customer service is nearly as good.

2.) I’m out of luck, re: iPhone 3G until the end of November. The cheap, refurb Nokia e62 I got early last year has made it such that a new 3G would cost either $399 or $499. Sucks. I could conceivably cut off my account now, pay the early termination fee (about $110 at this point) and get it a touch cheaper, but that’d be a huge pain, and still $110 I wouldn’t really want to spend. I guess I’ll wait ’till November. Sucks.

3.) Tesla Motors had a grand opening for their Palo Alto store, and we were able to go thanks to Ei-Nyung’s connection. Got to sit in the car, look all around, but not a lot more than that. Still, really interesting. They had all sorts of varieties, from the clay shape model to a series of semi-complete test mules in all stages. Some of the cars were much more polished, and “consumer-ready.” It’s a beautiful car, no doubt. Like a Lotus Elise, but more elegant, and less busy. I fit nicely in it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit nicely in our budget. Alas. Still, I doubt that we’ve been in a single gathering of more millionaires and billionaires at any one time. Elon Musk was there, and the new CEO of Tesla, Ze’ev Drori, is a really recognizable guy. Didn’t talk to a lot of people, ’cause I tend to clam up at events like this, but I did chat with one engineer about Tesla’s plans for the future, and he had some interesting things to say. Good times.

Fight With Tools

Saw Flobots tonight at Slims, with Doomtree and Bus Driver as opening acts. It’s the first time I’ve been to Slims for a show since high school, making it almost half a lifetime ago.

The place is still the same – the crowd is still the same – the only difference is that there’s less jumping around, moshing, crowd-surfing, etc. It’s probably a more pleasant experience, but a little less lively.

We came in in the middle of Bus Driver’s set – it was fast hiphop – excessively so. Unintelligible, meaningless, and one song was basically indistinguishable from the next. Not my thing. Doomtree was up next, and I’d never heard of them, but they started things off right, and at the end of their set, I’d bought two of their CD’s.

Flobots was awesome (is that grammatically correct?). They were sharp, musically, and had a lot of stage presence. They both sounded like their album, and added more to the show. Clever, engaging, and funny. Definitely recommended. For me, I’m not used to standing around for five hours at a stretch anymore – my knees hurt, and my back’s shot. Good times.

Google Owns the Internets

So, one reason I haven’t been blogging all that much is that not a whole lot’s been happening. Okay, that’s not entirely true – we got the stairs re-done (and only now need to close out the permits, though some paperwork nonsense is holding that up), we had the backyard cleared (though I think I mentioned that before), got a new hammock, Ei-Nyung’s been planting tomatoes, and Battlefield: Bad Company is awesome.

But this blog (and most blogs, I think) have been basically about one of two things – personal jibber-jabber, and “Hey, look at that awesome thing!” The latter type of posts have been completely taken over by the “Share With Note” functionality in Google Reader. If there’s something cool online, it’s trivial to share it that way, with a simple note, rather than having to summarize the concept, re-introduce it to readers of the blog, then talk about it.

So, if you’re interested in that half of my personal communications, sign up on Google Reader – you should be using it anyway.

Had a good weekend – I’m a little sunburned and hayfever-ified right now, but it was a nice, relaxing weekend. I took Thursday off, ’cause I’d finished up everything I needed to do at work, and it was Ei-Nyung’s birthday. Made her some Korean seaweed soup, we hung out, and then had a little surprise dinner for her at Sahn Maru, after which there was cake (Tres Leches cake, and a Lemon Mascarpone cheescake from Market Hall) and naturally, Rock Band.

Friday, we drove down to the peninsula to take care of Klay & Nana’s cats and play Minigolf, then we watched the fireworks from the backyard while Seth (Ei-Nyung’s little brother, who’s in town for the month) built a machine gun nest out of random broken bricks. Good times.

Saturday, Becky and Alan had us over for a BBQ, with lots of delicious food (this weekend was a marathon of overeating – not great for the fitness) – that was pretty much the day, but we swung by Home Depot and picked up some mulch, and tomato plants for the backyard.

Today, Ei-Nyung planted the plants, we did some laundry, I took a nap, started reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (for something like the fifth time – I’ve never gotten past the first 1/4), played some Battlefield, played some Kingdom Under Fire with a friend online (the game sucks, but the company is good), and basically chilled out. Ei-Nyung and Seth made a beef Stroganoff, which was pretty darned tasty, for dinner.

Oh – we also started watching Firefly again, because Seth had written a story that reminded us both of some aspects of Firefly. Not only is it one of the best shows ever, but the episode “Out of Gas” is one of the best episodes of television ever made (the only ones I can think of off the top of my head that I like on the same level are the Season 1 and Season 2 finales of House, and some episodes of Battlestar come close in intensity). The characters are incredible, the writing and structure of the story are incredibly well executed, and the series as a whole has the most compelling everything ever.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. If you have seen it, maybe it’s time to watch it again.