Archive for September, 2008

Reading

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Picked up a bunch of game design-relevant books, in order to find some good reference material for the design department. Managed to convince the company to pick up copies of Understanding Comics for everyone, since it’s a book I think every designer should have their own personal copy of. Got a bunch of books for myself, and I figure once I get through them, I’ll either have someone on the team (whoever needs the information the most) read it, and summarize it for the rest of the team, or if they’re as good as Understanding Comics, get the book for the individual designers.

Right now, I’m about halfway through Chris Crawford on Game Design, which is alright, but in the sort of second tier. While Crawford is a respected figure in the industry, and he has a lot of good insights, the book, and his experience, is somewhat out of date. His examples stop in 1990 or thereabouts – almost 20 years ago at this point. While the fundamentals of design haven’t changed all that much, the fact that half the book is stories about him developing his games makes them feel less relevant than they should.

The good part is that the fundamentals are still quite good. He talks a lot about designing the *game* first – not designing to technology, but ensuring that the core mechanics are the most important thing. Unfortunately, though he goes into some detail when discussing the pitfalls of his development work on certain games, without the game itself, it can be hard to understand how this stuff presented itself.

Another problem is that Crawford’s got a bit of an ego. That’s fine – he’s an industry luminary. But it also makes it hard to gauge how realistic he’s being about certain aspects of his work. Whether it’s intended to be ironic, or he thinks he’s just being honest, I can’t really tell – but he pats himself on the back a *lot*, and it makes me wonder (not having played the original games (though I do remember seeing Balance of Power & Guns & Butter on the shelf at the Egghead Software I used to hang out at as a kid (me = nerd))) whether he’s able to assess his own work properly.

There are indications that he can – he’s quite critical at times. But again, the phrasing makes it difficult to tell, and that’s a problem.

Next up is The Design of Everyday Things, which I’m enjoying quite a bit, though I’m not very far in. Like Understanding Comics, it’s one of those books that isn’t at all about game design, but any game designer will instantly recognize that it TOTALLY IS. I’ll need to get quite a bit further to say whether it remains so, but the core precepts are obviously good, and the examples re: control mapping on objects is so relevant to one of the current issues I’m dealing with at work that it boggles the mind. 🙂

And on a slightly related note, I picked up (buy 2 get 1 sale), Jeanne D’Arc (PSP), Endless Ocean (Wii) and Conan (360). So far only played Conan. It’s a shameless God of War ripoff – the combat’s reasonably satisfying (though nowhere NEAR as polished/visceral as GoW’s), but the storytelling varies between sloppy and horrible, and the game itself is really rather unpolished. Still, it’s relatively entertaining, and hews more toward the book/Busiek comic version, rather than the Schwarzenegger movie version, which I’m glad for.

Still, the recent comics had Conan as a relatively noble soul in a rough-and-tumble world – his nobility was the thing that was surprising. In this, he’s mostly just a brute – I’m hoping that as the game goes on, we’ll see more of the depth of the character, cause it’d be a shame for him to remain this shallow throughout. Still, it’s a Nihilistic game, which doesn’t give me a lot of hope. Their last game (Marvel Nemesis) was one of the worst games of the last generation. This is a huge step up, but it’s still a long ways from great.

Ion

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Wow. So we’ve had the Ion Drum Rocker kit for RB2 for a couple days now, and it’s great. totally worth it. Had a whole mess of people over for a Rock Band-a-thon tonight, and it was a blast. Had a drum-off with Sylvain, which was really fun – managed to edge him out on Everlong on expert (we were playing songs we knew we had no hope of doing all that well on) by 100 points (out of 45,000).

Had a pretty odd cross-section of people over. High school friends, work friends, college friends… the nice thing was that everyone hung out well together. Big fun. Can’t wait for the next shindig. 🙂

jobbie-job

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

So… about a month ago, I interviewed for a Creative Director position at Sega. The job looked like a really good match for my skills – I’d basically be auditing third-party designs, and working with those third parties to ensure that their games were up to a really high standard of quality.

The interview went well, and a couple weeks later, I got an offer. The offer was quite a bit under what I’d asked for, salary-wise, and the position title was “Associate Creative Director.” I asked them whether it was a different position than the one I interviewed for, and they said no – it was a communication error, and the position was always one for an Associate. Also meant the bonus structure was different, and the total yearly salary was substantially lower, as a result. Still, the experience woul be good, and so I thought I’d take the offer.

Before accepting, though, I thought I’d tell Julian (the CEO at Factor 5). I figured I’d had things go reasonably well here, and the main problem was that I felt really underutilized. Also, in the last several months, there had been quite a number of changes for the better at the company, so I figured at least out of courtesy, I’d ask if they wanted to keep me around. Figured I’d probably just go for the Sega job regardless, ’cause I couldn’t think of anything that would keep me at F5.

Still, a few days later, they came back with a great offer. I’d be essentially managing the entire design department, but also working on all the projects at F5 simultaneously. There hadn’t been a previous position that did this. The entire design staff had been pushing for a “Design Manager,” that would do the managerial aspect of the role – ensuring the Design Team’s needs were being met, and there was someone to basically act to push back against the executive staff when they made really weird requests.

The salary was a substantial improvement over my current pay, and more, I’d be busy with interesting work, working with talented people who had a problem that I thought I could work to address. Still, the Sega opportunity would lead to more exposure – I’d be working with a number of really great companies, I’d get a lot of exposure to a variety of development methodologies, and work with some of the biggest names in the industry.

The F5 job, on the other hand, was more hands-on, working “in the trenches,” instead of directing from a distance. There’s definitely something appealing to me about that – keeps me working with “real” stuff, and continuing to learn from hands-on experience. It also lets me help people who have a specific problem – a lot of talented individuals who lack cohesion and involved direction.

In the end, I was talking with friends about it, talked to Ei-Nyung about it, spent a lot of time bouncing the ideas around in my head… and in the end, Alex Hutchinson gave the most salient piece of advice – you don’t care about the title or the money – find the best game, work on that.

One of the games that F5 has in the pipe is the concept that I busted ass on at the beginning of the year. I’m *extremely* proud of it, I think it’ll be an extraordinary game, and since it’s a concept that I basically pushed from the start, I really want to see it through to the end.

So, that was it. I stayed at F5 and took the promotion. Was announced today to the design team, and will be announced tomorrow to the rest of the company. The official position is, “Principal Designer.” Wacky. Ei-Nyung suggested (unfortunately too late), “Designer-at-Large,” which would have been awesome.

Dear Barack:

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

What you should be doing is campaigning like you’re campaigning for *yourself*. Don’t let your handlers dictate your every move, and come up with some “safe” strategy that will appeal to everyone.

You know what people want? They want you to go out there and kick the living shit out of McCain and his cronies. They want you to go and verbally tear them a new asshole because they’ve fucked the country for the last eight years and intend to do so as long as they can.

We need you to get out there and fight like you mean it. Fight like *YOU* would fight. With a fire in your belly like when Kerry gave his most recent speech at the DNC – a lively, impassioned, sincere speech – charismatic and full of intensity, and not like the shitty monotonous safe garbage he spewed in 2004. Give us Barack, as charming and engaging as Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth, or on Saturday Night Life in 2003, and not the droning, robotic, cardboard cutout from 2000.

Your “people” will tell you it’s risky, that you’ll drive people away, blah blah blah. Palin works because she gets the idiots fired up about idiotic bullshit. Eventually, yeah, she’ll hoist herself on her own petard, but it’s clear that she can lie to your face and the media won’t do shit about it.

YOU do shit about it. YOU get in her face. YOU take the fight to their doorstep, into their house, and knock them the fuck out. Do it on your terms, not theirs, and FUCK the people who are telling you to play it safe and slow.”

Starscreams

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The last post on Republicans got me to thinking… what’s the point of having people like that around? I mean, evolutionarily speaking. I’m not talking about “social conservatives” – I get why that disposition would be helpful in the long run. I’m talking about the Bush-era conservatives. McCain supporters. The kinds of people who saw Palin’s speech and thought of it as a substantial discussion of policy, and the kind of thing that makes you a qualified leader.

The kinds of people who really need their Republican “daddies” to save them from the horrors of the world. The kinds of people who hear the Republicans talk about “small town values” and the “death tax” and don’t realize that they’re voting for policies that work explicitly *against* them.

Not people who are Conservative in any good sense, but the people who cheer bullies. The Starscreams of the world. What’s the point in having them around?

And it got me to thinking – maybe it’s just that they piss off the people who can actually *make* change. They get them so riled up that they have to eventually finally get off their lazy butts and do something.

I dunno. Frankly, that’s all I can think of. Starscream bitched and whined at Megatron whenever he sat back and rested on his laurels. Having the pressure of some total buffoon trying to seize power from you can be a good motivating force to get you to do something substantial to shut them the fuck up. But that still doesn’t seem right.

I just don’t know why they exist. Anyone have any ideas?

Treachery

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I wonder if somewhere, deep down in his heart of hearts, John McCain knows he’s sold himself out. That he’s sold out every principle he’s ever said he believed in, that he’s sold his POW experience for political profit, that he’s stood on the graves of those murdered on 9/11 for political gain, that he now stands as a man who has never held a consistent important value through the arc of his political career.

I wonder if at some point, he’ll look in the mirror and realize what he’s become.

Part of me wonders whether somewhere in him, he understands. That at some point in the future, Rove will tell him to lie yet again – to say something base and underhanded, designed to appeal to the worst fears of people, to sell his personal character further down the river, to tear down any remnants of moral fiber he supposedly has left, and at some point, he will simply snap.

He will say to us all that he is not the man he thought he was. That his cynical, opportunistic and ill-conceived choice of Palin as the heir to the most vital role in our government was shortsighted and stupid. That he really does believe in a woman’s right to choose, or that this war was handled incompetently, and that Bush is a worthless failure of a human, but that he embraced him anyway does show the content of his character and his failure as a leader and human being.

I imagine the blank stare into the camera at the moment of realization – the slack jawed moment of silence as this wave crashes over his mind and runs down into his heart. The moment when he realizes that in every respect, he has been a failure – that he has no integrity, that he has no character, that he’s sold every single thing of value in a mad, pointless scramble for political power. I can’t really think of what he’d say next. I imagine he’d sit down on stage, lost like a little boy, and wonder where it all went wrong.

But that implies there was something there to begin with, and that the plaudits he’s received in the past were actually true.

I don’t care about his POW experience. It has little bearing on his qualities as a leader, and his cynical exploitation of it shows how cheap and tawdry the experience is to him now. I don’t care about his label as a maverick. When it mattered for him to do the right thing, to stand up to the powers that be, he failed in every respect. He claims the “surge” is getting us to a point where we’re winning in Iraq, when it’s clear to everyone that the goalposts for “winning” have moved so far as to be utterly irrelevant. People see the impact of the economy in their daily lives. People who aren’t worth $40 million or have ten homes, or married into exorbitant wealth by leaving their crippled wife and children.

But it bothers me, because I know the Republican Hate Machine is effective. That it can color peoples’ opinions and get the squawking right-wing buffoons to parrot their every talking point. That those things seep into the minds of the gullible and weak, and they see that as strength and courage, though the veneer hides the total lack of exactly that. I’m awake now, at 2:30 on a Saturday morning because of that fear. Because I want to do something to change that, but know that nothing I do between now and the election will matter all that much.

I don’t have faith in America. I don’t have faith in the people. The people are stupid, media-led, disengaged, ignorant sheep, and the Republicans are better at playing to the things that make them feel righteous and scared. The Democrats want to appeal to the hope, the compassion, and the optimism of the American People. Those things are nothing next to xenophobia, anger, and fear.

I feel like you have to be mentally retarded – literally – to be a modern conservative. That there has to be something wrong with your brain. I’ve been wondering why we can categorize dogs as “alphas,” “betas,” “gammas,” and “omegas” based on their tendencies, but we can’t do the same for people.

Modern Conservatives are the Starscreams of the political world. Perenially victimized, power-hungry, and stupid. Whiny. Obnoxious. Second-rate. A loser with a big gun. I think it’s a personality type – the “worthless beta human.” Wah, me. Me me me. Pay attention to me. Ignore those that aren’t like me. Crush them as I stand on them on my way to the top. Me. These people are too stupid to be *stupid*. It has to be a mental defect.

Embrace 1984

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Maybe it’s wrong of me to think that the images from the RNC on CNN somehow smack of Big Brother/V for Vendetta/etc.

But the smiling visage of Bush, the angry Thompson, the heil-ing hat people and the teargas-surrounded riot police… let’s just say it’s a very different picture than last week.