1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jan 17 2012

That was what was yelled after Pheidippides made the run from Marathon to Athens. Nike! Victory!

That was what I felt after a coding marathon with Anthony this past weekend. A lot got done. A whole lot.

I had to start this post over. I started pontificating and that is not the right thing to do here.

I just want to congratulate and thank Anthony on all of his hard work and express how in awe I am of his drive and talent. I am lucky to know you, buddy, not only as a business partner, but as a friend.

If anyone reading this thing does start their own studio, remember, the asset you need most of is not cash, but motivation and discipline (and a quiet place to work helps to).

Thank you again, Ant.

No surprises here

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jan 11 2012

So, SOPA is getting a lot of press online as of late, and today, and Ant asked me my opinion of it.

This may come as a shock, but I am not a fan.

First of all, because piracy is going to happen. It is a cost of doing business. Someone is going to take your stuff and you have to factor that into your business model. Personally, I do not think that others should bear the burden of an industry being unable to adapt.

But most of all, I believe in the rule of law. Laws such as SOPA strip people of the ability to redress grievances in our courts and allows people to punish others without any burden of proof. The right to trial is a a hallmark of a civilized society. Without the courts we are merely thugs.

And that is what the entertainment industry is asking for our government to do, become thugs on their behalf. This saddens me, because I like to be entertained, but what saddens me more are the people who are supporting this silly, asinine and wasteful bill that will prove to be ineffective at curbing internet piracy.

For our friends in the entertainment industry, please find better ways to deal with piracy than turning the government against your customers.

3 More Predictions for 2012

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 27 2011

So, I am sure one of you, (either of you) read Ant’s predictions for 2012. He is ever the optimist and I love him for that. I, on the other hand, often expect the worst. Not that I don’t believe in us, but I am generally thinking about the things that can go wrong. So, here are my predictions:

1. Ant and I will get into an argument, however, after the shouting and the anger we will work things out and keep this thing going. It’s almost inevitable, as there is a lot of passion in what we are doing.

2. Something will work out better than expected and worse than we hoped.

3. The world will end (here’s hoping).

Still, I do believe in what we got going here. I think that our disparate personalities bring strength to the company. Both of us bring things to the table that the other one needs and that is why we are going to succeed. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but we will, because we want this and are willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.

Happy New Year.

Time and Time Again

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 29 2011

Since I am giant geek (surprise!) I read lots of articles on random subjects. Today, I read one about time.

One thing the in the article that has gotten the gears in my head turning was that the brain recognizes events that happen 80 milliseconds in the past as the present. Or, rather, it takes that long for the brain to reconcile all the information that is being presented to it. I don’t know if this is true or not, but if any reader out there can confirm this, either one of you, I would be appreciative.

Supposing this is true, how can that information be used for games? In what ways can we play with our perception of time and of the present in order to make more interesting and engaging games? Since games will continue to become faster, surely we will be able to take advantage of the tech in ways that may not be possible now.

The most obvious to me is that for those periods in games where we want to confuse the player is to give them more information than can be assembled by the brain in those 80 milliseconds. Or, perhaps by presenting players with new information while their brain is still piecing together information from 40 milliseconds prior. Not only could this potentially confuse players, but it can also increase anxiety and heighten attentiveness in the player. This would make the slow periods even more relaxing and cathartic, as the mind would be saying to itself “I can finally relax!”

It’s kind of like playing Left for Dead. I tell people the fun in Left for Dead is not in playing the game, but in having played the game. While I am playing, I am just saying “Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap.” the entire time, but when I make it to a safe house, I feel as rush as my body stops tensing for the brief moments until the madness starts again.

Of course, this is only one idea, but I believe that as technology continues to evolve, we will be better able to take advantage of the ways in which our brains perceive the world to make games that are more engaging and more fun than what we have even now. Don’t get me wrong, I am still an avid retro-gamer, but I am still excited by what we will be able to do as time passes.

Emotional Attachments

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 16 2011

Since Barbara is my friend, despite the fact that we have a business relationship between us, I talk about my emotional state with her regarding our project.

Just to be clear, this is a bad idea for anyone else. I can do this with Barbara. You should make sure that the person you are working with is your own Barbara before you even think about sharing your feelings with them when working on a business project with them.

So, I shared with her today my immediate reaction to her ideas concerning our project, and how it is was funny to me considering the reaction I put forward during the discussion was not my emotional reaction (Ant is a lot more outwardly level-headed than I am, it is hard for me to know what he is feeling on the inside unless he tells me).

She laughed and then something that surprised me. She said that she had no idea that I was that emotionally attached to this project, and that for her, though the project was spawned by her intellectual property, it did not carry for her the same way that telling a story did.

I was taken aback when I heard this, because for me, all games are storytelling in one way or another. It’s one of the reasons why I love them (it’s also one of the reasons why Ant and I are making games and are doing pretty well for a new company). Though the games we have made for Mercury Retrograde, Suabh (Sweep) and Fortunes, do not to tell a story the way that they do in the fantastic books that they appear in, they allow the player to experience the world that Barbara created in a way that they could not in any other medium. Instead of hearing about or being told about the world, for a moment, they are in the world. It’s one of the reasons that tabletop role-playing may fall in and out of favor, but will never completely go away (until we make a holodeck), because it allows people to live and do things that they would otherwise be unable to.

So, yes, I am emotionally attached to this thing.

But see, though you should be attached to your projects, you can’t let that attachment consume you. Games are not things that are made in isolation. The best authors have great editors. Even the most brilliant director in films requires the technical and creative expertise of the people around them. Good directors provide a guiding hand to bring consistency and clarity of vision to a collaborative effort. Bad directors bring you the live-action Transformers movies.

So, yes, care about what you are doing, but don’t care so much that you become blind to the brilliance and intelligence of the people working with you, because if they are not brilliant or intelligent, why are you working with them?


1 Comment | This entry was posted on Nov 16 2011

Right now, in between trying to do new things with Marco Polo, making plans for other projects, marketing ourselves and meeting random people, we are working on a new project with the lovely people at Mercury Retrograde.

It’s a project that I have been thinking about for a very long time and is dear to me not just because of the level of effort Ant, Barbara, and myself have put into it, but also because I really want to do a good job. I don’t want anyone to feel let down at the end of this or for anyone to feel like they have settled for something. That’s not okay to me. Not for this.

So, to that end, I have been drawing up interfaces for this thing in my head for quite some time. I’ve got sketches in random places. I argued with myself and drew figures with my finger in the air, mumbling to myself all the while. So when I finally made wireframe mockup of the interface for people to see and approve, I was very proud of myself, because I felt like I had done a great job, and that is great feeling.

And then I received a criticism.

Not even a big one. Not even a criticism. Just a question. And for a moment, I was angry. I was upset. I do not take criticism well, at least not immediately. I need a few moments to get over myself. Then we had a good discussion about it, and now we are working on various solutions.

That’s the thing. I like to think I know best, but I don’t. I am not a genius. I am not a visionary. I am just a man who has always wanted to make games. The funny thing is, hardly anyone else is a genius or a visionary either. The assumption that the designer knows what is best is so common that there is even a term related to it, “pink lightsabers”, giving the people who do the approving something obvious to correct so that they can feel like they contributed and the designer can get on with their work.

I actually think that pink lightsabers is the wrong approach. I think that because it is an approach born of arrogance, of hubris and of thinking that only the designer has the right ideas. They don’t. No one does. And the thing is, when you receive a criticism or concern, unless it involves personal attacks or comes from someone with a vendetta against you, it is a legitimate thing and should be examined.

Sure, there are lots of stories of business people ruining great games due to the forcing or rushing of ideas or features despite the concerns of the developers, but many of those ideas weren’t inherently bad. They may have been born out of a fad or out of the head of some out of touch executive, but it is not the idea, it is the execution that matters.

If you really think that what was brought up is not a good thing, don’t respond immediately. Take the time to sit back, think about the reasons why you did or did not include something and explain it, but also, if it is feasible, do a mockup of the idea or bring forward examples that people can see of the same idea done by someone else (it’s out there, trust me) and give it a try. Bring in a third party and work out possible compromise solutions.

Remember, though everyone involved in a project may have different goals, everyone is doing it though the same mechanism, the game, or the project, or whatever. The developers may have a desire to make the best game they can, while the business people want to make lots of money and the marketers may want to make the most avant garde and interesting campaign they can, but they are all doing it through the same core mechanism, and all of their needs are legitimate and should be met by that mechanism.

If you are the person giving the criticism, remember, you don’t have special insight, either. I bet you a dollar you are not the visionary you think you are. If the developers or designers can give you a reason why X shouldn’t happen, and you don’t have a logical, cogent and coherent reason to refute that argument, back off. Also, because someone else did it or because so and so wants it is not a cogent refutation. If you can’t relate your argument back to why it would make for a better experience, then back off.

None of this is meant to say that you shouldn’t fight about a change that you don’t think is or is not a good thing. If you really believe that X is going to ruin things, then by all means, fight for it. A shouting match isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps people work out frustrations and can clear the air so that people can come back to things with a clear head once they have gotten over their passion. There have even been studies showing that groups that have one person who always disagrees or has has to be convinced get better results. But after the shouting is done, the discussion has to come back to reasonable and logical thinking. Does this make for a better story, or lead to a better experience, or make a more beautiful presentation, and is it worth the effort, or should we save it for the next iteration or project?

Remember, individual genius is rare, but through teamwork, true collaboration, and a good shouting match, beautiful things are created.

The Power of Social Games

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 07 2011

One thing that is really compelling to me about games with a social focus is the way in which you get drawn in. Thanks to the network of people you know, there is a myriad of points of entry that can get you to play a game and to keep you playing.

I’ve just had a recent encounter with one of those entry points. My goddaughter, Sarea, just invited me to play a game with her on Google+. Now, I wasn’t planning on playing games on there, but since she asked me to, I knew I couldn’t say no. So, now, before bed just about every day, I intend on playing this game.

I don’t know how many people she has playing with her, but I do know a few more can’t hurt. If anyone wishes to join my goddaughter in her quest to kill zombies, (a goal I whole-heartily endorse), just send me an email and I will give your user name to her so that she can invite you play to play.

Prototype Testing Results

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 03 2011

It broke.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Why am I smiling about a broken prototype? Well, first because we had a prototype. How many people can say that?

Secondly, because it is fixable.

Thirdly, we learned a lot from the whole experience, which is the point of diving in headfirst like we have. We will either sink or swim. So far, we are swimming, and that is something to be proud of.

Lastly, we have a prototype!

Thanks to everyone who came out.

I am probably going to get punched for this…

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 03 2011

But a thought has occurred to me since the death of Steve Jobs.

Since Steve Jobs is dead, is it safe to ignore the iPhone?

It seems a strange question to ask, even to me, but consider this:

When Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple, the company almost sank. It took Jobs coming back and bringing his vision and direction to the company to make it the powerhouse it is today.

Now that vision is gone and I know of no heir apparent that has the drive Steve apparently did, though I would not be surprised if someone with better knowledge of the insides of Apple could tell me otherwise.

Even if there was an heir apparent, would they be able to lead with the success Steve Jobs had?

Yet, even without Steve Jobs, Apple has a long way to fall before it would be irrelevant. Unlike in 1985, Apple is much better positioned now than it has been at any other time in its history. So, even if Apple ends up just flapping in the breeze, even in the fast-paced world of tech, it will be a long time before mobile application developers can possible ignore the iPhone.

Still, it will be interesting to see what happens to Apple next.

Shadow of the Sun Nominated for Compton Crook Award

5 Comments | This entry was posted on Sep 13 2011

So I learned this weekend that Barbara’s book, Shadow of the Sun has been nominated for the Compton Crook Award.

You can read her blog post about it here.

Of course, I like to think that the dice game we made for it, Sweep, had something to do with it, but I suppose Barbara deserves some of the credit as well.

Congratulations on the nomination, Barbara.