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His journal posts
Apr 22, 2010
Unfortunately it seems like the majority of people arguing with Ebert are going about their arguments in completely the wrong way. They keep citing video game after video game that he should play and then reconsider his judgment, but they too are missing Ebert's point.
Roger Ebert is making his assertion based on false assumptions. He conflating the experience of playing games with the creating of games. The flaw in his thought process is most obviously exposed when he asks this question:
"Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009." -R. Ebert
Chess is not Bobby Fischer's game, Basketball is not Michael Jordan's game, Football is not Dick Butkus's game, and Mah Jong is not Shi Hua Chen's game. Each of those games were created by game designers, and their artwork should be attributed properly (where possible). What Ebert fails to fully grasp is what is involved in the process of game development. It's much easier for him to imagine how movies, and paintings, and dance performances can be art, because he is more familiar with their creation processes. However the art of creating a fun experience is not so clear cut.
In PZ Myers's article he writes the following:
"A great painting or poem is something that represents an idea or emotion, communicated through the skill of an artist, to make you see through his or her eyes for a moment. Computer games just don't do that. No team sits down to script out a video game with the intent of creating a tone poem in interactive visual displays that will make the player appreciate the play of sunlight on a lake, for instance."- PZ Myers
Having sat in rooms where very similar things are absolutely discussed in the development cycle of a game, I beg to differ. Granted, some games are less concerned about such things, but among the most critically acclaimed games, I believe you will find that the development team is spending time to consider exactly how the gameplay, environment, and pacing of a game will emotionally and viscerally affect the player. I don't think that a person can really understand the artistry involved in creating a game until they have witnessed it first hand. Even the fan boys standing up for game as Art probably don't fully grasp it. There isn't a "make it fun" button that developer's can push to create their game, just like there isn't a "make it sad" brush that painters use to create their painting. While there may be some science that goes into making games just as there is some science involved in the creation of movies, the entire process is not a scientific one. The creation process is an artistic one that is best served by someone with a vision, and the best designers sculpt the experience of the player just as a director sculpts the story told in a movie.
So Ebert, Myers, and anyone else who claims that games are not and cannot be art, I challenge you to participate in the process of making a game and then ask yourself once again, can a game be art?
Apr 4, 2010
Do you have an i-device with a touch screen? Recently, my friend animated_muse introduced to the Words with Friends app and I'm hooked. If you already have this app installed, feel free to send a challenge to "Karma Adjuster" and we can duke it out in a duel of words.
(I also have chess with friends installed too if you want to challenge me there.)
Jan 31, 2010
In less than 48 hours, with only four others I managed to do what Slipgate was unable to do in over 4 years. Publish a game! There's something to be said for accepting one's limitations and working within them.
Click the screen shot to play the game!
(and be patient, it's a bit of a download)
I lucked out and got a great team. We had two professional programmers (John Nesky ofZipZapPlay and Rob Jagnow of Lazy8Studios), two student artists (Courtney Caldwell and Jessica Bower), and me as the designer/producer/vocal effects. Upon arriving we were given the main constraint that our game must involve deception in some way, and we also had the regional constraint of incorporating either a monk, punk, or skunk into our game.We started out tossing around 7-10 ideas, some a bit too ambitious for 48 hours, and we narrowed it down to three that I think could actually be commercially viable game ideas.
The first step in paring down the pitches to things we thought were both in the realm of doable as well as interesting was to rank them all versus ease of coding, ease of art, ease of design, and extensibility (or in other words, which ideas could be easily expanded upon or have features cut as needed). In the end, we went with the one that was moderately difficult to offer some challenge, but also not the most difficult so we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot, and I think we chose wisely.
I then proceeded to list all the features and art assets we'd want in the design, followed by prioritizing them. Once we had that road map, we were good to go and started producing content and game play within the first few hours of production. I can't say enough good things about our team. We just gelled from the first step and had zero difficulties through out the entire project. John built me an editor in no time (granted it was as simple as me writing xml code and copying and pasting it right into the swf file, but that's all that was needed), so I had pretty much instantaneous rapid iteration time. Courtney even helped build out my dev tool by supplying a gridded background texture so it was easier to lay things out. Rob pounced on the AI which is good enough to even fool yourself when trying to figure out which tank is your actual tank at times, and I think I could see Jessica's work improving with every new asset she created.
My biggest personal challenge was acting as art director to the team, but I think it came out pretty good. We even got down process so we could have multiple iterations on three different maps! There were two things that I'm pretty proud of for this project: 1. Everyone got 4-8 hours of sleep both nights. And 2. The game is actually fun! It was a great experience for all involved, and I highly recommend the Global Game Jam to any developers (or aspiring developers) with the free time. And if you don't have the free time, you should make some!
I should get laid off every year!
Some things I'd like to added if we had more time:
- Player configurable inputs (X was probably not the best button for player 1 fire, and the right side layout varies greatly between keyboards)
- Ricocheting shots (Ping! Pow! Zip! Zap! Zop!)
- Networking (No one wants to share a keyboard if they don't have to)
- A few level tweaks (there's a spot where it looks like you should get through but can't on map 2)
- More iteration time on the art (it just kept getting better and better the more time we spent on it)
- Destructible geometry (who doesn't like to leave their mark on the world?)
Jan 1, 2010
In the end, all you have are your stories. Every year that you don't have at least one story, be it good or bad, is a waste of a year. The following are my own abbreviated adventures that I experienced from 2000 to 2009. For each and every adventure, there's a story to go with it. May you enjoy my journey down memory lane just as much as I did.
'00: I finished at the top of my Building Virtual Worlds class and completed my five years of Architecture earning a Bachelors in Architecture with a Minor in Film and Digital Imaging. I found myself up crushing hard on a cute French programmer, but it was not meant to be. I applied to graduate school at the Entertainment Technology Center but was denied without reason. However, after playing a game of blindfold chess with a friend, one of the codirectors of the ETC challenged me to a game and I handily defeated him. Soon afterward my rejected application was promptly reconsidered and I accepted their invitation to attend. Before taking a road trip out west for the summer, I threw away versions one and two of my giant cardboard robot suit and began my search for summer employment. Instead of landing a job, I bought my first car and learned how to live off of $2 a day. As I started my time in graduate school, I discovered that my master's program was really rough around the edges and didn't have things that normal programs took for granted, like full time faculty. The first project I worked on was a game designed to teach network administrators how to maintain secure networks. Our team was given the instructions to make it "just interesting enough to not be boring".
'01: My frustration with the Entertainment Technology Center grew and I considered dropping out for my own good. I worked on a hodge podge of projects including one that changed weekly and resulted in nothing more than an impossibly ambitious game design document and bizarre CG video, as well as an interactive movie that allowed students to travel back in time to check out dinosaurs whose frame rate made it more of a slide show than a movie. That summer I had an internship at the Institute for Creative Technologies where I worked with hippies building military training tools. At the end of the summer, I returned back to take on my second year the ETC. On my own time, I fed my creativity by building version 3.0 of my cardboard suit. This version was clad in blank news print and I wore it to a friend's Halloween party. The goals was to look like a giant rock golem, but the crinkling of the paper just made me look like a giant paper ball. Throughout the course of the night, people were tearing off pieces of the paper as souvenirs leaving a wake of newsprint debris everywhere I went.
'02: In an effort to help improve the Entertainment Technology Center, I lead a minor revolution, pointing out weakness of the program and offered potential solutions in a formal document and the student body demanded that the codirectors read it. I suspect our input was still ignored in spite of our united front made of both the staff and the students. In addition to the revolt, I also worked on building a set for an animatronic robot that people can talk with and I also helped create a game for the Jam-O-Drum that was a rhythm based DJ scratching game. For my ETC, graduation I painted my cardboard suit all black and wore my cap and gown over it so I could get my diploma in style. After all was said and done, I had a fairly expensive yet worthless piece of paper and several invaluable friends such as Jazz, Nate, Bo, Rebecca, Mauro, Ian, and Wil to name a few. I met Lilli while dancing at the Upstage, and shortly there after we started dating. In a chance meeting with an old class mate, I was introduced to three guys starting up a video game company called Demiurge Studios. I began working with them as their (unpaid) level designer getting my first break into the industry. Lilli broke up with me, but then we got back together.
'03: Demiurge started making money and was able to start paying its employees, including me! With somewhat steady business, Demiurge incorporated and started growing, establishing themselves as the Unreal Engine experts in the industry (outside of Epic Games who make the unreal engine). Demiurge became known as the go to guys by other companies who needed help with their Unreal Technology based games. I became an expert on the Unreal Editor and was in charge of cleaning up and filling in the holes in the Unreal Developer's Network's on line documentation. Lilli broke up with me for good, but we managed to still remain good friends. I signed up for Puzzle Pirates and created my own crew of cartoony pirates that puzzled and pillaged on the high seas.
'04: I did the level design for a playable XBox demo of Demiurge's home brewed game. I also worked on optimizing the content for Advent Rising, helping to cut their memory footprint in half without any real loss in quality. Demiurge put together a Mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 which won the best vehicle category in the 'Make Something Unreal Contest' and acquired a small following of dedicated fans. I went to Burning Man for my first time with my friends Nate and Chris and my imagination exploded. I started building my ent suit. Demiurge picked up and moved the whole company to Boston, with the exception of both Chris's who both moved to California. One Chris continued as the founder operating our "West coast studio" and the other went to work for Crystal Dynamics. My Puzzle Pirates crew merged with the larger crew of the Emerald Raiders, and then later I left to join the Booty Lubbers continuing to feed my puzzle game addiction.
'05: With Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood, I shipped my first official (non-mod) content as a game developer. I discovered Love Night at the Common Ground made new friends (Rene, Tiffany, Erica to name a few). I also flew out to meet up with my far away friend Grit, in Germany where I learned that only the bums drink Jagermeister. While in Europe I went to a game expo in Leipzig, hung out with other travelers in a hostel in paris practicing my various languages, briefly losing my American accent in the process. Through out the rest of the year I made steady progress on the ent suit including ordering custom grapplers for the hands and used drywall stilts. I finished off the year volunteering as a carpenter on the set construction for a theatre performance of A Doll's House.
'06: While in California for the game developer's conference, I met my one of my fellow puzzle pirateers, Elizabeth. I started to drift away from puzzle pirates but managed to keep in touch with the majority of my crew, including Elizabeth with whom I ended up trading a fair number of postcards. Back at Demiurge, I worked at a break-neck pace to build the intro for Bioshock in time for an E3 demo under Ken Levine's direction. The intro wasn't quite ready by our deadline, but my work remained fairly intact in the final launch of the game. I got far enough on the ent suit that I decided to take it to my second Burning Man. I only wore it briefly, but it was a pretty big hit among those who saw it. Back in Boston, I was doored by a cab while racing my bike home to beat the rain and resulted in a "phantom fracture." My right arm was rendered useless for about a month, but healed just fine. It didn't end up raining that day. I killed four separate xboxes - two development kits and two commercial xboxes. I went on to work as co-lead game designer of the multiplayer portion of Model of Honor: Airborne. At a halloween party hosted by my new friend Guido, I met the smart and charming Kristin. We got to know each other while chatting over several games of on line chess. That lead to a couple dates before we each went our separate ways - her way leading her towards the Peace Corps in Vanuatu.
'07: After much thought and mixed feelings, I left Demiurge Studios to sign on with another start up company, Slipgate Ironworks, to work on what was known as "John Romero's MMO." Shortly after signing on, the entire game design rebooted and I helped redesign the game from the ground up. My fifth xbox had broken audio so I (permanently) loaned it to a friend and gave up on ever getting a functioning xbox. I finished my ent suit and brought it to my third Burning Man which was appropriate for the theme: Green Man. While wearing it out in the desert, I tripped on my own roots and ended up putting a 2' dent in my camp mate's truck. Oops. Upon returning from the desert, I decided to try out the crazy master cleanse diet with my friend Bo. We I ate no food for 7 days straight in an attempt to detoxify our bodies. I didn't really notice any change during or after the cleanse. Throughout the year, I periodically kept up my correspondence with Kristin while she was teaching about sustainability in Vanuatu.
'08: At Slipgate, the entire game design rebooted (again) and I helped redesign the game from the ground up. I attended the San Diego Comic Con on behalf of Slipgate's Design team and learned that it has very little to do with comic books now. I began putting my collection of pasta sauce jars to use and started building my LED jars during comotivated art nights with my new found friends Jen and Jean. Version 5.0 of the cardboard suit was created which folded down tight enough to be flown out to Colorado for another Halloween party at Guido's. I flew out to visit my friend René in Hawaii and realized that even a four day weekend is not enough time to visit either Hawaii or René. Kristin suddenly stopped writing me back. I only found out that she never wanted to talk to me anymore, after I got worried enough to email her telling her I was going to contact her family. I don't think I'll ever really understand what happened there.
'09: At Slipgate, the entire game design rebooted (yup, for a third time) and I helped redesign the game from the ground up. My car was stolen forcing me to upgrade my transportation with a slightly newer Honda Accord. With help form some friends, I built and brought four cardboard suits to Burning Man as well as a hexayurt. This burning man was my second best burn ever (the best being the first). In addition to showing up at Burning man, the fifth version of my cardboard suit also made appearances at the Gazillion/Slipgate offices in San Mateo, Decompression, and the DNA lounge where it won 1st place in a halloween costume contest. Shortly there after the internet found my pictures on line of the suit, and I became famous for a week. One last scope change for the project at work resulted in nearly everyone, including myself, being laid off. In experiencing my first video game industry lay-off I finally felt like a real game developer. On my annual trip back home to Indy, I got to meet my nephew Dylan for the first time.
Dec 15, 2009
I'm giving myself a design challenge:
Create a Little Big Planet Level in Ten Days
But which level idea should I create?
The plan is to treat it like a job, putting in eight solid hours
every day working towards my deadline. 80 working hours later (if
not sooner), I'll have a shiny new level for people to play.
Right now my top choices are...
- A level where you're traveling into the screen instead of a side scroller (most likely a space ship flying level)
- Pinball level - basically recreate a pinball machine using little big planet tech
- Hickory Dickory Dock inspired nursery rhyme level (climbing up the insides of a steampunk grandfather clock)
- Racing through a haunted forest with multiple paths
Of those levels, which level would YOU most like to see created in the Little Big Planet universe? Cast your vote below as a comment and I'll make one of my ideas happen. I plan to start soon (Friday at the latest), so get your votes in now!
Ready... Set... GO!
Nov 29, 2009
Specimens in jars lie trapped on shelves.
<< Previous Zoom Sketch - Next Zoom Sketch >>
Oct 30, 2009
I was catching up on my internet this afternoon when I stopped
by the Cracked.com website to see what today's Craption image was
and I had to do a double take.
<-- click to check out today's craption
When I checked it out, the winning craption was "Dick in a box" and I'm really hoping that pretty much any of the other craptions over take it and jump to the lead.
I knew fame was unavoidable. I just didn't think I'd hit it so soon.
Sep 30, 2009
Sep 26, 2009
Just about three weeks after burning man and I'm finally done cleaning off all the desert dust from my gear. That's not to say that everything is clean. I'm just done with cleaning.
This year's burn was I think my second best burn (the best being my first year). I think a large part of what made this year great was camping with Guido and being able to vicariously experience his first time surviving the desert and exploring the insanity.
We also camped unofficially with the theme camp by the name of Rathskellar (formerly Spikes Vampire Bar) invited by Ari and Andy. Rathskellar was located at 4:20 and Biology and we were on the back side of the block facing Chaos. Here's a map:
The first order of business after arriving on the playa was to set up our home for the next week: Two tents and a hexayurt. This was the first year for the hexayurt, and I was equally curious to see if the hexayurt would survive the dust storms as I was hopeful.
Once we got it stood up, taped together, and tied to the ground, it was surprisingly strong. Geometry is wondrous thing. It survived the entire week without even threatening to come apart. We did discover some room for improvements over the course of the week. For example, a future version might need to have one end open up to provide a bar for gnomes, and I'd really like to provide a wheel lock like on submarine doors (I would have built it into this one if I hadn't caught a fever the week before I headed out). And on the more practical side, ventilation and/or a swamp cooler is definitely in order.
The hexayurt did a good job of keeping the outside head out, but it did an equally good job of keeping the inside heat in. So as long as no one was inside heating up with their own body heat, it remained pretty cool. There were some attempts to create a ceiling fan of sorts, four attempts to be exact...
(Click for videos!)
Ah, science! ...unfortunately the motor to the fan gave out pretty shortly after we were content with the results from test 4.
Tuesday we spent the day exploring the city encountering a beautiful British girl, Alicé, who was instrumental in helping Guido find his playa name: Faceplant. She was tossing a Frisbee around to whomever would catch it, and Guido was going long to catch the frisbee, but not quite long enough. When the Frisbee flew over his head, he turned around 180° just as quickly as he tilted 90° forward, creating a cloud of desert dust as his face broke his fall. Sadly, I left my camera at camp and I have neither video nor still images to document this.
Guido eventually returned with the frisbee, and a scrape with matching shiner that lasted him the duration of his trip. From there a trip to the absinthe bar was the next logical step. If I recall the order of events correctly, I had gotten a head start on the absinthe bar from a visit at the Lollipop shots camp and I suspect some of Guido's famous margaritas has already been consumed. I think I may have had a sip of someone's chocolate flavored absinthe, but for the most part I believe I was directing my attention to the British frisbee thrower rather than the bar. She even indulged me in a geography lesson and I now understand the difference between the United Kingdom versus England, versus Britain. Thank you Alicé!
The order of events beyond that are somewhat of a blur for me - although I do remember this cute topless girl that lead us from party to party - I'm sorry for the lack of pictures. I do have a few pictures of some of the other cool things we ran into while traveling around the playa:
A rocket ship:
The man amongst his small forest of lattice trees
A tree made of bones:
A fractal pyramid made of softball bats and balls:
Strange desert dudes found in a dust storm:
The rat-mobile which made its home right in our camp! (click on the picture to see it at night!)
Sadly, the desert dust did it in one night and it had to be towed back to camp by a cat-mobile.
One of many pirate ships:
As well as space pirate ships:
A giant metal goddess holding a ball of fire in her hands (click for video)
As well as more normal sized women spinning larger balls of fire of their own:
As well as a whole field of fire (click on this one for video too)
A fiery neuron from the Flaming Lotus Girls:
A pool of lights on the ground that changed when stepped on (more videos!)
A giant interactive light up rubik's cube
As well as a giant two player tilt-a-maze game (click to see it in action):
And I don't know what this was, but it was really cool.
and there was so much more that I didn't get to capture on film and even more that I didn't get a chance to see myself, but such is burning man. There's just too much awesome there to take it all in.
We weren't just spectators though. On Thursday and Friday we helped contribute to the rainbow of crazy with our army of cardboard suits. Only for a brief moment were there all four of us together, but even just going out in pairs was pretty fantastic. The first night was Guido and myself, and I was surprised at how long we put up with the suits. We must have been in them for a good couple of hours. There's just something about being a giant cardboard robot that keeps you wanting to keep going.
Here are some pictures and videos of the giant cardboard robot insanity:
First each of the robot operators
Andy, the dance bot
Ari in the "mini" suit (2/3rds size)
Faceplant (a.k.a. Guido)
And a special thanks to the robot handlers who kept us well fueled with water and picked up our arms when they fell off.
Cousin Kate (receiving a giant robot hug)
Without the robot handlers we would have never made it to the Esplanade much less two several blocks down the Esplanade, and back up 5:00 and all the way home at 4:20 and Biology.
Here's a video of us starting out, testing out our new robot legs with some trepidation. Traveling over the minor hills of compacted dirt was a little exciting and there were some unsettling noises coming from our home made stilts, but we didn't let that stop us.
There was one common request that we encountered again and again. I think my favorite person who requested was this really soft spoken and apologetic guy who had most likely consumed some mind altering substance before seeing us. He walked up to us and asked with equal measure of trepidation and humility, "could you guys do me a favor...?" "Sure! What is it?" I asked. "...have you ever heard of rock'em sock'em robots?" Guido and I knew just what to do and we started our giant robot battle.
We fought until Guido's hand fall off and then I claimed victory. I turned around to look back at our most likely stoned requester and his eyes were wide and filled with joy (presumably from the robot battle he just witnessed, but you can't be too sure at burning man).
Here's a video of another similar request where a girl in green interrupted our dancing to request a fight. After a few lame swings at each other we decided that fighting each other was pointless and then went after the girl. That turned out to be pointless as well as our top speed was about 1 mile and hour and she escaped our cardboard clutches.
The next night, another fight broke out, but this time it was over a 50 foot tall woman. (click the image for the video)
But then the robots came to their senses and decided a better plan was to Kill All Humans!
The robot suits weren't all about death and destruction though. Guido and I took a break from the mayhem to try and climb into the mobile "photo boof" machine.
Also there was plenty of robot dancing to be had as well.
As well as plenty of giant robot hugs for everyone who was brave enough to ask for one.
For more pictures of our adventures, check out my flickr set here. For more stories, you'll have to ask for them in person. I had a fantastic burn this year. Thank you everyone who helped make it as awesome as it was.
Aug 11, 2009
Oh Tupperware, oh tupper where...
Just eight months ago, you were sixteen,
But today barely one can be seen.
Your white cupboard which was once your home,
Now stands abandoned, left all alone.
Oh Tupperware, oh tupper where...
While yes a gift, given to me free,
Each lid and bin still belonged to me.
Did I mistreat you and cause you harm?
Maybe you left to live on a farm?
Oh Tupperware, oh tupper where...
I hope your new home does treat you well,
Cleaning you pristine leaving no smell.
Could it be, you have an ocean view?
Perhaps at sea with a pirate crew?
Oh Tupperware, oh tupper where....
Where are you, oh where, oh where, oh where?
Tis as if you've vanished to thin air.
If one day you do choose to come back
I'll kindly return you to your rack.
Where oh where, is my Tupperware?