Man, Schindler’s List was Fun!

Game Development, Gaming No Comments

Written shortly after Call of Duty: World at War was released (2009ish), but decided to clean it up and (finally) post it.

When we interview designers, one broad (but very important) question we ask them sometimes is “What is the most important aspect of design to you?” 99% of the time, the reply will be some form of “It has to be fun!” Everyone will look at each other, nod and agree, and move onto the next question. However, I’m beginning to think that isn’t necessarily the right answer. In fact, I think that answer points to a bigger problem with the medium in general – the name.

A common problem I see from the news media or people not familiar with video games is that people generally associate games with a toy or something only children and young people should “play with.” I think there’s still a fairly heavy stigma associated with post college-aged people playing games, especially if they’re hardcore gamers. I think a large portion of society expects people to “grow out of games” as they age and entertain themselves with more “serious” forms of media. I can’t really blame anyone; the word “game” is right in the term “video game” so it has to be fun, right? Isn’t that what games are all about? Playing and having fun?

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And Further More, I’m Working on Halo 4

Game Development, Gaming 6 Comments

A while back Halo 4 was announced. As you might have suspected, I’ve been pretty busy working on the game. It turns out the campaign for a Halo game requires a pretty intense amount of effort. Who would have thought. I guess people are pretty into Halo or something.

I was actually the first designer hired at 343 Industries, but at the time the studio didn’t have a name. It was called something generic like “Halo Internal.” Woooo. In any event, I was the first designer to take the plunge (there were other designers that had come and gone, but they were pulled from other parts of Microsoft).

I didn’t start as a lead either. I was just coming off a crazy amount of Treyarch crunch (which if you ask around, is some of the most legendary crunch known to mankind) and was looking to get down on some level building, scripting and prototyping. You know, hitting reset on the ol’ work life balance button. However, after working at 343 for a bit, they asked me to be a lead, and being a lead on a Halo title is not something you tend to turn down. Don’t worry, I like to stay pretty hands-on with the tools in addition to having an outlook calendar full of meetings.

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GDC2011: A Fabulous Drift, Part 3

Game Development, Games for Fun, Gaming, Life No Comments

Part 2, found here in case you missed it.

Thursday morning was all about recharging the batteries. With some sweet sessions lined up and some awesome parties later in the evening, it was time to take ‘er easy.

No Cliffy!

Industry Lessons Learned and Applying Them to the Road Ahead presented by Cliff Bleszinski of Epic games was first up on the docket.

CliffyB gets a bad rap with the haters, of which there are plenty. When I walked in, a group of 40-something media types were already starting with the negativity, sitting in the back corner of the room as I walked in.

“Oh, what’s he wearing? His hair looks douched up.”

And so on. Everyone all aboard the CliffyB hate train, right guys? Cause that’s cool!

Anyway, I thought Bleszinski gave a really great talk, one of my favorites from the entire conference, actually. I felt like he was being honest and just speaking from the heart, and really that’s what I want to hear from people at GDC.

In essence, his talk was all about being a “Power Creative” and how to create and control your IPs. He basically said all the things I wanted to hear from someone in his position, and I think also confirmed in my mind why I think he’s as successful as he is (see: speaking being honest and speaking from the heart, above).

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GDC2011: A Fabulous Drift, Part 2

Game Development, Games for Fun, Gaming, Life 2 Comments

Mr. Iwata makes me sleepy after a night of heavy drinking.

GDC2011: A Fabulous Drift, Part 1, found here.

The previous day put the hurt on me. The thick drapes were drawn tightly and not a single photon passed through my 25th floor window. All the better, because any amount of noise of light would have made me throw up anyway.

8:45 am. Time to roll out of bed and see what Nintendo has to offer.

Clothes on and I’m out the door, my roommate whom is equally hungover is stumbling along with me. I vaguely recall telling him the keynotes are generally skipable, but he really wants to go as it’s his first GDC, and I decide to prove to myself, and him, that I am capable of doing this.

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GDC2011: A Fabulous Drift, Part 1

Game Development, Games for Fun, Gaming, Life 1 Comment

Pixel Wall at GDC

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is one of those events in life I look forward to every year. When people ask me “What is GDC?” I always tell them the same thing:

“GDC is a lot like college. You pay a bunch of money to learn a bunch of stuff, you meet a bunch of awesome people, then you go to parties at night.”

My love for thinking and talking about games, meeting other people in the games industry and having a good time with them afterward has no bounds.

After GDC, I make sure to spend time exploring the city. San Fran is a fabulous place with so much to offer and so many great adventures to partake in. For me, GDC and enjoying SF go hand in hand. My advice to all would be game developers (and everyone, really) is something you’ll hear often, and not just from me: Don’t draw the inspiration for your craft only within your craft itself. Why? Because your medium becomes derivative and lacks innovation. People need to inject creativity and be inspired from outside sources to keep things fresh.

My solution? Go create your own real life adventures! Have fun. Put your self in places and situations you wouldn’t normally go into. Go people watching and explore all the city has to offer. Study the world at large and at the very least, you’ll have a good time and see something new.

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The Girl in Your Ear

Game Development, Gaming 2 Comments

Oh yeah. Tell me what to do.

I have this conversation fairly regularly. You know. The one about The Girl in Your Ear.

Come on. It happens in plenty of games. The sister of Girl Hacker, another ever-present game character stereotype. Sometimes, they are one in the same.

“Girl in Your Ear” is a character you can picture in most games. She’s as cliched as red barrels and wooden crates.

  • Cortana from Halo.
  • Guardian Angel from Borderlands.
  • Navi from Ocarina.
  • Minda from Twilight Princess.
  • Lucy from Assassins Creed.
  • Alyx Vance from Half Life 2.
  • Elena Ivanova from Vanquish.
  • Anya Stroud from Gears of War.

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Org Sharks, Clown Units and Halo Top 5

Gaming, Jokes, Stories 4 Comments

What are you lookin' at?

I don’t get to talk about work very much. Today, that all changes.

The Top 5 Brigade has been having some trouble with… leaks. After a lofty and well deserved promotion, my wise, handsome, and wonderfully smelling Section 10 officers sent me, Haxington, to root out a mole within the Top 5 unit. The Clown Unit.

So far, my attempts at information extraction have been in vain. Schismarch, whom I suspect to be the culprit has been extremely evasive to my lines of questioning. On the other hand, I think one EckoTech might simply be playing dumb. Perhaps they are in kahootz and they are both moles. The punishment I would no doubt have the pleasure of exacting on the two, if that were the case, would make my life complete. And I would probably get another promotion. Which I would deserve.

Wait. Maybe I’m the mole? No… no! I mustn’t think such foolish thoughts! Their mind games are beginning to weaken my mental fortitude!

I may need to resort to more… extreme measures in the oncoming months. I will find the mole and order within Section 10 will be restored. Come hell or high water. Now, where did I put that bottle of rubbing alcohol, the 9-iron, and “Ol’ Trusty?”

Oh. If you want to see video of my interactions with these two, check out the surveillance footage I’ve received clearance on posting below:

Rhythm Games and Carrots

Game Development, Gaming 2 Comments
Rock Band 3

The proverbial “carrot-and-stick.” A mechanic. Some unlockable. A reward that keeps the player playing. The motivating factor.

I’m playing through Rock Band 3 and I’m liking it. It feels cozy. Warm. Like home. I’ve played this game before, but it’s presented in a just different enough way to keep me playing. They’ve fixed some things. Swapping between profiles and characters is finally fixed. Character customization is cleaner by having currency removed. The way the “career” is presented through road challenges seems more accessible and forgivable than in the past.

But the problem I’ve had with all music games since day one is that the incentive to get better at them for me is nearly non-existent. Once I get to a certain level of play, there’s no external motivator to push me to improve, which I would like to do.

I want to be clear. Maybe there’s incentives for other gamers, and some people are probably more self-motivated to improve, but for my play through of Rock Band 3, proper incentives are often missing. The game often works against itself and its players and I’ll explain why. And maybe some ways to fix them.

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Pennies for Points, one year later…

Games for Fun, Games for Points, Gaming 2 Comments

Remember this?

From a tweet in October:

  • Just donated $193.33 to Child’s Play and Microsoft is matching. Total: $386.66. A penny for every gamerscore point I earned this year. #give

So there you have it. I donate and do charity in other ways too, but donating this way is a fun mini-game for me. 19,333 gamer points from January to October, nearly a year.

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Infinite Spawners

Game Development, Gaming 5 Comments

Hey! Non-fiction stuff for a second!

I recently finished Call of Duty: Black Ops on Veteran difficulty. Yep, the game I left during pre-production.

It’s interesting leaving a game two years ago and finally getting to play it. Overall I thought the game was a good experience. However, one thing that stood out was the use of infinite spawners in various places throughout the game.

It made me think back on a time I was being interviewed for a design position. Someone asked me what I thought of infinite spawners. I told them I didn’t care for them in general but that they can be used in the right context.

They thought I was wrong. I’m glad I didn’t end up working for them.

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