Living the Dream

Game Development, Life, Seattle, Stories 6 Comments

I wrote this a while back but never posted it. It’s a bit of a noir / gonzo take on game development, so take that as you will.

8:45 am. A combination of rustling coming from the bathroom and the repeated squeal of the cell phone alarm going off wakes him up.

Groggy, he pulls the cover over his head. Sagan puts his nose up over the edge of the king side bed, saying good bye to his dad. Tail wagging, Sagan wishes he could see more of his pack leader, but daddy has been really busy lately.

“Common! Sagan! Yes… I know. I miss him too. We need to go.”

Sagan won’t leave the side of the bed and has to be dragged away.

“Love you hon, have a good day… when did you get in last night?”

“Not sure, 2 I think…” he gurgles out from underneath the comforter.

No response that he can remember. Shuffling of feet and paws and slamming of doors and vehicle engines. He’s home alone again.

Gotta wake up. Shower.

Rolling out of bed, he holds onto the wall, still sleepy and shaky on his feet. He turns on the shower and goes back into the bedroom to pack his running gear for later in the day. He imagines the brief period of about an hour where he can just run, uninterrupted. The music is nice too.

Back in the shower, the water is hot. Too hot. Nearly scalding, he turns it down. Once behind the pure glass and metal stall, he slowly turns the heat back up. He’ll repeat the same scalding mistake tomorrow.

Cleaning himself, he thinks about the day before. A level needs to run faster, the frame rate is still suffering. If it’s not taken care of, his boss and their bosses will be upset. They’ll go into meeting rooms and talk about him. He knows that people are working on the problem and it’s a high priority for the team to fix.

Ultimately, it’s out of his control.

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Captains of Industry

Game Development, Jokes, Life, Stories, Uncategorized No Comments

The sun was trying its damnedest to press through the thick clouds above Megalocorp.

Deep within the corridors of this titan of technology, two game designers solemnly walked into a small conference room and slid the heavy glass and metal door behind them. Mismatching, cast away chairs from various cubicles haphazardly circled a small round white table. Cardboard boxes from an office move years ago were still piled in the corner. Definitely a place where birth is given to creative inspiration. Definitely.

The two plopped down and signed nearly simultaneously.

“So, we never really talked about what happened,” he let the words hang in the air for a moment, hoping the other designer would carry the thought forward. When his counterpart didn’t, he pressed on.

“How do you feel about what happened? You know… how it all went down?”

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343rd Dimension: Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage 2012

Life, Running, Seattle, Stories 4 Comments

Ragnar Introduction

Ragnar. The word said aloud sounds beastly. Guttural.

A few friends of mine in the game business completed a relay race called “Ragnar SoCal” which is when I first started learning about the series. Each Ragnar race is a 200 mile relay that takes place in various locations across the United States. Washington DC, Utah, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California, Las Vegas, Wisconsin, and more. Runners come in teams of 12 (or 6 if you’re an “ultra” team) running the entire relay, non-stop, night and day.

That often means little or no sleep for around 20-30 hours, no real meals, and a whole lot of running.

Being a runner who likes taking on bigger and bigger challenges, Ragnar seemed right up my alley. I love seeing new places on runs and this seemed like a scenic race. Running and taking a van tour across 200 miles of the US is a great way to tour the country and to reinforce how safe and friendly the US truly is.

I knew there were a few runners around the studio, but convincing 11 other people at 343 Industries plus finding volunteer van drivers was going to be a challenge of its own.

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Things I See When Running At Night

Life, Running, Seattle 1 Comment
  • The parked yellow Corvette that reminds me I’m close to home. It once seemed so far away.
  • Teenagers gathered in a circle, up to no good behind a fence. They are as startled by me as I am of them. They thought they were alone, as did I.
  • Stone, chiseled monolithic signs for neighborhoods that are all crafted in the same fashion. My mind flashes to Pleasantville and the Truman Show.
  • Are those dogs barking in the song I’m listening to? Sick feeling in my stomach. There are no dogs in this song. A glance across the street and I see a lady holding back her dog as it rears up on it’s hind legs, teeth gnashing.
  • Vehicles that drive much faster than they would during the day. I never see the drivers. During the day, they wave. I imagine the night drivers do the same.
  • A couple taking a walk alone. I’ve only ever seen them once.
  • My breath. Always my breath.
  • An older, classic, gutted car along a remote trail. The doors are open while rain pours down hard. It makes me run faster as I go by.
  • The expanse of lake. It’s ringed by lights, but no light exists on it’s surface. The large mass of water might as well be a black hole.
  • Another group of teenagers. I run up from behind, around, then past them. They smell like cheap deodorant. They could probably catch me if they wanted to, but maybe not.
  • The light from by headlamp reflecting off the fog hanging in the air. I can’t see more than 15 feet in front of me.
  • Groups of mailboxes that look like people. I become startled for a moment, but realize I’ve just given myself a boost of adrenaline. I can’t feel my legs for the next 45 seconds.
  • Multiple people who I almost run into as I simply didn’t see them. On approach I dodge to the left, out into the road. Maybe they thought I was playing chicken with them.
  • A wooden bridge that crosses a creek in the woods. It dumps me at the edge of a small, new, and well kept suburban playground. I feel unsettled.
  • The stars on a clear night. Lack of streetlights, while dangerous, is an acceptable trade-off for a beautiful sky that is hard to keep my eyes off of.
  • Hills. Ooooooh, hills. My calves burn then stop working when going up them, my shins stab with pain when going down them.
  • Light, reflecting from large drops of rain. Some of the rain drops pass before me, splashing onto the ground. Others soak into my pants. Others gather in puddles which I step into.
  • Pretty snow fall which has collected into large, uneven, icy sheets of death. Five mile run turns into a two mile run because I can’t make it up the hill without traction.

This list was generated bit by bit over the past year. I finally decided to post it as I haven’t seen anything new in a while.

The 2011 Seattle Marathon

Life, Running, Seattle 4 Comments

Near the starting line of the 2011 Seattle Marathon

The day was like any other. Except I got up at 6 am, ate a quarter cup of blue berries, a half cup of granola and a half cup of yogurt then went back to bed for 45 minutes.

I was worried about weather. Seattle is known as a wet city, and the forecasts had a 56% chance of rain. Upon waking up to eat, it was still dry and 50 degrees out. Warm. Things were looking up.

At 6:45, it started coming down. Then the wind kicked in.

I’ve trained in bad conditions, but never on the long runs. I’ve run in sub-freezing temperatures, but for only for five or so miles. Rain and wind for up to maybe ten.

On with the shorts and the tank top, the standard wear for the 20+ mile runs. Overheating may become an issue, better play it safe.

Phone in armband. Headphones in phone. Shoes on. Chip tracker on. Race number on chest.  Five cliff shot gels in my pocket.

And away we go. Nothing but rain the entire drive to the Seattle Center. Oh man.

Snap decision. After a last minute switch to a long sleeve technical shirt and pounding a Cliff Gel, and I’m out stretching. They’re already calling the Full Marathoners into place. I jump over the barrier and start stretching. Five minutes to start.

I rip my phone out of it’s arm pouch, and with my headphones dangling I snap a photo of the start. I try sending out a tweet, but it takes forever to upload and panic sets in. I still need to get my GPS tracker on, my music going, plus put my armband, head phones and so on back together. Maybe next time.

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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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Time Statue

Life, Stories No Comments

He had traveled across ten galaxies and had finally came to the end of his quest. He found it. He had finally found it.

The Time Statue.

He approached the two story, stone oracle, located on a remote, but seemingly habitable world. The planet was strangely devoid of life, although he was unphased by this.

The traveler opened his mouth to speak, but the Time Statue’s eyes opened and stared down at the traveler. The Time Statue’s mouth began to move. A booming voice cut through the thin air.

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Zero to Half-Marathon in Under Two Months

Life 3 Comments

I don’t consider myself to be an athlete. I’m not an athletic person. I’m not in great shape, even now. I play a lot of video games. I’m 30 years old. I sit at a desk all day.

So how is it that I can run 13.1 miles is under two hours? How is it I can run a half marathon and post a decent time, when less than two months ago I nearly passed out after running a single mile?

I did almost no research before deciding to run. I’ve never read a book about running (until over a month after starting anyway). I just decided to go for broke, and learn as I went along.

I get a lot of questions on how this is possible at all. I’ve been called “weird” for attempting long distances without “proper training.” So I figure it’s time to give away all my secrets.

I’ll describe my unconventional methods. Try these at home, or not. Maybe they’ll work for you, but I’m not promising anything.

However, I think anyone has the ability to do what I did. I don’t consider myself to be special at all.

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