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In the beginning... The True and Absurd Tale of How I Became a Software Pira-- Developer.

Warcraft: Orcs & Humans

Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the outside looking in, just getting a job in the games industry seems like an impossibility. I think the game developers who entered the industry in the late 80s and early 90s are part of the reason for that perception. It seems like all of us have a crazy story about how we got our first gig. Hell, we use words like "gig" instead of job; like we're old touring artists who have seen it all and know all your troubles, because we've been there. Well, I'm probably not going to buck the trend with my own story, but hey -- it is sort of a crazy story, so you might enjoy it.

Partly, our crazy stories are because of the age of the industry at the time. The games industry felt like a frontier and the folks making video games were the hardy pioneers brave enough to go there first and blaze new trails. Most studios were small; I remember Ron Millar commenting in a 1998 PC Gamer Article that he left Blizzard because, "it was getting too big and corporate." I was employee 35 at Blizzard; I believe we had 70 or so people at the company when I left it myself in 1997. Just to compare it to today: When I lead the design team on Rift, it was 35 or so people -- our design team was as large as Blizzard itself was when I joined it. A smaller industry means a smaller number of gatekeepers and so maybe it really did take crazy brashness to get into it back then. Everything really was fast and loose. Or at least, it felt that way to me...

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3rd World Opportunities

You've heard me talk about Kickstarters before. From our friends, from our clients and from the folks we think are just badass and cool, but this one's a little different. Read more»

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Is attempting to kill Piracy actually killing Internet Security?

In the midst of a conversation with my fellow business partners at Skyward* Corp, the following thought occured to us:
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A Crisis of Faith

Animal Rescue

Image via Wikipedia

My sister is a kennel manager for a local humane society. She has a tough job, they all do there. It's not just that they fight against community apathy to save the lives of animals every day; they also often have to fight each other. It's one of those startling parallels between her job and my job as a creative director in the games industry.

I should probably explain what I mean by "fight each other" before I go on much further: Everyone comes onto a project, or into a new workplace, with their own goals and agendas. Most of the time, these individualized ambitions are in accord, if not harmony; that is to say, they usually don't get in the way.

Usually... Read more»

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A Promise, Unfulfilled

Statue of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, near t...

Image via Wikipedia

I hack away at side projects all the time. They're a way to indulge this absurd passion I have for creating interactive things, without having to think about my day job. You see, when you make games for a living, you're working under all sorts of constraints and restrictions. You can't choose to do things the way you want to, unless that's also the choice the stakeholders you answer to want to make. No choice is ever just made - every change to a game, every decision on a path forward, is a series of negotiations and compromises.

 Helmuth von Moltke's famous quote, translated roughly as "No plan survives contact with the enemy intact" pretty much sums up the problem and the reality. We're not enemies, obviously, but when it comes to getting done the things you want personally, it can feel that way. Ask any frustrated level designer that ended up on a mmo that wasn't nearly as much like WoW as he'd like. Short of a complete mutiny in which you oust the guy calling the shots (something that would get you fired at anywhere but at a ridiculously incompetent studio), what can you do? Nothing. You grit your teeth and you make the compromise because at the end of the day, that's your job when you're a professional game developer. Read more»

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The Needs of the Few, or the One

 


SciFi logo

Image via Wikipedia


I've been incredibly critical of the Syfy channel lately on twitter. Mostly, I'm pissed that they cancelled a show I watch; I'm the first to admit that. However, it's not the only reason for my ire. Hell, it's not even the reason that has me motivated most. You see, it's not really rage that makes me critical. It's disappointment.


 When the Sci-Fi channel became the Syfy channel many of the more diehard fans of the sci-fi genre predicted a spiral of decline and decay that would eventually lead to this "new hip brand" being the death of the channel. From their perspective, and maybe from mine now that I've seen it, that's exactly what has happened.


 The channel shows more cheesy horror and wrestling than sci-fi. They seem to care more about them than their flagship shows and the viewers they represent. The truth is that's exactly right, but the reasons should be obvious to anyone who's ever worked on a creative endeavor as their paying job: It's about the money. Their flagship shows aren't bringing in the viewers, but these movies and the wrestling, they do.


 How can you fix that? I mean, if you're a diehard sci-fi fan looking for some place to see new shows like Stargate and to see reruns of your old favorite shows like Firefly, where do you go? How can you create a demand big enough to take your sci-fi channel back from the "greedy clutches of Syfy"? Read more»

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The Road Not Taken #7 - Things Left Unsaid

Auto Assault closed its doors in 2007. It's now been over 3 years since the last set of tires ground virtual dirt beneath their tread. 3 years since the last "LFG" and for me, an entire lifetime away. For a long while, I stopped thinking about Auto Assault. Completely. I don't mean that in a bad way. I wasn't angry. I just, I don't know, didn't want to open the box again. I mean, it'd been buried right? Read more»

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I've gone a little strange, these days...

I was inspired recently, by something a friend was doing. It was an art project; one that really grabbed me because, well, in its way it was a piece of lore. I mean it seemed to tell a story and it seemed like a glimpse into at a larger, deeper world. I'm sure some art critic somewhere would tell me it's not really art, blah blah blah, but it inspired me to take on something I've never tried before and that's pretty rare. So what did it inspire me to do? It inspired me to learn how to build electronics projects -- to [i]tinker[/i] out here, in the physical world instead of in the game worlds I sculpt for a living. Read more»
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You've got to have faith

Games

Image by Ian D via Flickr

Sorry, I haven't made much an attempt to keep the site up lately. I could work up a lot of excuses, but honestly -- it's because I'm wrapped up in work. I really don't spend much time thinking about anything else, lately. I suppose that's because I'm finally working on one of the very few "dream projects." Heroes of Telara is one of those project that I've waited more than a decade to make and now that I'm working on it, that's pretty much my whole life. Getting a chance to work on your dream project is rare, so rare in fact that for most designers it never happens at all. I've often wondered why that is, and it's that question that motivated me to write, today. Read more»

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On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books

On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books -

Repeating a theme that he frequently touched upon during his 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama has once again referenced video games as a metaphor for academic underachievement.

In a Father's Day message published in Parade, Obama writes:

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.

Interestingly, the Parade feature is Obama's third mention of video games in the last 10 days. On June 11th he told an audience in Wisconsin:

Even with the good schools, we've got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive. The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down.

And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer.

Last Monday the President mentioned games during a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago:

[Preventive care] starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking... It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.

[Game Politics]

I'm pretty big fan of Obama. I like what he's done so far and - generally speaking - I agree with his message, but his derogatory comments about video games are getting worse. On top of that, they're getting less accurate. Before it was "We gotta get kids to stop playing games and get outside" and you know -- that's not a bad thing. We could all benefit from more active lifestyles, right? But now he's saying replace video games with books.

Sounds noble right? I mean, surely a book will teach you more than a video game ever did? Video games are just distractions after all, there's nothing really intellectual or literary in them for you to see, is there?

Is there? Read more»