Feb 052012
 

Thanks to the folks at Game Developers Guild, we had a real, live, in-person Global Game Jam take place from January 27-29. The first day (Friday) was all about registration, kickoff presentations and forming the teams that would have less than two days to complete their game concepts. The speakers were strong – all with local ties to South Florida: Derek Smart from Quest Online and 3000AD, Miguel Oubiña from Nuclei 3D and Mark Bradshaw from Stratogon Entertainment. Derek and Mark use a lot of remote workers (i.e. “inexpensive”) but Miguel is recruiting local students to intern with his studio. There were some constant themes coming from the presenters: being successful is tough, the work is volatile, use – and legitimately pay for – a prominent off-the-shelf game engine such Unity or Unreal, and be prepared to sleep under your desk a lot.

As we all sat around discussing skills and needs, I offered to provide QA or Music help to any of the teams who requested it. The first day ended with the artists and devs being shown to their computers and me heading for home, but not after I left my email address so anyone could contact me to take me up on my offer to help.

Not sure whether anyone would call upon my talents, I ended up getting requests for the “Midgard Serpent” Viking game, the futuristic, virtual “Voxel Slayer” game, and the urban “Gang Warz” game. Each required different styles and I had to dig out some old sample CD-ROMs to bring the right sounds into the loops and effects for each of them.

For Midgard Serpent I initially provided a sound loop to play while the Viking ship was sailing, as well as am appropriately aggressive battle song titled “for Thor!” The team made additional requests for sound effects such as lightning bolts and injury sounds, which I fulfilled with a combination of public domain sound effects and sounds of my own concoction.

The Voxel Slayer team was less ambitious, asking only for a single song loop, which I titled “Mad Voxel.” This was a synth-driven dance type tune with retro game sounds thrown in.

Finally, the Gang Warz folks needed a music loop and some effects to play when attacking, winning, or when a gang member dies. The loop got an urban treatment and the effects were short and to the point. Here’s a link to download and install their game on your PC:

Overall, the experience was fun, but it was work at the same time – especially when all three teams had overlapping requests that I had to triage and deliver on as quickly as possible. Definitely something I would do again!

Gang Warz

Oct 062011
 

Today Steve Jobs took his leave of us.

With his loss we have become a little smaller; our dreams have become a little dimmer; our possibilities have become a little less likely.

I am typing this blog entry on a Mac Book Pro using Pages. I have a Mac Pro in my study, a G5 in the boys’ bedroom, and a G4 in the garage. I have a Mac 512K (dealer upgraded to a Plus). I love my Macs if you couldn’t tell.

My first encounter with Apple was a game. Go figure. Way back in 1983 one of my friends got lucky, very lucky. His Mom bought him a Franklin computer. Franklin was at that time one of several Apple clone manufacturers and their Ace series was Apple compatible. The first thing we put on it was Ultima II. We played that game for hours, puzzled over the quests, and could never figure out how to survive on that spacecraft. Along with a lack of money, there was a big drought of computer buys between the Franklin and the next, but in 1989 after saving and scrimping I bought my first Macintosh; a Mac Plus with 1 MB of RAM and no hard drive at the small technology store in a Burdines.

I used that Mac Plus for years; for everything. I wrote, I programmed, I drew and painted, and I played games. I refused to believe that you couldn’t game on a Mac. All of my PC friends laughed at my furtive attempts to find and play games on Macs. A Mac gamer is an oxymoron they said. It was true, the number of titles was limited, but those that made it to the Mac were often top quality. Prince of Persia was astounding on the Mac Plus. The Manhole was a glimpse with what could be done and Myst was the vision of the future. By far my favorite early Mac game, and still to this day one of my all time favorites, was Reach for the Stars from SSG. It combined a simple interface, a challenging AI, multiplayer (hot seat), and excellent replayability.

Today we are in the age of mobile gaming and while many in the industry could see the impact and potential of gaming on handheld devices, Steve Jobs and Apple really brought all of the elements together. The number of game downloads from mobile app stores across every platform tells the story.

The impact he had on so much of what we do was so dramatic, so substantial. This little homage to Mr. Jobs can in no way relate the magnitude of that impact. I think what best sums up Steve Jobs is something he said at his famous Stanford University commencement speech,

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

From his life we became bigger; our dreams became brighter; and our possibilities were shown to be more expansive than we had ever imagined.

Thank you Steve Jobs.

Sep 092011
 
Ichigo kurosaki

Bleach is a Japanese anime focused on the life of teenage Ichigo Kurosaki who discovers he has special powers and throughout the show sees those powers grow as he faces challenges and battles against powerful supernatural beings.

In the story, there are thirteen court guard squads, each with a captain and a lieutenant at the head. Ichigo fights against the same enemies as these squads, but sometimes comes into conflict with them and their leaders. Whenever a situation threatens someone’s life, or the very existence or the world as we know it, the Emperor who rules over the court guards rules in a way that seems to intentionally hamper the pursuit of right over wrong.

A typical conflict more or less follows this sequence…
– An innocent person is accused of doing something wrong and the laws are strictly applied, resulting in that person being hunted down and/or put into prison
– One of the subordinate leaders, or an “outsider” (e.g. Ichigo) acts despite their orders or rules, and initiates a rescue or other actions to clear the accused person’s name
– Some of the captains or other outsiders rally around the rebel and help in the cause, out of devotion to the accused individual or to save a world or dimension that is in peril
– Throughout this, the emperor continues to enforce the rules, refusing to intervene and even seems to impair those attempting to do the right thing
– Eventually, the rogue group succeeds

Given that the efforts inevitably lead to a successful outcome, we can draw two possible conclusions:
1. The leader is worthless
2. The leader is a genius at developing his captains

Have you ever been asked to do something, or inspired/provoked to go against the grain to prove your point about something to your boss? Maybe you were so determined that you worked extra hours to crunch the numbers, or came to work on Monday with a counter-proposal you worked on all weekend. When this happens do you feel grateful or frustrated? You should say “thank you” because you’ve just grew a little bit.

Perhaps the emperor’s approach is obvious to Japanese viewers, but to Western viewers, it must seem that the emperor should be replaced with someone who has a clue. I suspect he is creating the situations and watching to see who the real leaders are. Interestingly enough in the story, they tend to be the youngest ones.