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Liebster’s on Ice

March 19, 2015 Leave a comment

So it’s been fairly close to forever since I’ve blogged.  I’ll blame a lot of that on the arrival of my son and a fairly significant series of life events which includes actually moving one step further along on The Quest.  In October, I began working at KingsIsle Entertainment and The Friendly Necromancer, our community manager, there was kind enough to to nominate my sleepy blog for a Liebster.  So at the risk of delaying my response any longer than I already have and possibly slipping back into hibernation, here are my answers:


1- You’re suddenly very tiny and trapped in a giant salad bowl, what do you do?

Hope that the salad isn’t dressed yet?  I suppose I’d probably start climbing the vegetable cliffs to get out of the bowl… though if I’m this tiny, I think that being in the bowl is probably the least of my worries.


2- What’s your very first memory of playing video games? If you could lie about that question to make it sound more cool, which game would you choose instead?

I don’t really remember if this is my first, or just a fairly early memory, but I absolutely loved Magic Candle II. I remember playing that game for hours and hours and hours.  Building up a team of six and scouring that game for new companions, weapons and quests.  To be honest, I don’t even know what the main objective was in the game but I still have a mental map of that game world stuck in my head full of ridiculously useless details.


3- What’s your favorite comic book series? Why?

X-Men. The 90’s cartoon actually got me into comics and X-Men is really the only physical comic I bought in any great amount growing up.  Aside from that, I think the fact that there’s no one hero in the X-Men that kind of gives it some extra life for me. In fact, of all the X-Men, I hate Wolverine the most because he’s pretty much his own hero. Everyone else has limitations and strengths and it’s the combinations of personalities and powers that keeps things fresh. There’s also something about the idea of random ordinary people being ostracized for hidden gifts that sort of speaks to a kid who was less than popular growing up.


4- Most astounding food you’ve ever tasted?  Was it every bit as good the second time you tried it?

A Moroccan tajine dish I had junior year of college. I was in Morocco and this was a tiny restaurant in Fez. I tried getting something similar at a Moroccan restaurant months later back at college and it was good, but not the same. I think a lot of it was the atmosphere, but the food was really good.


5- What’s something you’ve lost in your life that you’ll never get back. If you did find it, what would you do with it?

So I originally wrote this answer about how I loaned out my series of the Death Gate Cycle in high school.  I don’t even remember who I loaned them to but there were plenty of times over the last few years I wanted to read them. That said, it’s kind of a silly answer because I really could just get a new set and reread them.

Then I remembered that I don’t have a copy of C++ code I wrote for my senior AP Computer Science project.  It was a game I called “Mazem” that had a procedurally generated 2d maze that you had to find a set of keys to escape from. The code was on a CD with its own jewel case and art cover I made for it. Really ridiculous since I’m not sure what I’d do with it, but I’d kind of like to have it now.


6- What theory, rule, or insight do you remember most from school? What made it stick in your head?

“Extremes lead to extremes” is a pretty useful life philosophy that’s good to keep in mind in any number of settings. It works in physics, dealing with people, deciding how to approach a day. I don’t think it’s necessary to avoid extremes or excesses entirely, but it’s a relatively simple way to look at a situation and reasonably expect an outcome or explain it after the fact.


7- You want to make me a mix CD. What five songs (or artists if you can’t name individual songs) would be essential to the mix?

I’m super bad at music (just ask my wife!), so I really have no idea. There are a handful of songs I might pick at any one time, but I really don’t consistently listen to music or make playlists.  On the rare occasion that I do, it’s just random stuff off the last few things I heard that caught my attention.


8- What website do you use that you feel more people should know about?

Snopes. O.M.G. Snopes.  If there is one thing that grinds my gears more than anything about the internet, it’s people who spread crazy “incredible” things they find that are a) patently false, b) veritably false, or c) why-would-you-even-think-this-is-a-real-thing-and-not-think-to-check-first false, without first taking the 10 seconds of Googling it takes to be a responsible citizen of the information age.


9- If you were to take a week long trip to get away from everything and find some peace of mind, where would you go? Why?

This was a toss up between the beach and mountains, but I think I’d probably choose a ski trip. Half of the time, the good places are way out in the middle of no-where so you get to focus mostly on what you’re there to do. It burns a lot of energy and I like the cold, so it’s physically refreshing. My bachelor’s party was skiing and board games, which may sound lame to a lot of people, but I really liked it.


10- What’s the one game everybody should play? What feeling does it tap into for you?

After spending probably way too long on this one, I don’t think these two questions really work together. I can’t say that there’s one game that everyone should play because I think some of the best games are the ones that let everyone take away something different. In fact, I’d even go a step further and say the best games are the ones that surprise you with what you do end up taking away.  There are a lot of games that have caught me like that, but which I wouldn’t recommend now because I know that others probably wouldn’t feel it and even I might not feel now because so much has changed in how I might experience it. I have a lot of good memories from WoW, for instance, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I think everyone should go out and try it now or that I’d play it the same way I did 7 years ago.

All that said, if you just want a game recommendation, Telltale Game’s Walking Dead is pretty great for the reasons above. I think they did a fantastic job of making you think and reflect on choices, making you a real part of a story.

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I rescued the princess!

July 7, 2012 2 comments

The Quest is usually a tag I use to talk about my personal attempt to break into the game development world.  Today’s post isn’t about that but it has been over a month since I last post here, and I wanted to explain my absence from the site.  As that reason was personal, I’m tagging this as a part of the Quest.

I’ve been grinding you see.

No, not grinding for gear in Diablo 3 or levels in some other game.  Rather, I’ve been sneaking around my girlfriend getting her a ring made; grinding cash into diamonds.  Last weekend, I proposed and she said yes.  And there was much rejoicing!  Many who read this blog regularly already heard that news, but I felt everyone else should know too.

But, wedding planning aside, I’m back now and I have a few irons in the fire that I think will be fairly interesting once I pull them out.  Early next week I plan to post a fairly long piece about storytelling and simulation.  Hopefully shortly after that, I’ll have a piece about social media’s influence on game development (which will have math!).   And to top it all off, my fiancee and I will be going to ComicCon next week.  If I find out anything cool, interesting, or otherwise awesome, that will be included in an update once I get back.

So thanks for your patience and please check back regularly.

Categories: The Quest

Quest Creep

April 22, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been trying to do more running lately. While it’s not directly related the Quest, it ends up being important because my mind decides to go into rapid fire idea generation mode while out on these runs. The skeleton game ideas I’ve been tossing around for awhile really need fleshing out and these runs end up kick-starting that process. I get back to the house physically exhausted and mentally charged, sit down in front of the keyboard while I try to cool off, and start digging for ways to bring my ideas to life. These deep dives into the independent gaming communities of the web end up being as frustrating and humbling as they are enlightening, mostly because they reveal how much I still have to learn and how far away I am from reaching the goal of a playable demo for these ideas.

I never expected game design and development to be easy; on the contrary, I knew it was going to be demanding. Where I seem to have miscalculated was where I though I might be able to cut corners. In many ways, I’ve often found myself searching for a few hours for a faster / easier / simpler way to do something only to realize that I would have probably gotten more done by devoting those few hours to just learning something more elementary. For instance, I spent the better part of today searching for open source gaming engines, trying to find one that would let me jump right in. Naively, I thought that someone would have spent the time building such a tool, but in a lot of ways, that’s like expecting someone to build a program to automatically make money and then give it away for free.  Still, I found several tools that attempted to give me what I wanted, but the tools I found were either incomplete or too inflexible to do what I wanted them to do. That’s not meant as a point of criticism of independent developers, but rather a realization that I was going to have to learn to make more of those tools and adjustments myself.

At the end of the day, I think it’s important for me to keep in mind that I’m just one person. Anything worth designing and developing is either going to take a long time if I insist on doing it myself or I’m going to need a team at some point. More importantly, until I do get a team, I need to have a more rational expectation of what I can accomplish in a given week and stop chasing ideas that are outside of that scope. It’s humbling to admit that, but short of cutting out the other things in my life I enjoy (like actually playing games) I just don’t see how I’ll get anything done otherwise.

My New Hats

April 3, 2012 1 comment

It’s probably about time that I update the Quest.  The bad news is I’m finding it harder to keep up posting here regularly.  I busted my self-imposed goal of one post a week.  Again.  The good news is why I’m taking longer to post; I’ve  been busy learning for my new job with a fairly young software development company.   It turns out that my previous background coupled with the programming and networking courses I started taking a few months ago have made me into an attractive hybrid (except without the tax benefits and lower emissions).  The company that hired me doesn’t build games, but the role I’ve been brought on to fill gives me plenty of opportunity to learn about development and work on some of my technical skills.  If all you care about is reading about my personal life, you can probably stop here.  Anyone else who likes or is curious about games, feel free to keep going.

I wrote last week(ish) about some of my thoughts about the next WoW expansion and its implications on the future of mobile gaming.  If you actually made it to the end of the post, you probably noticed I said I was not in the beta.  Now I am.  This past weekend, I was a part of the 300,000+ annual pass holders who were tossed an invite to the beta.  My lovely and talented girlfriend / editor was kind enough to grant me several hours of play time despite my having been away all week on business for my new job.  It would be criminal to waste that gift and not share some of my experience in the beta with you all.  Spoiler Alert:  There are Pandas.  Everywhere.

Many of the new features I’m excited to see in the expansion, like pet battles, are not yet implemented on the beta servers.   Much of the new class and race content is available, however, and I decided to make the most of it by trying out the games newest class and race:  the Pandaren monk.

Along with everyone else.

After making my new character, less-than-cleverly and more-than-hastily named Rollshambo, I logged into the server and was confronted by a sea of black and white fur.  It turns out that the other 299,999 invitees also decided to make pandas.  While it made the initial experience a little frustrating, I took it in stride and eventually got past some of the early bottleneck and out into the world.  I was able to play most of this content at Blizzcon 2011 anyway, so I don’t feel like I missed much by rushing through the area.  That is not meant to diminish the content, however.  The new quests and objectives are quite amusing, especially when you get to enjoy minor bugs that result in sweet headgear like this.

Yay ridiculous hats!

Online games usually demand teamwork between players to complete objectives, so support roles often end up being simultaneously the most in demand and the least played in the game.  Consequently, I usually end up playing one of them.  This was my experience playing a healer almost exclusively in World of Warcraft over the past few years.  However, doing anything for several years will make anything seem monotonous eventually, so Blizzard’s promise to give the monk a new healing style emphasizing an interactive melee experience piques my interest.  I chose the healing specialization, the Mistweaver, at level 10 and worked my way to level 25 over the weekend.  While I only have two healing spells by that point, both function differently than almost any other heals I’ve used on other characters, resulting in a unique experience even at this low level of play.  Only time and testing will tell if Blizzard can deliver on the hype of the class, but so far I like what I see.  In the meantime, I will be enjoying the fact that I have two new hats to wear:  novice software developer at work and novice bug “unintended feature” reporter in the Mists of Pandaria beta.

My new job has 100% less balloon rides than this screenshot.

The Quest

February 21, 2012 8 comments

Today’s post is a bit significantly less about game development and the game community, and a bit significantly more about me.  If you’ve taken the time to read the About section, you may have seen that I aspire to be a game developer.   I’ve undertaken a personal quest to eventually break into the game industry and I’ve decided to chronicle that journey.  Periodically, I will make posts like today’s categorized under “The Quest,” which will highlight my progress and hopefully celebrate milestones on the journey, though they may be few and far between since I have a sneaking suspicion that that this is going to be slightly more difficult than killing 10 boars for a little bit of gold and experience.

My educational background is – shall we say – less than ideal for making a transition into the gaming industry.  I have yet to see a single job listing for someone with a bachelor’s in history (if anyone reading this finds one – let me know).   I’m not without hope, however.  While most job listings call for an educational background in computer science, graphic design, web design, networking, public affairs, or marketing, every now and again a very successful developer sneaks into the mix with a much more colorful background.  For instance, Greg Street, a lead systems designer for Blizzard Entertainment, has undergraduate degrees in biology and philosophy and a PhD in marine science.

While I don’t have a PhD, my master’s degree in intelligence studies at least has the potential to be as useful as marine science.  Being able to do analysis and understand complex problems definitely would be an asset to a game designer.  But these are soft skills that can only augment existing knowledge.  They don’t stand up well on their own. To that end, I’ve recently enrolled in a local information technology retraining program.  I’ve been focusing my time and attention on software development and programming languages.  While the course has me working on some programs with more business and commercial applications, I am also working on some simple games.

The current short term goal is that in a few weeks/months you may see some of my early attempts at game development  hosted here on the site, and maybe eventually on your own mobile device.  We’re still a long way off from that, but there you go – quest accepted.