Sunday, September 30, 2007

--super mario bros 2 tune--

how the hell would they get such addictive music out of crappy 8bit sound chip?

so last night i had a game dev dream. this actually doesn't happen very much (well, unless it's welding vertices, or being fired). I was playing God of War mixed with Tony Hawk and Mototrax. I am not sure if they were always the same game.. anyway it wet from alternately awesome to completely unfinished and terrible. I'd be vrooming around in a sloppy dirtbike or jeep and there would be lowpoly cabins without backsides ad flipped normals. everything was blurry, unlit,
and crappy looking.. lots of bright reds and yellows. then another level would load up and just be fun. Then my dream ceased to be about videogames, and I was just able to get up a good deal of speed running on my own two feet and take enormous, superhero-sized leaps into the sky. I would jump around inside Hangers and slap the ceiling every time, amazed that I would plummet back to earth everytime and NEVER hurt my feet. It was weird. Felt very cool though.

So I am thinking about PS3 Home lately. I read a little update on the thing in a recent EGM rag and it got my brain turning on it some more. It was due this fall (which is NOW) and got postponed till sometime in 08, Spring I guess? Anyway.. man. Dullsville. Since I had first lain eyes on the thing, it's not impressed me. I can appreciate what they are doing, and competing with things like Second Life, WOW, and the Mii's all rolled into one.. never mind Xbox Live. But this looks kind of pathetic by comparison. I can completely understand what thy are going for here and why they are doing this, in this fashion, but it's just pointed totally down the wrong path. Take it from a guy who's not actually really laid eyes on Xbox Live himself (and so not qualified to speak on the matter, but "I get the gist...") If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Sometimes a direct interface without an avatar is honestly a better way to approach things. in the matter of setting up live games online, an all of that, it does' "need" this kind of virtual representation. Much less for playing online minigames and crap like that. I mean, so long as they support a more traditional "browser formula" as well and make this stuff optional, then it can't hurt, I suppose. Honestly, there are things they could do to make a prospect like home very cool, but they don't seem like they have their S together enough to do this (well, at least the politics-that-be would prevent it from getting there). You can sort of tell what kind of people are in charge of this project just by looking at the media presented thus far. They want it to be al classy, IKEA, Metrosexual.. Sims. Man. Boring. I guess I am the same kind of guy who would poo-poo the idea of Sims in the first place (though at the time when it was fresh, i appreciated it's relative "originality"). Seriously the biggest problem with Home is this: what is the point, what do you DO? It's not a game, it's just... hanging out. Eh, I guess the no-lifer's will dig on it. If they get some kind of ingame achievements going, goals and tasks ad crap, then it could work. Make it a little wackier and Animal Crossing-y instead of Glorious Ugly Realism Boringness, it might get something. Half-assed pool and bowling don't seem too exiting. get some Poker and Mahjong and stuff in there. Hell, make a Magic the Gathering ripoff... things like Uno wet over well, get a whole card-playing community going, make it free, and make it a little atmospheric (dark and dank and sketchy, "underground feeling." Make old-fashioned 80s arcades with relevant emulated games instead of "insta copter" or whatever. Make people feel like they have to earn this stuff, discover it, instead of laying it all out there.

Whatever. I have tons of ideas, I am sure many do. Ultimately it wall be another gaffe that they throw tons of money at to result in another overbudget half-assed project that makes them look kind of clueless and lame. It will possibly get refined into something cooler in some time. Hey if they could make 8bit skins for everything, that would be sweet. Tron skins.. even WOW sins for those who like that sort of thing. Overall I just prefer my real life as my REAL life and hanging out online to be something that remains a novelty, not the point of my life. Ohhh I should watch my tone. Anyway like everyone else, I watch this with interest to see what shape it takes. Gross or not, it's still pretty important and weighty.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Well, let's see how well I can do typing in this thing will my girlfriend is watching sex and the city on the other side of the room..

another day in the trenches, the past couple of weeks have been all about "repair the bugs, fix the errors..." y'know how it goes. It's not the most glamorous part of the job, surely, but hey, someone's gotta do the dirty work. Today was skybox repair... I'll say this much, you work in a business with certain tools for an amount of time, and you get used to doing things a certain way. You pick up after and some years settle down with a different toolset, then you have to re-apply all the techniques that worked in one way and turn them on their ear "let's see.. how do they handle it in here?" It's not bad, and it's satisfying to figure out how to do the, erm, translation - but yeah, at the 11th hour it's nice to have the fallback of "I know how to do this simple basic thing" and have it work like you usually expect. Well, when that doesn't quite happen, it's at least satisfying to discover a new way of doing things..

I was listening to the latest Games for Windows podcast today (well okay it was day old, but they released two this week, apparently) and it got me thinking. They were going off about how excited they were to be wrapped up with the new Team Fortress 2 (and associated titles), and remarking about how it really is such a great time in history to be a gamer, right now. So many big titles are being released during this period, in the wake of a pretty solid couple of years of steady releases (I think I was mentioning lately about the relative quality of "the big franchises"). It's true! Look at any release list between now and the coming holiday season and thing is just packed. Metroid just released recently, we got Halo 3, a new Madden just came out, Skate is reviewing well, the anticipated PS3 titles are on the horizon (Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank), I believe Ninja Gaiden just released on PS3 (yeah another rehash, but it's got it's fans) - Mario Galaxy and Smash Bros. are due shortly for Wii (as is wii fit.. hahahaha). Zelda Phantom Hourglass.. Bioshock, of course.. You already forgot but a new Pokemon swept the world a few months back, as did a Final Fantasy. Okay there were like 10 other big titles on my mind but I am having trouble dredging them up at the minute, but you get the point. Barely a year ago a new Zelda was released, and after the new year (spring?) it's expected we'll see the new installments in the GTA and Metal gear series. So, yeah, there's a lot going on, no surprise there. "It's a good time to be a gamer.." indeed.

But you know what? Listening to the enthusiasm of the crew of that podcast, it made me sort of sad. I used to be a huge fan of games... when I was a kid, that's what my life revolved around! I couldn't get my hands on enough gaming literature, never mind the actual games themselves! But things are different now. I am on the other end of things, and due to that, I see how it's all put together, bit by bit, byte by byte. I have seen countless games in various states of development, to the level now that when I look at any game, it is often the case that I see it as the sum of it's parts. The interface, the animation system, the recycled textures.. the tacked-on tutorials. The knocked-off features. The half-assed added on "bonus materials.." The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions, eh? Alright, I sound a little jaded, I have just seen a little too many projects for my years (yeah 'cause I am so OLD!) but more than that, I guess as games got more advanced, and numerous ---- it's been easier for them to fall into their cliche's. Which is fine, as I've noted above they are usually satisfying affairs for their audiences. I can't honestly look back at the games of years ago and say "oh yeah the games where you flew from the left side of the screen to the right side, and pressed a fire button? THOSE were so distinctive from one another!" It's true, there's leagues more depth now (though I will still argue, "not necessarily better..") But anyway, that's how it is - I am not easily swayed by games anymore. I used to race to the store to get my hands on the latest Sega Genesis title, I would stalk the SNES release lists.. I would nag the crap outta my folks for the newest SMB or Castlevania or ghouls n Ghosts or Thunder Force for whatever holiday was coming up. I NEEDED that stuff! But I guess I have played "enough" games, I have jumped through "enough hoops." Recently I have picked up some of the titles that I never got around to playing during my childhood, out of curiousity.. yeah, some were fun, but my burning desire to wrap my hands around that controller is long gone, man. I won't lie, there's still games I have my eye on and stuff I want to pick up, but that "life or death" feeling has long since passed. If i had to give up my inventory tomorrow, I don't think I'd shed a tear (but to be honest, I think I would miss my gameboy Micro, a liiiiiiitle)

So then.. is that it? I am dedicated to my profession, my career.. and working in games still excites me, makes me happy. But are my days as a modern gaming consumer gone for good, for the most part? Yeah, possibly.. probably. Who knows, things could swing around and go in a different direction, but I think they've already started to in some ways (casual gaming, Nintendo DS, the surge in retro-gaming interest in the mainstream) and though it's all novel and interesting to me, I seem to notice I am still not spending any money on this kind of entertainment (and no, not pirating, either!) Nah, I think it's me.. my passion for that stuff has given way to my passion for the business end of it, the bigger picture.. the actual production end of things. Keeping tabs on the scene, the industry, the politics of it. I am not a suit or a BS'r, as those things go, but the real world weirdness of it all, the nuts-and-bolts seem so much more enthralling to me, so much more enticing.

Anyway, I guess we'll see. In the meantime I have the spirit of the previous age to keep me going, and plenty of backlog to enjoy in the meantime.. in my way. If Blaster Master 2 was properly produced, I'd be singing a COMPLETELY different tune, I am sure of it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

finnish? the fyte?

yerrrrah so i am reburning my lights. AGAIN. alright well unreal engine is, well.. it's a weird thing alright. it's about 6 months in and i am pretty accustomed to working with this engine these days (though there's still mountains of information that I have yet to learn about it).. i can honestly say that, although it's very powerful, it's definitely not without it's share of "eccentricities." Yeah, any engine would have the same gripes, so i won't go off too much (but oh! how I LOVE to!) I mean, the ones I have worked with in the past had some pretty annoying issues - but over time, after dealing with something for a couple of years, you get used to it's idiosyncracies. And of course we can all understand how things like "legacy code" sort of get built up and over, however inefficiently.. and "feature creep" and whatever other buzzwords you'd like. But MAN. When you move to a new neighborhood, you're always gonna see some things that just sort of make your jaw drop and go "why. WHY. WHY does it have to work like this.. it's so stupid!" And so it goes, yeah....

So Halo 3 eve or whatever you wanna call it. A million nerds rejoice. IGN gave it a pretty spiffy review. I am glad to see that something like Bioshock can still edge it out a little (yeah, a LITTLE).. so say what you want about the games industry of today, and the "generification" of product, but it's nice to see something like this released with a bunch of hype and STILL deliver on what is expected. Yeah, perhaps there's a bunch of shoulder-rubbing going on between reviewers and moneybags, but when they go on about how certain features and things are handled well in a game, you kinda know what you are dealing with. I am just saying, it's nice to see that they are not gonna let their product descend into disarrary quite yet. That's gonna come after about 6 more iterations...

Honestly, I have worked for some sequel-happy companies, say what you will of them - and I have seen them take "the easy way out" more times than I'd've like (good reasons notwithstanding), so I can feel proud of a large company that is willing to put reputation and customer satisfaction above (ever-so-slightly) ripping the willing customer off at every chance they can get. I mean let's face it, guys like Bungie, Epic - they could release tons of DLC for their titles and charge a little here, a little there. They could do annual updates with new maps and slightly upgraded feature sets. They could dilute their brands, pretty significantly, and get away with it. They could, but they don't, and from this side I do sort of wonder why. I guess overall, games are still not quite like movies - not yet! You still see a lot of good intentions rounded out with honest-to-goodness followups. Yeah games are always gonna be buggy, late, etc. etc. But they are going to provide a meaty package and fulfill expectations, maybe not "more times than not," but certainly ENOUGH times for me to even be typing this paragraph. There's never been an honestly "BAD" Metal Gear. There's never been a "horrible" Zelda, Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, GTA, etc. Okay, once in awhile you'll get subpar spin-offs that are taking away the integrity of the license, but even then it's not often that terrible (I am talking game-to-game license, not like... movie-to-game, of course). It honestly seems that everyone is concerned with getting that golden "special IP" and then mining it for all it's worth, but.. carefully. Again, not always the case... and companies like Activision, Ubi and EA are certainly guilty of crimes in this area.. but even for those guys, when they do take advantage of a brand, they'll (usually) at least turn out decent product (level 7 or thereabouts), which is more than satisfactory for the casual audience - the casual audience being their most important one.

I am not sure what the future holds in this regard, and it's true "everything is coming to a head.." it's all gonna go haywire in a few years, business wise. I always whine that "the Golden Days are Over" but truth be told, it's a NEW Golden Age, if anything. Yeah the bloom is off the rose but the forest is just starting to sprout. Hard to imagine but someday, 5 or 10 or 15 years from now, I will look back at these (relatively easy) days and just miss this stuff. Sigh, I wanna go home and play Advance Wars 2 (finally).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

at last!

yup, i am horrible about updating this thing in a timely manner, what else is new? I have to say, I've been bowled over with work these days.. it's super-busy at the office and I really haven't found much time to support this thing. I plan to keep it going though, SO HELP ME ----

Things are alright in videogameland. Pretty quiet as the world prepares to be taken over by Halo once again, especially of note since it's the first nextgen incarnation since the original one released lo those many years ago (what was it - 2001?) Yeah Halo 2 doesn't feel like "that" long ago but it has never really made a huge marked imprint on the gaming culture as I feel the new one will. Anyway, I guess we will see - I think it's due Tuesday or thereabouts. Personally, I have never played any of the Halo series, though I do think I have an ISO floating around of the PC version, somewhere. I might pick up the old Xbox original for the hell of it (it can't cost more than a couple bucks at this point!) I am certainly not a FPS player by any means, but I guess I should familiarize myself with some of those conventions... well, maybe. Somehow I feel like it's something I "may not quite get around to..."

Midway is releasing Area 51 Blackside, or something like that, to coincide with the Halo release.. which is sort of retarded, if you ask ANYbody. No matter how good it winds up - but I am interested to see how a like-genre can stand going up against the "king," I mean will some people pick it up for the hell of it? Not everyone's got a 360, after all. It should be interesting to see what happens.

I strapped into "The Hulk Ultimae Destruction" last week, for the first time.. a couple of years old, but I can see way it was well-received. It was easy and quick to get into, and it's a game where they've truly captured the feeling of being a superhero (well, superhuman character, but you get my drift) and an adaptation of a comic-book character, no less. It's easy to see how it was inspired by the movie, and I have to say it just "feels right" --- though it did get boring for me after messing with it for awhile. I didn't venture too terribly far into the game, but already they load up on the "boring sandbox missions." Most people love that stuff but it's always gonna feel awfully tacked-on for me. Do this! Carry that! Mess with the environment which is shallow and limiting! I know, I expect too much - I guess it IS just a videogame, and therefore "it's gotta make money" but when you are controlling a guy like the hulk, it's sooo much fun already to pick cars up and throw them at helicopters and stuff like that - it really is - but rather than smash up the sides of buildings, I wanna be able t0o smash into and through the buildings. I know it's kinda asking a bit much for that level of depth, but come on it would be VERY cool! When I think in those terms I am reminded of the feeling of playing Katamari Damacy the first time, as you grow your Katamari larger and larger and you suddenly feel this wonderful feeling of how far they actually would support this concept (you get large enough to pick up EVERYTHING). That's such a great feeling from a videogame. Anyway I won't close the book on Hulk yet, I will dig a little more to see some of the meat of the game. I think it's a good job, considering.

I am surprised there've not been more successful superhero games. Well scratch that, I am NOT surprised, for obvious reasons - but I am sort of shocked there's not more in that vein, if even unlicensed stuff. Superheroes seem like half the job of design is figured out already - you could make some crazy unbelievable game with a guy like Superman for crying out loud! Any of these guys.. of course the biggest recent travesty is the Transformers game, but like anyone will say "you can't expect much from licensed titles," it's almost pointless to go above and beyond and churn out a powerful game. Though if you do, it can bring your studio some serious kudos...

I got a couple Saturn games in the mail this week, I haven't plugged them in yet (maybe later this evening, if I am not too terribly beat!) There's still a handful I want to track down, slowly but surely. Also I am still stalking a JPN PSX game "Umihara Kawase," it's just sort of sitting there on this guy's auction looking at me innocently. "No one wants me! I could shoot up very expensive though!!" Yeah and your reserve hasn't been met either. We'll see. i'd love to pick it up for peanuts, I don't really wanna think about having to shovel over upwards of $50 for a title like that (though stranger things have happened). I have pretty much given my grim acceptance to the fact that if I want to land Zanac PSX I'll have to shovel over some pretty pennies for that thing.. sucks.. but I love those compile games, and that's the swan song!

Work is going alright. As usual "I can't really talk about my project" which is too bad, but of course - makes sense. I did a little round this week looking over all of the levels (it's got LEVELS - I've said too much!) and it feels good to have an overall gander of the game. I have been doing a lot of last-minute "band aid work" this past week, getting pulled off the current level that I have been trying to wrap up - hopefully in these next couple of days, I will be able to concentrate on doing that and moving onto the next one. I am getting to help out with a little more hands-on design stuff than I've done in the past, which is definitely a good thing (difficult in this case, but enjoyable). It's something that kind of gets my goat, though - I start to feel like "oh why can't we change these gameplay systems to more appropriately work in X way?" and I can quickly see how those guys can get pretty frustrated. art, design.. it's all about compromise, really... That's where style saves you, I suppose...

Monday, September 17, 2007

getting a job?

(an email i wrote to a guy who i was trying to help get a start in games - i eventually helped him get hired as an intern at Obsidian, after a period they hired him on fulltime)

hey what's up kevin, this is ron - i met you at kurt's bday last weekend.
sorry for the delay in emailing you, it's been a busy week! and another one coming up.. dammit time to go back to it already! whew, anyway... BTW i apologize in advance for a super-long email, here goes.

so i checked out your website, i wanted to drop you a note real quick. we talked briefly about how it can be rough to get a foothold in the industry, so i wanted to pass on a couple of links and info that might be useful to you. take as much (or as little) from it as you feel is necessary - i can only give you my perspective from what i have seen and dealt with in my own endeavors..

first things first, if you are looking for jobs you need ot hit som websites pretty steadily. is the first one i was telling you about, on their main page there's a sidebar with a link to a jobs forum. know this link, make it your best friend!!
just opening it up you'll see tons of openings for all manner of positions, in all areas of the world.. long term stuff, short term, you name it. even looking for a second i see plenty of interesting opportunities across the board, though of course as i sad they are for different disciples of varying levels of experience. At this point i say dig through the listings of the past month (and then some), see which look like they are on your mark or even near to it - the first step is to make some contact, even if the job could be something out of your range you could still get a good contact out of it (and who knows, they might have another position open that is more relevant to what you are specialized in). Anyway, that's the first step...

the other site you should check for jobs is gamasutra, i think you need to register with them (it's free, no matter) to view the detailed listings/contact info. everyone in the industry should be pretty familiar with gamasutra anyway, it's pretty muh one of te number one sites for all general game industry news without much fanfare or fluff. not prety but easy to digest and you can keep up to date with who is important, and why. Also, just "living" on their job boards is a good way to learn what companies are located where, what types of jobs they "usually" hire for, stuff like that. it sounds kind of petty/secondary but it's a really good way to learn a lot of the "backed" that you need for looking for work (and being able to properly represent yourself when dealing with the business guys, etc). mind you applying to jobs on these sites is no guarantee that you'll even get a response, unless you've got a sharp resume - TONS of people read the gamasutra listings everyday, probably thousands of folks i'd wager... still, "anything is worth an email," you never know who it will end up with.

other than that.. i have seen a few other sites with job listings of various quality, nothing i have looked back at in recent times though (but it's always good to do research and keep a lookout for the dark corners of the internet, if you get my drift). i have known people who have found work on craigslist, stuff like that.

there's a couple other websites i must plug as well. you don't wanna approach these as job-source, but thy are invaluable regardless (if you're super-lucky you might get job leads to whatever degree, but that's not the point). is one of the most useful sites i have found on the internet.. it's just a big forum where people hang out and yakk about 3ds max all day long. users of various skill levels, hobbyists and industry people.. yeah, it's pretty nerdy, but honestly i have learned so much by hanging around on that board. there's such a great community, loads of talented and smart people, everyone's always posting works-in-progress and doing critiques and all of that. it's daunting (a lot of it is WAYYY better than anything i will ever make!) and therefore humbling, but the people are friendly and helpful. if you need help with something, and you are polite and patient, you can usually get some kinda help with anything obscure you throw at them, tech-wise.. or a least pointed in the right direction of where you should look. Seriously, my education in 3ds max pretty much came out of spending a solid year buzzing around that website. so many of those people will take the time to write super-detailed tutorials on how to do.. EVERYTHING. the point is, it's a strong community witha lot of people who are eager to help each other, share the wealth. i possibly wouldn't be working today if not for that website.

another good site that is pretty important is, their forum is one of the most popular "game discussion websites" in the whole world. if maxforums was kinda dorky, THIS site is 110 percent off the charts fucking supreme dorkiness.. but again.. it's sort of the first line for a lot of important information in "what's going on in the industry." You get a lot of mega-game nerd fanboys on there (most of it, actually) but there's a healthy representation of game developers who post on there as well (usually under anonymity, but if you stick around and pay attention you can weed them out). this site has gotten some heavy notoriety lately as some higher-level project leads (and studio heads) have been posting pretty high-profile shit in here in the past year and change.. which is pretty remarkable. at the same time they are starting to let too many people into the membership, so it's getting kinda diluted... but still it's worth sticking to, you'll find all game industry news pretty well covered in here. yeah i know i keep saying it, "this all sounds pretty dorky" to be hanging around all these gaming messageboards and stuff... but it is vital, this is where the business happens ad is reported these days, for obvious reasons. it's messy and kinda cryptic, but if you want to know what's going on you sort of have to give a good shit about it. Even if you have the attitude "hey i just wanna work in production, i don't care about the politics of it all, leave that for the suits to worry about.." that's small thinking, because the business and politics of it colors everything. it's been the beginning and end of careers for all of us, really, like it or not. if you really can't care about it, then it will probably bite you in the ass sooner or later.

so there's my website info crap, that's the beginning of it anyway. there's a little more, but no sense heaping on all the secondary shit at this point - if you can get into this much, and go with the flow, then you are on a good roll for damn sure, ad you won't have much trouble finding your own way where to go next..

now-- as for your website. i checked it out, i looked at your demo reel, your resume, etc. this is one area that i take very seriously, because at the end of the day this is all you got, man. your website will pretty much represent all that you are, in the world, to your potential clients - so you better do a damn fine job of conveying to them what you are about and why they should hire you. websites and portfolios are difficult, for obvious reasons.. not only do you have HUGE competition (so many shmoes out there have half-decent websites), but at this point the people you want to view your website are so burned out on looking at that shit that it's gonna take something done -just so- for them to even register a blip on their radar. for this reason, you really need to follow the program and learn how to develop a perfectly polished, well-representational website. this extends to all aspects of it, from the user interface, to the way you lay out your resume, to the way you setup your demo reel video. it's a little maddening and obnoxious to have to deal with this - not only doing your work, but the complete other world of how ot present every little detail of it.. but like i said, we live in a world where there's so much competition on the middle ground that it's really the only way to be considered on a professional level.

Fortunately, making a decent website and portfolio presentation is pretty far from a shot in he dark. Because there are tons of really well-put together sites out there, it's pretty easy to fish through a handful of them and figure out what to do (and what not to do). Off the bat you can see some basic design principles going on - simple design, super easy to navigate, "less is more.." Really the people who look at your stuff don't want to deal with animated menus, exotic fonts, slow-downloading animated GIFs, pages and pages of info to delve thru, stuff like that. just easy and to the point, letting the work speak for itself. that's not to say that style should be ignored, just downplayed, simplified.

in my website, i wanted the main page to be the main interface - all of the images are available as the first thing you
see, you can tell what i have worked on/who i have worked for right away, what type of stuff i specialize in. i tried to trim it down as best i cold (i probably am still showing more than I need to), but hey you don't wanna spend forever criticizing the shit out of it. it's always easy to get back to the main page, the email button actually launches into an email, blah blah. it's stupid and simple. i started a website probably seven years ago, which looked horrible but i have revamped it and made it better every couple of years since (maybe 3 or 4 big overhauls) - but always the same general principles which i have seen on lots of other peoples websites. the best thing to do is get a working version, then send it out to all your buddies and tell them to critique the hell out of it. you'll hear plenty of half-assed advice, but always some great ideas too.

when i apply for a job -- depending on how interested i am in the job - i will email them to see what's up, and send a little paragraph about myself (what i do, where i live, who i have worked for, what projects, what software, my specialty.. brief and to the point). this is usually going to some HR person.. but if i know they are looking for an artist, i will do some digging and find out the art directors email address (usually not very hard, just do a little research online - pretty fucking easy). i'll email that person too, and then i will also send a physical package to the art director in the mail with a CDRom with like 10-15 jpegs on it (stuff from my website, plus maybe some more delicate stuff that i don't wanna post publicly for whatever reason), and a copy of the cover letter w/ all my contact info on it too. not hard to find the mailing address of any company, and just send it to art director's name c/o that company.. it will definitely wind up on their desk, at least. After being laid off from neversoft last fall, i went a step further and dd something new for the 1st time in years, i made an actual video DVD to show off my reel. probably super simple, but i neer did that before (that you could stick in a regular standard DVD player) all nicely edited and etc. i had an editor buddy who helped me out, there's tons of people in town who will help you put that shit together if you're not able for relatively cheap.. again, just gotta do some research, ask around, etc. If you are applying to some bigger houses (FX and stuff) they refuse to look at jpegs and websites, they are kinda arrogant.. they only want "video DVDs or nuthin'"

so, yeah, there's my piece for ya, do with it what you want. i know getting a job in this industry is tough, like any industry where there is a decent level of competition - and that sucks, but really it's not THAT bad that it's "almost impossible" or something. it just requires a lot of love and a lot of dedication and honestly being the guy who's gonna dig under rocks for a little while to cover all the bases. none of this stuf is even THAT hard, it's just sense.. and time, really. it sucks to have gone thru school, to have even had some work experience, and then after that, you sort of feel like "you've pad your dues" already and desere some job stability, on-the-job-training, something.. well, you don't really get that stuff in the entertainment industries. basically you either get lucky, or you're naturally crazy talented, or you're the guy who has the effort and the motivation to say "fuck it, i will take however long it will take to get myself established, and when it kicks my ass out a few times, i will keep crawling back." Of course, it DOES get easier, as you do learn shit on the job, and make contacts, and build up your reel, and your rep. But it takes time. A couple years sounds like a pain in the ass, but considering how many of the years of your life you will actually WORK, a couple years is nothing, just a blip on the radar...

so yeah, i know this was an absurdly long email, and it's probably a little crazy "why the hell does a guy i don't know write all of this stuff?" Honestly, I have been there, and it's only 'cause there have been other people (on those forums, who i have met, worked with, etc) who have done the same for me, clued me in on where to look, what to do with my work, etc. What comes around, goes around.. kind of.

lastly, after all of that, i didn't even get to critiquing your actual work.. ha! but the same rules apply, you have heard all that before anyway. i offer my friend jim's website as a great inspiration for what a great anim portfolio looks like.. i have seen this guy rise from humble origins, he is super-successful and a great guy also -

alright man. good luck!

-Ron Alpert
2D/3D Environment artist
- - - - - - - - - - -

Sunday, September 16, 2007

take out the trashes

Ahh, it is my neglected videogame blog. How am i ever gonna get rich ad famous off of this thing if i don't update it nineteen times a week, i wonder..?

That, my friends, is up to the courts to decide. Anyway, it's the weekend, and i am away from the office. It was a busy week with some late nights of wrapping up certain unfinished business and performing some edits on some levels that needed to be taken care of. I look forward to see how the next phase of the assembly line cleaned up where I left off, come Monday (though to be honest a couple more days out of the office wouldn't be upsetting..) Not much gaming recently, though I did make a couple of eBay purchases (such a wonderful thing!) I received the 2nd Hulk game "Ultimate Destruction," which enjoyed a very positive critical response as I recall.. also out inthe post somewhere are a couple more Saturn games, Baku Baku Animal (supposed to be a good puzzler) and a game called, I think, Gun Griffon. Ah well. It was only a cent for that, why not eh?

No gaming this weekend (yet,) though perhaps tonight I will load up Hulk and see what all the fuss is about. Last night after we returned from the bar, a spirited game of Tetris Attack (the best!) though my drunkeness was severley disabling my skills... Disturbingly, the SNES video cable seemed to peter out and so rather tan enjoying some SF2 we hadda retreat to PS2ville and plugged in some good old Bust-a-Move (is that what it's called? Shouldn't I be ashamed not to know this?) It made for some fun times though. Actually almost made me want to shell out for a Wii.

It's coming, maybe.. they are going to support the Japanese PC-Engine Super CDRom2 games, i guess (try saying that a few times!) and that's something that has raised my eyebrows. Tons of great shooters on that system! It sounds like they will only trickle software out for tat system though, so I am not all gung-ho. I recently bid some hefty $$$ on a modded TurboDuo (it had a region switch on it) but of course I had to draw the line.. I can't justify spending megabucks on that kind of stuff at this stage of the game! Tempting, though, when you see rare + weird stuff like that come down the pipe. I have my eye on a few weird "curiosities" lately, I would like to pick up a Virtual Boy someday (wait, that doesn't sound so appropriate) - it's got some interesting looking games, Red Alarm (like Star Fox, or so i have heard) - the mario clash game, pinball, 3D tetris.. yeah that all sounds rather gimmicky, but hey videogames are all about gimmicks, right? Seriously, I do remember the old Master System 3D glasses and being very impressed by how they operated - I think "true" 3D in gaming is something that deserves way more inspection than it has been given.

Lately I have been playing the old TG16 title "Blazing Lazers" (love that cheesy name!) AKA Gunhed, emulated on my GBA. That was a sweet spot of game history for me, when the vert shooters just started to get really, really fun. Compile - EXCELLENT company for that sort of stuff, Puyo Puyo be damned... I can still get quite a charge out of it, though I do need to recall the trick to amp up the difficulty (it's a bit too easy when you boost the weapons up). A spiritual sequel "Space Megaforce" (yah, more cheesy I know) AKA Super Aleste wound up being one of my very favorite SNES games, ever - the the degree that I'd be surprised if I haven't mentioned it elsewhere in this blog already (and surely it will come up again!) Now that I have that Test PS2 I am eager to pick up Zanac X Zanac, though I am hoping not to have to shell out the $150+ asking price for the new one - hopefully a cheaper used copy will show up on eBay at some point (either that or I will get rid of Radiant Silvergun and see if i can break even).

Other games I have on my mind - my friend got my interest picked in a title called Indigo Prophecy, also the Suda 51 game (Killer 7) might be worth a look (again, I think I have mentioned that title already). I guess that's all that's on my mental plate at the moment.. I downloaded Under Defeat for DC (naughty, naughty) but hae yet to burn it (i gotta remember how to do that stuff)


Of course I can't end this blog without giving a mention to "The King of Kong," the decidedly biased videogame documentary that is enjoying some alternative success lately. good film, I enjoyed it very much - some good laughs, it's less a documentary about old quarter-munchers than it is an interesting look at human nature. While I can understand that some truth might have definitely been sacrificed to "create a better story," it's a good film and I am glad to see this theme getting some play in the big leagues, however relative. For those not in the know, here's a quick summary - "competitive video game playing" rose in the early 80s as "super-players" would spend marathon sessions in front of arcade cabinets to attain astronomical scores. These games were designed to hand you your ass after a quick burst of gameplaying enjoyment, but of course a particular niche of players would wrap themselves around these "simple but difficult" games and dedicate themselves to conquering them - of course, the list of people in the world who could actually do this is quite short. It's faded from something that's never been quite in the limelight, but the scene still exists among a very small (and specific) group of people who maintain their little society today. The film tells the story of an underdog who goes on to achieve videogaming greatness with the 25+ year old Donkey Kong machine, as he goes thru all sorts of hoops to prove his worth in The Hall of Esteemed Gamers - and must face much challenge as some good ol' boys aren't so quick to relinquish their thone quite so easily.

This has been a scene which, although it's been completely off the pop culture radar. retrogamers such as myself have long had some degree of interest in - it's very interesting to see it gaining any kind of attention in this day and age. There's another documentary out there in the ether as well "Chasing Ghosts" looking back at the whole Golden Age of Arcade Gaming, I haven't seen it (can't even find it!) but I'd love to get a chance to view it..

Saturday, September 8, 2007

dash, bored...

yeah, so.. no game posts from me this week. well, i was busy workin', whattaya want!! Quiet week in the news, too.. Factor 5 is the new whipping boy of the moment (shame, shame) and nothing else really going on. Lots of people are probably wrapping up Bioshock and Metroid 3, in 6 months no one will remember either as these things go. I wanna butt in and say this much, though - it was important that Nintendo still put out a game like Metroid, which - though I have not played - still caters to a particular market. Everyone's up in arms "is The Big N gonna abandon it's hardcore players?" Maybe not, at least not with lightning speed. They throw some curveballs here and there - I am glad to see they can still put out quality games like this which won't poop al over the franchise (even though a lot of signs point to them eventually phasing out that market, possibly). Yeah, I a doomsayer sometimes..

Anyway of course Halo is the next Bog One on the horizon, I am not sure but isn't it out the end of the month or something? That will take over the world for a little while. Sony's pants are down with nothing to counter, so far as I can tell. There's some decent competition for Halo (relatively) due out next quarter, and thereabouts... I kind of wish someone would stand up and fight them though (isn't the Team Fortress due out for Xmas?) That's Cel-da for that community though, so it's a little up in the air (though it will make a mark, and I say more power to 'em). Of course Nintendo is looking at a good season with the next big Mario installment due shortly as well, as everybody knows - though after Sunshine people are sort of waiting to see how it actually feels to get hands-on with it (I mean, New SMB was a precursor to some degree, but it's apples and oranges - really). Platformers just don't have the same world-bending power they used to, even with the Top Dogs like that. Mario will do as well as it could, and I am sure everyone who bought Twilight Princess will pick it up, plus maybe a few more (hell, their installed back is.. remarkable!) But I am sure it'll never live up to the legacy set back at the dawn of N64, for obvious reasons.

And then there's Wii Fit, of course. Yeah, so this will be an interesting holiday season to watch, but not as weird as last year.


So I was at a Labor Day BBQ last weekend, in Santa Monica - a good time, but certainly a little thought provoking. My buddy who works at Sony Imageworks was throwing the shindig, and so there was an excess of visual FX folks there. Now, this is interesting, as VFX for TV/Film is definitely a different scene than what goes on in the games industry. It's generally considered that VFX>Games a lot of time, and "moving to film is the natural progression of the Games Artist.." Quite a few of my friends have made the transition, others have mentioned it. Talking to the people at this party, I could sense a little bit of people looking down their noses at me "oh, so you just wanna stay in games. don't wanna make more money, huh?" It's interesting. You see, I have done a tiny stint in the so-called "big leagues," and I won't lie - it was a thrill, and I truly enjoyed it - and would love to again - but games are my thing. I have my reasons, and I am not shy about calling them out. Games are smaller, more intimate affairs - I work with 60 people on a whole game staff, or just for a single SHOT in a film! I like working with small groups, and also you get "flex room" in games - you can move around a little more, wear different hats so to speak. Help out on design, UI, story, etc etc. Hell even suggest an IP if you know what you are talking about. Films are wayyyy more constrictive.. you're part of a department, you're pigeonholed into doing a specific thing, you just keep pumping that stuff out. That's not to say it's not glamorous, it's just not gratifying for me in that I want to do all sorts of stuff, rather then specialize in one area forever. As usual, I exaggerate, but there's truth in it.

The ideal situation for a guy like me is to go back and forth, experience the variety of the different mediums.. bring things I learn from one area to another one. I will never forget the thrill of sitting in the screening room of an FX house and watching with pride as my WIP shots were playing over and over on the big screen. I could do that again!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Games I want to play

Alright, I just fiished an entry not 20 minutes ago, but I just was struck by inspiration for a quick follow-up.. rather than edit it in, I decided to post it separately, here are som,e games I would like to play (these games already exist.. some of which I even own!)

In no particular order--

Umihara Kawase (any version) - I have tinkered with it for a few moments on the SFC version, but it's not got a proper playthrough yet. It was enough to get me interested - they need to make more weird games like that! I recently lost an auction for the PSone version, and the curret one is kinda pricey.

Thunder Force IV, Elemental Master - Sega Genesis shooters, I actually bought both back in the
day. I gave them about 15 minutes of playtime though, for some reason they never captivated me in the way their predecessors have, but they are still very much worth looking into (especially the former). To this day Thunder Force II and III (II especially) remain some of my favorite moments in gaming.

Hyperduel - same dev as above, and I've played through the MAME bversion of the lackluster PCB. The Sega Saturn version is supposed to be a worthwhile enhancement however, if I ever see it floating around for reasonable $$ then I will snap this up.

Gunstar Super Heroes - I loved the old Genesis title, and played this one for a moment.. it didn't grab me. But it's legacy (and the weirdness I have heard about it) definitely intrigues me. Treasure's an honest dev!

Killer 7 - Suda 51 is growing on me. As always I like weird, stylized games, so long as they have substance to them. This one sounds uberweird, but it's got enough of an underground following that it could be worth dropping a couple quid for. I'm interested to see where his new title "no More Heroes" for Wii goes, though I am not impressed with the tech of the screens I have seen. If I get a Wii I will certainly check these titles out. This guy reminds me of Clover Studios, for obvious reasons.

Space Raiders, Megaman Network Transmission - I recently scored both of these Gamecube titles for peanuts on eBay. Something I never do (buy game for a system I don't own?) but the system is cheap enough I could get it for peanuts as well. I may eventually, but more likely I may just buy a wii someday. Space Raiders is an odd-sounding descendant of Space Invaders.. it got skeptical press, but always sounded worth checking out to me. For some reason SI is still --hard-- to play!!! In fact the 1991 update is still quite fun, and yes even the original can be addictive as well. As for Megaman, it's a throwback to the sidescroller days using the "ick" new incarnation.. but I remember playing a build at E3 some years ago and being interested. Hey we don't see many side scroller platformers at all these days, and with a pedigree like this, it's bound to be worth a look (especially as the reviews were't awful)

Guardian Heroes, Burning Rangers - I am on some kinda vintage Sega Saturn kick lately. both of these were standout titles back in the day, I don't know how well they've aged but they are still referred back to even now. If i can find them cheap I'll jump on them. I have the GBA rom of the former but never felt tempted to boot it up, it didn't review too well anyway.

Wario Ware Twisted - the 2nd one in the series. I was a big fan of the first Wario Ware, and this one is often referred to as the "peak." Stupidly, I borrowed the game from a friend for >6 months but never looked at it once before returning it. I should just pick it up though. It's lik only 10-15 bucks!! If I do ever get a wii I'll likely get their Smooth Moves game as well, it's supposed to be alright. I am sure it's not great, but I get the feeling I would dig it.

Donkey Kong: King of Swing - this game always sounded appealing to me. old school gameplay (you just use the shoulder buttons and that's it). It's got a little bit of a following, supposedly it's a descendant of the old-old-HOLYCRAPold NES title Clu Clu Land. I should just flash it sometime. There's a DS followup in production as well, I wonder if it released yet though?

Drill Dozer - similar to above, a Game Freak-produced title (yeah, they make Pokemon besides.. and nothing else apparently!) for GBA. Noted as "the last cool GBA sidescroller," it was originally released in Japan as "Screw Breaker" which sounds cooler (and well yeah, sexier). It just sounds like it's easy and fun and good technique.

That's it off the top of my head. I could go on with my 2nd tiers but i'll let it chill out for now. Suffce it to say I have a ton of oldschool PCE CD-ROm games I'd love to check out, plus about 20 games on Nintendo DS which would probably suck me away for a good several weekends (if I ever caved in and bought a DS). Fodder for future writing, at least.

Time to get back to making games for the rest of you, then...

signz of the timez . . .

yeah so i thought it would be pretty street and hip of me to incorporate "z's for s's" into my usually-useless subject line. it's tight though. i wonder, when was the first instace of the ebonics Z (or it's predecessor?) Did it originate sometime in the 1950s or 1800s (on purpose, not out of ignorance, I mean)

Anyway, let's talk about games. Game, games. So the EA Skate Demo has been out for some time now, and it looks pretty interesting, from the scant bits of info i have heard about it. I still suppose it's playing like a better Thrasher with Tony Hawk gfx. Man, i did not like Thrasher (but even i could have if I'd given it a real chance, perhaps!) The gamer community seems to be eating it up, and you know what - it sounds like it's a good game that was made with some love. So in that respect, good on them, they deserve it.

I got my hands on a couple of games this week, myself.. oldies but goodies. Last night I fired up Psychonauts on Xbox (the guy who works beside me says "that game hurts my eyes!") Um.. weird game. Very impressive though. Again, obviously a labor of love, and I am a little surprised that it didn't get pushed a little more - victim of circumstances? Style-wise it feels like it has "Nickelodeon Property" oozing out of it's pores (though it's an original IP from what i can tell) and while that turned me off initially, what can I say, it works! In spite of that it's a bit dark-laden more so than you'd think, given that label. Anyway I made it through the first section, interested to plunder further. It's nice to see when a project is driven on (almost) all fronts and put out nice and polished.. and lovingly. Shame what happens when it's released to an ungrateful public, but what else is new.

Today's play was 'NiGHTS Into Dreams" for our ol' buddy Sega Saturn. I have had a Saturn nearly a year now, complete with the special Analogue pad (1st to market, right?) but have only finally received this game from an eBay auction today, at last. Mind you I do remember popping it in for a moment here or there in the break room of my 1st job sooo many years ago, but not long enough to give it any kind of look. Anyway, cool game. I can see why Saturn players loved this back in the day - weird, colorful, stylish, "cool feeling." I had a little difficulty figuring out the mechanics at first but it gave me some onscreen info AFTER I failed my first attempt, so yeah better late then never. It's funny playing these older games in that there still remained a semblance of difficulty "if you die then it's game over, back to the beginning!" Yeah I sent the Psychonauts dude to his death countless times last night, only to regenerate at the last checkpoint ad nauseum.. not so with NiGHTS, you get that ass handed back to Character Select Screen thanks very much.

I have a lot of other things to get my hands on, actually a lot of stuff lying around (old-school roms mostly) that I want to give my gaming attentions to, but really I am looking at endless piles of work to do ad I'd rather stuff my free time with trying to level that mountain. Ummm.. I have some things I'd love to vent in here about my day job and what I'd like to do about it, aesthetically and business-wise, but I'll keep a lid on it for now. I'll say this much, I see a lot of work I can do yet and I am glad to be in a position where I can flourish so long as I can keep my energy flowing. I do miss "old-gen" though where it was easier to get away with being more stylish in a way.. funny how much we all bitched about it back then.

Watching the gaf boards, it's dramariffic as always. Heavenly Sword is getting "sorta" disappointing reviews (is it out yet?) and even worse is Factor 5's Lair.. 4.9 from IGN??? What is this?? I imagine that some high-ups gotta be pissed. This really confounds me, the credibility of website/mag previews gets completely called into question in these cases. Sure they wanna have a neutral stance (though optomistic) when a game's in prerelease state, but to be honestly excited about a game and then turn into a bitchfest when the game releases speaks purely of "something is just not adding up here." A quick zap over to shows that more than a couple of reviewers think this title is a crock as well. It's too bad, Factor 5 = no slouch (net the best dev, but certainly not a bad one). Worse though is that the PS3 needs these "hyped games" to follow through and build their brand up. They haven't got anything to play on that system, still.

What else.. hmm Denis Dyack is at it again defending the latest round of "Too Human" butchering going on over at gaf. I gotta hand it to the guy, he IS what he is. You'd think someone above that guy would have yelled at him by now. It starts to make me wonder if it's all part of some bizarre otherworldly marketing scheme (which apparently even I am feeding into, now...) The latest round of pics they showed look bleh to me too. Some of the recent shots (past 6 months) didn't look bad, certainly not "amaaaazing" but not offensive. I think this entire thing is up in the air, but one thing's for sure, they did a good job of getting that game on everyone's lips (after all these years!) It sucks though, because now even if it winds up a "good game" then it won't win over the naysayers who have dug in roots to speak out on it. It'll have to be at least on a level with Bioshock to get a decent reception.. good luck, guys...