Everybody scream your heart out

Started simple enough - the end of a Friday night, coming home from the bars. I had come from some plans of my own and met up with a few friends to finish off the night. Leaving the bar, I offered up to drive some people back, since we were all going to the same place anyways. The car's a three seater at best, and is really more suited to two, but Lee and Shan both came along regardless.

Starting to drive a ways down the road threw the suggestion out there to put the top down. The wind was a little brisk, but got acceptance from the other two, as long as we cranked the heat up. Pulled off to the side, put the windows and the top down and turned the music up.

There's something enthralling about having the world fly by with nothing separating you from it. We cranked up the music, singing along at the top of our lungs while driving by the fancy ritzy Uptown bars that we were far too dressed down to be at. Each person drunkedly wandering down the sidewalks giving us looks - some smiles, some laughs.

Our last turn of the night was about a block away, and I let slip, "It's times like these when even though I'm already at my destination, I'm enjoying the ride so much, I just want to keep going." to which I got from my copilot, Lee, "Let's do it!" with a smile. With a grin on my face and my foot on the throttle we went.

Anywhere and nowhere, we drove around Dallas - through crowded shopping areas and deserted streets, doing nothing but cranking up the music and singing along at the top of our lungs, laughing like sixteen year old kids taking dad's car out for a joy ride. Making only a pit stop for Shan to relieve himself (and of course driving off, even if only for a second), and to grab Shan a jacket from the trunk, the night was ours for the taking.

The sound of a slight squeal out of the tires, the roar of the engine, momentum pressing us deeply into our seats, hands tightly clasped, huge smiles and laughs on our faces as the wind tore over our heads. The music style didn't matter, jumping from traditional mellow acoustics to upbeat rock to dance music that had us all dancing and moving from our hands down to our hips as much as possible in little seats.

Those moments just don't get old - we finally went back after our friends called for the second time, and even then, half a block before that same last turn that we saw an hour before, a simple comment from my fiery passenger, "Oh, this is such a great song!" sent us on yet another slight detour before finally making our way back ;)

I simply couldn't stop smiling - even the next day, it just felt great. A momentary return to just being a kid again - no cares in the world but the night, the music, and the people you're with, and enjoying them for everything they are. I said it that night like I've said it before - that's the reason I bought the Firebird - to have and enjoy nights like that. That hour driving around was undoubtedly the most fun I've had in years. Simple, and amazing.

I intend to do it more. I'm a kid at heart. I want to assert it as often as possible and with friends. So the next time you have a bad day, let's go driving - bring some music you love, and we'll drive and sing and dance our hearts out. The drive is on me - totally worth the chance to just be a kid again with a friend and no cares in the world ;)



Amazing how quickly midnight can turn into 3:30am. Finally time to go home -_-


Late night work ramblings

Pulling a late night tonight, helping test out the builds for Halo Wars as they get near a deadline tomorrow morning at 8am. Of course, late night playtesting (since, when QA is needed, it's basically all the devs who step up to play) isn't nearly as bad as crunch late nights, or late nights other places. Hell, we're basically just sitting around drinking beer and playing games. Just, lots and lots of games, for a long time, looking for lots of bugs. It's nights like this that confirm the fact that I could never be a tester. I would actually go insane.

I'm really tired. Which usually leads to less coherent, train of thought posts. *shrugs* In the time of friends coming and going (or rather, not going, but stepping aside for a chapter or two) that I've had recently, I sat down and really started thinking about the friends that are closest to me now, and who have been closest to me in the past. Those friends where anything and everything is ok - you know, the ones where you feel like you could call anytime of any day when you really needed it, and they feel like they can do the same? I hope everyone has at least one of those people in their lives.

Anyways, I got to thinking about those people, and came to realize that in a lot of ways, I've treated them terribly. Not all the time, but at some point, I've done something that was just downright not right. Regardless of the circumstance, something that I'm not proud of. Strange to think that those people are strong enough to be a close friend to someone that has wronged them in the past. Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe the people that are really strong enough to stick by you as a friend even after you've wronged them. The people who you can simply open your arms and show that, "I'm human. I make mistakes. I'm not a perfect person of a perfect friend. I'm sorry." Something to which they respond with, "That's cool, turns out I'm human too." and you simply can move past with a stronger friendship. Maybe that level of imperfection is in some ways required to build a bond deeper than on the surface.

Now this of course isn't me saying there's an excuse to treat your friends like crap, because well, that's freakin' terrible. Just musing aloud. I know in some ways there's a similar connection with family and other loves, to which the quote, "You only hurt the ones you love," is far too true in too many situations. It's so easy to take that forgiveness that friends, family and loves will give you and unwittingly cause harm. I guess those people love you for more than those human mistakes, and only hope that you can do the same for them.

Reminds me of the end of a quote from Scrubs that I've posted before, but hey, what the hell.

Dr. Cox: Bottom line, the couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else but the big difference is they don't let it take them down. One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship, if it's right and they're real lucky... one of them will say something. - Scrubs

Alright kiddos, time to play some more games for another hour or so, and make the quiet drive home. Have I ever told you how much I enjoy the silent night sky? I used to walk around the UT campus on late summer nights when the weather was nice, just enjoying the calm and quiet streets lit by the stars in the night's sky, soon to be bustling with thousands of students in the next few hours.

g'night all.



Ideals are such a strange thing when you really think about them. Primarily because they're almost always just that: Ideal: a conception of something in its perfection (as dictionary.com would tell us). The epitome of our mind's eye's view of the most perfect example of something. And well, let's face it - perfect never (maybe almost never) exists in real life.

So why is it then that since we're born we're constantly told to strive for these ideals? When you're a kid you think of the ideal job, start to grow to look forward to the ideal friends, the ideal school, the ideal mate, the ideal college, the ideal city, the ideal job (again, but in a different perspective), the ideal project, the ideal hobby, the ideal lifestyle, the ideal house, the ideal kids, the ideal life for them, and the whole cycle starts all over again. Kinda funny that we go from wanting to be an astronaut to a white picket fence with two and a half kids and a dog. So why this constant obsession over idealism?

"Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." - Les Brown

A quote that of course, starts to articulate an answer to the question I posed. Never mind the fact that the quote doesn't make sense scientifically, since technically the moon is much much closer than the stars, so it should be the other way around, but that doesn't sound nearly as poetic :p I digress. The point is that we should, as people strive towards perfection, to always work towards this goal of infallibility, and if you don't make it there, you'll get pretty close, and that's not half bad. A little depressing when you really spell it out, isn't it?

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

A quote from the email signature of one of the lead designers at the studio. Something that literally takes the other stance - striving towards perfection is so inherently unattainable that the quest for perfection most often leads towards mediocrity instead of something good. The project that I'm currently working on is incredibly ambitious, and to many our goal is a sort of Holy Grail. There's a reason so many other studios and teams have failed at it. So for many weeks after we started, we we killed any and every idea we could come up with if it strayed from our perfect definition of what the game should be. After all, the game we made had to stand up to our ideal vision of it. Which, not surprisingly, left us spinning our wheels, and not moving forward. Since then, we've changed our strategy and are starting to make changes, work towards our ideal, while making compromises along the way.

"It's just depressing man, I mean, if something that looks that perfect can fail, then it's like... what's the point?" - Someone over the weekend

So what's there to talk about then? It's a fine line, and there's compromise, simple as that. Right? This last weekend, I had a chance to do a lot of traveling, and a lot of visiting with people I haven't seen in a really long time. A close friend from a long time ago got engaged, and I went down to Houston to visit the family, and to go to his engagement party, where I got the chance to meet his fiance and many old friends. The next day, I flew out to Los Angeles to see a huge portion of my extended family for my grandmother's 90th birthday. Lots of catching up - on dreams in the making, new ideals, goals to strive for, new conflicts, struggles to work through, and just lives to catch up on - after all, many of those people I hadn't seen in multiple years. Enlightening, to say the least.

"I just want the fairy tale." - An old friend, a long time ago

There really aren't a lot of people that know me well. I've been blessed to have a variety of spectacular friends and family, ranging from people that I've known my entire life, to strong bonds that I've made in just a few months or years. But the list of people that really know me well is probably countable on one hand (maybe two). Underneath the (shallow as it might be) shallow exterior that comes across with bleeding elements of sarcasm, bitterness, harshness, and an insane amount of criticism towards... well, anything and everything, I'm so much more of a dreamer. I live my life (internally) up in the clouds. Hell, I often sit back and just daydream to see what kind of beautiful things my mind can come up with. I believe firmly in the ideals and good nature of people. I love expecting the best of people and who they are. I live constantly striving for ideals, for dreams, for perfection in practically everything I do. Self-admittedly to a fault.

Recently I feel like things are changing. I feel like it's harder and harder to believe in those ideals, to strive for them. I'm not sure if it's a lack of sleep, this last weekend, the last few years, or just society constantly chipping away at my shell for the last twenty six years. But something is starting to feel different. I've talked with the friends I grew up with, and we're so lucky to have a supportive and challenging upbringing that fostered building a desire to strive for the best in us. To do the best that we could in everything. Surrounded by so many people - our parents, friends, instructors, illustrating so many ideals. Ideal marriages, ideal relationships, ideal friends, ideal situations. Supportive roles constantly building belief in dreams, and a desire to follow them. It hurts so much to imagine those illustrations of ideals being torn down. It's been on my mind and scratching at my insides for the last few days. Which is strange, because I was surprised to hear Paul (one of my closest friends up here, whom I also work with), tell me Monday that I should go on more trips, because I always come back a different, more excited and energetic person. I guess strife makes me positive at work haha.

Anyways, I tend to be able to look past these things, to work past tough problems that directly challenge my core personality, and soon after wake up with a refreshed outlook - a stronger, more firm confidence in the ideal of a world of happiness for my family, friends and myself. A rebirth from the ashes of a previous struggle. But I'm not there yet. The struggles, the changes, the realizations have finally scratched the surface and taken off the shine I had on the surface of my views. So until I wake up with my rose colored glasses on again, what the hell is the polishing compound to life? Anyone have some I can borrow for a little while?


A different perspective

Is often incredibly inspiring and eye opening. I'm sitting out on the balcony in Los Angeles, after spending a day with my cousin, and relaxing before a wonderful family get together celebrating my amazing grandmother's 90th birthday. Essentially just a reason to get together with family, catch up, and just embrace what a supportive family really is.

The weather out here is gorgeous - I couldn't help but sitting out here after driving around with my cousin blasting music at the top of his car speakers. It really reminds me of the kind of nights I enjoy the most - sitting out and just listening to the world around you. Of course, I sat and listened to my cousin selling me on how wonderful of a place LA is. And let me tell you, it's a compelling sell ;) Weather like this every day would be something absolutely worth a change for. I guess those kinds of decisions are the ones you have to make now, in your twenties, before you have a lot of ties you really have to consider.

For some reason, the weather, the family, the friends, the conversations, have put me in a really contemplative mood. It absolutely makes me really realize the spectacular family I've been blessed with - how similar we all are as people. Even though we range from Los Angeles to Detroit to Boston to Texas to India, we're all very similar, and quite frankly, some pretty amazing people. I'm SO proud to call these people my family. It's taken quite some time, (many many years), but I think our generation is really starting to appreciate what we have here, and I think we're going to start pushing to spend more time together. This hundreds, and in some cases thousands of miles isn't going to keep us apart anymore. At the very least, I'm going to work to put more of an effort to making sure that's not the case.

Ok, this weather has already gotten me late for the get together. Pictures to come, hopefully. Also, (more as a reminder to myself), I have a post regarding ideals I need to type up.


Texas + March = Snow

... wait, no! Texas + March != Snow! What the heck?! I think mother nature is quite confused. Seriously - here's the view outside of my house right now. It was around 80 over the weekend, now it's snowing huge flakes outside. Texas confuses the crap outta me :p
Just me

A small sidenote: I really appreciate the people that read this, even if it's just something you stumble across when you've run out of other things to do on the internet. People who know me know what this blog is - just a random dump of my thoughts when I have a chance to put them here. Because of that, it's wonderful to see your comments and hear your opinions on the same things. I'm far from brilliant and my random rantings are certainly nothing more than that, so I love to hear what you have to say. So, if you're reading this, thanks :)
The emotion of games

There was a lot of inspiration floating around at the Game Developer's Conference this year. It's always what you make of it, but a huge inspiration came from the design rant session this year about Making Games That Matter. I've been trying to find a good video / audio or transcript of it, but this is the best I've got - a chopped up video of it here, and some notes from it here. Here's one of the smaller transcripts of it:

The problem game designers face isn't creative stagnation. It's having the courage to create something that challenges people...that's f---ing hard. Yes, games are art. Yes, games can make you cry. Why don't we learn from the creativity of small games? Why doesn't that get plugged into our blockbuster games? Why can't Call of Duty be about DUTY? Why isn't Medal of Honor about HONOR? What if you could put HONOR in a box and SELL it? Package the experience of knowing what it is to be honorable? 90% of the people in this world have never felt honor, and probably would love to. Imagine if you could be awarded a medal of honor in a game where you had to be HONORABLE to do it. Instead, we spend millions on games, many of which are DOA. Meanwhile these great, meaningful indie games are unknown. I'm not saying we should all quit our jobs and making quirky small games. I'm talking about using proven techniques to make things that people CARE about. Even with 6 million Halo users, you've reached only 10% of the audience size of the LoTR movies. That movie is fundamentally about the mechanics of TRUST. Those should not harder to simulate than the mechanics of ROPE. Product fetishism keeps trumping everything else--is it any surprise that the game of the year is about a f---ing CUBE?! What we lack is not creativity, what we lack is the courage to show we care about real stuff. Every time we make a game that fails to be about what real people care about, we're letting ourselves down. We have the creativity, the money, the demand. "F-ck, it's code. We can do anything."

And really, it's so true - why can't we make games that really actually mean something? Games that are about using our medium to create a connection with the player that is deeper than other mediums can.

Passage is one of the independent games that really starts to do that, and in my opinion is one that succeeds amazingly at its goal. Initially a project in a competition about creating a game with a limited resolution, it's more of an art piece than anything else, but I appreciated it. I strongly encourage you to play it and develop your own opinion of it.

Marriage is another one of those games, again created by an independent developer. It's more of an art piece, and is all about the experience. It's one that you definitely have to play, really embracing and understanding the mechanics, and then read the author's intent of it. Again, I strongly encourage you to develop your own opinion of it.

But seriously - why the hell as an industry do we find it so hard to create games that actually have some meaning and emotion to them? I hope that we start to see more of these games that actually mean something - games that I can sit down in front of my friends that aren't gamers and give them that "holy crap" moment.

Is there a reason why only small, single person independent developers are the only people doing this? Or rather, the only people succeeding at this? I think a lot of it boils down to the simplicity of the experience that's trying to be delivered - you don't need next-gen graphics or a beautiful physics engine or a motion tracking device to evoke human emotion. Maybe it's even easier without those things clouding the path?

I want a game that can make me cry. I want a game that can make me really feel for the characters in it. I want a game that tests my own beliefs. Passage really delivered on that for me, and Marriage really got me thinking about relationships more than any other game has. I want to be able to create that, take it a step farther, and deliver that experience to people. One thing Clint mentioned in his talk was:

Two guys tinkering in their spare time have moved things forward more than the rest of the industry. I'm not saying we should all quit our jobs and making quirky small games.

But I almost want to do just that. Clearly that's an extreme, but I almost feel like the way to really push the industry forward in a revolutionary way might be in an independent way. After all, it's not like it takes a lot of smart people in a team with art, design or software experience is necessary to actually feel something human. Hell, most of the most compelling feelings I've experienced in my life were from people that weren't gamers. I really want to be able to push that part of our industry forward.

Being creative is easy, the courage to create something that challenges people ... that's hard.