Saturday, May 30, 2009

While my blog gently E3

Hi kids! So, yeah, another two weeks. Ah well. Would it help if I told you that it was two weeks of complete insanity? And that the net result of said insanity is going to be some cool stuff coming up for me, and, by extension, you? Yes, I have been scheming and planning and have some things in the works, none of which are quite official yet, which means I should shut up lest I jinx it all.

So, to get bidness out of the way first, the blog header refers to the fact that THIS blog is going to weep just a little bit longer for the next bunch of days, because the big E3 convention is coming up starting Monday, and I will be there with the proverbial bells on (and nothing else), and doing some blogging there, for employer, Electronic Arts, right here. I have an entry up there already for your infotainment, and, as you can see, I have to be a little better behaved there than I normally am. But only a little! We'll see how much nonsense I can inject into that page while still maintaining employment. Feel free to leave comments there, too! Show them that you're reading it!

I'm super excited about E3, I have to admit. For a good long while there, it looked like I wasn't going to attend. Most game developers, in fact, do NOT go to this show, because they far too busy--as my team is--doing the actual work of getting the games made. E3 is a humongous distraction and mostly irrelevant to the real work that actually matters. It's a media event, mostly, a way for the companies to get their games exposed and publicized before the upcoming holiday season. And while we did have that recent couple-year period of angst, where the usefulness of the convention itself--as well as the resource and cost--was put into question--everyone's finally back where we started: The acknowledgment that it's a "necessary evil," as well as just a spectacular, media-grabbing celebration of the industry as a whole.

So the work for a game company at E3 is that their new games need to be shown and demo'ed to the hordes of media and retailers and other attendees. I've been on the other side of that demo for a whopping 13 E3s in a row now--just crazy--but this year I'm going to be one of those booth monkeys myself, showing MySims Agents over and over again to anyone who comes up to talk to me, for three days in a row, with full knowledge of exactly what is going to be going on in the journalists' heads as I try to hold their attention. (Mostly: "Shit, if this dude hurries up with this fuckin demo, I'll have time to bolt early, grab a brownie in the press room, and then meet my pals for beers!")

But I am honestly looking forward to it, and think it's gonna be a blast. Life is just one long learning experience. My transition to EA has been anything but easy, but I'm still loving all of it because I am getting to experience all sorts of things I never have before--like seeing E3 from the other side of the fence. How many people get to see it from both sides?

So, I'll be blogging about that experience over at, and on Twitter, but do not worry: This blog remains active and there is hopefully more to come from me as soon as there are any actual beans to spill.

And about Sims 3: It comes out this coming Tuesday, and, yeah, we're all excited at the label. The extra time they took to polish the game was sooo damn important. I can tell you that I was an early critic of what I saw back in October/November, and all indications now are that the final result is fantastic. And I can also tell you, in all honesty, as brownnosing as it may sound given that they pay me, that were I not going to E3, I'd be home playing Sims 3 myself all next week.

Anyhoo: More to come. Meanwhile, while waiting to hear from me again, go buy yourself the new Grizzly Bear and Fever Ray CDs (or be like me and download them--LEGALLY I MEAN). Two of the best records I've heard in a long time.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

I just put out a fire.

Yeah, no, really. I just did. I'm hot, and there's still ashes on my palms, and I smell like smoke, and my nerves are still a bit frayed. However, since I may not ever get the chance to be a hero again in anything that's not a videogame, I feel like I should blog about it immediately and bask in the glory of my good deed. I won't brag about it either, because that would be immodest and unseemly. Even though I did kinda just kick ass!

Our story begins with our hero getting booted off the couch--where he had spent the bulk of the afternoon alternating between playing Pokemon on his DSi and napping--so that he could accompany his wife on a walk to the local market, along with the dog, Mila.

The walk to the market went fine, and so we can skip over the details there and jump right to the good part, on the way back, where I get to be awesome. So the wife, dog, and I are rounding the corner about three blocks from our house. As we make the turn, we see an abandoned couch just off the sidewalk...on fire. At this point, the fire is small. Just the very top of it has flames on it. There's no immediate evidence as to what caused it other than that it's scorching hot today. But, anyway, yeah, FIRE.

For one second, the wife and I are frozen. Like, this our problem? What do we do? There is that microsecond that your brain has something maybe not unlike shock, or just stunned surprise, when you are still processing the event in progress and have yet to make a choice. But the choice usually happens before you even realize you've made it. And such was the case with us, as we both instantly leaped into "HOLY SHIT WE HAVE TO PUT THIS FIRE OUT NOW" mode.

The first thing that happened is that the wife tried covering the flame with a blanket that was sitting on the couch, which worked for about 5 seconds before that in turn went up in flames. And now we had a real fire, as the whole couch lit up. Black smoke began billowing, as both the wife and I immediately started banging on the closest doors to see if anyone had a hose. Meanwhile, another woman passing by on her bike dialed 911. I should mention that one foot away from this flaming couch is a parked car. And about two feet behind the flaming couch is the wooden fence of a home.

Now neighbors are coming out of their doorways, and the first thing I notice is that no one--not one person--comes over to help. As if this wasn't their problem---and that it was my problem, in fact. Even though, ya know, really, this wasn't "my" problem, technically, in that I neither started the fire, nor, in fact, lived on this street. But, okay. I'm here. They see some random couple dealing with it. They probably thought it was our dumb asses that got the couch on fire in the first place.

Still. The experience, with a few of the folks we encountered, was not too heartening. One house where I banged on the door, yelling, "there's a fire next door! Do you have a hose?" was met with silence even though I could see people right there through the window looking. The guy right next door to the house with the couch on fire just looked blankly at my wife, and then at the fire, as if he'd never seen either--a woman or a fire--in his life, and then proceeded to do nothing.

But, again, okay. Whatever. The next door I go to, a guy is coming out of his house just as I'm walking up to the door, and he gets it immediately. His two little boys are fascinated by the flaming couch, of course, but he waves them back as I yell "get your hose!" and he gets it and feeds it to me as I go across the street with it, hoping it will reach.

He turns the water on full blast, and yes, it does reach. Thank god. So, I have at it, going as fast as I can to douse this thing. And even though it's just a couch, it takes awhile to get it under control. It was scary that way. I'd think I had it, but flames would pop up somewhere else. Once at least the main blaze was contained, the guy helping me came over and helped me tip the couch over to get underneath, which was still blazing. The whole thing took probably 7-10 minutes, at which point the fire department arrived, basically just to deal with the aftermath.

They took my name and phone number, one of the firefighters joked "do you want my job?" and we were on our way with the dog back home.

Before this little detour, I had been looking forward to a cup of fresh coffee when we got home. After this, however, I opted for a beer.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This morning.

Hi! I've been up since 5:30 a.m., and have been meaning to blog this whole time, but instead did three things:

1) Finished this week's reading of The Brothers Karamazov for the Deathmarch I've been on the past few months. Only two more weeks, and then I can go back to easier books that don't require deathmarches to complete! Yay! Let it be said, however, that Brothers K has turned out to be awesome: A great murder mystery with existential angst/religious torment thrown in. So, really, even though it makes you look and feel good for reading it, it's just more pulp fiction in disguise! Okay, not really. Don't go and get all snooty with me now.

2) Decided to give up on Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga. I'm near the end now, but I'm just getting too frustrated. There's a bit more twitch/action stuff than I was expecting in this game, and I'm afraid my timing is just not that great at this point in my life. BAH. It's been great until now though. Very charming and funny. Now I can't decide what to try next on my NEW NINTENDO DSi: Rhythm Heaven or Chrono Trigger? Or maybe both?

The reason I have the DSi, by the way, is that the EA Store did actually get a batch in. And one of the perks of working at EA is that within your first year (and only your first year, after which the offer expires), you get a $100 discount on a new console system. I have a 360 already, have no desire for a PS3, and use my PSP as a toilet brick. So the new DSi was the clear choice here, especially since I never upgraded to the DS Lite. I used $70 of the $250 gift card I had to pay the difference, so, basically, new DSi for free, and still $180 on the card to blow. Woot. Early verdict: It's ossum! I like the black matte finish on the thing, and the design in general is so much sleeker and less embarrassing then the old purple one, which I'm keeping for GBA games anyhoo.

3) Downloaded and started iMob on the iPhone. An MMO on the iPhone? Sounds fishy. And gimmicky. But, hmmmm, I'm a level 3 Hustler already, I've successfully performed a bunch of purse snatches and home invasions (ATTN FEDERAL AUTHORITIES AND CONCERNED FAMILY MEMBERS: I MEAN IN THE GAME. IT'S A GAME), bought myself a nice land fill, upgraded my weapons, and even retaliated and won a fight against some clown in my (real life) neighborhood who made the mistake of trying to take me out. In short: I think I'm in! At least for now. Will keep you posted on my progress as a burgeoning Mafia don.

Anyway, that's what I did this morning instead of blogging. Now it's time to go to work.

Oh yeah! A few more quick things:
1)I am appearing on the next episode of CO-OP with my old 1UP pals, talking about the awesomeness that is Plants Vs. Zombies, a game that you all should download now if you haven't already. The show will be available I don't know when at their site here.

2) Sometime soon I will be able to talk more about it, but you can at least officially know that the game I've been working on is MySims Agents. There's a few previews up now from your various gaming media sites, which adequately regurgitate the propaganda we threw at them and provide a few screenshots. My contribution, let it be said, has been minimal. I'm busy writing incidental dialog and text for the game, and hopefully it's funny. But I'm coming in at the late end of the project and get no credit for however good (or not!) it ultimately turns out. But I think it's gonna surprise people.

3) Finally, if you want to join my iMob, the handle is "doofaeus." Join me, or be my enemy, punks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I lose things.

Sometimes I really hate being me.

Most of the time, I'm okay with it. I feel like I probably could have done worse, in the grand scheme of things, than being me. But one thing I really can't stand is that I am just horrendously absent-minded. No need to blame "old age" here, either--I've been this way for as long as I can remember, even though my memory is kind of crappy from being so absent-minded.

The way my absent-mindedness manifests itself most, and worst, is in my constant losing of things, or forgetting where I put things. Over the years, after much drama and angst, I have devised (mostly) fail-safe systems for certain crucial items, like my keys, which hang on a special key-holder thing by our front door. (This did not stop me, however, from losing the keys to my brand-new motorcycle awhile back.) My wallet, too, is now mostly safe from my dunderheadedness, though the fact that I'm typing this now is probably not a really good idea.

But as my wife and kid can tell you, I am the worst, by far, when it comes to glasses. I don't know what it is. It's like some kind of gypsy curse, or maybe a deep-rooted psychological desire to be blind. My inability to hold on to sunglasses is beyond laughable. At this point in my life, I just go to the 99 cent store, and buy multiple pairs at once, with the full knowledge and acceptance that if I can make four pairs last a month, I'm doing well. That's no exaggeration. I'm just terrible. I can't even tell you where they all are. Probably where all those stranded socks are. In Narnia! I set them down everywhere---apparently. Or maybe there's just some guy following me around all the time with 400 pairs of sunglasses to his name thanks to me. If so, and if you're reading this: You're welcome!

It's less funny, though, by far, when it comes to my prescription glasses.

My eyes, to put it in scientific terms, blow chunks. I'm not just nearsighted like your garden variety nerd. Oh, no. That'd be too easy. Instead, I have some kind of weird, unclassifiable issue that manifests itself in a form of double-vision, and which can at times make me look cross-eyed or lazy-eyed or just kind of stupid-looking. (The drool and coloring books probably don't help.) For better or worse, this is only a problem with my up-close vision: talking to people, reading, using the computer. For distance, I'm your standard near-blind guy with the coke-bottle lenses--always a hit with the ladies.

So here's how I have to deal with things. For distance, I wear regular contact lenses. I used to lose these all the time, too, and drop them and rip them (remind me to tell y'all the story of being lost in the middle of nowhere in Germany in 1984 with only one contact lens, which I then ripped, had to take out of my eye, and then keep wet by carrying in my mouth while walking nearly blind for five miles. Actually I guess I just told you.) But with the advent of disposable lenses, that's not really a problem anymore.

So I wear contacts all day long. But in order to read or use the PC or talk to people without looking like a crosseyed dimwit, I need to wear my "reading glasses", which have big-ass prisms built in to help correct the problem. They are awesome. They are also horrifically expensive. You see where this story is going?

So, yeah. I need to carry around my reading glasses all the time when I'm awake, to put on and take off whenever I need to read something or interact up close with anyone. And for an absent-minded guy like me, this is just a logistical nightmare. For awhile, I was doing the lanyard/braid over my head thing, even though it made me feel and look even older than I already am. And truthfully I should probably go back to that method. But that has its own problems, too, and gets annoying if it's a situation where they need to be off for long periods and I'm out in public and they're kinda flailing around. I don't carry a man-purse or murse or whatever they're called, which might help, but, then, I'd just lose that too. I *do* carry a backpack around a lot of the time, but, then that's not quite convenient enough access when I need to do a quick read of something.

So more often than not, I default to the easiest way out: I stick them in my shirt pocket. Those wondering why I usually wear button-down shirts over t-shirts, this is why. So I have a glasses pocket. Most of the time, this works just fine. It may not be the best for the lenses, but, for the most part, it makes me feel the most secure: they're right there, and I am constantly, semi-consciously patting my pocket all day to make sure they're there. The downside, though, is that they are prone to fall out, if I bend over, or take my sweater off in a haphazard manner....or any other number of scenarios.

And one of these scenarios, or maybe something entirely different--I don't really know-- happened on Friday night, and I am now without my reading glasses once again, glasses that cost $400 and that I just got three weeks ago, replacing the last pair (which I wrecked, but didn't lose.) I've done all the requisite quadruple-checking in every likely place, and these things are apparently gone, gone, gone, baby. Who knows? Maybe they flew out of my pocket on the motorcycle Friday night. Maybe I set them down while grabbing a handful of chips at the Sims TGIF. Maybe they're in Narnia. All I know is, I am without those glasses and am utterly frustrated with myself, again. Seriously, Jeff--again??

I will replace them. And I have cheapo backups that will get me by. And life will go on. And in the grand scheme of things, I guess I do mostly well at this whole "living" thing. But good grief do I get tired of being me sometimes. This is one of those times.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Out of the Game podcast.

Having been seduced by the evilness of Twitter during my imposed "hibernation," I failed to acknowledge to the vast hordes of non-Twitterites that I had begun podcasting again.
I apologize.

In fact, you should know, if you care, that I am podcasting again. I have joined my fellow former GFW Radio pals Shawn Elliott and Robert Ashley, along with former Legendary Thread pal Luke Smith, and former Newsweek columnist pal N'Gai Croal, for a "non-gaming" podcast that, of course, ends up talking about gaming quite a bit. Since a few of us are now on the proverbial Other Side of the Fence, we are prohibited for professional reasons from discussing certain matters, but we decided not to let that get in the way of just blabbing amongst ourselves in general, with microphones equipped.

Is it interesting or funny or worth your time? I can't really say. I know that I love talking with these guys, all of whom I consider my friends and respect tremendously for their insight and humor.

We just recorded our fourth episode today, and I think it went well. I'll update this blog when it's live. Meanwhile, you can find the first three episodes (of which I was absent on #3) here. There are some sound issues in the first one (especially with my mic), but I think it gets better with the next ones.

Content-quality wise: give us time. :) GFW Radio took awhile to get its legs, too. So did Buffy! Recording a podcast with five of us all in different parts of the country is a challenge, as so much of what can make a podcast great is whatever is happening in the room at the time when all are present. But I think we're slowly figuring it out.

I do miss GFW Radio tremendously, like lots of folks. But I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to be doing this again with now.

Also! If you were considering going to the Penny Arcade Expo this coming September 4-6 in Seattle, be aware, if you hadn't heard already, that there is going to be a "GFW Reunion" live podcast, featuring Shawn, Sean Molloy, Ryan Scott, and myself. We'll be doing a podcast for awhile and then answering questions. Questions like, "who the fuck are you guys again?"

Happy Sunday y'all!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Help me spend $250!

I'm stressed. Stressed about money.

No, not the kind of real-world stress we're all feeling these days. I have that too, don't worry, though I know I'm luckier than many, many people on that score. I'm stressed because, as those who follow my Twitter feed already know, I suddenly find myself with a $250 AmEx gift card that I had no idea was coming my way.

It turns out that the "professional favor" I did recently (which did not, contrary to scurrilous rumor-mongering, have anything to do with a "male escort service"), was not, in fact, something I was doing for free, like I thought. How cool! Something I thought I was doing just to be a nice guy has now reaped me a reward. It's like some kind of great moral lesson or something!

So here's the thing. As we all know, it's not often that unexpected money comes falling out of the sky. So immediately, I felt a great sense of pressure. HOW DO I SPEND THIS? When's the last time THIS ever happened, and when will it ever happen again? I need to make wise decisions. Decisions I won't regret in a week. I don't want to find myself banging my head on the desk or raising my fist to the sky in existential torment over the fact that I somehow thought it was a good idea to buy $250 worth of Cheetos. (OR IS IT?)

I've already decided, though, that this does not--and, in fact, should not--be spent on something I necessarily need. Screw that. That's what my job is for. This is a windfall. It is my duty to blow this money strictly on something I want, something that in the normal course of life I could never justify buying. The things I need I'll end up buying anyway. This is an opportunity to get something totally unnecessary and indulgent. And, yeah, let me be clear on that point: Indulgence is what I'm after here. I'm working hard these days, I support my family, I make donations to charity--all that. So I'm being selfish. Though some of the Buddhist reading I've been doing talks about "letting go" of such desires, which, in theory, probably makes sense, I guess, it's also true that those Buddhist monks didn't have the new Nintendo DSi to contend with. Let's see how strong they'd be in the face of THAT temptation!

Anyway, so, I need your help. I've made a short list of stupid crap I don't need, but I can't pull the trigger yet because, you know, WHAT IF I MAKE A MISTAKE?? What if it's the wrong crap? Maybe there's crap I haven't even considered yet! Maybe the crap I want actually IS crap! Here's where you come in. Help me decide. Participate in my impulse buying. There's nothing in it for you--not a damn thing, because I'm not sharing--but you'd at least get the satisfaction of knowing you helped another human accomplish something unnecessary and even somewhat shameful, given the state of the world today. But, hey, at least it's not you!! If you start feeling bad about how much you have versus the rest of the world, at least you won't be racked with guilt over money blown on nothing! You can point at me! You can scoff and feel morally superior to that greedy spendthrift Jeff Green! This is my gift to you! Moral superiority!

So here is the short list, with accompanying rationalizations and hesitations.

1) Nintendo DSi. I love my DS. Favorite handheld gaming device evar. However, I have the clunky old first-generation one, with the cruddy small screen. Also, it's purple. It's hard enough to be taken seriously on this planet without carrying around a purple DS. So this free money seems like the perfect excuse to upgrade to the new DSi, which is all cool-looking and thin and not purple. The hitch: If I wait, the DSi will eventually show up at the EA Store, where, as part of the "new employee program", I'll get a $100 discount. So I'm thinking I should use this $250 on something that would actually cost me, ya know, $250.

2) The Wire Complete Box Set. This is honestly my top choice. The Wire is probably my favorite TV show of all time, so the thought of being able to revisit it, and share it with others, is extremely tempting. The thing is: I have come to realize, like many people, that buying DVDs is largely a waste. Those DVDs spend a lot of time, maybe their entire existence, not being watched, but simply hoarded. I already have a hoarding instinct with books and music, and have mostly successfully avoiding doing the same with DVDs. I HAVE picked up some of my all-time favorites: Spinal Tap, Big Lebowski, Seven Samurai, The Godfather, etc--and I have no regrets. Though, again, I don't really watch them. I do like knowing they're there, though. And if any show will not only hold up to repeated viewings but actually reward you with new insights and discoveries, it's The Wire. In fact, the storytelling is so rich and deep and complex--like any great novel-- the first viewing is almost too overwhelming. So, yeah, I want this. It's $180 at Amazon, leaving me $70, which would get me either of the items in #3!

3) Two other TV DVD box sets, both "cult classics" of which I was happily part of the cults: Twin Peaks and The Prisoner. Again, two shows that reward repeated viewings. I just can't decide which I'd be happier to own over the long haul. I think episode-to-episode, The Prisoner is the stronger series, by far, and probably one, like The Wire, that will yield lots of new insight over time. But Twin Peaks is a delicious guilty pleasure that is hard to resist.

(And an aside before getting on to #4: Twitterites have been throwing Star Trek, Battlestar, and other such shows at me. I dig them and appreciate the suggestions, but, nah. Once was enough for me on those. I never was a Trekkie. And BSG was ultimately too erratic for me to suffer through more than once.)

4) A new motherboard or somesuch shit to fix my PC so I can play WoW again.. Not just WoW, but a few other PC games, too, that have been borked ever since I've had this jinxed rig. Computer hardware is boring though. Hard to get worked up about this one. Plus it feels, I dunno, practical. Like I'm fixing something. I'm trying to avoid anything remotely productive here.

5) Nice noise-canceling headphones. Most of my music-listening these days takes place through headphones. I have some decent cheap ones (Koss PortaPro), but I've been coveting the notion of getting some really good ones, ones that would also be useful for plane travel, etc. $250 would go a long way towards getting me a sweet pair that would leave me happily entranced until the day I rolled over them on my office chair and broke them.

6) Rock Band Beatles. Or Rock Band in general since Rock Band Beatles isn't out yet. But the Beatles set is the thing that is kinda pushing me over the edge, especially since my kid is such a big Beatles fan now, too (yay!). The problem, however, is that it's more clutter that we really don't need. Plus, I'm not social enough, or I'm too old, or both, to have people over enough to make this feel worthwhile. I played the first few Guitar Heroes, and loved them, but always played solo. Rock Band solo seems a bit sad. Like I'll end up on the corner as an old man doing the one-man-band thing for spare change. Of course, if that IS in my future, then I suppose this would be good practice. Hmmmm.

7) Random games and books and music. This would be my opportunity to pick up a pile of stuff that will definitely get lots of use. Since I don't get free games anymore (except EA games), I'm like the rest of you rabble on that front. I'm always up for new new books, too, and could even pick up a few that I normally wouldn't cuz of being too expensive. And then there's CD box sets....which I'm a little loathe to do since I'm trying to abandon physical media as far as music goes. Still, all this stuff is the kind of stuff I can buy sporadically throughout the year as long as I'm relatively prudent about it. So it doesn't quite have that "I couldn't normally buy this" vibe than I'm trying to fulfill here.

See what I'm talking about? This is stressful! And, really, there are a million other things I haven't even thought about yet! What about one of them new Flip videocameras? How about some new motorcycle boots? Maybe a box of cigars! I don't smoke, but, what the heck, maybe it's a good time to start! Maybe a cool espresso maker for the house? Shit, if I'm gonna go down that road, there's tons of home appliance type stuff that could be great! How about an elliptical trainer, so I can exercise my fat ass instead of sitting around on it all the time? Or even a new bicycle! Sure they get stolen all the time because I live in Berkeley, which is like the bike thief capital of the world, but, what the heck! It's free anyway! And you know what I haven't had in like forever? A robe! A bigass fluffy robe to wear around the house! That'd be awesome!

Seriously, people: I need help. This gift card is like a 10-ton weight on my shoulders. Relieve my burden. Tell me what to buy. I'm practically incapacitated here. I'm almost sorry I even got the damn thing.