Sunday, March 22, 2009

Game Design is Hard, Part III

My education continues apace. Those who have been following my trail since leaving the exciting world of game journalism for the even more exciting world of game development know that I have, shall we say, "bounced around" since taking a job in the Sims division at EA in late September.

To be more specific, and to keep y'all current, I have just been transferred to my 4th project in what is about to be 6 months on the job. Note (and I am speaking specifically to my employers who are probably lurking on this blog) that this is a statement of fact, not a complaint. God do I love my job. Please keep employing me. The thing is, as I am coming to learn, is that, at least at a big place like EA, and, especially in times like these (ECONOMIC ARMAGEDDON), change is inevitable, and, as priorities are rearranged and forecasts are made and budgets are getting put under the proverbial microscope, one can't get too comfortable with one's current project. Or cubicle.

So last week I physically moved for the third time, and project-wise changed for the fourth. I can't really tell ya the why's and wherefore's, or even what particular projects I was on and am NOW on, other than that I am still in the Sims group, and am now, once again, on a project that I actually like. (Which has been the case every time.) My new one, in fact, may be the one best suited to my at least one of my abilities: I am going to be working on writing/rewriting dialog and other text for the game. So, yay! A writing gig! On the downside, the tools for doing this kind of thing in a game are monstrously alien to me, and my first attempts at dealing with them resulted in hours and hours of trial-and-error with not many concrete results--and that was just to change one or two lines of dialog. (In brief: The text doesn't exist in "script" form, but, rather, every line is a separate line in a database. Figuring out how to use this database, how to find the line I want to change, how to change it, how to get it submitted for translation, how to see its affect in game---this is the stuff that caused steam to emit from my ears this past week, which, if nothing else, was a great conversation piece for my new co-workers.

On top of all that, there's the time pressure. If I'm being tasked to polish a level, and a certain amount of faith and trust has been bestowed upon me that I will get it done...well, I need to get it done. Like, yesterday. But when one finds oneself being the New Guy, yet again, with all new co-workers with an all-new work environment and culture, it takes time just to get acclimated and feel comfortable and confident. I mean, when I have to once again ask people where the nearest coffee pot's hard to maintain a sense of rhythm or continuity in my work.

But this is the world in which I chose to enter, and which, for the most part, is still incredibly rewarding to me, simply for the fact that it is challenging me--which is exactly what I wanted. Right now I do honestly have moments of "be careful what you wish for" going on--oh how easy it seems now to run a magazine!--but this experience is, for all the stress and bouts of insecurity its causing me--one I do not regret. Having just typed that, I realize it may sound like I'm trying to convince myself (and you) that this is true...but I promise! It is.

As David Byrne once sang: "There is nothing that is stronger than the feeling that you get when your eyes are wide open." Right now, my eyes are open wide.

In other news:
1) Still 1 episode behind on BSG, so I haven't watched the finale yet. But I am glad the show is over. It was great, but it was time.
2) Lost is better than ever. Amazing, really, given how crappy the show was for awhile. What a comeback.
3) My NCAA bracket picks are a disaster. I guess that's what I get for believing in Pac 10 teams. As much as I don't want to admit that to Dana and Brian.
4) I am not eating the same food night after night, I promise. My blog intern has failed at keeping that updated.
5) Still loving the Incredibad album beyond all reason.
6) Still haven't seen Watchmen yet. If nothing else tells you how busy I am--there ya go.

Peace, kids. I'll be back.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Everything in perspective.

I was thinking I wasn't having the greatest day today. Then I saw this.

Thank you to for always putting life in perspective for me. (And yes, I'm sure it's OLD and you've all seen it before. Too bad! It still makes me feel better.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In which I blog again.

Yeah yeah yeah. I know. I know I know I know. I KNOW. So get off my back already, willya!? I've been busy! Actually, maybe I haven't. If you must blame anything, blame Twitter. I hopped on that particular bandwagon only reluctantly, partly because it just seemed so dumb to me, but darn if there isn't something easily appealing about it, especially because it requires so little commitment. And the 140 word character limit means there can be a little creativity involved. But I worry about it in regards to how it will affect blogging habits. Not just mine, which suck in any case, but even those who are more committed to blogging.If you are randomly scattering tweets out into the world all day, doesn't that lessen your desire/need to sit down and actually compose a more thoughtful blog? I'm just asking.

In any event, I'm here now. Though I don't have much to say since I've twittered it all already. JUST KIDDING. I actually don't have a "topic" this time, other than the desire to say "HAI GUYZ!" and to share a few random thoughts with you. As usual, a few long, epic blog posts still remain only in my head, like my treatise on why Los Lobos is the Great American Rock Band, as well as a confessional on why I can't live without my motorcycle. Maybe some other time.

1) Battlestar Galactica: Other than the 2-part mutiny episodes, I can't get behind this season at all. I'm sorry. I'm trying. It's been made worse by going back and watching the initial miniseries with The Wife (who I'm not allowed to call a Cylon anymore, which probably means she is one). I think at some point the writers just thought they needed to say something more "important" or "profound" than was really worth bothering with, at the expense of providing us with good TV drama and thrills. Man is its own worst enemy: ORLY? The characters are all over the map, the pacing is WAY off from episode to episode, with simply no forward thrust on the narrative. The fact that there's only a few hours left is stunning given how stilted and lackluster and unsuspenseful the last few have been. Final verdict: BAH.

2) Haven't seen Watchmen yet. I am not expecting great things and will be happy if it doesn't blow. Still, the worst movie in the world won't diminish how amazing the graphic novel is. And it's great to see it on the book bestseller chart after all these years.

3) My job continues to kick my ass. In a good way. The things I didn't know about game development could fill, err, I dunno, a bus terminal. I bet if I was twittering I could have come up with a better word there. It still doesn't change how I would have approached my press job though.

4) The Incredibad album is hilarious and well worth the $2 I paid on Amazon's daily MP3 deal. I was worried that it wouldn't hold up without the videos, but, yes, it does. Can't remember the last time I bought a "comedy" album. It doesn't hurt that the songs are, mostly, ridiculously catchy. Good stuff. Andy Samberg man crush confirmed.

5) Empire: Total War has been downloading off Steam for three days now. That plus reports that there are some serious stability issues has already taken the wind out of my sails for this game.

6) Which is too bad, since I seriously need another game to get me to stop playing WoW all the time. My addiction is as bad as ever, as proven by my World Explorer achievement, which means absolutely nothing other than that I need to stop. Actually, the endgame stuff has been fun (second Naxx run today-whoooo!), but, on the other hand, I'm finding myself, at level 80, getting bored already. Which I know is not a new problem for anyone. Today I finally got going on a Death Knight instead. Having been in the beta, I know how great these opening quest chains are, but, once these are over and I'm back in the "main game"? Ugh. Not sure I can do it again. (But watch me do it anyway.)

7) And, finally, yes, there are podcast rumors out there. They might very well be true. Who knows, though. Those guys are a bunch of fuggin' flakes.