Rants

Things I Meant to Blog About But Didn’t…But Now Sort of Am 

It’s been a little while since my last blog. I blame the polar vortex, or a sharknado, or something. Anyway, there’s a lot of random piles of brain droppings to examine, so let’s get to it.

GDC, Common Themes, and 5 People

Another fine year at GDC, though I’m more convinced than ever that buying a badge ends up being a giant waste of money. Every year, the most value I get is from the folks I run into on the street, at a dinner, or at a party. Nothing against the sessions (and there was plenty of smart stuff said), but for pure efficiency, nothing beats the lobby of the Marriott. (Unless you’re wearing a suit…everyone knows to find you at the W.)

As for the actual conference, I’m pretty sure that this year’s theme was Holy-Fuck-We-Are-The-Most-Racist/Homophobic/Mysoginistic/Sociopathic-Industry-Of-All-Time-Mostly-Due-To-Our-White-Heterosexual-Male-Dominated-Bro-Culture-Acting-Like-Horrible-Assholes.

At least, that’s what was on the official t-shirts. And in every talk. And at every dinner. And on every street corner.  (No, I’m serious—the homeless guy in front of Moscone had a new sign that said “I don’t want your money, you racist/homophobic/mysoginistic fucks. Just walk away.”)

Here’s the thing: as a  white, heterosexual male, it all makes me sad. It also makes me hate our industry for reasons other than the standard suite of reasons to hate our industry. So, to all of my white, heterosexual brethren out there:

Stop it. Seriously,  just fucking stop. You’re ruining it for everyone.

Your behavior is hateful, and hurtful, and your mother is really fucking ashamed that you’re acting this way. You are shitting where we all eat. You are silencing the voices that could be making your games great. You are diminishing our art through your ignorance/fear/stupidity. You are causing pain in an industry whose structure is built on a foundation of joy and bringing that joy to others. You are ruining it for everyone.

It’s not like we work in coal mines—we make videogames for a living. You don’t have anything to be that angry about. We have it good. Seriously…even if you’re in QA.

It’s not too much to ask for you to not be a raging asshole to every human you encounter of a different race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. Even if you’re online. Even if it’s anonymous. Even if you think those other races/creeds/colors/orientations are different and scary and maybe secretly staring at your ass. Just fucking stop. You’re embarrassing and causing pain and did I mention…RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE???

Oh yeah..and you are forcing us to talk about your bullshit incessantly, when we could be talking about how to make better games.

And we need to make better games. So…

Just. Fucking. Stop.

Thank you. I’ll move on to happier things.

I love that I always see the same five people at GDC. They’re not actually the same five people—they’re folks who adopt the same quirky affectations in order to stand out, but end up doing so in a way that ten other people are also doing, thus blending them in to one generic, bizarrely affected nonentity.

To explain, allow me to present…

Five People I Meet At GDC. Every. Damn. Year.

  1. Kilt Guy

    Kilt Guy. Note the Kilt.

    Kilt Guy. Note the Kilt.

    Description: You’ve seen him. Easily identifiable by, you know, the kilt.
    Defining Characteristic: Need to defend wearing a kilt.
    Overheard Saying: “No, seriously, they’re totally comfortable.”
    Why I Love Them: Kilts kinda rock. Mostly when carrying bagpipes, but they still have some street cred.

  2. Anime Girl

    I’d Have Given Bonus Points If They’d ROYGBIV’d This Photo

    Description: Bright, bright, inhumanly bright colors abound. Hair in jaunty angles. Lots of smiling.
    Defining Characteristic: Lots of pink. Like “Oh-My-God-There’s-Been-An-Explosion-At-The-Pepto-Bismol-Factory!!!” levels of pink.
    Overheard Saying: Things that might be in Japanese, but I’m probably just not listening real well.
    Why I Love Them: They always seem happy. That’s not an easy feat to pull off at GDC, so I’ve gotta respect it.

  3. Unironic Handlebar Mustache Guy

    Do Not Stare Directly At the Stache

    Do Not Stare Directly At the Stache

    Description: Meticulously groomed, jet black, face sculpture. A carefully cultivated lack of a cynical look on his face.
    Defining Characteristic: A conscious effort not to mention his own mustache, but secretly ready to pounce at the slightest hint of a mustache-related conversational turn.
    Overheard Saying: “This doesn’t take me long at all.”
    Why I Love Them: It suggests a strong level of commitment, if not great judgment.

  4. White Guy With Dreads Guy

    The Inevitable Future of White Guy Dreads

    The Inevitable Future of White Guy Dreads

    Description: White guy. Dreads. Perpetual half-surprised expression.
    Defining Characteristic: Epic lack of understanding of own ridiculous appearance.
    Overheard Saying: “Can you spare some change?” before launching into “Three Little Birds” in front of Starbuck’s.
    Why I Love Them: Because…. Nope. I just don’t. This whole look is broken on every level.

  5. Other

    My Facebook Ads Are Gonna Be Interesting After Searching For This Photo

    My Facebook Ads Are Gonna Be Interesting After Searching For This Photo

    Description: Varies. Sometimes it’s Pirate Guy. Or Full Suit of Armor Guy. There’s always one that surprises me.
    Defining Characteristic: This year, it was Diaphanous-White-Diaper-Loincloth-Thing-With-Matching-Boot-Toppers Guy. I can’t explain it any better. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo.
    Overheard Saying: Nothing. Self-induced hysterical deafness prevented me from hearing a darn thing.
    Why I Love Them: It keeps things interesting. Every year, something new. It may confuse and unnerve me, but it’s something guaranteed to amuse, entertain, and enlighten. Mostly amuse.

In the end, I don’t care what you look like at GDC (or any other convention, such as the upcoming ECGC, featuring demonstrably brilliant and shockingly charming speakers), but do understand that you might not be achieving your desired results. I beg you, though, don’t change. Having this sort of wackiness at conferences helps break up the monotony.

Just don’t try to hand me your résumé dressed like that, you wackadoodle hippy freak. And get off my lawn.

The NCAA Championship Game

I love NCAA basketball. It’s the only sport I can still manage to care about (as I’m a former Wizards and Redskins season ticket holder, you might understand why my patience runs thin). I love the effort the players put out there. I love the passion of the fans.

I’m struggling to find anything good about this year’s championship game. There’s no one to cheer for. At least, not if you care about the sport. Or decency. Stuff like that. I mean, what do you think of when you think of UConn and Kentucky?

When I think of UConn, I think of Jim Calhoun. And when I think of Jim Calhoun, I think of Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship.

Jim Calhoun Enjoyed Coaching, Obfuscating, and Walking Like An Egyptian

Jim Calhoun Enjoyed Coaching, Obfuscating, and Walking Like An Egyptian

Ha! Sorry…let me finish.

I think of Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship…and Jim Calhoun snatching those words out of the very air, throwing them violently to the ground, stomping on them repeatedly, kicking dirt on them, emptying a bucket of kerosene on top, setting them alight with a small culinary torch, dancing naked around the noxious flames, urinating upon them to douse the fire, then forming the ashes into tightly packed balls of Hate and throwing them at babies and nuns and stuff.

That’s what I think of.

Why? Perhaps it’s because Calhoun’s program historically guided more players into the penal system than into the NBA. Perhaps it’s because the coach didn’t actually make his players go to class. Beats me. I just can’t drum up a lot of support.

Maybe new coach Kevin Ollie will turn things around. Of course, he played for Calhoun. So, apples and trees and falling and all that. But there’s hope.

And John Calipari? Well, I had things I used to think about him—but all of my thoughts were vacated by the NCAA due to numerous, obvious, and repeated sanctions.

Fuck the Bangles. Cabbage Patch, Bitches!!!!

Fuck the Bangles. Cabbage Patch, Bitches!!!!

C’mon. Could this guy be more detestable? Let’s see: he’s got a long and storied history of NCAA violations, no one can agree on how many games he’s actually won because it’s difficult to count how many he’s had to vacate, and he once actually called a reporter a “fucking Mexican idiot.” Do you know what Coach Calipari has done that no other coach will likely ever achieve? Had Final Four trips vacated at two different schools. Impressive. But, he’s won two Naismith Coach of the Year awards! Except, those two entire seasons were…wait for it…vacated.

Also, he’s got really stupid hair. Seriously. It inspires anger in me.

Anyway, it really doesn’t matter who wins on Monday, since the championship will have been wiped from the record books by this time next year. So buy your t-shirts now, since sometime soon, they won’t actually have happened.

I’m Giddy About This One

I Believe It Was Oscar Wilde Who Said, "BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

I Believe It Was Oscar Wilde Who Said, “BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

So, Leland Yee. You might have heard of him: Democratic Senator from California, vocal gun control advocate, crusader against violent video games, bribe taker, illegal firearms trafficker…. HUBBAHUBBAWHAAAAAT?

Oops. Seems Sen. Yee got caught in an FBI sting, indicted for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and smuggling and dealing illegal firearms. He’s also been linked to Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. (PRO TIP: If you are a politician, and you’re ever linked—in any way—to someone named “Shrimp Boy,” immediately seek out a way to unlink yourself. Because you’re fucked.)

This is awesome on so many levels. It’s like he watched American Hustle and thought, “Hell yeah! That’s my jam!”

So, to the troubled Senator Yee, we of the video game industry would like to offer our most sincere apologies. Though…if you’d ever bothered to actually play GTA, you might have been a shit-ton better at the whole “gangsta” thing. Just sayin’.

Also, This

Fred Phelps, the founding pastor of the warm and huggable Westboro Baptist Church died a few weeks ago.

I Won't Show a Picture Of Fred Phelps. Instead, Here is Orko Looking Sad. But He Is In No Way Sad Because of the Death of Fred Phelps, Just to Be Clear

I Won’t Show a Picture Of Fred Phelps. Instead, Here is Orko Looking Sad. But He Is In No Way Sad Because of the Death of Fred Phelps, Just to Be Clear

Overheard at the Pearly Gates: “Right. Phelps…Fred Phelps. Well, look again! I’ll have you know, I….what? Why would God hate figs? Well, shit.”

A Couple Quick Bits

A while back I mentioned how it was creeping me out the way Robin Williams and Bono were slowly aging toward a single human being. Well, it turns out this sort of thing is happening all over Hollywood.

Perhaps you heard that David Letterman is retiring in a couple of years. No worries. Because right under our noses, Matt Damon has been slowly mutating into the late-night king.

In Unrelated News, Ben Affleck Is Starting to Look Like Arsenio Hall. Weird.

In Unrelated News, Ben Affleck Is Starting to Look Like Arsenio Hall. Weird.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on this one.

Who Will Look For Any Excuse to Get the Ultimate Warrior Into His Blog? This Guy.

Who Will Look For Any Excuse to Get the Ultimate Warrior Into His Blog? This Guy.

And a Review

Okay, so just one game review. Why one? Because I’m reviewing the only game anyone should be playing at all right now. I’m referring, of course, to:

FTL, Subset Games

Buy This Game

Buy This Game

Finally, FTL has come to iPad, where it probably meant to be in the first place. If you’re not familiar, FTL is a strategy rogue-like in which you command one of numerous types of spaceship, fighting other ships, controlling its crew, and managing its systems. You begin with only one ship available, but there are a ton of  different ships and layouts to unlock and play. It’s a completionist’s dream/nightmare.

Everything about the game works. Just as a bonus, the iPad version includes the brand new expansion material, just released for the PC version of FTL. That particular bit includes some guest writing by Chris Avellone, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Stop reading this. Go buy the game. Then say goodbye to your loved ones, because you’ll be ignoring them for the next few weeks. That’s okay. It’s totally worth it.

Enough Already

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll get back to updating this more regularly. Although there is the whole East Coast Gaming Conference coming up in a couple of weeks. Worth checking out, even if you only attend ONE SESSION. For that, it’s worth it to buy the pass. I’ll be the guy not wearing a kilt. In the meantime, leave me a comment, have a good week, and learn something important, like this:

Do You Want to Cabbage Patch Like John Calipari? Of Course You Do.

Irrational Thoughts

I love games, and I’m happy and proud to be a part of the industry that makes them. Except when it really pisses me off, like it did this week.

The big hitter was, no surprise, the announcement from Irrational Games founder Ken Levine that he would be “winding down” the studio after 17 years. To clarify: “winding down” is a brand new euphemism for “shitcanning all but 15 of the 150+ people who work there.” I’ve been “consolidated” before, even “right-sized,” but never “wound down.” I can’t help but picture an office of mechanical wind-up game developers slowly coming to a stop, then falling halfway over in cliché unwound robot fashion.

And you know what I hear in my head?

(In related news, if anyone wants to find me an awesome Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk walking away animated .gif, I’ll bet I could get a lot of use out of it.)

Now, I want to make something clear: I’ve got no problem with Ken Levine wanting to go do something different. Like he said in the open letter announcing the layoffs, “seventeen years is a long time to do any job.” It’s true. (Of course, the people who just got laid off are gonna find seventeen days/weeks/months is a fuck-ton longer to NOT do any job.)

I’ve seen Ken portrayed as the megalomaniacal villain in this tragedy, but I’ve seen nothing convincing me that’s the real story. Seems just as likely that this is Take Two cost-cutting like we’ve seen 100 times (that’s just last year). Irrational is a studio with a great track record for quality games, but with a history of taking a long time to make them and with a leader ready to move on. For a publisher, that’s easy pickins.

Ken will only keep as many employees as can fit on this couch.

Ken is sad, as he can only keep as many employees as will fit on this couch.

Here’s what’s killing me. We are inching ever closer to proving that the best practice for protecting the life of your studio is to NEVER SHIP A GAME. See, if you’re almost ready to ship a game, there’s money just around the corner. It’s like a poker player who figures that he’s already put half his money in the pot…he’d be stupid not to put the rest in, even if he knows he’s beaten.

On the other hand, if  you actually ship a game—even if it sells 4 million copies and has a 94 Metacritic—the next time you’ll make money for your publisher is a long way off. It doesn’t matter how much talent you’ve got, what kind of pedigree you have, or how cohesive the team is—it all pales in comparison to the burn numbers calculated out to the length of your next project. Remember: if you’re not generating a revenue stream, you’ve got a day-glo target painted on your collective backs.

At the end of the day, another studio making quality games just got flushed away. It’s been happening too much recently, and there’s no sign of it stopping soon.

And Another Thing…

It’s possible I’m crazy here, but in the last year did the entire world decide they would only back into parking spaces? Even if there’s no reason to? Even if they’re the only car in the entire parking lot???

I’m serious. Watch the next few times you’re parking—everyone has Backing In Fever. Of course, if you’re one of the afflicted, you won’t be watching. You’ll be looking over your shoulder, failing to park three or four times before finally bringing your Volvo SUV to rest, your passenger side scant millimeters from the driver’s side of the car next to you. No worries—you can still get out.

Slightly above average job of backing into a space.

Please only back into spaces if you are madly rushing to get to an incredibly important appointment…to go fuck yourself.

The reason for this madness? Back-up sensors and cameras. Look, I get that they’re useful—in fact, Congress mandated that all cars have them by 2011. (Shockingly, that didn’t happen.) Now, they’re on almost every new car that comes out, and people are really loving them.

Here’s the thing: just because you have a back-up sensor, or even a back-up camera, it doesn’t mean you suddenly know how to drive your 2014 Expedition any fucking better than you could drive your 2012 Expedition. I promise. Look—if you installed a periscope on it, you couldn’t suddenly sink a U-Boat. Get me?

So, to those of you gleefully taking three times as long to park twice as badly—let’s make a deal. If you stop parking like an idiot, I’ll stop accidentally putting those “I ♥ DONKEY PORN” bumper stickers on your car.

The guy across the street from my parents' house had this on his truck. It reminds me that it's the simple things in life that truly make us happy. Also, that my neighbor liked both truckin' and fuckin'.

The guy across the street from my parents’ house had this on his truck. It reminds me that it’s the simple things in life that truly make us happy. Also, that my neighbor really liked both truckin’ and fuckin’.

Mini Game Review

Bug Heroes 2, Foursaken Media

Bug Heroes 2, by Four

Bug Heroes 2, by Foursaken Media

Bug Heroes 2 is a action/strategy tower defense game where you control a team of two bug heroes as they protect their bug base, crush their bug enemies, and hear the lamentation of their bug women. Overall, it’s a well-crafted game. The environments are charming, and gameplay felt good after a bit of getting used to. The sound in particular had a whimsical, Worms-like feel. Missions are numerous and mostly fun, though the difficulty quickly ramps. Tons of upgrades and 25 available heroes allow for a variety of playstyles, and the ability to respec for free is a welcome feature.

It’s a mixed bag, though. I mentioned that there are “25 available heroes” to play, but only in the same way there are “25 available cars” for me to drive today. I really only have two to choose from, but I’d need to spend real money to drive any of the other 23.

Bug Heroes 2 telegraphs the oncoming paywall early on. You begin with two heroes, earn another after gaining 5 stars (from mission completion), then earn the next after…25 stars. That’s a bunch, considering you’re rewarded one for most missions. Based on every other game ever made, it’ll only get worse from there, and it pretty much signaled the end of the game for me.

Here’s the thing: if all I see in front of me is a long grind followed by an inevitable paywall, I’m out. It’s annoying in a free game, but it’s infuriating in a paid game like this one. Doesn’t matter how good the game is; going down that road only leads to frustration. How can I know this? Another Universal Truth of Game DesignThe only thing always found behind a paywall is a slightly larger paywall.

Random Observation Unrelated to Anything Else

I was checking out the Tonight Show and caught U2 performing on a rooftop just like they did back in the video for “Where the Streets Have No Name” (and The Beatles did in 1969… ). Watching it really made me think: the more things change, the more they START TO LOOK JUST LIKE ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Shazbat! I’m sure I’m not the first to observe the Na-Nu/Bono Effect, but it’s freaking me the hell out.

Shazbat! I’m sure I’m not the first to observe the Na-Nu/Bono Effect, but it’s freaking me the hell out.

So…there’s that. Thanks, everyone, for reading, commenting, reblogging, retweeting, and not sending me hate mail. As a special reward, I offer you levitating Mork and skateboarding Mindy. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Not Pictured: The mogul-sized pile of cocaine necessary to achieve this photo.

Not Pictured: The mogul-sized pile of cocaine necessary to capture this photo.