Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Once more, with feeling.

Let's see...since the last update we were in the recording sessions for the last of our VO. That was Thursday and Friday of last week. I had what could only be described as a moment of geeky happiness. It is not all that big of a deal, but for me it felt like I had achieved something cool or made another step, albeit a small one, as a director. I realized this momentary feeling of accomplishment when I was directing one of the actors – breaking down the story behind their character and explaining what I wanted out of the gameplay moments. Now I am a fan of the guys work; I have seen several things he has done and have always been impressed. Not saying he is pacino or deniro impressive...but he's good people. Anyway It really isn’t that big of a deal, but for me it was a great moment of accomplishment. Here I was giving direction to an actor that I totally respect about a game that I am directing. It was pretty damn cool. I am sure to most other directors it is really no big deal, but to me it was a cool moment…a moment of really doing something. There have been a lot of cool moments….a lot of firsts for me….but I had not had one in a while so that one really helped pick me up and get me 'back into the game' so to speak. The performance turned out great too, I thnk it will really add a lot to the gameplay his character is involved in. At first I brought him in because I recognized him and was a fan of his work but I was a bit worried that I might be making a similar mistake that I made early on…going with a 'name' without knowing whether or not they would work out or be difficult to work with. Trust me when I say...that sucks ass. Not only is it diffcult when doing the work...but you look like the biggest asshole int he world for pushing to get this person. Just all around bad times at ridgmont high. But thankfully…and that is a BIIIIG thankfully…like massive weight off my shoulders thankfully…it all worked out. He rocked. So keep an eye out for future updates when I can actually tell you his name, and the names of some of the other peeps we got to do the voices.

I also got to relax a bit and watch a few things this weekend that really got me thinking about the concept of the creative visionary – the rare person who is able to see the complete picture before they ever start working on something. Watching some of behind the scenes stuff about Joss Whedon really cemented the idea to me that he is a creative visionary. I mean this guy has created some really great work.. I was watching season 6 of Buffy…for the first time, I never watched the show on TV…when I got to the “Once more, with Feeling” episode and was blown away. He wrote the script for the show, the music and the lyrics…and performed on the demo CD. CRAZY! It really made me feel lazy. I know I have a ways to go before I will have that kind of creative clarity. There are some things with the game that I see the whole picture…that I know exactly what I want and I am able to convey that to everyone. But then there are still other things that I do not have the perfectly clear picture, and I kind of have to feel my way around in the dark a little before I see the whole thing. I know I can get better at that…and I know I can get to that point where I see it all clearly in the very early stages of production. That will be a good day.

Thanks for all the feedback guys…we are moving forward on the action figures. Not sure as to when they will be released or anything, but we have a collection of some great ideas we are working with now so stay tuned for more updates on that. Maybe I can get some pics posted of the early molds or something…that would be cool…kind of a work in progress sort of thing.

Gonna go into an iChat with Jaffe in a few minutes to talk about various aspects of the game so I am just killing a little time before that. I have a pretty full day today since I was out yesterday at another of our V.O. sessions. I got back in the office at 7:30pm last night and was running around trying to meet with as many people as I could, but still there is much that did not get done due to my absence yesterday.

I am also going to a Gamestop managers show at the end of September to show off the game…so that should be fun. I actually like demo-ing the game and getting to see the excitement on peoples faces when I rip off someone arm or stab minotaur in the head. I guess that says something kind of scary about me…and I the rest of society….but whatever. But it’s just a game, no matter what that no talent ass clown Jack Thompson says.

“Nobody shoots another person in the face unless they are a hitman or a video gamer.”

What an idiot. At any rate it will be nice to be able to show off the latest after having worked so crazy hard. The only downside is we are going alpha shortly after that so missing those two days will most likely have me working like mad to catch up. Well…not much of a positive outlook for my sleep in the near future.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"You mean Coitus?"

Ok so after a long few weeks of being a little bithcy...well more than a little bitchy...a lot bitchy....I feel better now. Not fully recharged, but at least in better spirits.

So whats new on the God of War 2 front? Well let’s see…I am almost finished with one of the characters I am animating…wish I could say who but we are holding off on revealing him until later in the year. It is nice to be doing a little animation now, but it is definitely overwhelming to be worrying about the rest of the game all day, then take three or four hours each night and try to focus on animating. I definitely wish I did not have to do it, but I suppose it is less painful knowing that the only alternative was to get rid of the characters…and that is no good.

I am going into the recording studio a few days this week to do the final recordings or all the voice actors. We have working feverishly to ensure that what we record now will cover nearly everything we need to support all the cinematics as well as the in game puzzles and such. It is amazing how much you don’t think about when writing the script for a game. Well maybe it is just me who forgets all the little details that are needed, but next time I will be a lot more attentive to that stuff.

We are doing a playtest at the end of the month for the first third of the game..which is something we desperately need to do. We have been planning, building and rebuilding the first third of the game over and over in an effort to make it perfect…and I think we are finally getting closer to what we need. It should be a pretty crazy beginning if everything goes off the way I am planning it. The first 45 minutes of the game need to be turned up to 11 in order to really stay true to our desire to have that action opener a’la James bond or Indiana Jones. This is a great thing to have, but man the pressure of trying to live up to that is definitely a lot bigger than I had originally though it would be. But I see a dim light at the end of the tunnel…I see the work coming together, even if only in rough form…and I am now more confident that we will have a really great experience.

I had a meeting about potentially getting some God of War 2 figures, which seems pretty freaking cool. Although I really don’t purchase figures all that often so I am not sure how others will respond to the idea of God of War figures….what do you think? Would you guys buy ‘em? Which character would you like to see?

Anyway…not much of a post today…I am a little hazy from exhaustion right now so I am going to just get back to work and do a little tuning with my buddy Todd Papy...sweet!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sad day

Okay…so I am going to go in a different direction today, so roll with me. This is not going to be a game post today…just not feeling it. I just found out today that one of my friends died almost a year ago. Man that really threw me. Not only for the fact that I am so completely out of touch with most of the people I know, but also the fact that he was only 29 years old. My friend Russel Foltz died in a motorcycle accident on August 14th, 2005…and I am just finding out today. I can’t even comprehend the level of suck I have attained. So I am just going to type a little and see what comes out…maybe help myself feel a little better about it.

I met Russ when I was living up in Northern California working at 3DO. I moved up with my girlfriend at the time, a girl whom I had only known for three weeks when I asked her to move up to SF with me. I wasn't exactly that strong in the sound judgment department...but in retrospect if I had it to do all over again I would have made the same choice. We met a desert party called Dune. It was a crazy Rave way the fuck out in the desert…we found out later that a kid got a little too messed up and walked off a cliff. His body wasn’t found for a week and a half.

So anyway, we set off on this adventure into the unknown. I had just left the movie biz and was beginning anew in the games biz with a company called Cyclone Studios. (owned by Trip Hawkins now defunct 3DO) We looked for a place up there for a month and just when the corporate housing was about to run out we decided to rent a three bedroom house in Foster City. It was nice…more than we needed and definitely the wrong neighborhood for us…the a-typical suburb environment. At first it seemed to be all good. My girlfriend got a job at a beauty supply place and I went to work on my first game. We would go out to some parties here and there and eventually ended up with a small circle of friends, mostly from my girlfriend’s new friends and co-workers. They were all really good people but it was a crazy time. The really sad part is I can’t exactly remember how we met Russ. I am pretty sure his friend Burl started dating one of our friends. We all went out and partied, tore things up a little too much. We all went through a lot together…many good times and many bad times. I know for a while there I was in a pretty dark place and Russ was always there to pull me out. He was a solid guy. He never asked for anything and was always willing to do anything you needed. If you had a little too much to drink and you are 45 minutes from home? Even if it was four in the morning he would jump in the car and come get you. And not once would he get pissed or try to hold that over your head. He was freaking great dancer too...I know that sounds gay...but whatever. That guy could freaking pop and lock like rice krispies. It was cool to watch, it was like his bones were liquid. Okay...a little too far with the trippy woodstock feel...but for real though...He was doper than Napoleon Dynamite.

At the time we were all kind of self-absorbed jackasses…well maybe that’s a little harsh…but we were just all about enjoying life. I remember I got this new video camera and was getting into video editing a little so I took a ton of footage of everyone hanging out, spinning records and such, then edited it together with a bunch of music. I remember when I showed it to everyone Russ said…’man we are a bunch of self absorbed jack asses…sitting around watching videos of ourselves.’ It was mostly cause I missed doing something film related…but I did find out I am a pretty lousy editor. Not that great of a camera man either. But it was a cheap ass camera so whatever. Even though it was totally lame I still kept all that footage on my computer. Now I am glad I did.

I worked like crazy, but when the weekend came we all went out and cut loose. It got to the point that we never really asked if we were all going to hang out…that was pretty much a given…it was more like “What are we going to do?” We would have a bunch of people over at the house spinning records until 4am…or until the cranky old guy next door threw something at our window telling us in a not so subtle way to keep it down. I don’t blame him though. He thought he was getting this whole leave it to beaver quite suburb life, and then the dumb ass raver kids moved in next door and screwed it all up. Even when things got really bad with all of us, the core group of us still stayed together. Russ even drove down to L.A. with me when I had to move.

I rented a big ass Uhaul and he and a few other people helped me pack everything up. The grumpy old guy was throwing a fucking party the day I left. Then he drove this behemoth while I drove my car. I was too freaked out to handle that beast and he was totally cool with taking the helm the whole way. And that thing had no AC and only AM radio. Now that is a fucking friend I tell you…cause no AC in July is booty out here. I didn’t have an apartment in L.A. so we had to find a storage space and unload all my crap into it. I remember when we found the place it was like 105 degrees or something crazy like that, and he never complained once. I was bitching like a spoiled girl about how freaking hot it was. But the whole time he was keeping positive.

He told me a story once about when he was driving home from a friend’s house one night. He was crossing over from the east bay on the bridge…it was like 3am and no one was on the road and he comes up on an overturned car. He said it looked as if the accident just happened. There was no one around so he pulled over and went over to the car. There was a woman in her thirties in the car, she was conscious and in shock. He called the cops then talked to her for a bit and reassured her, then helped her out of the car. She seemed to be okay minus a few cuts and bruises so they went over to his car and waited for the cops to come.

Now I am sure most people would have stopped when they came across that sort of thing, but I know that with him he never even gave it a second thought. IT was freaking automatic with him. He was just a good person. And it’s sad that he is gone, because there is a shortage of really good people. I know everyone says that their friends and loved ones when they die, but it is true…for me at least.

I lost touch with a lot of my friends after I left SF, mostly because the last few months there were really tough, and part of me wanted to just forget about all that. But now…after having found out about his death nearly a year afterwards…by email…I really wish I had chosen a different path. I wish I had stayed in touch with all those guys and at least gotten to tell him how much he helped me. I can only hope that when he passed he wasn’t alone, that someone else just like him stopped and was there with him. Even if it was just so that he heard someone there with him before he died.

Ok. I think I am all done with that now. Rest in peace my friend.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fear does not exist in this Dojo DOES IT??


So no more E3 huh? I know it is a bit late but hey…things have been pretty busy here. I was a bit sad to hear of the demise of E3. I am not the biggest E3 fan when I am actually there…it is loud, slightly nauseating and often times smelly. But there are a ton of cool games to see and it is always great to catch up with old friends and drink a little bit too much. But I am still bummed that I didn’t know that this years E3 was the last one…if I had I would have tried to enjoy even more. Oh well…such is life. I am sure there will some other event that will allow us all to get together and share the horror stories of development and drown our sorrows in booze. :)

Anyway…enough of that crazyness. We just finished up another milestone and playtest. It went really well I think, though I am still a bit despondent that we keep getting focus testers who want to work in the games biz. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who want to get in the industry it’s just they do not really represent our audience completely. We do internal playtests with the people that work here, which provides great feedback…but from a designer/industry angle. The main thing I am hoping to get out of the playtests externally is how the average gamer, one who loves to play games but is not necessarily looking to design them, responds to the game. But there was still a good collection of feedback that helps us fine tune various aspects of the game.

We are in the full ‘crunch’ for our alpha push. There is a ton of work to do, but I am confident that we will be able to get it all done before our alpha date. I am about halfway through on of the characters I am animating on right now. It is definitely a lot tougher than I expected…working all day and then trying to get a few hours of animation done at night. I am trying to make up some time on the weekends, but it is definitely exhausting. I don’t know how long I will be able to keep the pace up, but I can seek solace in the fact that the animating part will be over in a month or so. I used to miss animating but under these conditions I don’t think I will be missing it for long. It is hard to change tracks so quickly with my brain but it is definitely a lot more relaxing than the rest of my day. I like being able to sit down and put my headphones on, crank some massive attack and just shut out everything else and work. When I write it is hard to listen to music, and since writing was the only real reason to work on the computer for this project I have been missing that ability to shut everything out. It kind of recharges me a little. So I guess in that respect it is pretty damn sweet. Man I am fucking rambling on like Joe Pesci in JFK. "Who did the President, who killed Kennedy. Fuck, man! It's a mystery, it's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! The fuckin' shooters don't even know, don't you get it?! Fuck, man!!"

I love that movie, and many days I find myself getting worked up like Joe Pesci. That can't be good for my health.

Not much else going on. Well that isn’t entirely true. There is a ton going on but most of it is either boring or I can’t talk about it. I know that makes me sound self important…so take heart that most things fall in into the boring category. Though I can say that I think I am becoming a bastard…well maybe not a complete bastard. Maybe a partial bastard, though regardless of whether or not it is partial or's still not a good thing. I am sure there are many members of the team that want to hit me over the head with a bag of hammers these days....which is probably not a good thing. It could just be the sleep depravation taking its toll…but I am sure there is a little truth to me getting more cranky. Perhaps I am ‘manstrating.’ That was dumb. It seemed funny in my head…but it just sort of fell flat when writing it. Perhaps I should delete it. Nah…that wouldn’t be keeping it real.

Thanks for all the well wishing comments from everybody…and don’t worry about all the mentioning of cuts. Cutting things is a natural part of the development cycle. Even with the little things I have to drop here and there the game is still going to be nearly everything I wanted. Sure there are a few little levels here and there that had to get trimmed out to place a larger focus on other things, but for the most part everything is in tact. I just hope everyone gets a psyched about it as I am when they play it. I have no idea if we will get the same response as we got with the first game but I do know that we are going even further with everything this time so here’s to hoping it all works out.

One of the combat designers…Derek Dangles…wrote a funny post comparing game designers to porn stars. It made me laugh…mostly the fact that he compares Jaffe to Tara Patrick. It’s simultaneously hilarious and frightening. I shutter to think what porn star I would be compared to. I hear what he is saying though. I think it stretches beyond just game design though. I think there are so many talented people involved with Film/TV/games/etc…that work like crazy but don’t get the recognition of the chosen few. I mean think about the sound guy for the porn shoots…I am sure he gets even less recognition that the unknown porn stars. I have no clue what my point is….at this point I think it is safe to say that am incoherently babbling. I think I need to take another Xanax (Is that how you spell this…hmm…no idea.) and go look at some concept art. Sweet.

Oh…and I am through with video games. I am going to move to Tibet and raise Al Paqua and write a book of poems about toast. Perhaps I will also seek out a Sensi (maybe the sensi from Krate Kid. He rocked) and train in the ancient art of Breakdance fighting. That would be so freaking sweet. I can just imagine kicking ass and looking slick at the same time…like busting out some flares and combo’ing it into the kick worm into some crazy moonwalk jabs…sweet. I would so take Chuck Norris down…him and his thighmaster!!!

Sweep the Leg Johnny!!! Ok well maybe that isn't the right scene for that quote...but its a funny line so whatever.