Friday, October 17, 2008's the Tree's. They're mad...they're trying to kill us!

It’s Friday, October 17th and I have decided to come out of my self imposed media blackout to give a little update of what is gong on in my silly little world. I made the decision a while back to stop updating mostly due to the fact that I really couldn’t talk about any of the stuff I was working on, and I wasn’t all that motivated to just give boring personal updates. Most of my time at the computer was spent working anyway.

What’s the latest you ask? What is it I have been working on all these months? A sweet Olsen Twins game? A Nintendo DS action/adventure hybrid of Myst and Tapper, you say? No, not exactly.  

George and I have put the final touches on the Mad Max story and game design structure and mechanics. My last trip to Sydney in September marked the completion of that stuff. I gotta’ say, and I know I am totally biased here, but I gotta say that this story – as well as this game – is pretty freaking bad ass!! I really can't wait to get this game out there.  

It has been such an incredible ride working so closely with George.  I feel like my skills as a storyteller increase exponentially with every meeting we have.  We have so many sensibilties that are similar, yet so many that push each other in directions we would never have thought to go. I am learning so much from him. I feel a lot like Daniel san in Karate kid 2…all traveling to Okinawa to learn the ways of the ‘Break Some Ice’ technique. It's like the "Crane Technique", only instead of fighting a human opponent you are fighting several vertically stacked blocks of ice.  It's the combat equivalent of the Vice Presidential debates.

So now we are working with some publishers to get a deal locked down so we can start making this bad boy! These things always take 10 times the amount of time you originally predict them too, so I have no idea when actual production will begin. I will keep everyone posted with all the new developments as they come up.

I also have another project that I am really excited about as well. This one is shrouded in a little bit more mystery, but I hope to have an announcement on that one as well. It’s a little multi-player ditty that I, and a few other people, put together. This is also in that somewhat purgatory-esque waiting period of publisher discussion/negotiation. The design is freaking awesome, but yeah…I am totally biased.  

I have been traveling a ton, which (for me) is not all that awesome since I freaking hate the whole process of traveling. All in all it has been very rewarding though.

Playing many, many games…too many to list out all here. I have to say that in so many of the games I have played I have hit that ‘1-hour wall’, where I just don’t have the desire to continue. The game just completely comes off as neutral to me, giving me very drive to push forward. It has further cemented the idea to me that the first hour of your game needs to rock their fucking socks off…a fact that seems to elude so many games. I don’t know if it is that people really want to front-load all of their exposition and story telling. Perhaps it is the typical late production cuts that cause their first level to suffer.  

It could really be so many things that I, as the end user, have no idea about. But, to me, so many ‘first hours’ feel like a tutorial level. It’s as if the designers have just accepted that “Ok, I guess we gotta’ teach them these mechanics, let’s just make a basic level that gets that out of the way, then get into the game.” The end result is a level that completely feels like you just have to “get it out of the way” which in turn bores you to freaking tears.

I made it through about three hours of Too Human before I lost the motivation to continue. There was some good stuff, but it just got a little too repetitive for me. Doesn’t make it a bad game, just wasn’t enough there for me to continue. Been working my way through DMC 4 in small play chunks. Crazy install time, but there are a lot of cool things in that game worth checking out so I am definitely going to finish it – one day. Speaking of finshing it, I finally finished Minish Cap!!! Yeah I know, a little late to the party homes. Whatever. I played it on a GBA emulator on my PSP during my last trip to Sydney, slow start but very rewarding once you get out o the town the first time. Replayed Dead Rising, which is always a good time. That game has its flaws, but god is it fun.  

PSP bright looks kind of cool, but I really wish they would flip the positions of the analog nub and the D-pad.  It would seriously help prevent the "cramped hand" syndrome I get every time I play my slim longer than two hours. Please...Sony...move that nub!

I just picked up Dead Space, Silent Hill: Homecoming and Golden Axe: Beast Rider the other day. It’s funny, when I brought the Silent Hill box to the checkout I had the tellers asking me “Are you sure you want to get this game?” One of them suggested if I like a Silent Hill type game I should get Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 1. A fair point, since those games were freaking awesome. But I couldn’t help think how much that is like going to a music store to pick up a record only to have the teller go “Man, this band sucks – are you sure you want to get this, douchebag?” It made me laugh. These guys knew their games though, so it was all-good.
I was disturbed by one thing though. The copy of silent Hill was already out of the shrink-wrap. You basically get the empty box on the shelf, bring it to the teller, and then they get the disc. They put it in the box and slap a massive sticker on it stating it is a new game. Huh? How can you open something, and sell it as new? Especially when you are so synonymous with selling a used product? That just doesn’t make any sense to me. Most places sell things like that as open box, right? For me, if I am paying full price, I want it exactly as it arrived from the distributor.

I am heading out to the 'Unite for Kids' charity event in San Francisco next week, which should be a pretty good time. I am looking forward to seeing all the people I missed by opting out of the weak E3 this year. Maybe I will take the camera and grab some pics to post here next week?

Ok, I'm done now.  I am going to go watch the Happening for the 100th time.  I can't stop myself, it's like a Carrot Top movie.  You know it sucks, but each time you watch it you find out something about yourself...about how you suck.  It's that good of a bad movie.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Can I get a Witness?

UPDATE: Here is the link to the first part of the story I was talking about.  There will be a few parts to the story that is getting posted throughout the week.

Oh my freaking god a new update!!! Where the hell have you been?

As Usual I have taken a considerable hiatus in the realm of blog posting. I have been working on several things as well as getting as much relaxation as my OCD will allow.

Just arrived in Australia last week where I will be staying for the month of March doing some work. Should be fun, though I still miss the creature comforts of my home. To be honest, I am not much of a travel fan, but I have found that it is growing on me a bit. Not that I want to packing up and traveling around for fun or anything, let’ not get crazy, but the travel for work is actually quite nice. I seem to get sick the first few days, probably for being couped up the germ factory of an airplane for 14 freaking hours. But once that is gone it is pretty smooth sailin!

Since my last post so much has happened…went to GDC, hung out with Storm troopers and American McGee…though not at the same time, got my BAFTA award, and played a ton of games.

The BAFTA award…it was pretty cool to just be nominated for that really. Honestly, I had hoped we would win something, but in the end it didn’t really matter. The finished game is good enough for me.  But then when we won it was like “Sweet…it doesn’t give me back all the months of lost sleep…but it feels good.” A couple of weeks ago I got the award and let me say that is one heavy bastard.  I think they made it out of Naqudria or something like that.  It's possible this award will allow you to travel through time...or open up an inter-dimensional portal or something like that.   It's funny because it's actually my first “real” award that I have personally been allowed to keep...well maybe thats not funny, since most of the previosu stuff was crap.  

Anwyay...It holds up my trade paperbcks of Walking Dead and Y the Last Man quite well. ☺

Speaking of amazing is that series?  I just started reading it.  I know, I'm a little slow on the uptake, but better late than never.  Eric told me about this series and I can't believe I haven't read it until now.  I am still working my way through the series, but so far it is amazing. Brain K. Vaughan is just hands down...a bad motherf#cker.  If you haven't read this, then stop what you are doing now and go get it.  It will change your life...and allow you to travel through time.  To the max. Seriously.

Went to GDC, saw many people I had not seen in sooo long…and missed many people that I wanted to see. Below is a picture from the Lucas Arts party where you could get drunk with some Storm Troopers and talk about not being able to find the droids you were looking for. You know how much that sucks.

Hopefully I will be able to catch up with them at the next gaming gathering. Also got to hang out and chat with American for a while, which was cool. Never met him before, but loved Alice. Really great guy, and the stuff he is working on seems pretty freaking sweet as well! Other than that just hitting the work to the max…

Oh...I have been playing New Super Mario on the DS a lot over the last week. Great game, but the save system is killing me...and pretty much all of world 8. I want the punch world 8, collectively, in the freaking face. I have never wanted to throw my DS more than when I play the Mario. Ahhh...the classics...'Try and Die' design always frustrates me…but hey…that is why I am so not freaking Old School.

Ok…it is 6:30pm here, but my body is telling me it is 12:30am yesterday…so I need to get some damned sleep now. Stay tuned…I thin there will be some specific information coming out very soon…like maybe tomorrow…or…something…like that…maybe?


Friday, January 11, 2008

Questions, Questions, Questions...

So I felt a bit cheeky today and I thought I would answer your questions in a post Mike.  It could be because I hate typing long responses in the comment window as well...but either way here it is in all it's somewhat not so spectacular glory.

A: now that you left sony, are you still going to work in the gaming industry? or are you thinking of something else?
I am going to be doing some work in games as well as in film. I started out wanted to work in film way back when. Unfortunately I worked on some stinky projects that made me question whether or not I really wanted to be in film. so I decided to take a break from film and go to do some work in games over at Cyclone studios...which basically got absorbed by 3DO.  Which sucked.  But that is another story for another time.

Now that I have more free time and freedom to explore other things I am going to be taking full advantage of it. I should have some stuff to talk about by the end of the month, but things move slow round these parts so it is not a definite. I love making games though, so I don’t think I will be departing the game industry entirely for a long time.

B: if you ever do a new game, will it be story based or are you like, been there done that?
Games that are character and story centric are the only games that interest me. If those types of games become few and far between...or even worse...die out entirely then I will be most likely do less game work and more film work. I still love working on comabt based games as I guess I would work on a fighting or action game that had no story or character development.

C: now that you are not involved with god of war 3, will they still follow your story? or is there any chance they will change it big time?
My guess is that they are going to follow the structure and change the things that suit the changes to the game as production goes on. I established the overarching story of how the trilogy ends as well as the base of the game layout and design. As projects go through development things change and things get cut...that is just the nature of the beast. So in the end I imagine, and I hope, it stays close to the original vision but it is outta my control now.

D: any intrest of making a game on the wii? hahaha
YES! Even though I was less than impressed with my Wii, as well as a lot fo the games I have played, I would love to make a game on this system. I think there is a lot to be done with it.’s like a BILLION times cheaper to make a Wii game versus a 360 or PS3 game...which is good. Making a 40 or 50 million dollar game is cool, I love making big games don’t get me wrong, but you have soooo many more masters with their hands in the creative pot when that kind of money is getting thrown around. Hopefully when the game industry becomes more comfortable with those budget numbers things will get better. I mean, we were just getting used to 20-30 million when the next gen came around and now big games are costing double. I heard MGS4 costs 70 million. Which actually sounds ludicrous to me, but in a way it doesn’t if you factor int he MGS4 and MGS online...and the tons of cinematics and long development could get up to that.

But what do I know?

E: is chains of olympus going to be the best of the ''threesome'' ??? ;)
You will have to wait and see. I worked with those guys for the year before I left and the game really shaped up nicely. They are putting the final touches on it now and I think it is going to be one of the best psp games out there...well for action adventure fans that is.

F: if you could change something in god of war 2, what would you change? any big regrets?
I have so many regrets on that project....well not really regrets but a ton of things I would change if I had the time. There are a bunch of story elements I cut out due to time and budget that in the end would have helped to flesh out the story better. I was bummed we cut Hercules from the game..:( That was going to be a great mini-boss battle between the two sons of Zeus fighting over who hates their father more...but alas time and budget really dictate what you can do in a game that size.

Most of my regrets center around the cutting of certain pieces of content over another. Looking back at the game I would have switched a few of the cuts around. But things always look so much clearer when you look back at them, after the reviews and many comments on the game. When you are in the is much harder to achieve that same level of clarity.

If I could, I would have dragged that production out another 6 months to get everything in that I wanted, but that is just not how it works.

G: how do you feel about NINJA GAIDEN? itagaki was very positive about god of war!
Gaiden is a good game...though much to hardcore for my blood. I like to enjoy a play experience, not get my ass handed to me by it. I don’t have enough time in my day to master any one game...I just want to get in and play it. Enjoy it, maybe see what they are doing iwth it and take it apart to see how they did something. So Gaiden to me always feels like work. Painful work. Like when I worked at a Mcdonald’s for a week. I hated that...but I dont hate Gaiden. I just wish there was a SUPER easy mode.

The mechanics are solid and the control is smooth and responsive. They know their stuff over there. The Gaiden games are extremely well made. I also love that they change out the enemies and numbers of spawns when they ramp up difficulty. I wished we had done that with the GOW games.

H: what are you thoughts on TOO HUMAN? back then you said no comment :)
Well, first let me start of by saying that I think Dennis is a good guy. I was pretty pissed when that EGM article came out and made it seem like they were calling us out and saying that our game was garbage and they, from the Miyamoto school of design, were going to rock our world. I even made some comments at our press release about it, one that I though were so subtle no one would get it, and Matt Leone called me out on it. It was good fun. I actually got to talk to Dennis later at some conference and heard the whole story about the article which was cool. Very hard to trust everything you read in the press due to the lack of context for quotes that are used. Regardless I liked the guy. he says some crazy things, and sues epic, but I think he is a really genuinely nice guy with a damn fine pedigree of games.

Then the whole E3 demo happened and I was a bit bummed. I mean, it was clear that the game was too early and unpolished to be at E3. Something that I imagine Dennis knew as well, but alas it was on the show floor. It was a hard lesson for those guys to learn about showing something that is not ready. You could see that the game had potential, and Eternal Darkness rocked my world, so I reserved comment to wait for them to put out something that they were truly psyched about.

As for what I think now...I still haven't seen enough to make a comment. just some new cinematics and short gameplay vids. I am not too psyched about dual analog control. Hopefully they do it better than Rise to Honor or Death by Degrees. The control in those games was garbage.

I: will god of war 3, make the Playstation 3 sweat, like god of war 1 & 2 did on Playstation 2 running that game?
Yes, but it will be a mild sweat. The system is still new to most people. They already know a ton of tricks on how to make things look and move great, but it is too early to say that it will make it sweat like the late-gen PS2 GOW game did. GOW 5 or 6 will make the PS3 sweat though.


You don’t think they are going to bleed this franchise dry like the Rocky film series? :) Kratos is going to fight freaking Tommy Gunn in GOW5...a genetically enhanced cyborg Tommy Gunn...and it will rock.

Just Kidding. I have no clue what they are going to do with Kratos beyond the obvious SPorts, racing, and puzzle game spinoffs. God of Jenga!!!! Sweet!

J: finaly what happened to the european demo's of god of war 2? hahaha ;)
Seriously I have no idea. The Euro PR and marketing guys were all up in that business so if they dropped the ball it would not surprise me...the whole killing the goat thing was clear eveidence of that one. :)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Welcome Back!

So...what's been going on lately? :)

I hope everyone had a good holiday, I know I did.

Quite a lot has happened over the last few months so I decided to go on an unscheduled hiatus from the whole blogging thing. So I apologize to everyone for the information blackout of late but I wanted to step back from everything and just relax and get some perspective. I am having a bit of writers block now so I though what a great time to end the silence and get distracted from this frustrating block by writing a blog post. I hope I still remember how.

For me, the whole departure from Sony was not exactly the ideal route that I wanted to go, but in the end I think it is the absolute best thing I could have ever done. I am not going to go into any specifics as to what it is I am working on now, which sucks, but I can say that I am cooking up several things.

I know for the God of War fans out there it might be a bummer that I am not working on God of War 3 (or for some it may be a good thing I am not) but rest assured that it is all in good hands. The Sony Santa Monica team is one of the best teams I have ever worked with. Also, immediately after I finished God of War 2 I was already working on the story and design for the third game. So when Sony and I finally did part ways the foundation of the game, along with story that completes the arc we began in God of War , was complete. I wish I could have been there to see it through to the end, but it was just not meant to be I guess. The story is going to finish off with a very big, very epic bang though. I think everyone will be quite pleased. Well, everyone except edge magazine that is. :)

I thought I would have more to talk about by now, but things are just not quite ready so I will be updating on specifics as the become more solid.

I have spent some time writing over the past few months. It feels good to be getting back tot he things that have been neglected because of my crazy schedule at work. I have also been traveling a bunch recently as well. Now, I am not a huge fan of the traveling. Especially the long flight part, but it has actually been quite enjoyable. I have been catching up on movies and playing a ton of games in between my travels as well. I finally got to catch up on the backlog of games for the past few years.

I got to play Assassin's Creed which kind of disappointed me. There is some great work in there, great work. The art is fantastic...the levels in that game are huge. The free running things works really well and feels great to control, though after awhile the joy and awe kind of wares off. I hated the story...the whole setting kind of frustrated me. I was so completely looking forward to playing as an assassin during the Crusades. When I first heard the concept for the game and awe the screenshots I was pretty jazzed. That excitement was quickly smothered when I found out I was a descendant of Altair and I was in a simulation. Great...a game within a game. That really kind of spoiled the whole thing for me. I played about halfway through the game before I completely stopped. I think the sequel that is inevitably going to get made will be pretty good...though I think they have kind f locked themselves into the whole genetic memory story thread. There is some really great stuff in that game, but the story, and combat really kind of killed it for me. The combat is still not that great of an improvement over the POP stuff. It is decent, but it feels like it could be so much better if they would just give the player more control over the character.

I have been slowly chiseling away at Mass Effect as well. Every time I play Bio-ware games I am amazed. That is one freaking talented group of people over there. It took a bit for me to really find a groove in that game, but it has really impressed me. I loved KOTOR, but to me the lack of control in the combat really took away from being in the moment. I felt like I was just putting in a lunch order during the fights. I still played the hell out of the game, but it left me wanting more. So in comes Jade Empire, with more control over the combat. It was pretty good, though it still didn't feel as good as their story and RPG elements. WIth Mass Effect I finally feel in control of my character, which in turn makes me forget how long it is I have been playing. The work they did in this game is nothing short of mind blowing to me. The sheer scale of the game and the complexity of making the various choices within the story not only work, but actually be compelling, is amazing. I had a lot of moments while playing this game that remind me why I love the medium.

Mario Galaxy. Hmmm...this was a tough one for me. There is some great stuff in this game, though it took me a while to really get into it. Even after I got quite a ways in I was till not totally engaged in the game. It is great design. Great levels, some of the best art on the Wii, and pretty awesome sound and music...but it just never really got me totally hooked. I think it is because I just don't care about the why. I mean, the freaking princess is abducted...again. I have to go after her captor, Bowser, again. You think with a franchise this big they would at least put a little effort in the why. I mean, think of how much it would pay off right?

Oh wait...the game sells millions even with the vapid story. As it has been pointed out to me every time I say it, the game is not about the story. It is about the platforming and crazy new mechanics and worlds. But c'mon, at least give me a compelling reason to care about pushing on through the adventure. Besides the collection of stars that is. Maybe that is just me though, since almost every other designer I talk to thinks this game is the second coming. Still in the end, they are all kind of right. It is an extremely well put together game with a hell of a lot of creativity in it. I have to give props to the team for that!

I have played a ton of other games as well but I just really don't feel like writing about all of them right now. This whole time off has made me a bit lazy. :) Ok, I think my writers block is gone now. Actually it's not...but I am hoping to fool myself into believing it is. Not a very clever ruse I know...but let's hope it works.

Thanks for all the positive comments everyone!