Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Game Diary - March 2, 2011: The Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3DSOur import Nintendo 3DS finally arrived at our San Francisco office yesterday. The 3DS is Nintendo's glasses free 3-D handheld device, but what do you do if, like us, you have no 3DS games to play on the device? You'll try out the backwards compatibility of a massive DS library, of course.

We filmed a handful of DS games playing on the device with my iPhone and compiled some of them into this news story. Click to read more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Game Diary - March 1, 2011: Welcome Back!

Yes, I've decided to start writing here again. No, I can't tell you if it will last longer than the month of March but it feels like a good time to get some practice writing in because of my morning job. How much practice writing you ask? Well, enough to make me feel comfortable and ready for a couple of big assignments coming up this week.

Actually, this is usually my favorite time of year - it's GDC week here in San Francisco. The annual Game Developer's conference is an yearly highlight for me, full of well-made PowerPoint presentations and interesting game design discussions. It's truly remarkable to listen to some of these conversations as someone who's played games for a large portion of his life. It truncates the kind of stuff you often think about while playing games, but maybe never talk about. Small stuff, like lighting and combat choices. Interactions and quest lines or damage modifiers. I'm not sure if any of this stuff enters your head when you play games, but sometimes I see telltale signs, or reasons for things to be the way they are designed. Sometimes I question them, sometimes I don't, and every game has their own unique set: even the poorly made ones.

I've only got time for one session this GDC, and in some ways it's a bit of a letdown. I'll be attending a unique panel discussion tomorrow labeled GC Microtalks 2011, which has some pretty amazing guest speakers all firing off slides in rapid fire style and pace. It's a great talk that instantly buzzes the brain with information overload, but still manages to maintain enough balance to somehow keep you interested.

Even with GDC 2011 underway, and all the panels and attendees, and videogames discussion, I guess I'm looking forward to writing here again and getting my personal blogging time back.

Keep your eyes peeled for more posts for the month of March.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 2: Meet the Producers

Editors note: It's now 11:56 p.m., on the night before this post goes up on tumblr and I realized something funny - I almost forgot to write up tomorrow's this entry. So far, getting by on this little month of blogging just means staying ahead.

Another Editors note: You're reading a cross-post from a separate tumblr blog I started over the summer. I'm just trying to keep the two intertwined for now because this blog started in NYC and I have trouble just moving on.

I had an opportunity to attend the New Producers Orientation event hosted at a local Public Access television station (channel 29 on your local SF Comcast or Astound). The building was called SF Commons, but the stuff we heard at the start of the presentation seemed awfully grim.

It turns out the core funding that helped maintain and run the staff of 11 at SF Commons, and helped keep the resource open to the local community, was gutted this past year. My figures might be off because I can barely find the energy to reach over and check my reporters notebook (something I carry everyday since a journalism class I took almost two years ago), but a figure of close to 900,000 was used to keep the site open was cut. It resulted in a staff of 11 people getting downsized to a paltry three.

Clearly, this wasn't the way I pictured something titled a new producers orientation to be.

After the sad stuff we moved on to future. The facility is being closed and the operation will be absorbed into another site because they can't afford the rent. The moving process starts on December 18th, and none of their regular classes or services will be restored until sometime mid-January (all tentative).

Still, the crew at SF commons then moved on to the nitty gritty. They outlined all the policies and procedures to sign up and grab a weekly or bi-monthly time slot. They answered any questions regarding equipment loans and required courses/knowledge. This was the only part of the evening that felt like business as usual. Things seemed to pick up and flow naturally, as if al the bad stuff at the start of the presentation vanished.

I don't regret going to this event tonight because two things simultaneously dawned on me. The first was that the non-profit public access/media scene is getting hit just as hard as the rest of the US right now, with plenty of people getting dragged into the unemployment line (and it sucks). The second is that for some of our video projects at Beacon to really shine, we have to push our way into using these spaces and equipment while their still available to the community. Through organizations like this we could use professional grade equipment and make something special that won't cost nearly as much as acquiring the stuff ourselves.

In the end, I walked out of there with a bunch of ideas and a lot of hope. Maybe that's all I ever needed in the first place.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Free Writing: New Glasses, Grade-a-geddon, and the Big Choice


It's been a while since I used anything to actually write down what I'm thinking, which really sucks. It's like a zillion ideas go through my head from morning to night (unless I'm playing a game) and I never write any of them down. Some of things I think up are pretty interesting ideas for work, or some bizarre way to really make sense of projects I'm working on, or just weighty, personal stuff that needs to be decided and soon.

So in no particular order (other than the one at the top of this post), I'll run down what's on my mind right now (or at least recently).

One Vision

One Pair of Glasses

First, new glasses. That's right, guess what happened to the old ones? So, i should say a mistake led to this one. It all started last week when I accidentally fell asleep on my old glasses. I woke up and found them a mangled mess, completely unfit for wearing. Ever.

So that led to a surprisingly painless procedure at the local optometrist. I'd tell you his name, but i really can't remember it well. A co-worker convinced me to say no to an appointment at Lens Crafters, and yes to supporting locally owned businesses. I took him up on the offer only because I didn't want buying new glasses turning into buying new glasses (as in expensive and bothersome). Luckily, it seems to have worked out and I'm wearing a borrowed pair until the real ones come in on Wednesday.

Holiday Grade-a-geddon Returns

As with any teaching job, report card deadlines are far and away the worst shit to ever happen in life. Ever.

As un-eloquently put as that is, and it's pretty bad, I have to say its captures the essence of why grading sucks. I think students forget that teachers have just as much homework as their professors because, ethically speaking, you can't just wave a wand over the old grade book and PRESTO!, instant letter grades. it takes time, patience and some old fashioned hard work.

I guess this should be easier given its my fifth year teaching (and to some extent it is), but I despise the amount of time it takes to getting this task done. It's my one real complaint about the profession in general.

So, I spent Sunday grading, grading, and grading. And with all ths grading, I still managed to think up some ways to cut down other periods of downtime in my day just to get stuff done earlier than the night before.

Woefully, i think what bugs me most is that i still have to do this stuff after moving out here from NY. I don't hate my job, and I won't say anything to endanger it here because part of me still believes in this profession, but I would love to end this teaching career before its all I'll ever know.

Big Choices

Now that heading is a tad misleading, but I guess i have a choice to make as whether or not to visit back home this holiday. Okay, so its New York, right? It's big and beautiful and full of people I know and adore, but truthfully its also the same old stuff and, unfortunately, the same old drama.

I hate to sound cliche and its probably not something I will ever do on this blog again, but some shit stuff never changes. I can see that part of life is that adjustment, and I guess I get that part of it to an extent.

Oh, who am I kidding. I'll probably go just to see the amazing people I know there. It'll be great to have fun and relax, but only for a week. Last year I did two weeks and almost went nuts!


Thanksgiving was awesome! I had a great time with new friends, and I had an opportunity to see what an impact my choices have on people. If that sounds strange then the moment it happens, it is.

I'm grateful for great SF peeps and good Spanish food.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bealtes Abbey Road DLC Impressions

The Abbey Road downloadable album for The Beatles Rock Band hits PSN, XBL and the Wii Marketplace today, and may contain some of the priciest music content yet made.

Still, for true Beatles fans who have some coin to spare, its also some of the best music from the fab four's catalogue, culminating in a full on 16-minute rendition of the Abbey Road medley - a collection of shorter b-side songs included in the album. The medley includes: “You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End” and "Her Majesty."

The songs included as part of the Abbey Road medley are also playable in 1-to-3 song groups depending on how they were recorded. The playable song bundles are as follows:

"You Never Give Me Your Money”
“Sun King”/ “Mean Mr. Mustard”
“Polythene Pam”/ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”
“Golden Slumbers”/ “Carry That Weight”/ “The End”*
“Her Majesty”

Consider these playable song packs as a great midterm, with the full 16-minute medley representing a stirring final exam. Also available as part of this playable DLC album are the following singles: “Maxwell's Silver Hammer,” “Oh! Darling,” and “Because.” These three are the only songs that can be purchased separately, so if you want the full medley or the ability to play the smaller song packs, be prepared to pay the full asking price of $16.99 or 1360 Microsoft Points. The singles mentioned above are $1.99 or 160 Microsoft Points per track, respectively. Wii owners will pay $2.00 for the single tracks, and $3.50 for the multi-track sets mentioned above. Editor's Note: The Wii does not support the full album downloads, so its the only place where Abbey Road will be available in parts.

If you're keeping count, remember that the retail version of Beatles Rock Band shipped with six songs from the original Abbey Road album, reminding us all of the high price tag involved in licensing the Beatles music for this game. Alternatively, consider the Queen 10 Pack that was also released for Rock Band/Rock Band 2 on the same day as this album. It costs $15.99 or 1280 Microsoft Points for ten full length songs.

The psychedelic visual styling used for the Abbey Road DLC album is beautiful. As a representation of the Beatles music it a strong visual package, yet none of the dreamscapes in this DLC feel as creative or timeless as the stuff included on the Sgt. Pepper's songs included in Beatles Rock Band (truthfully, one of the bands' most inspired albums). Ironically, Peppers is the next downloadable album set to grace the Beatles Rock Band Music Store, so we'll be eagerly anticipating its' arrival next month.

Remember folks, any Beatles Rock Band DLC is exclusive to Beatles Rock Band, and only functions as part of the games walled garden. None of these songs can be played in Rock Band or Rock Band 2.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Weekend Visit to the Curious Village

There are many mysteries to solve in the curious village

I've owned "Professor Layton and the Curious Village," a point and puzzle-filled adventure for Nintendo DS, for well over a year. In preparation for the sequel, I finally decided to come back and finish what I started after a sizable hiatus.

Sadly, things this happens to gamers a lot. We start a game. We get excited for the game. And then we trail off, our attention yanked in another direction by something else. Sometimes it's life that pulls us away from the games we crave to play, or often times it's another game (or even a bad game - but who buys those and is genuinely surprised). This is all part of a strange cycle that even the most devout and dedicated gamers can fall into, and it's gems like "Curious Village" that suffer.

I didn't stop playing Professor Layton's first adventure released in America (Japan already has three, I think) because it was boring. Absolutely not. In Layton's case, the opposite is true; I couldn't put it down because of how polished it all was. The puzzles, the presentation, the mystery are all well conceived and executed. And the addictive nature of solving puzzles completely reeled me in. The story seemed childish (as in Saturday morning cartoon) in tone, but it's a much deeper experience than I first thought.

The bigger reason why Layton got the boot from the game slot of my DS was... because another game came out that I wanted to play as well.

I dropped Layton for "The World Ends With You," another handheld gem from 2008 that held my interest for a few months before I moved on to something else.

It's so schizophrenic isn't it? Move from game to game and never finish what you started, never experience the ending or full charm of a game. In some ways never discovering the conclusion is like nibbling a corner of a fresh bag of Doritos and then promptly closing the bag, then putting it away.

Well, I'm done with this buy, try, and then shelve routine. It's absurd, and the wrong way to really do anything. This weekend I started by resuming my file in the "Curious Village" and I was done by Sunday afternoon. The game was amazing, and seeing (and guessing) how it all came together was a blast.

It felt so good to finish a game for change, and it's inspired me to on to more. I'll finally restart and conquer "The World Ends With You," I'll restart my adventure in Hyrule and then save it in "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," and I'll find some other great games I tossed aside over the past two to five years.

Maybe I'm making my New Year's Resolution too early, but I'll try my best to finish everything I start from this moment on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Podcastin' It Up!

Not pictured: Matt Chandronait

Okay, it's a lame title for a post, but hopefully the content herein is not so lame. I got lucky (hooray) and was invited back on Rebel FM for Game Club, a podcast dedicated to playing an already released game as a community and discussing its' highs and lows with the each other and the fine folks who visit I still remeber the last time I was on; I got to see off my good friend Sterling McGarvey.

It was such a priviledge to be a part of the discussion with such a great group of guys, epecially considering the game they picked for this Game Club - "Heavenly Sword" for the PS3 .

Nariko, the ill-fated wielder of the Hevenly Sword

See, the thing is Heavenly Sword was a game I had zero interest in. As in at all. It was the subject of many arguments between a good friend and I back in then. I wasn't convinced it would deliver the cinematic goods that both Sony and Ninja Theory said it would. I could have been wrong, but at $60 in a crammed holiday release period? I couldn't justify it.

I felt the need to choose between it and "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune", a game I was much more interested in. I chose to believe in Naughty Dog's game instead.

I should make clear that I love action games. "God of War" and "The Mark of Kri" were two of my favorite games from the last console generation, and the final decision regarding a purchase between the two basically boiled down to gut reaction.

In the end, my gut chose Uncharted and I have no regrets.

Feel free to check out this week's episode and see what we thought of Heavenly Sword. And if you have feedback, leave a comment at their club site located here.

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