CategoryRants n Rambles

My Thoughts from E3

Hi everyone!

In case you aren’t in the video game world, or if you are in the gaming world but are living under a rock, E3 happened last week! E3 is the annual game conference where all of the big companies announce new games, release dates, and general hype stuff. Here are a couple of the coolest things that I saw, and some reflections about those things.

The first piece of news that stood out to me about E3 this year was Microsoft buying Compulsion Games along with three other studios, and opening a studio of their own called The Initiative. The reason that stands out is because we’re close friends with the folks over at Compulsion, and they helped us get off the ground as a studio and figure out how to exist in the games world from the very start. We’re super happy for them, and super proud of the Montreal community that helped spawn them (or that they helped spawn, really). Beyond our happiness for Compulsion, I think this marks a pretty big shift in focus for Microsoft. The days of larger companies (Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft) buying small studios was rumored to be over, and I think this proves otherwise. To me, this is just another step Microsoft is taking to show its dedication to the indie or mid-level (some would call it AA or iii games) studios. You should really check out Compulsion’s new story trailer for We Happy Few:

Nintendo showed some amazing stuff in their E3 video, as usual. Most notably among them was a long segment about the new new Super Smash Bros game, which includes all characters that have ever been in any Smash game! You can tell by the amount of time and focus they spent on it that they aim for this game to be the next Smash Bros Melee, and aren’t going to be discounting it for future competitive tournament play. They also showed a new Mario Party game, and announced a million things that will be coming to Switch, including Fortnite. I think the inclusion of Fortnite along with these other games will be huge for the continued success of the Switch.

Also, Overcooked 2 was announced with online multiplayer! If you liked the first one, this one is similar but has more features such as throwing food items, more dynamic levels, and of course online play. This is an interesting move for a couple of reasons; first, the choice to make a sequel instead of provide free updates to the existing game is one that many indie studios are not making. The aversion to sequels has been described by some people in the industry as being very silly, seeing as sequels almost always sell better than their original counterparts if the first game was a success. Why we tend to avoid sequels is a huge question that could probably justify a whole other article, but we’ll leave it at that for now. Second, the addition of online multiplayer to a game that performed well despite having only local play is an important one that emphasizes the idea that a local multiplayer game simply doesn’t have the potential to do well in the current game landscape. Additionally, it might show that it was easier for them to rewrite significant portions of the game and make a new second game rather than make adjustments to their current one, a strategy that many indie studios have avoided (much to the chagrin of some busy programmers).

Apart from those things that were most important to me in terms of announcements, I was excited to see a Cuphead DLC which I will surely buy, and I might be interested in getting back into the Tomb Raider series if I can get over the fact that the games tend to be more like movies than games, and just enjoy the ride.

There are a bunch of big announcements that I totally skipped because they simply aren’t the kinds of games I would play. Fallout ’76 was announced, a new HaloForza 4 and about a million shooters that will probably be uninteresting but will surely make millions of dollars. You can check out some pretty in-depth reviews of each company’s press conference on any of the big press sites: IGN, Kotaku, GamesRadar, etc.

More posts coming soon!

Reflections and Lessons from GDC 2018

For the last 4 years, one of my favourite times of the year has been the week in March marked by the Game Developer Conference, or GDC for short. It’s the biggest game conference in North America, and attracts a bajillion extremely interesting and inspiring people. This year, we were fortunate enough to bring the whole team. Our goals included some team bonding, learning, keeping up business relationships, and more. I definitely think we succeeded, and wanted to share a few of the most important things that I learned. I hope this post will be useful to game developers and non-developers alike.

First off, talking to the amazing devs at GDC for me thinking about Ultimate Chicken Horse and about its future. I’ve had a bit of a feeling that we’ve been working on the project for a long time, and I want to start working on new stuff… but on the other hand, the game is doing well, the community is great, and there’s still a lot of potential. So what’s next for the future of UCH? I didn’t outright ask people their opinion on this, but it was somewhat obvious that it is / was on my mind, so I got a lot of feedback on it. Do we want to go more casual and community-heavy? Do we want to add more mechanics to level the playing field, like Mariokart-style? Do we want to go more competitive? What’s required if we do that? How can we improve the tech? What does the community want? Do we have the funds to hire more people, and if so, what will they work on? I won’t go into too much detail here about my thoughts on the matter, because I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up (or down) before the team talks about it and decides what’s next, but it’s definitely on my mind more than it was before.

Many, many games come from game jams or quick prototypes.

It feels like the majority of the successful indie games that I saw at the conference started off as game jam ideas. This was the case for Ultimate Chicken Horse, and it doesn’t really surprise me that it’s the same for many other games. It seems like game jams are a good way not only to practice skills, but also to come up with great ideas. There’s some fairly common wisdom that it’s easier to be creative given some constraints, and without thematic or timing constraints I think it can be easy to stare at a blank page forever, waiting for the next revolutionary idea to pop out of your brain. Even in the AAA studios, some of the games came from quick pitches from someone who wasn’t an owner or creative director at the company. These were as simple as a short presentation with some mechanics and some concept art, and they were off to the races. Of course, I should emphasize that it’s absolutely critical to be able to kill the project early on if it’s not working, but that’s the case whether it came from a game jam or any other method.

Ask. Just ask!

We’ve been pretty good at this, as I’m somewhat shameless when approaching people for help. But it works! You’ll never know how much you could be missing if you don’t ask other developers, publishers, platform holders, friends, family, etc. for help. The industry has a lot of wisdom that it’s very willing to share if you’re able to overcome the shame of not wanting to bug people… so do it!

Different ways work for different people, there is no right way. This point is actually what my talk with Tanya Short (Kitfox Games) was about, though we looked at it from the business side. We talked about general things that should be considered: burn rates, revenue sources, projections, diversification of studio into multiple projects or not, etc. But I also spoke to people about the creative process, and it was interesting to hear some pretty opposite views.

The big one that stood out to me was when I was talking to someone about coming up with content updates. He said that he tries to envision what the trailer for the update will look like– that is, what’s interesting that the public will latch on to, before starting work. The idea there is that a patch with a bunch of bug fixes and user interface improvements isn’t enough to get people excited, and the trailer helps guide the production toward something useful and exciting. On the other hand, some people like to go the more organic route and play around until they find something that works well. It’s not marketing-driven and is easier to get early feedback on, but whether one way is better than the other is really up to the studio. And as with anything in this industry, many different strategies can work!

You need to build a community before launch.

This is actually a bigger topic, and I’m going to write a full article on Gamasutra and my personal website about this sometime soon. The basic idea is that you give yourself a much better chance at success if you’ve created a community around your game before the game launches.

On a less educational note, there were a couple of highlights that I wanted to point out from the conference this year, that include talks and just general feelings.

The first one of those was my favourite talk, the ‘Composer Confessions 2’ session. The talk was done last year as well, and it brings together five composers to talk about some times that they’ve screwed up and what they learned. I’ve always had a very strong personal interest in game music, and I like to write some myself (even though I’m not nearly professional), so it’s really inspiring to hear people like Austin Wintory (Journey, Assassin’s Creed, Tooth and Tail), Gareth Coker (Ori and the Blind Forest, ARK), Darren Korb (Bastion, Transistor, Pyre), Peter McConnell (Hearthstone, Psychonauts), and Gordy Haab (Battlefront 1 & 2, Halo Wars) talk about their craft.

I only mentioned a couple of the games they each worked on, but there’s a ton more and these guys are absolute legends in the field. Some of the main lessons included making sure to delegate work and not be a control freak, learning to accept what the client wants even if it’s against what your musical instincts tell you, and learning to show completed examples instead of work in progress because producers can’t imagine the finished product in the same way musicians or the composer can. Beyond that, the talk was hilarious. Each person had a 10 minute slot to talk about whatever they wanted, and somehow they all ended up being hugely entertaining and funny.

Another thing that I really liked was THAT Party, a party I hadn’t been to before because tickets sell out super quick and I had other, more “businessy” parties to go to each year. This time I went and I found it really nice to see and meet some indies that I haven’t met, but also to be able to “party” in more of a traditional sense, with drinking and dancing and such. This isn’t because I’m a natural born party animal, but rather because I like the idea of moving from the business contact mentality to the friend mentality, so a mix of that combined with more professional cocktails was nice this year.

Beyond that, I feel like our team had a good chance to bond– not necessarily all of us at once around a table, but in pairs that would split off as we walked places, shared hotel rooms, and talked about non-game stuff together.

Alright, so it looks like this post has become huge and I should probably stop writing before everyone falls asleep. Thanks for reading if you made it this far, and I’ll have more articles coming soon so check the website or follow me on Twitter @RichMakesGames for updates.

A Guide to Surviving Urban Biking

Hi all!

As I was biking home from work today, I saw another biker almost get doored (hit by a car door opening) and on the next block, saw a driver almost hit another bike, seemingly oblivious to the entire world around them.

After having biked every day for many years now, summer and winter alike, on bike paths, roads, bigger roads, and roads that probably shouldn’t be biked on, I figure that I’m qualified to give some tips about city biking. If I’ve survived thus far, it must mean I’m doing something right… right? Let’s go with that. So here are some ways to not die while biking (especially in Montreal).

 

1. Make sure that a car can’t hit you, even if it tried. The basis of survival on a bike is not to trust anyone: cars, bikes, pedestrians (especially pedestrians). Just make sure that you don’t get in anyone’s way, and make sure that whatever they do, you can avoid them.

 

2. Keep a door length between you and parked cars. This is probably the toughest guideline to follow, so if you are squeezing between a lane and parked cars, go slowly and watch out for a few things:

  • Check the direction of front wheels; if they’re straight, the car can’t pull out unexpectedly.
  • Check the lights; if the lights were just turned off, the door is likely to open any second. If the lights are on, it’s anyone’s guess.
  • Look at the side mirror; often you can see if someone is in the car by glancing at the mirror.
  • Check the lane next to the parked car (that is, the lane you need to swerve into if they open the door); if it’s tight and there are cars passing, make sure you’re going slowly enough, otherwise you can swerve.

 

3. Stay on the left side of cars that are turning right. While this may be counter-intuitive to some, it’s extremely important because drivers never check their blind spots ever, and even if they did you shouldn’t trust them to see you (see point 1). By getting between the turning car and the other lane, you ensure that the car can’t hit you, no matter what.

I’m quite sure this one is not legal, but is way safer than what is recommended. This is a photoshopped image of the “right” thing to do… in fact the recommendation is “drivers should yield to bikers”, but we know that doesn’t happen much.

 

4. Be aware of your braking and accelerating abilities. If you’re going down a hill in the rain, be aware that your braking distance will be significantly less than on a flat road when it’s try. And when a light turns yellow, you need to know what gear you’re in and how hard you can push it to make it through before the light going the other way turns green. Usually when you screw this up it doesn’t lead to death, but it’s just generally a dick move.

 

5. Don’t bike on dangerous bike paths. For the Montrealers among us, you may already know to avoid the De Maisonneuve bike path. I’m not sure what insolent city planner thought up that one, but so far I know three people who have gotten hit while biking, all three were hit while on that bike path. For those of you that don’t know, essentially it’s a one-way street with a bike path as shown below.

The issue is that because it’s one-way (and even if it was two-way), drivers will sometimes check their blind spot behind them to see bikers coming their direction, but then forget to look at the other side. Honestly it’s safer to bike on Sherbrooke (a bigger street without bike paths).

 

6. Take a lane! Legally, in Quebec at least (and likely elsewhere in the world too), you should take a lane and should not squeeze between a lane and parked cars. Further, you should definitely not squeeze between two lanes of moving cars unless death is the kind of thing that appeals to you. If you’re in a sketchy situation, take a lane. Yes, people might get pissed off because you slow them down, so maybe consider another route next time… but take the lane this time to be safe.

 

7. Don’t take risks if you don’t know the lights. Ideally, you wouldn’t take risks at all, and you’d come to a full stop at stop signs, and you’d never go through a red light. But if you’ve been biking for more than 43 seconds, you’re bound to do these things. My suggestion then, be smart about it! If you don’t know the walk light timing or the synchronization of lights while going down a hill, don’t risk it. Play it safe until you know your way around your route.

 

8. Clearly show pedestrians and cars where you’re going. What I do to make sure that people know where I’m going is that I’ll often dip my shoulder and turn my head a bit to the side, tilting my body as if I was leaning on my bike but not actually doing it enough that the bike turns. Usually this clearly indicates where I’m going and they react accordingly. It’s like that awkward thing where you walk straight at someone and don’t know which way to go, so you sidestep awkwardly. Just… higher speed.

 

9. Bike in front of where a pedestrian will be when you cross their path. This is probably the most controversial and debatable guideline. In many cases, I don’t even do it, but I believe that it’s the right thing to do. All of bike-bike, bike-pedestrian and bike-car problems are basic kinematics problems. In the case of crossing paths with a pedestrian, I’m going to present a very counter-intuitive idea.

 

If a pedestrian is walking at a constant speed, and you’re biking at a constant speed, it should be easy enough to predict where they will be when you cross paths with them. Some bikers choose to go behind the pedestrian, so as not to scare them or make them feel cut off, but this presents a big problem. If the person gets worried, they’re going to freeze or slow down instinctively. If you’ve predicted where they won’t be, well then you might be running right into them.

People rarely (if ever) speed up when they feel like you might not know what you’re doing, so if you plan to be ahead of where they will be then you ensure that if they walk at the same speed, slow down, or even freeze up (some people really don’t understand how much control of our bikes we have!) then you’re guaranteed not to hit them.

 

10. Avoid leaves, gravel, and salt. Especially if any of this stuff is wet, it can really slow down your braking time or make you slip if you’re turning. Wet leaves can be even more dangerous too, because sometimes they can get caught in your brakes and make your brakes hugely ineffective. The salt part is less for braking and more for the health of your drive-train, but this is usually a winter biking problem and most people aren’t that crazy.

 

That’s all the knowledge I have to share right now, I hope it helped at least to make you more aware of the decisions you make while biking, and maybe helped to create some good habits as well. I think that people who are just starting to commute by bike as well as people who have been doing it for a while can benefit from a reminder once in a while. Also I really like biking and was inspired to write, so there you have it!

Cuphead Isn’t Ashamed of Being a Video Game

If you haven’t played the beautiful, 30’s era cartoon-inspired game Cuphead yet, then you should. It’s an extremely challenging platformer shooter made up of a slew of intense boss fights mixed with some run ‘n’ gun levels as well. You can check it out on Steam here, and I’ll put the trailer below for reference.

I’m not here to review games however, as there are a bajillion other people who can do that better than I can. What I wanted to talk about today was one of the many things that Cuphead does right, beyond its precision platforming, innovative art style and skill progression. One of the things that I noticed is that:

CUPHEAD ISN’T ASHAMED OF BEING A VIDEO GAME. THE GAME DOESN’T MAKE EXCUSES.

 

The game presents the player with an extremely clear, simple motivation right at the start and explains why you need to fight all of these bosses. Next, an elder (your grandfather, maybe? I don’t remember) tells you he can bestow upon you some super-power that makes you shoot from your hands. What?

The answer to that “What?” is that it doesn’t matter. At all. You know why you’ve bought this game and why you’re playing it. The developers know why you’ve bought this game and why you’re playing it. Why should the game need to go and make excuses about what it does and why? The game should also know that you’ve bought this game, and it should definitely know why you’re playing it.

An example of what might have been done in another game would be that you would be told some elaborate explanation of the lore and the justification behind these super-powers, or you might be sent on some sort of process to figure them out. Once you get this ability (to shoot), you’re sent to a tutorial, which pretty clearly states that it’s a tutorial. Again, no bullshit. You’re in a game, playing a tutorial. That’s it. You’re not playing through what is an obvious tutorial, while the game attempts to hide it by pretending it’s a a part of the story or making up another excuse as to why you can, for example, swing a sword at people infinitely but never die.

The final example of this is when an ability is unlocked or purchased. Forget the fact that you can buy new “weapons” even though it’s just your hands shooting stuff; it also tells you “Press Y to equip your new weapon” or something similar. Clearly, you’re in a video game and need to know how to play.

I won’t claim that all games should be this up-front about everything they do: motivation, control, tutorial, etc. Different strategies work for different games, and each game has their way of doing things. But it was a nice relief to see this kind of approach after playing many games which try to pretend that everything has to make sense within the world of the game, as opposed to admitting that they’re video games and that people need to understand how things work, even if it breaks the “immersion”.

Anyway, go check out the game. It’s doing amazingly well and with good reason, so give credit to the folks over at Studio MDHR.

Next Steps for the Subscription Model?

It’s no secret that a ton of services and software have moved to a subscription-based model and are having amazing success with it. A subscription-based model, when talking about products or services, basically means that you pay a subscription fee (monthly, usually) to access the product or the software you want to use. Traditionally, software was sold in a packaged bundle: pay $199.99 for this accounting software and have it forever. I’ll talk quickly about why the shift is happening, and then expand on some ideas of where I think it might go.

Why the shift away from the traditional model?

Updates

Back in the day (i.e. a few years ago), you had to buy a CD with a software on it, put it in your CD-ROM drive (ha!) and install the software. When an update came out, you had to buy the new version… Office 2003, Office 2005, etc. This made sense, because updates weren’t super quick, and it was like buying a new pair of shoes; you buy what you need now, and by the time you’re ready for a new pair, new technology has come out.

Nowadays, patches for software are coming out on an almost weekly basis, and new features are being added to existing products all the time. There’s no longer a need for CD-ROM drives as you can download the newest version from the web, and this means that companies can update their products quickly and efficiently. This can work with the traditional model; you buy a license key and then sign in to your account online to download the updates, but it comes with security risks and a logistical hassle when you need to manage users and keys.

 

Less Risk for the Buyer

For the customer, there’s less risk in trying out a product for $30 for a month as opposed to buying it for $720 and expecting to use it for two years. This is pretty obvious, and makes it easy for consumers to make an educated choice.

 

Increase in Product Quality

This isn’t an argument that directly helps the service providers or product creators, but I think it’s something that naturally evolved due to competition. You can no longer sell your product based on bullet point descriptions and images, because people get to try it without committing a huge amount of money. That means that the quality bar is raised, and now when people start using your program or software, they need to be presented with a fully functional, easy-to-use solution.

What’s Next?

We’ve already seen a ton of games move to a subscription model, as well as the online play portion of console games. Our accounting software that we use at Clever Endeavour Games (the games company where I work) is subscription based, as is our website hosting, email management (Google for business), the game engine we use, etc. Almost all of these things used to have a fixed price that you would pay at once, and they’re all moving away.

But what happens after this? What industries can you think about that are currently selling products in a traditional way, that might move to subscription models soon?

The first one I’m thinking of is transportation. There’s already a lease system, which is somewhere between rental / subscription and purchasing. But with things like Communauto (here in Montreal), people can register to the service for a monthly or yearly fee, and take a car wherever they want. They don’t own anything, just a license to take the car from point A to point B and forget about it. Imagine a world where you could take any kind of car you’d like, have it pick you up and drop you off where you’d like, and all it required was a monthly subscription… I think this is next once we have consistent self-driving cars.

Next thing is clothing. Wait what? Why would you want to wear clothes used by someone else? Well… you already do. People rent tuxedos for weddings, ball gowns, and elaborate Halloween costumes. If you’re looking for the perfect outfit for your night out, why be limited to the clothes you own? Imagine being able to pick up whatever you wanted from a huge catalog, and the clothes were clean every time you wanted to wear them? This wouldn’t be for every day of course, but I could definitely see its potential for special events in the future.

Flights might also be something that could be subscription based… if you’re someone who flies often or in some sort of consistent manner, it might be easier to simply pay a yearly or monthly fee and be free to fly wherever you want.

This all came up because I’m going to soon be starting to pay a subscription for a virtual instrument pack for music production, which costs $25/mo. This is instead of a software which costs around $900, and requires a $200 update every year. The goal of the subscription-based model is that they can update the instruments more often, and as long as you’re signed up, you can open projects which use those instruments. For me, I get to try it for $25 and see if I want to continue. For them, they can rope me in by offering me over $900 of value worth of instruments, and keep me longer term if I like it.

Anyway, just some food for thought. It’s incredible how obvious this kind of thing seems, but it took a while since the internet was a thing to actually start taking over. Let’s see what the future has in store for us!

Thoughts from my Peru Trip

I don’t want to make this a blog post like any old travel blog, because there are enough of those around, and there are people who have documented similar Peru trips with more eloquent writing and captivating tales. But I did jot down some of the things that struck me about my trip, some things that aren’t the usual “wow mountains are beautiful” thoughts. Below are some of my findings / thoughts about some things I noticed on my Peru trip. And here’s a llama.

The Rich and the Poor

The difference between the rich and the poor in the cities in Peru (Lima, Arequipa most noticeably) was massive. You can look at a beautiful house in the city with barbed wire and an electric fence surrounding it, with heavy gates and iron bars on the windows, then look across the street to where you see a shack made of scrap metal and a tarp. From Mercedes cars and brand name shoes to dirt floors and no running water, and you literally need only to look across the street. This might be the work of corruption in government, exploitation of the poor for work, or some other causes that I won’t claim to be able to explain. But it really puts in perspective the complaints about the discrepancy between rich and poor here in Canada, and the disappearance of the middle class. I don’t believe we have anything close to what they have in Peru, and I’m sure that we never will, because the government does a good job to try to protect and give opportunity to the middle class in my opinion.

Catholicism… but Why?

Peruvians are super Catholic. Most of South America is super Catholic in fact, which of course came from the Spanish when they invaded / colonized in the 13th and 14th centuries. My initial response to this was “Why?? Didn’t they come in and kill all of your people and destroy your religion? Why do you like them?” The answer is twofold. The first reason is time… it’s been many generations since the first conquistadores (conquerors) and people have learned over time to appreciate the Catholicism that was forced upon them before. The second reason, which I find way more interesting, was the way in which the Spanish convinced the native South Americans to follow them.

You’ll notice in the churches in Peru, that the vast majority are more focused on the Virgin Mary than they are on Jesus. This was odd to me, after having seen churches in Europe where there’s a huge focus on Jesus. What was explained to me is that the Spanish told the natives (Inca, mostly, in this case) was that their gods (Pachamama: Mother Earth, Inti: the sun god, etc.) were represented in Christianity, but represented differently. For example, the Virgin Mary was Mother Earth because she gave life, and this was one of the Inca’s most important gods. Instead of praying to Pachamama, they could now pray to the Virgin Mary and their prayers would still be heard. Another great example of this, which I find fascinating, is the link between the thunder god Illapa and the Catholic St. James. It’s said that during a battle, a certain Spanish conquistador riding a horse came through a city and killed hundreds of Incas. I asked how anyone could erect a statue or sanctify a man who slaughtered their people, and the answer was this: apparently, there was a great thunderstorm when the battle took place and the Incas believed / reasoned that this man was the image of Illapa, the thunder god, who punished the people for their wrongdoings.

I found this really interesting… I’m not sure if they had forced Catholic schools like the English set up in Canada and Australia, but this was some interesting knowledge to acquire.

The Indigenous People and Traditional Wares

There are indigenous people who still live in small villages in the mountains, and still keep their traditions and their clothing. It’s wonderful, and being able to see some of those people and how they go about their daily lives is great. But did I actually see that? I’d guess not. I’d guess that very few tourists have ever seen that. What we see is a dramatization, by people who might actually be authentic villagers, but they’re doing it mostly for tourist money. That’s not to say that the learning isn’t important, but we do have to consider that “authenticity” in these situations.

A good example of this is the markets. There are traditional markets in certain cities, and they’re full of stuff. Scarves, hats, gloves, paintings, everything you’d imagine seeing at a crafts market. One problem… they all have the same stuff. ALL OF THEM. The markets in Lima are the same as the ones in Cusco, which are the same as the ones in Arequipa. Same stuff, same “handmade, 100% alpaca wool” stuff. I learned from a Peruvian business owner there that they are indeed handmade, and they are indeed made in Peru, and that they’re definitely not alpaca. Well, not all of them are handmade… but when they are, it’s not in a small village in the mountains. It’s in a massive factory owned by one of two companies that share practically 100% of the market.

I think the trip helped make me aware of what’s true and not true, and that even if you speak Spanish, tourism makes a ton of money for the people and it doesn’t need to be authentic to make money. But there are two more important things that I realized. First,

EVEN IF THE MERCHANDISE IS NOT AUTHENTIC, BUYING IT STILL HELPS THE LOCALS LIVE, AND THE MEMORY OF THE COUNTRY WITH WHICH YOU’VE ASSOCIATED IT IS NO LESS MEANINGFUL.

Second, in most situations when a Canadian has the money to travel to Peru, the people selling the merchandise need the money more than you (we) do. That is to say, haggling to get something for $6 instead of $8 makes a much bigger difference in the lives of the merchant than it does to you, and it’s something to consider when shopping in those places. Of course if people are charging ridiculous prices there’s a point where it becomes unfair and exploitative, so you just need to know when you’re getting screwed vs. when you’re helping someone put food on their table.

Some Slightly More Random Thoughts

The roads in Peru… in fact the roads everywhere I’ve been, are still better than in Montreal. Basically, if a road in the world is paved, or has ever been paved, it’s better than Montreal roads. You’d think side-streets in a small town in Peru, or in Cambodia for that matter, would be bad. Nope. Montreal is still the worst.

Every city has sketchy areas, but it’s not a big deal! People warned me about the danger in Peru, and I can honestly say that at no point during my entire trip did I feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable or like I was in danger. Keep your wits about you, do some research, and you’ll know to avoid the dangerous places. It’s the same thing in any city… there are dangerous areas of Montreal too but no tourist would ever go there unless they’re clueless.

Stray dogs are super cute. Well all dogs are super cute, but the strays in Peru were super cute, and looked to be significantly healthier than some of the dogs I’ve seen on other travels. It made me think about the dog situation and whether it’s actually better to euthanize tons of animals every year to avoid the situation getting out of control. I’m kind of torn on the matter; having strays leads to more strays which leads to more strays and eventually areas of the city can become dangerous to walk your own, non-stray dog. It also means that disease can abound and can make its way to your dog, not to mention the fact that strays won’t be spayed or neutered and your dog could be at risk of getting pregnant. Still not sure where I stand, but personally I liked the fact that cute dogs roamed around all over the place and didn’t pose a threat to anyone (except for maybe eating their garbage).

 

That’s all for today! Hope you enjoyed 🙂

It’s Important to Keep Doing Childish Things!

As most things on this site are, this is totally my opinion and isn’t based on fact. Well, there are at least some psychologists who agree with me, so maybe there is something to be said for the argument.

I sometimes find myself walking down the street, getting up off a chair, or just generally going about my regular daily activities and noticing that I’m doing some basic movements differently than I did when I was 10. I’ll walk on the grass instead of trying to balance on the small curb on the side of the road, for example. I’ve learned to catch myself when doing this, and have started to question why.

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Is it really that dangerous to walk on the curb? Is it bad for my knees to slide toward the refrigerator while wearing socks in my kitchen? And why don’t I push the shopping cart and stand on the back anymore while it rolls forward?

Well actually… I do. Fun fact: the most convenient way to get from the Costco exit to your car is by pushing the cart and jumping on the back and riding it. I’ve beaten many boring adults to their cars this way, believe you me. I also hopped through a piece of scaffolding near my apartment the other day to get from the street on to the sidewalk.

I won’t get into why play is important for adults and children alike, but I do think it’s important to keep doing childish things in order to stay active, stay young, and stay interesting. I think that every once in a while, we should see how children go about their lives, living with less worry and care and neuroticism, and we should learn from them. Doing childish things will not only make you feel young, but will probably help you look it too.

Plus, who doesn’t want a grandpa who rides shopping carts?

What People Mean When They Say “I Dress Well for Myself”

I hear a lot of people say “I dress well for myself, because I like to look good”. This has come up especially when people talk about certain things they find look nice, but one of their friends will say “hey you know girls don’t really find green shoes to be attractive” or something to that effect. The fall-back answer is “well I don’t care, I dress well for myself”. I think that’s kinda bull.

Most people do most things for themselves, most of the time. So it would be hard to argue that people don’t dress well because they want to. The distinction I want to make though, is that people don’t actually understand what they’re saying when they say this. In reality, people want confirmation and want to feel good, and they get that through other people. Someone will dress in a certain way (or see people on TV or in the media dress that way), get confirmation from friends, family and strangers (via compliments, looks, attention, etc.) and they will be happy. They’ll then continue to dress in a way that repeats this feeling, until the point where someone says that something isn’t attractive to others and they have to defend themselves. They defend themselves by saying that it’s not for other people, it’s for them. They think that the choice of clothing or behaviour is for them when in reality, it’s the positive feedback and acceptance that they need, so dressing a certain way is just the middle step between the positive feeling and their choices.

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I’m not even entirely sure why I’m writing this, I guess it just bothers me when people are stubborn about things that they don’t understand, and have come to believe (as in this case) that it’s a conscious choice that they make that has no connection to what other people think. Another defense might be “but I don’t follow the trends”. Well, that’s another way of differentiating yourself and making yourself more attractive to potential mates by choosing a certain style. It’s for you in the sense that you will get something out of it, but not directly.

Then you might say “Oh but I’ve always thought this dark lipstick looks good even though everyone says it’s bad.” Well, that’s also not you. You weren’t born with the opinion that dark lipstick is nice, attractive, or even suits you. You saw commercials for makeup and hair, beautiful TV show hosts, paintings of noble women, and your gorgeous aunt wearing it. You then formed the opinion, over many many many years, and have come to accept it. Those people aren’t doing it for them. They’re doing it because it’s considered attractive, and that in turn promises a dream of good relationships, attention, and more.

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I’m not asking or suggesting that anyone change the way they dress, I’m simply suggesting that behind the choices you make there are bigger, more substantial drivers that people often ignore. I like to think that being aware of what drives your decisions, in general, will lead to better decision-making abilities in any walk of life.

Why Europe is Better than North America, and Why It Isn’t.

I just came back from Germany a couple of days ago, and while I was there I noticed a few things. Well I noticed a lot of things… I should hope. But there were certain things that they do that I realized seemed just backward or silly, and thought of how much better we have certain things in North America. On the other hand, there were a bunch of things that we don’t do nearly as well, and I wanted to share these random thoughts with you.

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What does Europe (or Germany, at least) do right?

  • Not censoring too much
  • Letting people drink in the street / park
  • Eating dinner at the right time
  • Style – everyone just seems well dressed and like they put a little bit of thought into what they wear.
  • Putting prices on things in store windows – though I imagine it would be better to trick people into walking into your store before revealing your inordinate prices.
  • Tipping – mandatory tipping is just effing stupid.
  • Being laid back about language (but maybe that’s just Quebec being stupid and me noticing it)
  • Letting dogs be everywhere – they’re allowed in stores, restaurants, the metro (subway), busses, everywhere! So much better.
  • Maintaining / not maintaining parks – they have parks with actual green areas with ponds, bushes, weeds, whatever and it makes it 1) better for the environment and the animals that can actually live there and 2) feel more wild and more “not the city”.

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What does Europe do not so well?

  • FREE WATER AT RESTAURANTS, DAMNIT PEOPLE COME ON. I get it if it’s a place where you can’t drink the tap water but… Germany? Grr.
  • Free bathrooms – they really really don’t like these. Like, really? Basic human need here!
  • Being open on Sundays
  • Smoking everywhere (or almost everywhere)
  • Being nice when people actually bump into one another – though this is likely just the cities I was in / German thing.

Pictures from this article were taken during the trip, and you can find them all here. Anyway this doesn’t speak for all of Europe or all of North America, but I’ve been to quite a lot of places on both continents and it seems like my opinion wouldn’t change much about these things. That’s ma rant. Hope you enjoyed.

Why I Chose Video Games

I’ve gotten this question a ton, mostly from people not in the games industry:

“What made you get into video games?”

Figured I’d write my answer here, and I’m curious to hear what other people’s answers are to this question. The inquisitors, of course, are asking about making games as a career choice, not simply playing them for countless hours. Actually I don’t even really play that much… fine, except Rocket League…

So why video games? I had the idea of getting into the field a few years ago, and while I’m not sure what exact instant in time or what event sparked it, I realized that it kind of brings together all of the things I’ve wanted to do for my whole life. I’ve always been a creative person with an imagination the size of a megalodon, and I started my post-high-school schooling in music before switching into sciences and eventually engineering. I wanted to get into architecture but went with mechanical engineering because I didn’t have an amazing portfolio ready and I knew (thought) engineering was a more stable career path. Engineers can design of products that people interact with every day, and architects design spaces that alter people’s interactions with the world around them. This last bit is super powerful; a well-designed space can greatly affect the way a person views the world and their overall happiness at work or at home.

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Personally I think the carpet is too dark… but hey.

But why stop there? Why be constrained by the physical world? Why not take people into the crazy, insane imagination that fuels my brain and fills it with images, words and stories? I’ve never really been good enough at art to convey what’s in my mind, and I’ve never been a talented (or patient) enough writer to create text that makes you want to jump into the page and never leave.

That brings me to my next point: you can’t actually jump into the pages of a book. Well, maybe a very big book… but generally, you can’t. You can’t look at a painting of a house and go see what’s behind it. Traditional media, or non-interactive media such as books, television, movies, paintings, etc. are great. BUT the thing they lack is true immersion. A book might pull you into the story and you might feel like you’re right there next to the characters seeing their experiences first-hand, but you’ll never alter the story or the interaction between the characters. This is something you can do in games and it gives games, in my opinion, a completely different value as a story-telling medium.

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So, because of the idea that games can be a medium through which I can channel my imagination, and because they are one of the only forms of media that allow for true immersion, I’ve chosen video games. There’s a third reason, which I can’t say I knew before I got into the industry, but I sure as hell know it now. The people. Are. Fantastic. They really, truly are. I think I’ll probably write another post about that sometime as I don’t want to drag on, but it’s incredible the kind of mutual support we give each other in this industry.

That’s all for today folks, I’d love to know your thoughts and, if you do work in games, your reason for doing so.