Reflections from a quiet Sunday afternoon

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Sitting here in the office, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, modifying my levels for our first game (20 down, 20 more to go), I got a bit more reflective than usual.  The result, well:

1) Two weeks ago I was speaking to an ex-Senior Executive from one of the game publishers and I asked him if he would return there under the right circumstances.  He answered quite quickly and said “No, I love the fact that now I only have to work with people who I like and respect.” I’ve thought about that answer since then and it makes a lot of sense to me. Now, I know most people aren’t fortunate enough to be able to dictate the terms/conditions of their jobs in the way that he can (and I can as well of course) but it really makes a difference when you are able to do that. I have nothing but respect for him as well as for those who stay somewhere because they need that job and have to “suck it up” in order to keep food on the table.  As I’ve said before, I know how lucky I am to not only be able to do that but also to be surrounded by a fine group of people all of which I both like and respect. To what my friend said, I would also add “and not have to work with people for whom a reality distortion field is part of their day-to-day existence.”  I’ve never been good at being anything but straightforward and while it has bitten me in the butt many times, I am not going to change that trait of mine anytime soon and I want this studio to be place where there is no room for a RDF and so far, CSE is exactly that. Oh, and for those who think that “reality distortion field” thing might be a subtle swipe at EA, nope. As I’ve said before the guys I reported to at EA never asked me to distort anything and they always have my respect for that.  And besides, if the day ever came that I wanted to talk about that kind of stuff, being subtle would never come into play.

2) As our game comes together nicely, I’m still blown away but they way our artists have been able to bring our ideas for our game’s inhabitants to life so quickly and with so much character. We’ve been working on this game for way less than a year and the things that they keep churning out just keep getting better and better. While this is certainly not my first rodeo, I’ve always been and remain deeply envious of people who can take a simple concept and bring it to life by drawing it. I can’t draw a lick and that is something I always wished I could do.

3) As I’m playing through our game I’m also blown away by how solid it is technically. Now, I know this doesn’t compare to an MMO in complexity but the way that our team has gone about programming this game has really made me smile. Our modular approach, heavy reliance on code reviews and other good practices may have made this game take a little longer to complete than it might have but it is more than worth it in the end.

4) The last three years have given me more time to spend with my family than ever before (spoken by the guy in the office on a Sunday of course) and for that I am deeply thankful. Growing up I was a gym rat which segued  to a gaming geek so it’s safe to say that I can be a bit “obsessive” about things at times so being able to spend more time at home, especially as my son prepares for the SATs, has been a really nice bonus for me.

5) Lin-Sanity will calm down and when it does, the Knicks will have a team that can really do some damage in the playoffs. They are not likely to win everything this year (the Heat couldn’t win in “Three Amigos Year One” last year) but next year looks interesting for them. They should have all their key players back and with a couple of tweaks they could be a serious contender for the title. The NY Rangers on the other hand, look capable of winning it all. I just hope Glen “I never met an overpriced player I haven’t liked” Sather doesn’t screw things up by giving away the store for Rick Nash (a great player but not worth what the GM is supposedly asking for him). Stay the course Glen, you have a really good team with a great young nucleus and some top junior/collegiate players. Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

6) I’m still a big believer in Rex Ryan. Maybe this year will be the humbling experience that we all need every so often in order to grow as both human beings and in our chosen professions.  It’s amazing what that can do for someone.

Okay, enough for now, time to get back to the levels, now where do I put that…

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Sunday, Sunday, Sunday – August 29th

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As usual for this Sunday feature, a whole bunch of quick thoughts:

1) The J-E-T-S are not looking good right now.  A really disappointing showing against the ‘Skins, Calvin Pace hurt (and it looks like a minimum of 4 weeks according to published reports) and his replacement, Jason Taylor, taking more contact in Dancing With The Stars than he has had in the preseason.   Not what RR wanted to see from his team, I’m sure (this week’s episode of Hard Knocks should be full of more colorful language I’m sure).  OTOH, still no reason to push the panic button but not a great way to essentially end the preseason.  I’m hoping that when the season starts the offense (once it starts using its real game plan) will step up and the defense’s prodigal son will return.

2) The Jets cut Laveranues Coles today.  When they drafted him it was considered by many to be a controversial pick as he had some issues in college.  Once he got to the pros, he was a hell of a football player, a great teammate (by all accounts) and a standup guy.  Smart pick, smart guy and if his career is really over (and I hope it’s not and that the Jets pick him up after the season starts), a most excellent career.  Best of luck to him.

3) I’m intrigued to see how Guild Wars 2 Dynamic Event System works.  I’ve seen some stuff on the ‘Net where people have said it is just Public Quests renamed or just improved upon and the GW2 guys have been criticized by some people.  In interviews I did regarding PQs during WAR’s development, I said I expected it to be one of the most important features in WAR and I also expected it to be used/improved on by developers more than any other feature of the game.  All of our games are derivative from what went before us at some level anyway, so if other devs use and improve upon PQs, fabulous.  If the DES is derived in any way from PQs, I’m thrilled and I hope more devs use PQ/DES/etc. going forward.  If it isn’t derived from PQs, that’s great too and I hope it brings a new element to the MMO periodic table.  Gaming (MMO or otherwise) needs all the innovation it can get so wherever it comes from, I hope it works out great for them.

4) Here’s to GW2 and Final Fantasy XIV both being smash hits.  The MMO industry (and especially PC gaming) could use some good news other than Cataclysm (which will sell a ton of copies obviously).  Hopefully there will be some real spacing between the release of these titles otherwise, well, it will be interesting to see what happens.

5) What an awful summer movie season it has been.  I go to the movies a lot but this summer there seemed to be far fewer interesting/enjoyable movies to see.  Hopefully the Fall/Winter season will have some surprise hits and the big films that are scheduled to be released then won’t disappoint.

6) More pain resulting from the NYC WTC mosque controversy with a recent stabbing and destruction of property inside a mosque.  What didn’t get enough attention, at least on the national level, is how long it has taken all the parties involved to agree what to do with the WTC site itself.  The NY papers have taken the usual suspects to task over it as the years have gone by but the fact that it took almost ten years to get something moving there is ridiculous (story here).  Now even though it seems everyone is in agreement, the real question is how long will it take to get done.  At the pace they are going we may have flown to Mars and back by the time the new WTC site is finished.  I’m reminded of the wonderful, though historically inaccurate, portrayal of the NY legislature in the play/film 1776.  The delegate from NY were always abstaining because, according to the film, that in the New York legislature “They speak very fast and very loud, and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done.”  Ten years, unbelievable.

Mark

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

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Just some quick thoughts for a lazy Sunday afternoon:

1) The Jets looked awful on Saturday night against a depleted Carolina Panthers team.  No reason to push the panic button but I can’t imagine R2 was happy about what he saw out there.  Offense is taking a lot of heat and it’s easy to blame the players but Schotty seemed to have an off day himself.  Defense looked okay (except for a handful of plays) but Carolina wasn’t 100% healthy but the 2s didn’t stink up the joint as they did against the Giants so overall, it’s a plus.

2) The news about the makers of APB this past week was not surprising, sad but not surprising.  As always, making MMOs is exceptionally hard and it’s that much harder when you try to go out of the MMO comfort zone, don’t have an experienced MMO team and don’t have proven (bought or made) tech.  Having all of them are not guarantees of success but having none of them definitely makes it a lot harder.  As always, I feel sorry for the people who put in so much blood, sweat and tears on the game and I wish those laid off the best and hope they find another gig soon.

3) The “WTC Mosque” debate and controversy continues to build in NYC (and it’s going to get worse) and most of our political leadership is either standing on the sidelines, wafflling or resorting to cliches.  Way to earn your  power, pay, perks and prestige guys and gals! And people wonder why so many of us have lost/losing faith in the political process and elected officials in our country.  It’s a tough call but if you want to be in politics and be a leader you have to be willing to make tough calls occasionally don’t you?

4) What’s next for the MMO market?  Are subscription games dead (I don’t think so) but it’s certainly getting more challenging out there as social networking games eat up more bandwidth and more MMOs from Asia come ashore here and both of these trends will continue unabated for the next few years at least.  Hopefully the economic climate will improve worldwide but it ain’t 2004 anymore and anyone who doesn’t realize that is in for a rude awakening.

5) Thinking about what the social gaming space will look like a year after Google makes its big splash.  Could be a real game changer (major understatement).  No matter what, it’s going to be a very, very interesting year for FB/Zynga/PD/PF/etc. as well as for the whole online (MMOs included) segment.

6) Looking forward to seeing the new tablets from Dell, LG, etc.  Let’s see how the non-Apple tablets sell before we pronounce them the new must-have device, but they are very intriguing.

7) The most interesting new reality show of the Fall should be “Survivor – Minnesota Vikings Edition”.  Grab some popcorn, settle back in the La-Z-Boy, things could get very interesting very quickly out there.

Going to see Piranha-3D tonight, I hear it is a true Summer Popcorn Movie.  Big nasty creature invades, upsets natural balance, eats some people.  When you think about it, it might not be much different than (7) above. 🙂

Mark

Rex Ryan, you’re the man, if you can’t do it, OMFG we’re ****ed.

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So, anyone who knows me knows that my favorite sports team is the NY Jets. Ever since I was introduced to Joe Namath a long time ago, on a practice field far, far away I have literally lived and died watching that team.  Well, actually pieces of furniture and all manner of breakables have died and I have sacrificed vast quantities of Cherry Twizzlers as fuel as well.  So, when Rex Ryan was announced as coach of the team, I was filled with hope.  I’ve been a long proponent of the “Joe Namath sold his soul” so the Jets could win their one Super Bowl title, a theory that was immortalized in Adam Sandler’s ridiculously funny Little Nicky.  I mean come on, Vinny Testaverde resurrects his career with the Jets and in the season that they are expected to get to the SB, he tears out his Achilles Tendon, along with the Jets SB hopes, early in the season.  Then, a few years later, the Jets announce that Bill Belichick is going to be their next head coach and before he can even coach a game he leaves and goes to rival New England and wins multiple Super Bowls while the NYJ don’t even get to the big game?  How’s that for cursed?  Yet, over the last year R2 has done nothing but show that he is the right man to help lead the Jets out of the perdition with his flaming sword of braggadocio, his shield of “Inyourface” and his +5 steel-toed boots of stomping. During his brief tenure he has helped turn around a franchise that seemed destined to rival the Chicago Cubs for title futility in the modern era (the old, old Cubs won a lot more championships than the NYJ have for you CC fans out there).  Now in his second year, R2 is taking heat for not only being  boastful and arrogant  but his critics are also attacking him for being  foul-mouthed on a cable channel (Heaven forbid!).

Well, all I have to say about that is ‘Give ’em Hell Rex!”  and don’t change a thing.  Whether the Jets win a Super Bowl or not he has made the Jets relevant again.  He, along with the rest of the extremely talented coaching staff, GM Mike Tannenbaum and the rest of the Jets organization are helping reshape a franchise that was no different than most other losing organizations to one where winning is expected, supported and anything less than being great is not tolerated.  The man can flat out coach a defense and one day, after he has learned how to be a great head coach, I believe his record will speak for itself (R2 will play down his contribution and credit his players as he has done already).  Anybody can talk a good game but I think when all is said and done that R2 will be able to back it up.  While I have certainly done my share of talking for AUSI/Mythic, I have never been willing to commit publicly to the kind of statements that R2 has made (maybe it’s the lawyer in me) and I respect him for it.  Not because he can hype (the late, great Billy Mays could hype anything) but because he’s willing to put himself out there and be the lightning rod for the criticism while he’s doing it.  That I can relate to and IMHO, that is worthy of respect.  Love him or loathe him, hate the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets or adore them but R2 is a hell of a leader by continually demonstrating his willingness to do what it takes to create a winning attitude and a winning team while still being the kind of guy that his players apparently love to play for.  IMHO, we could all learn something from him.

Mark

P.S. I don’t actually believe that Joe sold his soul so the Jets could win the Super Bowl but it makes for a good water cooler story.