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All posts for the month July, 2008

Friday was my last day at Page 44 Studios, and I don't think anything I say in this post can capture the prism of feelings over leaving those awesome people. It was kind of like the last bite of the most delicious hamburger in the world before starting on the sumptuous molten chocolate dessert… yeah like that. I like to think that I did everything I promised to do before I left, and that the last dinner I had their wasn't BBQ ribs on accident 😀 .

The project I worked on there, High School Musical: Senior Year Dance, was almost finished. I like to think I, and of course all hopelessly driven folks at Page 44, gave it our all to prove that a game based off a wildly successful IP didn't have to suck. This is a game that would have sold at least 2 million profit-laden copies without us lifting a finger, but there's no dignity in that for gamers like us. Not everyone gets to work on a triple-A title, but as Henry Heinz (of ketchup fame) once said: "To do a common thing, uncommonly well, that brings success."

Imagine how ecstatic I was when I saw this IGN preview that actually said our game was fun! And I quote:

Now for the scoffers out there that are quickly writing the game off, I'm going to throw this out here. High School Musical 3: Senior Year Dance played better than Samba de Amigo. The game was overall more responsive with the controls (albeit far simpler controls) and there was a bigger connection to what we were doing and what was going on in the game. Granted, all the songs are from HSM, but hey it was Ricky Martin and Lou Bega in the Samba game, so it seems like a lateral move to me.

There's still plenty of months before the release of either of these games, but HSM3:SYD (ugh I'm just calling it Dance from now on) is shaping up to be a fun, active Wii game that fans of the movie can actually have fun with.

Tomorrow I start a new job at EA Redwood Shores, and hope to bring every ripe, tasty ounce of "uncommonly well" I learned at Page 44 to all projects on the table, common and uncommon. That, with luck, brings success.

Yesterday night we returned from a weekend spent in Toronto visiting my mom's side of the family, and my Grandma who is pretty far gone down the dehumanizing imprisonment of a body stricken by Parkinson's disease. I know she could see us, hear us, and understand who we were, all by the steady twinkling in her eyes, but the best she could manage for a greeting was one upturned corner of her mouth.

You're going to wonder what the hell Diablo 3 has to do anything with my grandma. It doesn't really. It's just this anxious feeling I get, this yearning for radical change, that renewed in me seeing what my own frail old age may be. You ever get that prickly desire to go out and do something anything that matters? Watching the old folks at the convalescence home been force spoon-fed their medicated gruel, Xstine kept gouging my ribs and saying "See! Exercise! Take care of yourself!" But that feeling wasn't new to me, as I had volunteered at these places when I was a teen.

So when I excitedly saw the gameplay trailer for Diablo 3 (see below), I knew I was set up. I happened to have been playing Titan Quest recently with Xstine, which is nothing but mindless grinding, slaying monsters, gathering loot, repeating as flea on flea on flea. It's a game that is fun because it offers no redeeming values, and you yield yourself to that like a drug. The art is fantastic, but the game is simplistic. I never actually played the first two Diablo games, but I imagine they weren't much more.

The question we ask ourselves often is "Have we wasted our lives playing things we have nothing to show for?" Unlike many of the other games I've played, Diablo-type and World of Warcraft-type games feel like they've added very little to my person and yet have debitted so much of my productive free time. How should I translate every second wasted in these games into seconds of my life I could have extended with exercise?

Then I had to listen to Blizzard, the masters of game design, ruminate like guffawing film students as they talked about their design approaches to Diablo 3. It was embarrassing. It shattered my mental picture of them to hear them say stuff like "it makes it more interesting to make the hero the center of the story." Or to point out their grand "philisophical" vision taught to make a barbarian class more barbaric. My gods. I hold those game designs to be self-evident. Hearing that kind of "enlightenment" has seriously made me consider what the personal value these games are having on my life. Now when I play, I can see my grandma's eyes through her haze, judging my expense of youth.