All posts tagged steve

Yesterday I went to Steve and Cindy's wedding in the beautiful Wente Vineyards, famous for exceptional whites. Their Chardonnay was tasty, without any of the acrid pepper in other places we've been to. Our table was all red wine drinkers, and we were all impressed (the champagne was good too).

Being a guest at a wedding of our peers was so different than our own wedding, and I enjoyed it enormously. There is an aspect of surprise and drama in someone else's wedding that you don't get when you plan and obssess over yours months on end. Steve and Cindy are an odd couple, their personalities seemingly worlds apart. But Steve, although a focused, deconstructive mind who absorbs technicalities and figures unlike any person I know, has a special ability. He's an incredibly fast learner. And though I remember he was loath to discuss the word "marriage" a few years ago, he mastered this new skill as quickly as he mastered programming and art.

A relationship, which is just a game, is tough to master, even impossible for some. But I think you get better with it with practice. I think, win or lose though, what matters is you play your best, you learn some skills, and if you fail… well round two is just around the corner. Looks, money, fancy cars, education, all that matters, as life is as much an itemized treadmill as WoW. But in the end, it's a numbers game. The more you play, the better your chances, and the more skillfully you play, the more chances you get. If you couldn't jump over the sonic boom, you'd have stopped putting quarters in. Guys know what I mean.

Do you think that would apply to The Act, a interative cartoon game where the gameplay is as simple as applying the right amount of "charm" in the right context with a twist of a knob? It wouldn't surprise me at all. Art, after all, imitates the game of life even when we don't realize life is a game.


Girls, gambling, and guns. That pretty summed up Steve’s bachelor party, which Dan organized like a champ. It was easily the best Vegas trip I’ve made, although I actually saw very little of Vegas. It is still, to me, the quintessential heart of the Americana. The excess and pregnancy, wrapped in thick curtains of cigarette smoke, bespeaks the packaged American dream. It is a romantic place, and by romantic I refer to the zeitgeist of emotions over social conformity, the classic romance. Greed, lust, gluttony, in omnigrade amnesia, artificial, yet so good. After all, Vegas is a consensual place.

I was lucky enough to meet many of Steve’s friends whom I’ve never known, and I knew kin when I saw it. They were awesome people, from whom I felt privileged to rob money from at Hold’em. In the middle of the weekend, Saturday night, we even met up with Cindy’s side, the eleven girl doppelgangers to our ten. We went to club Tao in the Venetian (where we stayed) and it was a cool joint. I’m not much for clubbing, at least not that kind of clubbing, but it was fun. The other kind of clubbing, however, was damn fun, although I wasn’t able to bring back enough stories to get Xstine jealous. She had spent the weekend oogling at her Korean soaps man.

I miss Vegas already. I especially miss the old Strip, the cheesy neon vines that draped what was popular in the 80’s. Today’s Strip, while brighter, was made of LCD displays and yuppie casino resorts with high minimum bets designed to milk your money as fast as possible. Touristy. While Vegas has always been about spectacle, it seems some of the charm and nostalgia is creeping away. One observation explains it all: slot machines were uncomfortably silent until I realized that inserting coins was archaic, and game cards with digital readouts were rendering the excitement mute.

Anyways, the trip marks an important point for Steve, and I echo Freddy’s thoughts that “I learned a lot” on this trip. To me, it was astonishing how people so various and unconscious of each other can be brought together so smoothly through one person. It’s almost fractal how these friendships begin their cycles as Steve and Cindy’s peaks and transforms. Can there be a better argument for consensual excess? Should there even be one against? Sin city has the answers, and you’ll have to lose yourself there to find out.

P.S. The deagle is FUCKING AWESOME.

This, then this, and this makes me sad. Sad in a gloaty, shouldnadonethathe'sjustaboy way where the evolutionist in me looks forward to a rebirth.

Steve and I were talking yesterday (when he graciously dropped by my class to give the students a talk about real-time rendering), and we've come to see that the future for entertainment can only be minimally pioneered with better and better graphics. This is in stark contrast to a few years back when we argued fitfully, and he claimed that ultimately the graphics were 90% of the sale. Yes Steve, this is my I-told-you-so.

Anyways, the problem today is that games have better graphics, but not better visuals. Visuals here meaning the fundamentals of good art direction, like cinematography, good acting, shot composition, and that ill-defined "style." I've mentioned the Uncanny Valley before, and it's only gotten worse. We've made incredible milestones in shadowing, shading, and surfacing technology, polycounts, texture resolutions, but at the end of the day, an awkward camera angle of a stiff animation of a poorly acted Batman is is never as Batmany as Frank Miller's.

The even deeper problem is that with the novelty of graphics revolution, consumers are plucking down (often to their regret) for deteriorating sequels. They keep EA in business, and tell EA it's not profitable to make anything better than a B- game. The real innovations have suffered for it. AI/physics driven animation, adaptive AI, muscular systems, intelligent camerawork, even fucking blendshapes have, for the most part, taken the backseat to the new titans of what can only be described as "real-time Poser art." Until these changes happen, no matter how good Neo looks in a still, his wooden movement or lack of upper lip realism brings it all crashing down.

The news headlines scream about the gaming industry being bloated. Actually, it's just the opposite, except there's just nothing out there good to spend my eager money on. You know what I mean.

I look towards episodic content to save the day. I look towards the revolution it created in Cable TV quality, when you can stop paying when something starts to stink. Then the scam of the $60 game will come crashing down on developers thinking they'll sucker enough folks in for their bottomlines, all the while wondering why milking their big brands gets less profitable every year. I look towards Valve's Lost Coast as an big step in this direction. Though Valve may fail (their stories are frankly eons behind cable TV), they'll bravely open new ground for a consumer base that purchases more responsibly, perhaps enough to put an end to these Scavengers of Licenseploitation ruining games, movies, and comics all at once.