January 31, 2008

Another Oblivion Crunch

Well, despite our best intentions, Charles and I are once again doing the late night, early morning handoff schedule in order to try and prepare our Oblivion project for the next milestone. We wanted to avoid this situation, but once again different tasks throughout the week got ahead of us and we ended up working more on the team project (or studying for our midterm) and Oblivion kept getting put off. So here we are, I've got 4.5 hours until the 2:00 A.M. handoff and then I probably need to wake up around 8:00 A.M. to get the file back and keep working. Huzzah!

January 30, 2008


Well, it's about 1:20 A.M. and I just got home from school. Now, I know what you're thinking, the school closes at 1:00 and I live about 5 min. away, how can I have just gotten home? Well, that is because my car decided (in a delicious bit of inanimate object irony) to not start when I tried to leave school. Those who know my car know this is not an uncommon occurrence. My car has had this issue for almost three years now and countless attempts to get it repaired have proved futile. Anyway, it seems that lately my car has decided to do this at most inopportune moments though perhaps that is currently because my life is full of inopportune moments for it to strike.

Anyway, it was another busy day in paradise. I spent the morning preparing for my midterm which was largely opinion based and I have no idea how it went. My answers seemed well-founded, but that doesn't mean the professor will necessarily agree. Then I spent pretty much the rest of the day working on team stuff like our team meeting/potluck this evening or our prototype game design document which is due tomorrow. That was my day, and now I need to sleep before tomorrow arrives and I need to do it all again. Though tomorrows particular salt mine is Oblivion work. Hooray!

NFL-predicting camel predicts Giants to win Superbowl XLII

I was watching Headline News this morning and this headline came up, which I just had to share...

January 29, 2008


It's funny sitting in class listening to your classmates talk about their current opinions about school and work, and trying to remember to bright-eyed optimists you all used to be only a mere half a year ago. Alright, maybe "bright-eyed optimists" is going a bit to far, but when your entire schedule is just slamming you to the ground this place can really drive you nuts. I mean, I've basically spent the whole day working and I'm still behind on like three things, tomorrow we have a midterm that I have absolutely no idea how to study for and then Thursday and Friday I have two major project milestones in two days. I mean, that kind of stuff pretty much every week would make anyone go crazy or at least get bitter, and it would seem the majority of the level designers did the latter. Well, maybe a little of both...

Anyway, ultimately I think we are all excited and happy to be working on games and we can't wait until it's our job, but actually being here sucks. I mean, don't get me wrong there are rewarding times, I think I'm getting a lot of great experience, and there are things I truly enjoy, but the whole seems to delight in torturing it's students with outrageous demands just to see if it can break them. I mean, we have gone from 17 level designers to 8 in two terms. That's almost a 50% washout, which is around 8% per month. Anyway, I don't want to spend my night or my post lamenting my position here, I have a chance that not many do, and I know this is what I want to do, it's just a long, painful road from here to there...

Alright, well on that note I guess I'll wrap this one up. Sorry things couldn't be a little more fun and exciting, but it's been a long couple of weeks, and I think its starting to get to everyone, including me.

January 28, 2008

To Do List Rollover

You ever have it where your to do list is so long that stuff inevitably rolls off the back end and your daily list of tasks turns into this unwieldy mess of tasks? I think I've been planning to change my oil for like two months...

Anyway, today wasn't terribly eventful, I worked on a couple different documents and our Oblivion project throughout the day, and I'm starting to set up project management for the upcoming production of our prototype. It sure will be nice to have a week where a document isn't due. Man, that's gonna be sweet.

This week should be a bit of a bear:
  • Level Design Midterm on Wednesday
  • Prototype GDD due Thursday
  • Team Contract due Thursday
  • Programming HW due Thursday
  • Oblivion Alpha due Friday
And then of course an assortment of meetings and general project management tasks that I need to start focusing on in order for my team to successfully complete our prototype. It's not exactly critical at this point, but time spent thinking about and planning these things now means a lot less time wasted later. Anyway, it's been a long day so I think I'm gonna lie down in front of the TV before I need to turn in. Night all!

January 27, 2008

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Well, it's been one hell of a Sunday. I am currently still up working on compiling and editing a first draft of the Prototype Game Design Document so that we can submit it for review tomorrow morning, and I have spent most of the day working either to write my section of the document or to try and get some work done on our Oblivion module. I also ran to pick up some groceries and decided to treat myself to a purchase of Burnout: Paradise only to get pulled over on my way home for a completely bogus ticket.

See, next to the Best Buy there's this turn that has a sign that will light up and tell you you can't turn on red at certain times. I turned at this turn and the officer claims the light was on when I turned, and I claim it was not. While I think we both honestly believe our positions the unfortunate state of the law is the only way I can argue the ticket is if the officer doesn't show up on the court date. Also, apparently I am expected to show up at the court in person within 12 working days to schedule the court date, but I have to wait at least 4 working days to ensure they have actually received the citation. Bah!

Anyway, I'm trying not to get upset over it, but it cast a pall over one of the few rewards I've actually had time to give myself. I guess it's just another one of those things I don't really have any control over, so there's no use lamenting something I can't really change. Alright, I better get back to work if I want to get a decent night's sleep. Later!

January 26, 2008

Busy Saturday

Today was a long Saturday full of work and meetings. I met with my leads for two hours to talk about the Team Roles & Responsibilities Doc, Team Contract, and Prototype GDD we have all due this Thurdsay, not to mention actually beginning to discuss how we're going to put this whole thing together. Then I had a 2+ hour meeting with the level design team (this time wearing my level designer hat) to discuss general level design for the game and what we want to do for prototype. Then I came home and did some more stuff on the team project and finished my programming assignments for Tuesday. Now I think I'm going to play some games before I end up passing out on the couch. Night!

January 25, 2008

Not-So Eternal Sonata

So it's been a long week as you all are probably well aware. I spent most of the last 24 hours trying to get our Oblivion mod ready for the prototype milestone, and I've spent most of the week trying to manage a ridiculous load of projects. To finally let off some steam, I was indulging in my Friday night "play games and don't think about work" ritual, and I decided the time had come to take down Eternal Sonata. I was already most of the way to the end, but I got sidetracked by other games and the courseload of Term 2. Anyway, having finished the game, I have two important questions for anyone who's finished or at least played it:
  1. What is that game about? Admittedly my play time was a bit broken up, but having just sat through the 30+ min. finale, I have absolutely no idea what happened. The storyline started off seeming generic enough, but then it went all crazy on me and I have no idea what happened. I don't intend to go into any details, so as not to spoil anything, but things definitely spiral off in unexpected directions.
  2. Where are my achievement points? I'm not really certain how you finish a 30-hour RPG and get around 120 points, and then the rest are labeled "secret" so I don't have any idea what they are. Did anyone manage to get achievements other than the 12 "playing through the game" achievements on their first run?
Anyway, neither here nor there, just wondering what people's thoughts were. The game definitely has some high points, particularly the graphics and art style are phenomenal. The combat system is pretty fun for a while, but eventually gets boring (not unlike Tri-C's other offering Star Ocean: Til the End of Time). Sadly, the plot is probably one of the weakest aspects as it just kind of meanders around pontificating on the state of the world and lacks any real climax or resolution, this may also be helped by the broken economy and overly powerful characters which make the game seem way too easy. Ultimately I think it's a good game for people who are new to RPGs or just want to look at the pretty colors (which are, in fact, very pretty), but as someone who's been playing RPGs for a while, my key concern is story and I think the game ultimately didn't deliver like I'd hoped. Still, I got plenty of enjoyment out of it at the beginning so I can't really complain to much. Now, I'm off to play some more games before I have to head to bed to prepare for another working weekend. Huzzah!

T -8.5 Hours To Prototype

Our prototype module is due by 5:00 P.M. today. I just got the module back from the other developer so here we go...

You know it's a crunch when...

You hand the file off to another team member at 2:00 A.M. and plan to get it back at 8:00 A.M. in order to keep working on it. Oh well, things could be worse, our proposal went really well, and the professors were very complimentary. Now, I need to steal some sleep before I have to get back to work. Night All!

January 23, 2008

Pop Proposal Presentation, Everyone!

I'm not sure if I actually mentioned this on the blog, but over the past week we were basically explicitly told that we would NOT have a presentation tomorrow morning, yet lo and behold here I am preparing one. Yes, that's right, at about 5:00 P.M. today we were informed we needed to give a brief presentation on our game tomorrow morning. To be fair, I don't think this was a trick or anything that nefarious, just a measure of poor planning mixed with poor timing. Nevertheless, I should be working on Oblivion scripts tonight, but I am instead preparing for a presentation. Actually, I suppose I intend to do both as the presentation is mostly ready, just not well rehearsed. Anyway, my workload just seems to keep growing so I better get on it. Later!

January 22, 2008

Feedback's a B@$!%

Actually it's a good thing we are getting feedback on our proposal doc and the overall concept that we are proposing, but the result is a large number of small changes to make to the doc and a few substantial ones, in addition to trying to reconcile feedback from disparate sources. Anyway, I need to have most of the changes basically done tonight so I can hand it off to one of my leads for final polish and review, so I better get to it. Later!

January 21, 2008

My Day "Off"

Well, we got today off since it is MLK day which basically meant that instead of attending a three- hour class from 2:00-5:00 I attended a two-hour meeting with my leads from about 2:00-4:00. Actually, to be fair the day gave me some much needed to time to work on things other than schoolwork, most notably my apartment. Throughout last term my apartment had become progressively more disorganized, and I had finally gotten to the point where even I couldn't tolerate it anymore. My apartment wasn't dirty per se, but there were piles of mail that needed to be read, old assignments and documents that needed to be sorted and either put away or recycled, and a pile of clothes on my bedroom floor that needed to be cleaned up. Okay, that last one is just dirty...

Anyway, I spent most of the day working on getting my apartment into working order and I think I am much happier for it. It's nice to know where things are, and know that there's no hidden bill or jury summons sitting in that pile of mail I haven't had time to look through yet. The meeting with my leads went well and I think the team is in a good position to deliver our proposal doc on Thursday. We are just putting the finishing touches on the first draft tonight so we can send it into the professors for review. Hopefully, we can get some good feedback on the doc and fix any major issues before final submission. Then, the only thing left to worry about is my Oblivion project. The proposal is due tomorrow (currently, out for review) and the prototype is due Friday. It's a bit of a quick turnaround to be sure, but I think the rest of my classes should be relatively light this week so hopefully that should make things doable. Here's hoping!

Either way, it'll get done one way or another. That's pretty much all that's going on work-wise. When I get time to play games, I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy and Assassin's Creed, which is kind of annoying since they both use the same input on my TV requiring my to swap the cables out depending on which one I want to play. For now, I've got a bit more work I'd like to do on the proposal doc before we send it in for review, so I better get to that. Then tomorrow I need to start working on our Oblivion project as there are a few things we're trying to do that I know can be done (i.e., the game does it), but I haven't the foggiest idea how, and I've got to figure it out before Friday. Fun, fun, fun!

January 20, 2008

The Truth Shall Set You Free

During one of my regular "I have too much work, will this ever end!?" rants with Rick, it had occurred to me to ask my dear brother my recent whining was the same as it had been last term, and to my surprise his response was a reasonably confident "yes." I had been pretty confident that this term was somehow worse than my prior terms had been, however looking back at my posts from the beginning of last term, it would seem he's probably right. Now there are some mitigating circumstances here which may be making my current work seem worse than last term. Mostly coming off of a three-week break of doing absolutely nothing productive (for which I am entirely to blame) and this term's current focus on documentation over everything else. Also, there was that Oblivion assignment which I've already complained about so I don't think I need to bring it up again.

I think the truth is that the three weeks of blissful sleep and gaming made me forget what it means to be a student here, which is a dangerous situation. It's not always impossible to relax here its just that sometimes they make it very, very hard. Also, with the focus on game design and documentation instead of general level design, we've been operating in more of a white space than usual, which isn't a bad thing, but it's an adjustment. I like structure. Telling myself that I am going to sit down for ~10-12 hours and work on a list of tasks for my level is a structure that I can accept. Even the structure of writing the level abstracts and level design documents is something that I had gotten used to.

On the other hand, pure game design and concept development feels largely without structure. Sometimes the ideas don't come quickly or completely baked, and every discussion really only opens the door to new discussions. This is actually kind of an exciting process - basically creating a game from scratch (minus using an established engine of course). I feel like the concept for Extinction is getting better and better, but it's still a relatively slow and tedious process at some points, and nothing around here is ever allowed to proceed slowly.

In hindsight, this really shouldn't be a new experience as the conceptualization of VIRUS proceeded in a similar manner, but I guess it still felt like we had more time, and in that case we actually created the game in the same term! Maybe it's an illusion, or maybe this term is still experiencing some growing pains from the new curriculum. Either way, I guess it's something my brain is slowly getting used to again. I think by the end of my vacation, my brain was getting used to sleeping and relaxing in front of the TV and so now I'm trying to remind it what it means to be a student here. Once I've got that worked out, I think I'll be back to my sleep-deprived, overworked, perfectionist self. Though it may not sound that great it's definitely better than trying to work while your brain is still on vacation. You'll just have to trust me on that.

Now, I must go, my concept document isn't going to write itself...

January 19, 2008

Term 3 is 25% complete

If there's one thing to be said for these new 8-week terms, it's much easier to convert weeks into % completion. I mean what is 1/11? It's like 9 percent and change...

Anyway, today was a typical working Saturday. I woke up around 11:30, did my exercises, had breakfast, then had to run off to school for ~6 hours of meetings, came home and made dinner, ate dinner and watched some Futurama, then finally finished up with some CoD4. I probably should have done some work on the documents I need to write for tomorrow, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm not sure if we have more work, or I just have less tolerance for it, but this term has seemed pretty brutal thus far, and we've only just completed the second week. Hopefully, things will start looking up but I'm not holding my breath.

This term has been especially hard on the leads since we are ultimately in charge of concept development and documentation for our team. Which basically means that the eight of us (four on each team) have an extra classload of work than the rest of the cohort. The joys of being a leader, right? ;-) I guess I can't complain too much, I like the job, it's just right now we are spending a lot of time documenting and talking about things and very little time actually doing things which somewhat mitigates the sense of accomplishment. Also, when I wake up on a Sunday morning it's easier to get excited about a day full of level design work than a day full of documentation. Not to say the concept development stuff isn't cool, I actually like that kind of thing, it just needs to be offset with some sense of accomplishment along the way, and a longer timeline couldn't hurt.

Anyway, I need to get some rest so I can hit the ground running tomorrow and finish my write-ups. Hopefully, I'll more fun and interesting things to report on soon. Later!

January 17, 2008

Business As Usual

I don't think anything really crazy happened today, which I guess is a good thing. My team finally settled on our concept for our team game so I think we are in a good place to really start digging into the specifics this weekend. The specifics on what exactly is supposed to be included in the Concept/Proposal doc over the Pitch document we just turned in remains to be seen. The Guildhall is currently in a state of flux as the curriculum is shifting around so even the definitions of things like the Pitch, Concept, or Proposal doc are still up for debate. Nevertheless, I will be meeting with my leads and working on my own substantially over the next few days to create whatever it is we are supposed to be creating =).

Also, Charles and I began talking today about what we wanted to do for our Oblivion project and settled on the concept of a classic Adventure-style murder mystery. Basically the main character happens upon a dead body only to be caught by some guards who immediately arrest the character for murder. The player is to be be held within the town until trial, but is able to move freely about the town in order to prepare an adequate defense. The player will mainly engage in dialog and solving item based puzzles in order to complete objectives, prove his/her innocence, and potentially bring the real criminal to justice. It should be fun to do and is at least a bit outside of what Oblivion is designed to do, though it all seems very doable within our timeframe. We may add some combat sections depending on how much time we can dedicate to the project and where we decide to go with the story, but for now I need to think through the idea a bit more so I can talk about it with the professor tomorrow.

That's pretty much everything that's going on. The lack of an Oblivion assignment due tomorrow and a somewhat longer timeline on our Proposal doc have really opened things up recently which is nice. I'll probably work on our programming assignment a bit more, than relax with some light gaming before bed. Yep, I think that will do nicely. G'Night All!

January 16, 2008

Holy Crap, A Real Post!

That's right, a new personal best for this term. I managed to finish all my homework by 9:30 P.M., Amazing! Well, I suppose technically everything isn't finished...

Frankly, I'm pretty sure you can almost always find something here you could/should be working on, but I think I can afford a bit of a break right now and, given I don't think I've played a game for fun since I started, I'd say it's due. In my case, the thing I could potentially work on is the concept for our two-man Oblivion project. Over the next few weeks, myself and another student need to create a small, reasonably fully-featured (quests, NPCs, enemies, etc.) mod for Oblivion, and we need to start planning out what is going to happen in this little adventure. We are meeting tomorrow at around 4:30 to kick around our ideas and put something together to propose to the professor in Friday's class. I've got a few ideas rolling around in my head, but I just need to sit down, flesh them out, and decide which one I'm the most interested in doing.

Our level design professor decided to take some pity on us today and not give us yet another quick turnaround Oblivion assignment. Though he did so while at the same time completely confirming our fears that we were basically trying to cover 11 weeks of material in an 8 week course. Hopefully, this term is just screwed up because of the transition, and things will start to even out next term when we need to start actually working in earnest on the production of our team project. Either way, I guess we'll all just do what needs to be done.

Nothing too crazy happened today, a bit of a lull in the action, which is awesome. We turned in our most recent Oblivion assignment, which surrounded creating a simple and more complicated quest. It was actually pretty fun. We also covered Oblivion scripting in class today, which was fun. Though that is mostly because I really like scripting, Oblivion really doesn't do anything crazy and it certainly isn't very user-friendly. It's basically like working in a text editor, though if you try to save it is supposed to try and compile and make you aware of any errors. It sometimes seems to miss things, but I guess it's better than nothing.

We have a programming assignment due tomorrow, but it wasn't too difficult, just creating some basic functions for this 2D game that we are working on as our term project. Basically, the professor that normally teaches the course created a simple 2D game that is based on one of the example programs that comes with Lua X (the scripting language we're working in), and then stripped out a lot of the code so that we can recreate and augment it. After finishing the assignment for tomorrow, I took a little time integrating my functions into the game which gave me a chance to look under the hood. It seems like it should be fun to work with, and we should be able to make something cool out of it in a short period of time.

Anyway, that's about it. I think I'm going to go play with some of my Christmas loot before I turn in for the night. Looking out at this weekend, it doesn't seem like it's going to stay low-intensity for very long, but the MLK holiday on Monday should help keep things from getting too bad too quickly. I'm starting to get back into my stride which is good. Apparently, getting sick the first week of the term isn't really a good way to start things off, who would have guessed?

P.S. I know the blog has been imageless for a while so enjoy a few of these concept shots (not my work, obviously) from our pitch. If I make anything particularly cool in Oblivion I'll try to post shots whenever I can.

January 15, 2008

More Quickie Updates

Well, until I can manage to get my head above water, I think I'll be sticking to these quickie updates:
  • Pitch presentation for Extinction went very well, the professors seemed generally excited about the concept and gave us a lot of good feedback for where to go now.
  • Oblivion assignment for tomorrow is basically done and was actually fun if not a bit time consuming.
  • Just got our first programming homework assignment which is due Thursday. Doesn't look too bad...
We had an interesting discussion today in programming where the five of us were trying to shake the feeling that due to the knew structure for the curriculum, the faculty is basically trying to cram 11 weeks of material into 8 weeks of class. We've all been feeling extra pressured lately, and none of us were able to entirely refute the theory...

January 14, 2008

Quickie Updates

Sorry I haven't had a lot of time to post lately, I've been crazy busy and I'm not sure exactly when its going to subside. I still want to keep you all updated though so I'll try to at least include some bullet point updates every now and again like these:
  • I spent pretty much the entire weekend working on a pair of Oblivion assignments that I ultimately could not complete.
  • The relative unfairness and demoralization of the second Oblivion assignment, actually left me feeling almost shellshocked for the entire afternoon.
  • I spent the rest of today writing and polishing the pitch document for our team project next semester, Extinction.
  • I also created a brief pitch presentation that I need to give tomorrow morning, and I've been rehearsing it for about the past 30 min. It still needs work.
  • I received another Oblivion assignment which is due on Wednesday and also found out who my teammate is for our Oblivion project.
I think that's all for right now. Now, I need to get to bed because I know that presenting while tired is perhaps one of the worst experiences this place can muster. Alright, G'Night all!

January 13, 2008

Work, work, work

Sorry, this post is going to be super short, but I haven't written anything in the last few days since I've been so busy recovering from my illness and desperately trying to stay ahead of my work. I managed to complete one of the two level design assignments I have due tomorrow, but the other assignment has me completely flummoxed. At the same time, my team has finished the initial concept for our game, but I, at least, haven't had time to actually write up my sections (Gameplay and High Concept). Such is life, anyway, I better get busy doing something, there's certainly enough to do...

January 10, 2008

No Time for Posting

Sorry, I haven't had time to post the past couple days. I was extra sick yesterday, so I ended up resting most of the morning and the medicine I got from the doctor knocked me out for the rest of the day. Today I've spent pretty much all my time working, and now I need to get some rest so I can prepare for our big concept decision meeting tomorrow morning/afternoon. Fun fun! Night all!

January 8, 2008

State of the Guildhall

I think right now I'm operating at about 70 - 80%, but earlier I think I was down around 40 (when my headache was actually making it impossible to think and medicine had only managed to bring it from severe to around moderate). A few notable things have happened over the first few days back. A few level designers (I think 4 in total) didn't end up returning this term for various reasons, which leaves our level design track with only 8 students left.

This kind of attrition is actually very unusual as the application process is very thorough and supposedly pretty effective at identifying who will do well here. We originally started with 17 registered level designers and after only two terms that number has fallen to a scant 8. In a natural selection sort of way, this does mean that the remaining designers are that much better, arguably the strongest of the original 17 (for one reason of another). What this also means is that our cohort is now remarkably unbalanced in an unprecedented way. Typically level designers are the most common students here.

This development required a massive restructuring of the teams for our team games as it just wasn't feasible to divide 8 level designers among three teams, so now there are only two. Jane and I were named the "Assistant Producers" by the Professor (the "Producer") and we were assigned to our teams which, bear almost no resemblance to our teams from last term. The teams each appointed their department leads and spent today brainstorming anything we could think of for our next team game production which we will be pre-producing and prototyping this semester.

I'm happy with the team and everyone seems to get along so I think we have a good chance of making something great. Still, I'm not exactly fighting fit right now, so the pressure of having a pitch doc and presentation due a week from now is a bit unsettling. Anyway, I'm not sweating it, it always gets done and we've got some good ideas to go on so that's certainly a great place to start. The leads and I are meeting tomorrow to start discussing general structure for the project and also how we want to go about distilling the ideas from the brainstorming session into workable game concepts.

That's pretty much everything going right now, like the calm before the storm, though I couldn't be more grateful for it given my health. No homework yet, but the Pitch doc isn't far off, and I imagine level design is going to produce something to work on pretty soon, though I'm excited to work on both so I can't really complain. Things are pretty good, just focusing on rest right now so I can prepare for the road ahead. Alright, now I'm gonna rest and relax while I have the chance...

January 7, 2008

Headache make brain hurt

I tried to think of a clever metaphor for how big/painful my current headache is, but I think that thinking actually makes it hurt more so I gave up that exercise, and decided that that would basically be all the information this particular post contained. We had our first Level Design III class today, and it looks like we are mostly going to be working on singleplayer stuff and storytelling in the Oblivion engine which I am very excited about (not so big on the multiplayer FPS stuff myself, though COD4 still rocks :) ) Alright now I'm gonna go throw on some PJs and ice my head. G'night all!

January 6, 2008

No More Vacation :-(

Well, thus marks the closing hours of my winter vacation. A combination of illness and resulting exhaustion has kept me in bed almost the entire time since I got back into Texas. It would seem I caught the flu while I was in Michigan and it hit me full force last night (about minutes after leaving the C10 welcome party) which is really a great way to start the term. Anyway, there's not much to say for today as I spent most of it at least half asleep.

The C10 party was fun and actually ended up getting broken up by the police, well...sort of. The person who was throwing it lived in a somewhat small apartment in a gated community, and a remarkable number of people showed up so it was pretty packed. Anyway, I guess it was too loud, so one of his neighbors decided to call the cops. Apparently in Texas the first time they get called you get a warning, then the second time you get a ticket, and if there's a third time they actually bring you down to the station. That was a little too real for the host so after the first call he cut things off (around midnight). I think the party ended up traveling to someone else's apartment, but as I said, I was starting to feel pretty crappy by then, so I just headed home.

It's nice to be back in my own place again. Not that I didn't like staying with Rick and Sharon, but I guess it's not like college anymore. I feel like my "home" is here and I just vacation in Michigan to visit the family. It's a little weird, but I hadn't really thought about it that way until I got back. I am both excited and cautious for the beginning of the next term. I love all the stuff I've learned and I enjoy working on all this, but I'm not looking forward to the toll it takes on my physical and mental health. I've resolved to try to have more realistic expectations for myself this term, apparently the consensus among my friends and family is that I work "too hard".

Anyway, I think that will be all for tonight. I feel the beginning of another massive headache coming on, and I need to be well rested for tomorrow. If term 2 was any indication, the Guildhall believes in a more of a hit-the-ground-running approach rather than easing us into the next term, so tomorrow is sure to be...interesting. Now that I am back to work, I'll be more consistent about posting.

Here's to another exciting term!

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, 2007 is now officially over and my break is only a few days from completion. It's been a great, completely relaxing break. I originally had the intention to keep the blog pretty up-to-date and to work on some other projects for my portfolio, but its probably obvious that I didn't do a great job with the first, and with only a few days left it seems unlikely I'll get around to the second in any real capacity. My friends and family think this is totally reasonable and tell me everyone needs some time off now and then, so I'm going to go with that. I may still play with making an RTS map, as I think that would be fun, I just need to pick the game.

Well, 2007 was an interesting year for games as well as me personally. This same time a year ago I was still working at Capital One with no plan to get into the games industry. I had the goal or desire, but no real plan. Now, here I am two terms into my education and only a year away from my dream job. 2007 may also go down as one of the best years for games, at least of those in recent memory. Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Bioshock, World in Conflict, Super Mario Galaxy, Supreme Commander, Uncharted, and Rock Band just to name a few. Also, 2007 saw a few notable events for the industry like the merger of Activision and Vivendi into Activision Blizzard (now the largest videogame publisher) and Bungie and Microsoft's parting of ways.

In a year with so many great games it really is hard to pick a favorite. For me, I'd say my favorite game of the year was Mass Effect, but with great games like Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock competing against it, it's a really tough call. What does it for me, I think, is the depth and breadth of the universe Bioware created in Mass Effect, in addition to the gameplay and storyline innovations the game offers. As for the gameplay, Mass Effect is one of the first times I can remember having "fun" while playing an RPG.

Now before you all start sending the hate mail, don't get me wrong I love RPGs, they are probably my second favorite genre (RTS being #1) and I think almost every game can use RPG elements, but I wouldn't typically describe them is fun. They are engaging, immersive, and they typically have the best storylines around, but the gameplay isn't usually the focus, and if it is, its almost always because some other part of the game (typically the story) has been neglected. This isn't the case with Mass Effect, the gameplay and storyline are both really good. I will admit that the gameplay of Mass Effect is unpolished in some places, but I think it's some of the most fun I've had playing and RPG, and in that context I think it really excels.

Add a great storyline and new, more immersive conversation system to the mix and that makes it my game of the year. Mass Effect's conversation ring has been a subject of much discussion among those who have played it, and while that difference is probably more subtle than some might posit, I think the effect is actually pretty substantial. By focusing on tone and paraphrase instead of requiring the player to read all possible dialog choices, Mass Effect managed to achieve a level of conversation flow that hadn't yet happened.

While still stiff in some areas, conversations ultimately feel more organic, and are thus much more enjoyable to participate in. I'm one of those people that uses every dialog option on every person I can talk to, because I love knowing everything I can about the universe, but this is the most fun I've had doing it. By including many conversation that flow in only one direction and several difficult choices that you character has to make, I think Mass Effect really is a step forward for interactive storytelling, even if it's only a very small one.

Ultimately, 2007 was a great year for games, and it's amazing how much things have changed in just the few short years I've been alive. My hope is that 2008 will be just as good, and that games will continue to evolve at this exponential pace. I can't wait to see where we are in 2017 or even 2027. Until then, I hope developers keep making great games like Call of Duty 4, Bioshock, and Mass Effect, and I hope that by the end of this year I'll have a job with one of them ;-). Alright, well this post is plenty long enough, and my breakfast is getting cold, so Happy New Year everyone, take care!