December 31, 2010

My Favorite Games of 2010

I bet you're sick of seeing this headline, eh? I wasn't going to write this, but there were two catalysts that finally pushed me to do so.
  1. I'm tired of seeing Red Dead Redemption not only make every list, but top most of them.
  2. At dinner the other night, my girlfriend revealed that she had kept a list of every new restaurant we had tried in 2010. It was awesome to look back and see everything we'd eaten, all the places we've been. I wanted a similar experience for my see what I really like most.

December 30, 2010

I Have Found a Practical Application for History

I love history. When other kids were reading novels, fiction, and that sort, I was reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Theodore Rex, and fiction based on history. Typically, this is only useful in lame jokes and references that mostly only amuse me. Last night at True Grit, I alone in my group of four understood a particular line of dialog between Rooster Cogburn and La Boeuf.

Remember the scene early into their hunt where Cogburn and La Boeuf are arguing about their service during the Civil War, both give offense to the other and they decide to part ways? This one here:

La Boeuf proudly claimed to fight for the Army of Northern Virginia, which was the primary Confederate army under the leadership of Robert E. Lee. Meanwhile, Cogburn spoke about a leader that I'm sure you haven't heard of and he didn't seem to belong to the Union or Confederacy.

So who?

Cogburn was a bushwhacker in either Missouri or Kansas. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, while the battlefields of the east coast were soaked in blood at Antietam, Gettysburg, and the outskirts of Richmond, there was a whole other bloody and bitter fight between Missouri and Kansas. One a slave state, one not. The Bushwhacker conflict was dirty, a guerrilla war that didn't exist purely on a pre-ordained battlefield, but in homesteads, farms, and that meant civilians.

This makes Cogburn's past far more interesting. He wasn't just a Confederate or Union soldier fighting in a typical war. He was a passionate ruffian doing potentially unspeakable things on a distant battlefield not discussed in a lot of history books.

I took great satisfaction in describing this to my fellow movie-goers. I'm pretty sure they zoned out about 8 seconds into my explanation.

December 27, 2010

Facebook Favorites

My new company makes mobile games for iPhone and Droid phones, but also Facebook games. I think one of the most important things to do as a designer is play games, so to me this clearly means I need to play Facebook games. Oh no, the dreaded hellpit of evil, theft, and villainy of the video game world.

I've found my assumptions to be largely confirmed in my Facebook game travels. But I've also found that there are some games I genuinely enjoy. In fact, I even have a favorite Social game developer now: Wooga. It seems I'm not entirely alone in my enjoyment of their games. Maybe I should get about making better games to beat them...

Social games are largely asynchronous cooperative time sinks. As such, maybe a post like this will encourage you to join me!

December 6, 2010

If Fable 3 were my game, what would I have done differently?

My relationship with Fable is a contentious one that dates back to Fable on the Xbox in 2004. Fable the first just angered me, and honestly I'd just finished Knights of the Old Republic. The comparison was not in Fable's favor. But then, Fable 2 arrived for my Xbox 360 and I swooned with joy. Fable 3 spent 60% of its length retreading the familiar ground of Fable 2 (with some changes), then spent the last few hours in strange new territory.

I really didn't like this territory. But I'm not here to whine. I don't learn anything that way and really it has no impact on Lionhead's success. Therefore, the question is "What would I have done differently?"

December 1, 2010

Coming to Terms with San Francisco: My Best Of List

For a long time I've been quite frustrated with my California existence, though life isn't all that bad. It's the combination of the high cost of living, farcical state government, and a healthy dose of nostalgia for place of my upbringing. Alas, I grow older and the circumstances of my life (girlfriend, career) and the realization that I have absolutely no desire to live in Texas has forced me to re-examine the place that will more than likely be me home.

I  need to come to terms with San Francisco and this seems like the perfect excuse to make a personal "best of" list for the city. True, they are common, and more true, I may have very little to add that others haven't already stated, but I can be quite negative and I need a fresh, positive outlook.

November 24, 2010

A Good Walk Spoiled: Grant Challenges the Land and Emerges Triumphant

Today was hands down the worst game of golf I've ever played in my life. I've been playing since I was in 5th grade -- I have encountered bad days on the course. Today was the worst.

September 25, 2010

A Deathstar in Minecraft

That's right, we've already built the top half of a death star. Rest assured there will be no exhaust ports, no fooling around with traps, and no Ewoks.

The completed top half.

Early scaffolding.

Scaffolding from a distance. Check out that shadow!

An awesome floating sphere. Now what?
A fully armed and operational battle station.

Video Tour of Bellamy

Minecraft Weekend 2: A Tour of Bellamy

We created a multiplayer server. There are approximately 8 of us playing at any given time. We've been insanely productive (probably because there are no monsters in multiplayer). Here's a quick snapshot of what we've made.

September 19, 2010

More Minecraft...

I wasn't able to stop myself...

I planted about 10 trees to liven up my recently cleared front section.
My new naval base, complete with light tower and docks for my boats. I also built light houses along the surrounding coastline.
I built a chain of light towers (seen here from side) to guide me from my naval base to home.
I started an art gallery...
You can read my original post here.

A Weekend in Minecraft

Minecraft is an independent PC game lovingly crafted by a single individual, Notch (though now his company numbers 3 as a result of his success). I spent almost every free moment playing the game and I have to say it is the PC game that brings me back to my childhood imagination more than any other.

August 12, 2010

Gamezilla: What I'm Playing, or Trying to Play

I've gone a bit crazy purchasing games lately. Here is a list of games I own and have not finished yet.

Minecraft: Admittedly, it's still only in Alpha, but I can play it and many people absolutely do. The game is about building forts and stuff. FORTS!

Splinter Cell: Conviction (Xbox 360): I got this game in a swap from someone at Ubisoft, so I only paid $20. It's not a game I would have purchased for $60, so it's low on the priority. But still..

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360): Same thing as Splinter Cell. I didn't pay full price and really wasn't that excited about this, but still...

Monday Night Combat (Xbox 360): This is a $15 Xbox Live Arcade game that combines classed-based Team Fortress 2 with a Defense of the Ancients/League of Legends/Heroes of Newerth style minion management? Oh sweet Jesus yes! This one is at the top of the priority list. If that doesn't sell it, this trailer will. 

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC): I'm almost finished playing the 800 lb., 12 years in the making RTS game. I'm on mission 22 of 26 for the single player and I have no real interest in multiplayer. So, I'll be putting this one to rest in just a few more hours.

Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360): I love this game and I've spent quite a bit of time with it. Alas, I'm only 30% complete, which means I have about 20 hours left. This is another high priority. I cannot resist a good western, or, as my gaming history shows, a bad one. 

IL-2 Sturmovik (Xbox 360): I bought this game for super cheap on the most excellent site Go Gamer during one of their 48 Hour Madness specials. It's a low priority but one I intend to get to. 

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time (PS3): I've made significant progress on this game. It has flashes of brilliance, but I fear that after so many variations I'm tiring of the Ratchet and Clank formula. I guess I have only myself to blame as I've purchased every single one of them. I'll finish this shortly as I hate being this far into a game I haven't completed. 

Madden 2011 (PS3): I bought this because I buy a sports game every console generation. Odds are I never remove it from the shrink wrap but who knows?

EVE Online (PC): Oh yeah, I still play this regularly. That definitely bites into my gaming time elsewhere...I find myself optimizing my planetary manufacturing process, exploring wormholes, and learning more and more about PVP combat. There's so much variety in the game that I have a hard time backing away. 

Deathspank (PS3): I really enjoy Deathspank. It's light, silly, relaxing, and overall very solid. I'm probably a third through the experience and I intend to finish it. 

What's Next?
I've already pre-ordered LittleBigPlanet 2 (Collector's Edition no less!), Halo Reach, and I greatly desire Fable III. I already have a copy of Mafia 2 incoming and if H.A.W.X. 2 is anything like the previous entry, I will love it. And I really, really want the new Medal of Honor to be good.


August 2, 2010


It's not a good sign when you're tired on mile 2 of what will ultimately be an 18 mile hike. Soaked, sore, and having to deal with an iPod that kept insisting on Coldplay, I knew I was in trouble. I assumed that with almost 3000 songs the little device would pick something a bit more upbeat, or at least reputable. Apparently in Steve Jobs' world, random means Coldplay.

The first real obstacle to one's conquest of Half Dome is the Mist Trail, a vertical fortress of steps that instantly reminded me of the steps that heroes must ascend in fantasy novels when climbing towards their climatic final confrontation.The steps pose both a physical and emotional challenge, the dominant emotion being "holy shit what am I doing?"

Over the soft, inoffensive sounds of Chris Martin's lyrics (skip) I could hear the rush of the water that was dashing down the same mountain I was trying so desperately to climb. Both nature and my body wanted to turn around.

It's the self-imposed loneliness of such a hike that wins you through the day. Whether 10 feet or 2 miles in front of the group, Half Dome and its problems are mine and mine alone. Talking is a distraction and people are naturally inclined to rest when we see others begin to lag. But alone, I can easily quash these urges. I'm pretty hard on myself. And as of now I don't talk to myself.

Yosemite is a gorgeous national treasure, with the Half Dome hike resting firmly dead center as the crown jewel. It is a brutal hike that is relentlessly vertical, whether you're walking towards the cables at the top or back to refuge and relaxation in Curry Village. The two times I have finished the hike will remain in my mind as difficult and satisfying.

The cables to the top are a different story. Even with the newly required permits that greatly reduce traffic to the top, the half hour ascent and descent is filled with terror. Permits don't require others to secure their gear and pack, which means I have to watch idiot hikers smack others with their hiking sticks, drop bottles, and other dangers. Permits don't instill a sense of patience in some who rush up and down the cliff with abandon for their own safety, and that of others clinging to the slick metal cables. And permits never quite prepare you for the notion that if your hand so much as slips your are right and truly screwed. Whereas hiking Half Dome is a treat that repeatedly rewards you as it punishes you with another set of rocky stairs, the view from the top of the cables doesn't quite stay my overwhelming sense of unease.

I would love to own a piece of Yosemite, like a cottage in Wawona or a sliver of a range within an hour of the park. The area is truly perfect and it makes me eternally grateful for visionaries like John Muir and my presidential favorite Theodore Roosevelt.

The latter sums up the Yosemite experience quite handsomely -- Bully!

July 12, 2010

Space Encounters: Board Game Design Part 3

A recent addition to the marketing team at work just so happens to be a 10 year veteran of a board game company. Kyle has had a hand in a lot of really good games and by the look of the collection on his desk, a lot of games I'm dying to play.

I cannot stress how awesome it was to play and discuss my game Space Encounters! with him over the course of an hour. It was also a very cool thing for him to do that I appreciate immensely.

June 28, 2010

Awkward, stumbling mess

Typically these events would be rare enough that I could justify a single post per incidence. Unfortunately, I've been quite inappropriate lately in several back-to-back instances, so I think it's best to condense and combine. Let's get started then!

June 22, 2010

Finger Puns and Me Too Design

I just now obtained an Apple iPad, which means I'm about 4 years behind the times regarding touchpad interfaces. Like a kid in a candy shop, I'm downloading every app I can find.

Only in this candy shop, they only serve Skittles. But they're off-brand Skittles...and tropical instead of regular flavored. These free-to-play Skittles apps are okay at first, but about 18 seconds into each of them you realize it's the same game as the last one you played. You're starving for content and a purpose!

June 6, 2010

A Brief Lesson on Flatulence

This morning my girlfriend and I are walking down a fairly empty street with the puppy. Like a barbarian, I hike up my leg and release a long, loud fart. I start chuckling as I'm quite satisfied with myself.

"I'm embarrassed for you," Beth says.

I continue this depraved conversation. I revel in my personal pride at such a well delivered colon trumpet. I have to raise my voice to so that Beth, who is quickly putting distance between us, can hear me.

"Did you hear me this morning?" I ask. "I was fartin' somethin' fierce!" Apparently, I'm now an uneducated cowboy.

I'm just so smugly satisfied at this point.

I turn around to notice that there is not only someone else on the street I thought to be deserted, but this someone, a female, an attractive female, is about 2 feet behind me.

I am now much less satisfied.

I'm such a douche.

The Magnet: Managing your Expectations of the Benefits of Dog Ownership

As a young, healthy American male I have certain expectations of the Rules and Laws of Attraction. I'm not talking about the James Van Der Beek film, just so we're clear. I think my expectations are both well founded and reasonable, and they are as follows.

May 27, 2010

Board Game Design Part 2

I just held the second playtest for my board game. It went surprisingly and utterly well! Obviously I still needed to do a bit of tuning and re-design, but there were no broad, sweeping changes to the game this time. I noticed a few big things that really made me happy...

May 17, 2010

An Influx of Indie

A month or so ago I had a brief and intense moment of frustration when I was playing yet another AAA FPS that bombarded me with more of the same. A year ago a friend of mine, the lead designer for my team, asked me "how many Call of Dutys can you play before you get sick of them?" Perhaps that moment had finally come?

I decided to give indie games more of a chance.

May 10, 2010

Grant Goes to a London Hotel

I'm staying in London on business. There have already been some awesome things occurring in my hotel. 3 nights to go!

1.) When I tried to dial the front desk for a wake up call, the automatic button instead directed me to a Chinese takeout restaurant. The woman's poor English and my (reasonable) expectations that it was the hotel's front desk clerk made for a very awkward 4 minute conversation.

2.) There is a permanent, wall-mounted flowbee like device for shaving one's face in the bathroom. THE FACE.  I'm really tempted to try it, but too terrified to do so. (I'll update with a picture when I'm back in the states). 

3.) I couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights in my room for  2 hours. I eventually took a shower in pitch black darkness. I also found it strange that no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the hand soap to lather when washing my hands. Turns out the soap was still wrapped in plastic. Too bad it was dark! The lady at the front desk (when we spoke in person) explained I had to insert my keycard into a slot on the wall before the lights would work. Why did we speak in person? Please re-read #1.

4.) My hotel television comes with Al Jazeera. So, if Osama bin Laden makes a new video this week I'll totally have the inside scoop.

5.) This morning I was unable to turn on the shower and was forced to take a bath instead. Apparently, I was able to do this in pitch black darkness, but not with the assistance of the light.

6.) The 10 British Pounds (approx. $18) I'm paying per day for internet access in my room does not cover the cost of internet access 1 floor down in the lobby.

7.) When cleaning my room, the maid took my dirty underpants from the floor and placed them neatly on the desk chair. Good thing I was able to figure out how to use the restroom in pitch black darkness so they were still reasonably clean.

May 7, 2010

My Board Game Design Experience

My creative experience has always been with writing or PC game development. As I am not a programmer, board games were a natural fit for my creative energies. But, they present a different set of challenges I found quite interesting. I thought I'd write down my process for any interested.

April 29, 2010

Crappy Web Game Rant

This year's GDC focused quite a bit on Zynga, social games, and all the accouterments. I didn't attend GDC nor do I play many of these games, but I've read several blogs, opinion pieces, and presentations about Zynga, free to play games, and the "future of our industry."

April 25, 2010

Rocking the Skin Head Look: Life After a Bad Hair Cut

In light of the times I think it's best I enter the disclaimer that I am by no means a skin head. I don't aspire to be one, nor do I act like one. I just look like one from the adam's apple to the top of my misshapen head.

I have cut my own hair for about 6 months now. A buzzed head really doesn't deserve the full price of admission at my local Super Cuts ($17!), and I have grown tired of them calling me "Grang."

"Haircut for Grang!" they shout. "Grang you ready!" Oh ladies!

April 13, 2010

Mosquito Bites and the Loaner

I have yet to join the smart phone revolution. Revolution may be too strong a word as it seems to be commonly accepted as the intelligent evolution by most. Alas, I'm a bit too cheap to stomach the monthly data fees and I've yet to be in public with the uncontrollable urge to Google something.

My phone company desperately wants me to get a smart phone, which is why they constantly have "deals" that "let" me "buy" a smart phone whenever I want. I wasn't aware the choice to purchase is what makes something a steal but by god it is!

February 11, 2010

The Tipping Point* Part Two

In case you're just joining us, I recommend you begin with Part One of this piece.

"How" is one of the most important questions a journalist or inquisitive human can ask. When you calmly sit beside the recent car wreck victim in the hospital you always ask them about the accident itself.

"How did it happen?" you ask. "What did it feel like? Did it hurt?" You're patient, understanding, full of compassion. "How do you feel?" By now you might be stroking their arm, careful to avoid the iv tube.

It's with this last question that you truly open the gateway to the next step, a portion of the journey that is more debilitating than the injury itself. How do people live with their disability? It's something that changes a person forever. Sure, it may heal eventually but it will never be forgotten.

February 10, 2010

The Tipping Point* Part One

It has been a few weeks since the events described in this post, which has allowed the pain to recede slightly into the realm of history and fiction. Almost, but not quite. To quote an idiot self-quoting former co-worker, "Reality is whatever fantasy I choose to believe." 

Boys learn at a very early age that a wound to our special place is more than just the immediate, agonizing shock, but a long lasting pulse of constant pain. I think we can all agree that a kick in the balls is not quite as bad as a cut on the tip. But let's peel this tale back a little bit and set the scene. 

January 29, 2010

Work Appropriate Week!

Despite the certificate I proudly display that says I am certified to be harassment free, I am pretty much a workplace atrocity at times. I'm a fan of inappropriate humor and it doesn't help that one of my best friends is Jewish, my girlfriend is Chinese, and there's practically a fart joke or double entendre in every sentence.

January 26, 2010

Unlocked from Achievement Unlocked and my Impressive e-Penis

I've been chained to my e-penis for too long and it's time I seek my freedom. But I may be getting ahead of myself. What exactly is an e-penis?

January 14, 2010

The "Broments" I Hope to Have in Army of Two: The 40th Day

EA just released Army of Two: The 40th Day, the sequel to the original Army of Two. The best part of Army of Two wasn't the excellent gun play, Unreal 3 visuals, or gun upgrades, but the moments of bromance between two dudes who just happen to be fighting bad, anti-bros together.

Army of Two isn't an action game, but a thinly veiled love story, a bold political statement hot off the heels of unjust laws like California's Proposition 8. I have high expectations for the sequel, which I started last night. It didn't take me long to come up with a short, but totally rad list of new manifestations of the bromance that I'd like to see. Or, broments if you would.

January 8, 2010

A God at the Urinal

Months ago, a good friend and co-worker of mine forwarded me a hilarious Craigslist rant about a guy's urine stream. The author was yelling at the guy he peed next to earlier about how the weak stream the author had was due to the fact he was just topping off before a meeting and how he can normally blast boats around with his awesome urine stream.

He didn't want this guy to think his one-time weak stream was indicative of a small penis.

It was brilliant, well written, and has stuck with me ever sense. It's now impossible for me to pee next to someone without mentally analyzing the volume and velocity of their pee stream.