March 29, 2011

If I said your show was a total pile, would you hold it against me?

Tickets for Britney Spears' free concert went live this week and sold out in somewhere between 8 to 15 minutes. Beth and I were lucky enough to snag a pair. I must admit, despite being a whackjob pop star with a questionable amount of talent, I was psyched to see Britney Spears.

Britney Spears! Hit Me Baby One More Time! Toxic! Britney Bitch! Admit it, you know all of her songs. If you went to high school in the late 90s you know what I'm talking about. She was everywhere and she was hot.

We were excited. Then, late Saturday night at a cousin's birthday party, Beth's aunt reveals she has a friend who can get us VIP tickets. What? What! We snatched those suckers and gave our peasant tickets to a friend. Excitement turned to ecstatic. The Germans have a word for this: uberglucklich

March 17, 2011

Converting the Heathen

During my sophomore year in college I started dating a girl who I met at a copy shop on campus. She was a bit quirky and definitely outside my normal type: outspokenly liberal in her beliefs, had a "questionable" liberal arts major that included a significant portion of Women's Studies, she had tattoos, and most threatening to our way of life, she was vegetarian. In fact, she'd been a vegetarian for four years. This wasn't a fad, a phase, or a curiosity.

Quick, someone call Joe McCarthy!

These things didn't bother me, but they freaked out my parents. Honestly, that's just something parents do.

We started dating in October, so it was perhaps a tinge early in our relationship, especially considering my parents not-so-great opinion of her, to bring her home to Texas for Thanksgiving. But, I'm an optimist.

My parents would ask things like "But...what is she going to eat?"

"Non-meat things, obviously," I replied. Then my aunt would call. "What is she going to eat?" Then my parents would call again. "What is she going to eat on the 6 hour drive home?"

I began to wonder if I meant to say "she doesn't eat meat," but instead accidentally said "she cannot exist in an Oxygen-based planetary environment without a special hazard suit."

We arrived and I began to parade around my fabled girlfriend from faraway lands. I half-expected my parents to give a tip to the local newspaper and/or police.

My mother is terrible at avoiding the elephant in the room, especially the elephant that is primarily visible only to her. She cannot not poke the bear. This is her greatest flaw and easily the greatest source of my family's amusement throughout my life. She began making incredibly awkward jokes about meat, and tattoos, and anything else that would emerge. My girlfriend took it all in a surprisingly cheerful way.

The day of Thanksgiving arrived and my father set about his holy work. Some quick background info. My father is an incredible cook with a specialty in meat, particularly BBQ. He has won BBQ competitions! When I come home from California I send my mother a list of things I expect to eat during my visit. I look forward to his meats.

Years ago, my father grew tired of dry, baked turkey and began injecting delicious, spiced marinades into turkeys and then deep frying the turkey. What emerges from the process is a bird so delightful it is as if a southern, banjo-playing god blesses it himself. The bird smells incredible and the smell is inescapable. When cooked, it covers our entire 2 acre lot.

My girlfriend was not immune to the scent, no more than a bear can resist salmon leaping from a stream. Slowly, but surely, she wandered to my father's cooking shack. She loomed over the bubbling, frying turkey with wild eyes and inhaled as deeply as her lungs could manage.

My father, like Satan in many biblical verses, appeared out of nowhere and offered the forbidden fruit. "Would you like to have some?" he asked.

" it's okay," she responded. "I'll just smell it." She tried to present a strong resolve, but everyone could see through her facade. Especially my father.

Minutes later he removed the turkey from the oil and began cutting it with his electric knife. My brother, cousins, and myself swarmed him like vultures as he'd hand out little snippets of the hot, delicious meat. The oil was still dripping from the portions and the flavor was heavenly!

Again, she loomed. Again, my father asked, with a backdrop of his delighted customers behind him.

"Are you sure you don't want some?" he asked.

", it's okay," she responded.

God parted the clouds at that moment. A ray of sun bathed her like a spotlight on a stage actress. With the sound of a thunder clap the sky erupted with the lord's command of "FINISH HER!"

"It's okay," my father cooed. "Just try a little." With that, he offered her a napkin covered with the tiniest sliver of deep-fried turkey.

She took it, breathed deeply, knowing her life was about to change, and ate the turkey.

We have long since broken up, but two things came as the result of my father's poultry intervention. One, she is no longer a vegetarian and hasn't been since that day. And two, my father to this day celebrates Thanksgiving as the day he converted the heathen.

March 15, 2011

Walk in the Rain Board Game

We're in the middle of the rainy season in San Francisco. I find myself walking home during the rain at least once a week. I walk, because traffic slows to a halt and taking the bus would take an hour or more.

Walking in the rain is interesting, but ultimately not pleasant. I was curious if I could make a Board game based on the experience. What emerged is the board game linked below. It's not broad or deep enough for a full game, more like a quick, 20 minute experience that plays with a mechanic.

The mechanic is good and bad karma, basically, how the choices you make when trying to get home impact others as well as yourself.

I think the concept is fun and the mechanic is entertaining. I want to take it further and make something bigger out of it. For now, here is Walk in the Rain. You can see the simple game board at this link here.

I want to thank my playtesters Mike P., Andrew deB., and Beth W.

Copyright 2011 Grant Rodiek

March 13, 2011

Stupid Facebook 30 Day Music Challenge (in one post!)

There's this stupid thing on Facebook (shocking, right?) called the 30 Day Music Challenge. Music is a big part of my life (really, it should be a big part of everyone's life) and I couldn't help but join in.

March 2, 2011

The Game Developer's Conference in Quotes

I will only be at GDC a little bit, partially because it costs too much, and partially because I need to work to promote my game at the same time. But, I do read a lot of the articles and snippets because there is a lot to be inspired by and learn from. I thought it'd be fun for me and my reader (singular) to grab some of the quotes that really resonated with me.

"The people who come to your product first matter...Meeting their expectations is key to your product's success."


"[...] positive team experiences make people want to hang around." 
Tom Cadwell, Riot Games (League of Legends)

Read the full write-up here.

A victory is far more enjoyable than a defeat, and a defeat is far more enjoyable with a "good game" instead of a racial slur.

In general, positive motivation is better than negative motivation, in my opinion. I have no idea where to find it, but I read on the Valve Developer Wiki once about how "the enemy AI doesn't exist to beat the player. They exist to make the player feel awesome and die gloriously."

"It's really surprising how a lot of companies don't have a good customer support team, but we managed to do it across hundreds of thousands of customers while also developing the site. It's not really that hard, you just have to sit down and answer e-mails."
Jeffrey Rosen, Wolfire Games/Humble Indie Bundle

Read the full write-up here

I've dealt with Sony's customer support lately and I've heard both from non-industry friends and my former customers how awful EA's customer support can be at times. I know it isn't easy, but I feel like sometimes so much bureaucracy and formality is put into what really needs to just be an honest, quick response.

"Teams should aspire to iterate daily."
Daniel Cook, Spry Fox

Read the full write-up here

Just a good lesson! You must constantly tweak and massage designs and implementation until they just sing. I think this is something I absolutely love about mobile development, because the games are typically smaller so it's easier to try new solutions and ideas. I love playing the build over night or the weekend, taking notes, then working with the team to try new things in the morning.

"What Lambe wishes to create are games that he wants to create but are also games that people want to play and want to pay for."
Gamasutra paraphrasing Ichiro Lambe, Dejobaan Games

Read the full write-up here

I just think this is a good thing to remember. We're making entertainment experiences for people to enjoy. I think there is value in trying out ideas that aren't necessarily commercial...I do this with my board games. But, we need to remember to make a game that others want to play. Games are meant to be played and enjoyed!

"Just because someone loves a console experience, for example, doesn't mean they're going to want a "lite" or scaled-down version in the mobile or downloadable markets. Consumers want a unique game experience. "


"Instead of looking at what console games are doing, look at what they're not doing."
Gamasutra paraphrasing Donald Mustard, Chair (Shadow Complex, Infinity Blade)

Read the full write-up here.

This is so fundamental yet so often ignored. Look at the titles that flood a new handheld or mobile device when it launches. Sub-par FPS games that just don't work on the control scheme, versions of the game that just exclude so many features.

I think in general you must develop a game to take advantage of the strengths of the platform. This goes for PC, motion controllers, console controllers, touch screen devices, and more. 

"When it comes to mobile devices in particular, the device has unique considerations: Where do people play?"
Gamasutra paraphrasing Donald Mustard, Chair (Shadow Complex, Infinity Blade)

I think about this all the time and it's really interesting. For example, I play games on the bus, usually one-handed because my other hand is holding onto the rail. Most of my guy friends play when they are going #2 in the restroom. My girlfriend only plays at night typically in bed before she goes to sleep. You cannot rely on the player to be sitting in front of their computer or TV with the sole focus of playing a game!

"This is what engages the players. Nintendo provides the model for this: delivering joy through delicate touches."
Vijay Thakkar, Zynga with Friends (Words with Friends)

Read the full write-up here.

This was always true working on The Sims. We'd play, figure things out, and add them. More often than not, our players would be laughing about and discussing these tiny polish tweaks more than the features themselves.