Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I got my Dr. Horrible DVD in the mail today. I've never been so excited about the mailbox. Now, I don't know for certain why, but no one has been talking about the special features, especially the Evil League of Evil applications, so I won't get into them (I haven't even watched the whole thing yet). But I'm sure many of you (okay, if anyone actually reads this) know that I sent in my own application. I think I'm safe to say that I didn't win. And yet I had this strange excitement to see my video listed in the "Dishonorable Mention" part of the disc along with more than 600 other people.

Ideas That Have Already Been Done

I was going through a list of ideas that I had been keeping, and noticing some of them had already been done. One of them was No HUD. The first place I saw this was on an indie game called Dead Wake. But then I remembered that there was no HUD for the first part of Half Life. It only appeared after the main character got his power suit (or whatever it was called).

The screen shot above is from Unreal Tournament 3 (It's actually from a mod I found), which has a fairly clean HUD, but I still find it distracting. It just screams "I'm playing a game." In the real world, we don't have a percentage on our health. We have three major indicators. The first is pain. I'm not sure that there's a better way to indicate this than numbers, but we haven't even tried to find anything. The second indicator is our appearance. You would think that with today's technology characters could actually bleed when you shoot them, rather than just spraying blood momentarily. The third indicator is the effect an injury has on our body. It has always amazed me that I can still run just as fast with 1% health as I can with 100%. In the real world if I had injuries over 99% of my body, I'd be lying on the ground slowly bleeding to death, not running to the next room for a health pack.

Anyway, that's one idea that I'm starting to see a few other people have.

100 Things I Apparently Have To Do

I got these off of Tiffany's Blog. Not sure where they came from, but it seems like a fairly decent list, so here goes.

Anything that I've already done is in bold. 49 out of a hundred isn't bad.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a Praying Mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched an amazing lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Visited Italy

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Current Project - Justice League Board Game

My current (slowly moving) project is a board game that I'm trying to include a few RPG elements in. I'm using the figurines pictured above. Each character will have different abilities, which makes it difficult to keep it balanced. In real life, would anyone want to be Flash? I don't think so. Superman all the way.

The game will go in two stages. First you'll go around the board fighting villains (on cards). The second stage has proved problematic. I've got a few ideas, but none of them seem quite right. I'm trying to make it fairly open, but it has to have an ending.

The biggest reason I'm working on a board game is for practice. I'm not a programmer. I do art and design, and board games require no programming. Sure, there's a lot of numbers involved, but not like writing a 3d engine.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Story That Never Gets Old

I was reminded earlier today of Romeo And Juliet, and it occurred to me that the story is completely timeless. This story could very easily be rewritten beat for beat as a science fiction epic (imagine a stasis chamber instead of faking a death). It could be a fantasy story as well (use magic to fake death). I think this is why the story is so well received. Anyone in any setting can relate to it.

This gives me two ideas. The first would be to write the sci-fi version of Romeo And Juliet. I don't know if I'll actually do it, but it's a fun idea. The other is that stories, even in games, should be written to stand the test of time. I used to think that in order for a story to be special, it should be entirely original, but the more I study and the more I think about it, the more I see that for a story to really resonate with people, it should seem familiar. Take Star Wars for example. Everything in it is borrowed from something else. The story is the same story as every other hero's journey. And yet we love it, and it will be around for as long as Shakespeare.

Keeping Things Separate

I started another blog that I honestly don't expect anyone to read. I know that sounds a little odd, but this is me we're talking about. I wanted a place to keep my game ideas. So if you're curious, give it a look.

Starting Another Blog That No One Will Read

I've been tossing around the idea of using my other blog for a place for game ideas, but I decided eventually to use it for more personal stuff, since so many people keep asking me what's been going on in my life. Whether they read that blog remains to be seen. But I decided that I should still have a place for my ideas. So here it is.

Now, anyone who's looking into the game industry probably has the same question I had a few years ago. What do I do to protect my ideas? Well, to put it simply, you give them away. Stay with me. It'll make sense. Four reasons for it: First, you can't copyright an idea. Sorry. Second, the only way you're ever going to get someone to let you make your game ideas is for them to know what they are. Third, ideas aren't games. The Force Unleashed had a great idea, but the execution was a bit lacking. Fourth, your ideas aren't original anyway. Take a look at almost any movie, and I'll bet that you can find another movie exactly like it. Compare The Wizard of Oz and Titanic sometime. You'll be surprised. And honestly, is there a real difference between the ideas for Halo and Doom? A little bit, sure, but the big differences are in the execution.

So, stay tuned for a really strange view into the mind of a very odd person.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Firefly Effect

I was reading a bit today about Little Big Planet, and I realized that I'm doing the same thing I didn't understand people doing with Firefly. I have avoided the game because of the hype. My wife refused to watch Firefly for two years after I bought it, simply because I was so excited about it. And she's not the only person to do that. I've even read about people worrying that Dollhouse may have the same problem, being a Joss Whedon show. But here I am, not playing Little Big Planet because it's been talked about so much.

It's worth noting that when my wife did finally watch Firefly, she liked it. She wasn't nearly as excited as I was about it, but she did like it. So I should probably give Little Big Planet a try (I think there's even a free demo).

But my question remains - Why are we so afraid of what the crowd is doing?

Monday, December 8, 2008

♪ Snow! Snow! Snow! ♪

Sure, we've been teased a couple times this year already, but today was the first big snow. Well, I say big, but in reality we had a few feet by this time last year. Today we got a couple inches. But hey, it's snow! And it hasn't melted yet!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Do First Graders Get a Grown Man All Emotional?

I've been volunteering at my daughter's school for a few months now, mostly just helping out in their computer class. Last week I brought in my computer with a trial version of the newest 3DS Max and did a real basic run-through of how a computer model is created and animated, using Wall-e as an example, since he's made of fairly basic shapes. The whole presentation, including the 10 minute clip from the Wall-e DVD, lasted maybe 20 minutes.

Well, I'm fairly certain that they spent a lot longer than that making all these Christmas cards. Tasha brought home a bag full of them, all thanking me for "drooling" Wall-e for them (yes, most of them spelled it that way).

It's good to know I'm appreciated sometimes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Full Screen Hulu On The PS3!

We turned off our DirecTV service a few months ago. It was getting hard to justify paying $70 a month for something we can get online for free at Hulu. For a long time we were watching it on my 21" computer monitor, which kind of works if you remember to disable your screen saver (why hasn't anybody written a Firefox plugin for that?). Then Sony updated the Flash player for the PS3, and we could watch it on the tv again. No full screen playback, but we could zoom in enough to fill the screen. Well, until a new version of Flash came out. Then it stopped working. I tried a few pieces of software designed to stream internet video from your pc to the PS3, but most of them require way too much processing power.

The latest update to the PS3 not only brought Hulu back, but it added full screen playback. And it's ridiculously simple to use. A mouse and keyboard might even make it easier.

This raises two questions. First, why hasn't the television industry realized that this is the future? I can watch what I want, when I want, and I don't have to worry about filling up the hard drive on some DVR. Second, why on earth would anyone pay for cable or satellite?

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Love Having Kids Around

Keith (my four year old) did the funniest thing the other day. He'd never seen Star Wars, and I thought that had better get corrected pretty quickly. We were watching The Empire Strikes Back, and I was curious how he'd react to the plot twist. I wasn't disappointed.

"Darth Vader is his FATHER!? I thought his father was a good guy!"

My P-A-L-N

My new plan is that I have no plan. I'm going to have this as a personal blog. Why not, right? No promises on how often it'll get updated, but it should be fairly regular.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My first instructable

Take a look at the instructions for this, and tell me what you think. I'll be working on a Batmobile next.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Face it, nobody reads your blog

I set up Google Analytics on this page when I started it, and so far I've had 3 people view it. Me, my wife, and one friend. Whoo-hoo. Er something. Now, I know the blog is only a week old, but everyone keeps telling me that blogs are "so last week" or whatever the term may be. So, for the next little bit I'll be making a plan.

Stay tuned. Oh, yeah. I'm talking to myself again.

Stop that, Mike.

Okay. I'll stop.


No problem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let's see how Evil you really are

The Evil League of Evil is now taking applications. For those of you who don't know what that is, go check out the greatest video to ever hit the internet, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lego Batman - Now that's more like it

We picked up Lego Batman yesterday, and I have to say that this is more what a video game should be like. This game knows it's cheesy, and loves it. The priority for Traveler's Tales was obviously to make it fun, not to make it difficult. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good immersive game, but it's nice to just play sometimes.

What has been great for me is the two player mode. You don't end up dragging each other around quite like the older Lego games did, so it's actually quite fun to have a second person join in (in this case, my wife).

Sure, there have been a few times that either me or my wife have yelled at the TV, but it wasn't one of those "Bad game designer, no Twinkie!" things. It was "Harley, quit jumping around so I can smack you!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Force Unleashed - Review

I finished The Force Unleashed for the PS3 last night, and I have to say that a lot of my original impressions still hold true after completing the game.

This is the first time since I turned on invincibility in Lego Star Wars that I really felt like I was playing Darth Vader. It's great to just walk in and start owning the place. It's also nice to see the Apprentice use the run and gun approach instead of trying to manipulate things. That aspect of the game was really fun.

The game was a bit longer than the 6 to 8 hours I've heard, all though not a lot more.

I still love the camera. I love having control of it. My wife, however, hated it. She didn't like having to keep track of that at the same time as the rest of the game. To each his own, I guess. What bugged me though is that the camera control went away as soon as you start a boss fight. During one of the fights there was a pillar in the way, and I couldn't see myself. I was even able to run completely off the screen on more than one occasion.

There were a few other things though that I didn't like, and I've read about them elsewhere also.

Let's go back a bit to the trailer. The Apprentice just reached up and pulled a Star Destroyer out of the sky. Freakin' awesome. That was the moment when we knew we wanted to play this game. Well, fast forward to the present, when you actually get to do this, and it's not so much fun. For some inexplicable reason, you have to turn the Star Destroyer so it's pointed directly at you before you can bring it down. That wouldn't be quite so difficult, except they keep sending waves of Tie Fighters at you, so you can't target the Destroyer without blasting them first. And since the targeting system wasn't really designed for things that are far away, it's pretty much a pain in the neck. By the time you get rid of the Fighters, the Destroyer has moved back to where it was, and you start over.

The targeting system does have its share of bugs. If the guy you're after throws a grenade, you're going to target that grenade instead. The manual said you can lock on to a target, but I could never get it to work. The box around your target is a facing polygon, which makes perfect sense, except I'm pretty sure it faces the character, not the camera. So when the camera goes weird on you during a boss fight, the character may be facing the camera, and you can't see the targeting system anymore.

Overall the game was actually quite good, there were just a few things that really bugged me. Now, I've never been a game tester, so I don't know exactly how it works in those places, but you would think that someone would have them go through the game and answer one simple question about each map: Was it fun?

One thing that I really liked was the story. It's awesome to see games that really do have a plot behind them, along with some great character development. It really is a whole new chapter in the Star Wars saga, one that's quite a bit better than the prequels.

If you do go play the game (which I suggest if only so you can have some real fun with the lightning), head on over to for some hints. They're quite helpful, and they apply to the game in general, not just the Xbox.

Monday, September 22, 2008

QMX has a shiny new store

Any of you who know me saw this coming. Firefly. So here it is. QMX has launched a shiny new store, and if you visit Firefly Ship Works, you can find a coupon for Serenity stuff. Oh, expect to hear more about Firefly Ship Works, since they're making a ridiculously awesome replica of my very favorite ship.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How is Comcast getting away with lying to us?

Wired has a very thorough examination of the recent issues with Comcast, which is certainly worth a read.

I left Comcast about a year ago, even before all this was in the spotlight. It was quite obvious that if I ran a torrent program, my internet connection went to almost nothing. The other thing that bugged me, which no one seems to care about, is their "Burst Speed." They claim that you get higher speeds for the first 20 megs, when in reality I found that after 20 megs I got absolutely nothing. Most youtube videos are larger than 20 megs. Before Comcast introduced their VOIP service, there were no problems, but I think, in my area anyway, that they didn't quite have the infastructure they needed.

So I went with Qwest. I had sworn that I would never use DSL, but there I was. I found that it was better to have things go slow than to not work at all. (About six months after I joined with Qwest, they started offering a 7 megabit connection as opposed to the 1.5 I had been using. I was pretty happy at that point. Now if we could just get those fiber optics...)

I have seen a lot of arguments about how Comcast is the only option you have for internet. You supposedly have no choice. Well, yes you do. You just might have to give up more than you want. It's a free market society. You're not forced to buy anything from anybody.

Here's the problem. We're supposed to know what it is we're buying. I don't care what an ISP does, as long as I know about it when I sign up. Comcast blatently lied to us, telling us that we would have unlimited access. They even denied throttling it when they were called on it. And yet, for some reason, we're just letting them get away with it. That seems wrong to me.

There is only one thing that will speak to Comcast and tell them that we don't approve. Money. If enough people leave their service, they may just feel it in their pocket books, and get the hint.

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. - Albert Einstein

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Emoticon

Aargh! Sorry, had to.

Anyway, today is the birthday of the emoticon. For some reason, it seems to be a controversial subject.

There's of course the debates on which emoticons are acceptable. That's a pointless argument, since all of our chat programs replace them with graphics anyway.

There's even quite a few arguments against emoticons, too many to list here, so give it a quick search. The gist of it is that we should be able to express ourselves without them, especially if you consider yourself a writer of any kind.

Well, I may not be a professional writer, but I've done my share, and I think emoticons are one of the greatest ideas to reach the internet (aside from Talk Like A Pirate Day, of course). See, here's the problem. Sarcasm just doesn't come across in text. A lot of emotions don't, actually. Sure, I understand that some people over use it, but it actually is quite necessary. No one is going to put it in writing that they're using sarcasm. They're just going to put, "Yeah, sure. :-)" And it works. It's short and to the point.

Of course you can't use it if you're writing about someone, because in that case it's considered acceptable to describe someone's feelings. But that's not the case when you're the one talking.

Besides, you can't kill the emoticon. It's too big. I say live on anyway. :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spore and the DRM Fiasco

I'm sure anyone reading this has heard about the horrible reviews that people have left for Spore, and everyone seems to have already put their thoughts in, but there were a few things that I wanted to mention.

First is that this is nothing new. DRM has been a pain in the neck from the beginning. Steam does similar things. My copy of Portal is now tied to my Steam account, which makes it a bit difficult for me to give the game to someone else. I also know a few people who have switched from Windows to Linux just because of Microsoft's ridiculous DRM. And yet somehow it became cool to complain about Spore's DRM. I wish people had started complaining earlier.

The other thing I noticed is how long it took EA to respond. It seems to me that if your customers are mad at you, you should try do something about it. The message they're sending is that their priority is to keep people from playing the game. I doubt that's the mesage they wanted to send, but that's what people heard. In any case, this is not going to be an easy thing for them to fix.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

But I thought Video Games were the Root of All Evil

Today the internet seems to be all over this report about how video games are actually good for kids. There are two things I find interesting about this.

The first is that it says it's the "first national survey of its kind." How have we been arguing about this for so long and never done an actual study? We've been playing video games for decades now, and we've been listening to people tell us they're awful the whole time. Somehow we're just now getting around to doing something about it.

The second thing I find interesting about the report is the list of things that are supposedly good about games. Some of them seem a bit far fetched, like "civic learning opportunities." You know what's good about games? They're fun. Period. People, especially kids, need to play. They need to escape from reality for a while. That's not to say that learning games don't have their place, but we don't need to justify why we play games.

It is good to see a bit more acceptance of games. We're going through the same growing pains that most other entertainment forms went through. It'll pass, if only because the gamers get older and start running things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Force Unleashed - First Thoughts

I've played through the first few levels of the Force Unleashed, and I have to say that all these reviews that are knocking it so hard really don't make sense to me.

How many people have complained that the demo wasn't like the game? Well, it is. Sure, a few of your force powers aren't quite as strong, but that's because it's the beginning of the game. They'll get stronger.

Another complaint is the camera, and that boggles my mind, because I love the camera. I hate cameras that go wherever they feel like, and this one gives me control of it. Thank you. Finally.

As for the length of the game, we'll see how that plays out.

I think the real problem that this game has is the hype. We were all expecting something ground breaking, and all had our own ideas of what it would be, but then the actual game came out and it wasn't what we were expecting. Personally, I look forward to finishing the game. This is a game that has a good story, excellent characters, amazing effects, and fun game play.

Oh, and throwing Storm Troopers around doesn't get boring. I'll do a full review when I finish the game.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm a Website Admin?

I've been trying to get involved in the local Salt Lake City chapter of the IGDA for a while now, including volunteering a while back to maintain the calendar. When I asked if there was anything else I could help with, they mentioned that they needed someone to help with their web site. I am not a programmer. I don't really do code. Yeah, I know HTML isn't exactly difficult, but it's not really my thing, so I've never done much of it. And yet I volunteered anyway. So far all I've done is imbed that calendar and update some links, but hopefully I can make it something worth bragging about. I'm the type that decides what I want to do, then figures out a way to do it. Should prove interesting.

Finally getting on the blogging bandwagon

I've been considering making a blog for a while, but never actually got around to it. Well, Blogger makes it pretty easy, so here it is. I'll be covering everything entertainment and pop culture, mostly games and movies.