Monday, December 27, 2010

If Life were More Like the Internet - Volume 1

Back when I was writing for a sketch comedy show in college, I was required to write at least one script a week. Here is one I found in my old files that they thought was a bit too esoteric to be worth producing. I still thought it was funny though.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Game Over" - Recounting my experience as a game tester

"Game Over"

When I was a few months away from graduating college, I applied as a game tester at Vivendi games. It was my first time working at any job, but I was ecstatic to be able to work in the field I had grown to devote my life to. Before being put on the main floor, we had to go through training, which basically boiled down to testing an incomplete build of No One Lives Forever 2 and finding as many errors, bugs, missing textures, sequence-breaking techniques, non-progressions, crashes, and all-around poor programming as possible. Primarily, this was done to train us to use their bug database system. I was near the top of my class during the training, and I caught on very quickly.

After a few days of training, they moved us to the main testing floor, where we were assigned to the console version of The Spiderwick Chronicles video game, a tie-in title for the movie that would be coming out later that year. This meant the game was on a tight schedule and rigorous testing was required before the game could go gold. I knew I was new and I had a lot to learn, but I was quick to try to make an impression on my employers. This was my chance to work my way up from the bottom, and I didn't want to waste it.

I was one of the best testers of my group, but not the best. I would occasionally check my bug numbers against the other testers, and I consistently hovered anywhere between 1st and 5th place. But among about a dozen-and-a-half testers, this was rather impressive.

Work progressed quickly, and I eventually started to receive paychecks. As someone who had never had a full-time job before, this was absolutely alien to me, and I had no idea what to do with so much money. After putting away enough each month for my student loan payments, I started buying things. I started by buying a Wii, and later proceeded to buy all the popular games, gamecube controllers, memory cards, gamecube games, and everything I had never been able to buy before when I had no income.

One evening on Friday after work, I had stopped by Best Buy to buy a second Gamecube controller. Unfortunately, they were sold out. So what did I do? I bought a DS. Think about that leap of logic and you'll understand just how obsessed my little first-time-worker mind was. I also wanted to pick up the latest Pokemon game, but I couldn't remember which version my girlfriend had. I didn't want to leave Best Buy without the game, so I took out my laptop and spent the better part of an hour reading through page after page of IM conversations with her, looking for one important tidbit. At some point, she had said to me which version of Pokemon she owned, but I had no idea when she said it. The clerk working the game counter looked at me. "Are you a salesman or something? What's going on?" I guess a random customer in a store with a laptop did look somewhat suspicious. I shook my head. "I just need to find something out." Eventually though, I found out the passing reference she made and discovered that she owned Pearl. So I grabbed a copy of Pokemon Diamond and the Brain Age 2 DS Lite bundle and made my purchases.

Why am I telling you this? Well, just so you know exactly how I considered my priorities back then. The phrase "Kid in a candy store" certainly comes to mind. Even down to the fact that my local Gamestop is right down the street from my bank, so it was like putting a bar next to an alcoholic's credit union. I had money burning a hole in my pocket, and as a rabid materialist, I was quick to buy anything I thought I would like. I wasn't frivolous to the point of danger, of course. I always made sure to put a little bit of money into my savings account every month, and made sure I had enough to handle unforeseen circumstances. I was spending much more than I should have been. But I didn't care. My entire life, I had never had an allowance, never had more than $350 to my name, and now I had been making as much in one week as I had ever had before in my life. I wasn't going to waste this opportunity to treat myself.

One day I showed up about a half-hour early (As was normal for me, because I took the bus) and took breakfast in the breakroom, looking out the window from the 9th floor. I was the only one there, and there was only the faint hum of ambient office building noise. I felt like I was finally where I always wanted to be. I felt like I was finally getting my life together, and I would be on my way to a long and comfortable career working with video games. I remember one time when I was driving to my bank to deposit my paycheck into my own account. I took a minute to think about what I was doing, and I realized that for the first time in my life, I finally felt like an adult.

Unfortunately, my co-workers were not as enamored with my immaturity and lack of focus as I'd hoped. I was never publicly reprimanded for my actions, but instead my bosses liked to wait until evaluation time to tell me exactly what I was doing wrong. Apparently having one of the highest bug counts in the group wasn't enough. They complained about my appearance and grooming, something I admit was lax at the time, but since it took over 2 hours on the bus and train to get there, and 2 hours back, my free time was severely limited. Couple this with work days that were often longer than 10 hours, and attempting to get 8 hours of sleep every night, as well as make time for chores, gaming with my new Wii that I'd hardly even been able to play, and everything else I had to do during the day, I suppose grooming just sort of took a back seat.

But this was minor compared to something I still think is bullshit to this day. Apparently I had a habit of chiming into conversations that didn't concern me. But when someone is discussing a bug on a game that I consider it my job to know everything about, I'd like to believe it DOES concern me. This one asshole I worked with would call me on this at least twice a week. He would be talking to someone else about a generalized topic, like recent gaming news, or the announced merger between Activision and Blizzard (Which happened while I was working there) And when I tried to join the conversation, he would passive-aggresively say "Oh, I'm sorry. I was under the impression that I was having a private conversation." Well fuck you too, asshole. Next time you want to have a private conversation, why don't you hang a fucking sign around your neck that says "I'M ANTISOCIAL GO AWAY"?

He would do this every chance he got, and one time, right before christmas, I had finally had enough. They were discussing a bug that I had just been reading about on the database, one that was closed as "Not a bug." When I chimed in with, "I heard about that. It's not a bug," He went into his normal schpiel of "This doesn't concern you." I countered with something along the lines of "Well, fuck you. It does concern me! It's my job to know about these bugs and converse with other testers to make sure the game is solidly made, and I am sick of you making me feel like some sort of leper just because you don't want to talk to me." When he ran off to tell on me, I talked to the other person involved in the conversation, who was more friendly than the asshole, and he supported the fact that I wasn't doing anything wrong by joining the conversation, but that I perhaps could have phrased my grievances with a bit more tact.

My boss pulled me aside and we discussed the altercation. Perhaps he was afraid something would happen between us that would be more than just raised voices. He told both of us to take it easy and to enjoy the holiday break. Spiderwick had gone Gold and it was time for the winter development slump anyway.

Vivendi never called me back.

I waited 2 weeks after christmas, and then started calling the temp agency representative who signed my paychecks. I left a message for her every week, both in email and on her voice mail, but she simply refused to call me back, either to let me know when they would have us back, or to let me know to look for another job. Eventually I got so fed up, I actually emailed the person who originally hired me. I got a phone call from the agency representative within 4 minutes of hitting send. She was not pleased. She told me to please refrain from emailing the higher-ups, and that they have bigger things to worry about. I said that I was frustrated, that I wanted to get back to work, and that it's unfair to not tell people when they've been laid off. She informed me that indeed they would not be calling me back to work there, but never said why. I have my own theories.

My time working at Vivendi was one of the best experiences of my entire life. It only lasted about 3 and a half months, but I learned more in that time than I did in 3 years at ITT Tech. I also learned that the gaming industry is very fickle. One minute you're on 9th floor, sipping milk (I don't drink coffee) and looking out the window at the world, the next you're cashing your last paycheck and wondering what you're going to do now.

I guess no one lives forever.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let's Fail Splinter Cell - Mission #01 "To Die and Die and Die and Die and Die in Georgia"



How many times will Agent Zero die before he completes the easiest mission in the game? Place your bets now!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Burning Questions


Sort of an experimental video. If people participate, I may make more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Who's the Best?" An essay by Doug Hancox

I was hanging out at home, playing Starcraft, when a friend of mine came over. He had never played before, but thought it looked like fun, so he wanted to try out a local multiplayer match. I installed a spawn of the game on his laptop and hooked it up to my PC, setting the two systems up back-to-back on my desk. We connected to the LAN and set up the game. I picked Terran because it's the race I've had the most experience with. As I waited for him to pick, he looked over at me and asked, "Who's the best?"

I punched him in the face.

There is something so wrong about this simple question that begs an explanation as to why it even exists. In the interest of competitive spirit, I can understand wanting to be the best. But when you're starting out in a game, you're likely going to get your ass kicked no matter how much of an advantage you have.

I've been asked this question numerous times in various settings. I'd be showing my Magic cards to friends and one of them would ask "What's the best card in the game?" A question like this is not only pointless, but unanswerable. How do you define "best"? and for that matter, wouldn't it simply be one player's opinion in the first place? A card that is good in one deck might be completely useless in another. Or if you get a generally less useful card when the situation begs for you to use it, that's a whole different matter altogether.

The worst insinuation this question makes is that there actually is an answer to it. The primary reason Starcraft is so popular is that it is so wonderfully balanced. There is no "best race." Every race has distinct advantages and disadvantages over the others. Trying to determine the best is folly. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

You should be wary of any game where a player CAN answer this question without thinking about it. In a game like Clayfighter, it doesn't take any thought to pick Blob, because he's just broken as hell. This is indicative of the poor balance in the game, and makes the game that much less fun.

If he were to ask a question like "Who's the easiest to use?" or "Who's the best for beginners?" that would be a much more acceptable query. It shows he doesn't want to be overwhelmed. In Brawl, you don't want to start with a character like Jigglypuff, Olimar, or Luigi, because all of their little nuances require some experience to use effectively. Or in the case of Magic, using a Blue permission deck takes more strategy and knowledge of the game than using a Red spitfire deck or a Green overrun deck.

People who ask "Who's the best?" Almost seem to expect that simply by picking the best character in the game, it can overcome their lack of skill and experience. They don't want to learn anything about the game, they just want to win. They don't want to work to win either, they just want it handed to them.

It's not even a matter of giving the beginner an advantage over the more skilled player to even the playing field, like when I let my friend use Minion in Twisted Metal II. They want to pick the best character because they don't want to waste their time learning any strategies of the lower-tier characters. If they can't be the best, it's not worth their time to even bother playing. This same thing happens in the console wars. People who are only going to buy one system want to buy the best one. But in reality, they can have plenty of fun with any system. There are plenty of enjoyable games available for any system on the market, including the DS and the PSP. If you're a true gamer, you don't let should-haves and might-have-beens get in your way of just enjoying the game.

(Besides, everyone knows the Zerg is the best.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let's Fail Splinter Cell - Mission #00 "Agent Zero"



Wherein Zero encounters his greatest foes... Security cameras and waist-high floors!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vlog 7-17-10

Thursday, July 15, 2010

BioShock and Diablo 2 - Retrospective

You may feel cheated when I combine these games together into a single review, but when I stopped to think about it, they are actually very similar games. While they may follow very different control schemes, plots, storylines, are set in different fiction genres, and in fact belong to completely different game genres, the two games are actually quite similar in terms of basic thought processes.

You begin each game in a strange environment. People around you seem to have a vague idea of who you are, but you're more or less a stranger to them. However, they still need your help, and you are given a number of quests that you have to complete in order to progress.

As you play through the games, you will encounter various enemies. How you kill them is your own responsibility. The game does not discriminate against the way you choose to inflict damage, but certain enemies will be resistant or weaker to specific types of attacks. Switching methods of attack on the fly is key to defeating waves of enemies without too much headache.

When you kill enemies, they will give you loot. This loot is randomly generated and not fixed to any specific progression. Depending on what kinds of items your kills give you, you may choose to focus on a different method of attack; favor a different type of weapon. The difference between what weaponry enemies give you, what you choose to use, and what weapon is most effective against them is the general balancing act of the gameplay, mostly by choosing the most effective weapon for each situation, based on range, speed, strength, and ease of use. Necessity (or laziness), however, may tempt the player to focus on one or two main modes of attack, and only use others when absolutely necessary (or when bored).

The number of weapons you have access to in Bioshock is much, MUCH smaller than in Diablo, but the overall number of weapon types are more or less equal. Weapons can be infused with elemental properties: ice attacks will freeze enemies and make them easier targets, but fire and electrical attacks are also available. Certain enemies are much more vulnerable to particular elements, while others are resistant or even completely immune.

While Bioshock and Diablo both follow a more or less linear plot (You complete the same quests in more or less the same order in every playthrough) in Bioshock, every weapon and enemy you face appears in generally the same location every time, and in fact every map is identical to every playthrough. Every key item and weapon you find will be in the same location and found at the same point in the plot; in some cases these are even required in order to progress.

Diablo, however, gives you a wide selection of weapons. While any specific aspect of them can be simplified by attack speed, range, and whether it is used in one or both hands, these weapons are replaced with stronger varieties throughout the game, andyour choice of what you use is made more complex with the addition of magical modifiers. Magical weapons can be found that provide any number of bonuses, from increased attack rating, higher health and mana, elemental properties, and much much more.

Unfortunately, The majority of weapons you find will be completely worthless to you. Modifiers such as "low quality" "crude" "damaged" or "cracked" are just as common as an unmodified or "superior" weapon, and these weapons are generally not even worth picking up to sell back in town; they aren't even worth the space in your inventory. And even when you do find a magical item, odds are you won't be interested in the item's particular modifiers. But when you do finally get that perfect item you've been hoping for, it's one of the best endorphin rushes in gaming.

Replay value in Diablo 2 is made much higher than in Bioshock based purely on the sheer number of ways you can play through it. Every class has 30 skills, each of which has 20 levels of effectiveness. Since it's impossible to gain 600 levels, you will have to choose what skills your character will focus on for any individual playthrough. Multiply this by 5 classes (7 in the expansion) and the infinite number of maps that can be randomly generated, and Diablo 2 is a game that anybody can play through multiple times and never have the exact same experience.

But the burning question is: would you want to?

What Bioshock lacks in complexity, it makes up for in focus. While it doesn't do nearly as much as Diablo 2, what it does do is highly polished and enjoyable. It may not be as long, but the fact that it can be played through and experienced much quicker means the entire narrative arc can be enjoyed in a shorter amount of time, and gratification is easier to come across. The game is too short to become monotonous, and too focused to become diluted.

Diablo's enjoyment comes from the progression of your character and growing him/her based on your method of play. You become attached not only to your character, but even your items. You hesitate to throw away that awesome sword you found in act 1, that served you so well for two entire acts and matches your character's skills perfectly, even though it has been rendered obsolete by newer equipment and is taking up too many of your inventory slots. But eventually you bite your lip and sell it to the merchant with a heavy heart, replacing it with something that may serve you better, but has no nostalgic attachment... yet. But perhaps in time you will learn to appreciate this one just as much.

Which is a better game? Who can say. It's all a matter of how you play it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Twittering



I don't know why I did this >_<

Friday, June 25, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

OMR Delayed for a few days

Working through some other things right now and can't shoot for a while. Still writing scripts, though!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marijuana



Marijuana's legality differs from state to state in regards to medical use, holding, growing, etc, but in general it is illegal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Let's Play Metroid 2 "Part 3: Kill the Queen"



And that's all she wrote! Be sure to vote on the right which LP you thought was better.

Let's Play Metroid 2 "Part 2: The Pits"

Let's Play Metroid 2 "Part 1: Deja Vu"



Doing this on kind of a whim, just so you can see the difference between Oy and my play styles with the same game.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pandas

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dick Clark

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

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