Back in Austin

After missing our flight and spending the night in New Jersey, Raph and I finally made it back yesterday. Now I’m trying to recover from jetlag and exhaustion.

What a great trip to Lyon. We had some meetings and worked on some creative stuff, but also spent a lot of time socializing with the guys from the Lyon office. Here are a few more pics:

View of Lyon from CathedralThe Smart Car

This is the bar we haunted on several nights. Romu took us there the first time, then later Marco took a group of us.

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On the final night, we had dinner with Raph’s family and friends. Fantastic food and great company.

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Lyon, France

My stars I love France. In many ways, Lyon is better than Paris: No tourists, no pressure to be cool. Just a working European city.

The first night Raphael and I were here, we were up for 32 hours, including travel, and we ate couscous and lamb at a Tunisian place off the town square.

Last night, knifed by the wind, we walked to Bistro St. Paul and ate truffles and cassoulet. Later, we met up with some game developers from Widescreen and one of the guys from the Polish team that made the Witcher at a bar themed in the American 60′s. Post bar, we waited on the *last* train of the night at the Vieux Lyon stop. At the next metro stop, we were out of time…no more trains. So we walked back to the hotel in the bitter cold.

What a great city.
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Gamelab in NYC

I was in Manhattan yesterday for a meeting. Afterward, with 7 hours to kill, I went by the Gamelab studio to hang out with Eric Zimmerman. (I had “vegtarian duck” at a Thai place.) I walked a lot, got to hang out with another friend over coffee, went to a great used book store called The Strand, and had some of the best sushi I’ve had in years. Great trip. I read the book The Cement Garden cover to cover on the trip home. (Most recent books, The Cement Garden and Blood Meridian. Both amazing in different ways.)

Images from the breakroom window at Gamelab:

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Portal Action

Traveling back from Florida, my Very Clever Girlfriend(tm) noticed a great Portal photo op. (Portal is another Game of the Year contender…way to go Valve and the Narbacular Drop/Portal team. The gamplay is great, but the fiction and atmosphere are equally impressive.)

Pittsburgh

I got back at midnight from Pittsburgh, where I spent three days visiting Carnegie Mellon University’s excellent Entertainment Technology Center. (CMU ETC)

I talked to the cool faculty there at the ETC and hung out with students. I also gave a speech on player-to-avatar relationships in games.

I had never been to Pittsburgh. Prior to the trip, I visualized it as a huge steel factory or something similarly industrial. Instead, I found the city picturesque. The trees were all bright yellow and red (which my Ethiopian cabbie said would only last 2 weeks), there were lots of interesting bridges, and the city was much hillier than I expected. The houses were quaint (and commonly less than a hundred grand, I’m told). To my eyes, Pittsburgh, PA looked like an idealized vision of the Northeast from countless movies.

I spent some time in Southside, which reminded me of Austin. We went to a good coffee shop called Beehive, and a restaurant that used to be a sidewalk cart called Cambodican. That part of town had a good vibe.

Another highlight included a super fun dinner at Monteray Bay, with faculty members Juleigh, Rebecca and Drew. I learned from the delightful ladies that Italian families up north have an extra oven in the basement (which I can only assume is not some sort of naughty metaphor…). I also attended an advanced screening of Flushed Away, which was pretty funny.

I happened to pass the CMU football team scrimmaging at night, which was really amusing. I cannot believe CMU has a football team. The guys on the field seemed like there were my size. Very different than UT football. (Not that I follow it anyway, but I never would have guessed that CMU would have a football team, in any case.)

I have to say that the ETC program seems excellent. It’s a masters degree aimed at leadership and technology as applied to entertainment media. Very cool, and the facility itself was amazing. The staff were fun and stimulating.

Some pics from the trip:

Football scrimmaging

CMU Football, scrimmaging on a chilly night.

Cab ride!

Me, in yet another cab.

Bargin’ in

A barge moving down one of the rivers, from a CMU conference room window.