Birds I’ve seen on my bike

Riding my bike this weekend, I came across a vulture eating a squirrel. Last weekend, I spotted a peacock in another part of town. Both times, the birds were standing in the middle of the road. They seemed cautious as I rode up, but not overly concerned. Both were beautiful in different ways, though it’s hard to tell from the phone photos. The vulture wasn’t hideous; shiny black feathers, gray bands running up its neck and head. The peacock was all irredescent blues and greens, though it didn’t see fit to show me much plumage. Sometimes you get one, sometimes the other.

Last Night in Austin

Last night the Alamo Drafthouse hosted film director Monte Hellman for a double feature. This would not have happened without the efforts of my friend Charles Lieurance, who loves Hellman’s work.

We watched The Shooting (with a young Jack Nicholson) and Two Lane Blacktop (starring musician James Taylor). Both were interesting and beautiful films. (It was actually a triple feature, but I didn’t stay for the Weird Wednesdays showing of the third Monte Hellman film…)

Below are phone pics of 1) Lars talking to Hellman, and 2) the poster the Drafthouse put out. Unfortunately, I was too busy listening to Charles’ passionate introduction to catch a photo of him on stage.

5 Moments

At lunch we were babbling about games over BBQ, a common practice for Arkane’s Austin studio. The subject today was emotional moments in 2007. All part of the ongoing, endless drive to knock it out of the park with a great game no matter how many times you have to get up to bat.

I rattled off my emo moments without hesitation, which means it was a great year:


1) The first time I saved a Little Sister in Bioshock. The perfect swell of music, the little form struggling in your hands, the voice…all perfect. Much more powerful that first time.

2) The moment the puzzle game became a story game in Portal, via empathy for whoever had come before me… Never has so much been said with so few “words.”

3) One of the rainstorm gun battles in STALKER, with an enemy in the dark breathing hard on the opposite side of a pillar. I felt hunted. Honestly, it was like playing an intense game of Capture the Flag in the woods at night at age 13…exhilarating, scary and empowering.

4) The staggering death, post nuke, in Call of Duty 4. “Omg, someone finally did it.”

5) The pistol slide sacrifice at the end of Call of Duty 4. Captain Price is counting on the FNG in a way that is still emotionally evocative. Amazing use of drama.

I think 2007 reinvigorated my faith in games, which had (perhaps understandably) flagged. And all but one of those moments came via console.

I can wait for the followup to these games (in addition to Fallout 3, Far Cry 2 and Mercenaries 2)…omfg, so much goodness.

The murky depths

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Fl0w. Lots of smart people have commented on how the game’s setting and mechanics manage to evoke various feelings.

Additionally, I find that there’s an interesting flirting with death feeling that comes to mind when I’m playing. There’s the sensation that as you go deeper the layers of the world get darker, colder (imagined) and more dangerous; early in the game, the entities that swim several layers below you seem truly threatening. And so in addition to evoking a number of peaceful, positive feelings, the game also sometimes gives me this type of self-destructive thrill…oblivion is below, just keep diving.

It’s amazing that so much springs from such a minimal, elegant game design. I love it.


I was just thinking about Syndicate for some reason.

Great game(s), of course, but what struck me was how smartly Syndicate was abstracted. Anything that the game could represent in detail was featured at a low level, in terms of systems granularity and even physical proximity. Everything else was seen at just the right distance, concealing weaknesses in terms of mechanical variation or precision, animation fidelity, number of character models, etc.

Often, when starting a new project, we forget this and assume that everything in the game needs a very granular, close-up representation. There are so many great lessons in our favorite games.