Media today

For some reason, the god/goddess of media decided that a number of things would arrive today. I got three books in addition to a History Channel 360 game (which is probably not great, but I want to try when I’m not playing Bully: Scholarship Edition or Burnout Paradise) and an old Bauhaus album I finally replaced (…one I owned originally on cassette).

The books:

1) A collection of short plays by Samuel Beckett: I never read Krapp’s Last Tape and recently–during a conversation about the Graveyard–someone mentioned that it was moving.

2) Game Design Workshop, by Tracy Fullerton, comes highly recommend. I’m working on two projects with Arkane: One with a very short development cycle, and one that’ll be much longer term. For the short-term project, I just hit a milestone that will make the Fullerton book very useful in terms of iterating. (Being at an independent, passion-driven company again is fantastic…Arkane is very agile, social and fun.)

3) Universal Principles of Design, also highly recommended, is a great book that the title describes perfectly.

A couple of years back, as part of my minimalist trend, I got rid of (I’d say) 4/5ths of my books. I like having some on the shelf, but I’d be happier if I could get them all in digi format, on a multi-use device that wasn’t just for reading (like the iTouch).

stones flowers

A friend just sent me a link to a new indie game called the Graveyard.

Huge praise goes out to the creators of this interactive work that touches on the ways in which death moves us. This interests me in part because I’ve talked off and on about “a game about death.” Talking to MTV on a panel with Will Wright, Cliffy Blezinski and David Jaffe, I mentioned that I’d be fascinated for personal reasons with a game depicting a human character at successive stages of life, dealing at each stage with a death and with the ongoing ravages of physical deterioration (altering the player-character’s movement model). But while I was wanking about, the creators of the Graveyard created something interesting.

Today I played around with the trial version of the Graveyard, then bought the full version for $5. Hopefully, others will check it out.

The Graveyard has great presentation, in terms of graphics and audio (including the music). I did walk off screen once and couldn’t recover. And while I appreciate the approach of not over-informing the player, I’d have liked more info on the controls. (It took me a while to figure out how to exit even.) The biggest critique of this (brilliant) indie work is the lack of interactivity; it’s not quite “a series of interesting decisions.” But I find it completely heartening that the game industry is rapidly broadening to allow for creative works like this, along with Facade, the Marriage, Passage, Braid and the like.

In my dreamworld, there’d be an expanded version of the game, wherein the player’s goal was to die with contentment. Imagine a faintly saturate bubble around the main character, with a little color…the last shreds of her vitality. Full exploration of the graveyard would reveal similarly hued areas in an otherwise black and white world; each colored spot would mark the grave of someone lost to the old woman, with whom she had an unresolved conflict. Each of these graves would represent a pocket world, a window into her past that would allow her to try, in her mind, to resolve the conflict she had with someone now gone. Imagine a room in the 1920’s, where she argued with a lover for the final time. Imagine her sitting on a boardwalk bench, fighting with her best friend over someone they both wanted to date. In another spot, she remembers a bitter fight with her youngest child who was never happy. The core game loop would, of course, be a challenge, but I would love to see her success in her last hour on the planet be driven by how successfully she came to terms with these past conflicts. With the passage of time and the emotional exertion of dealing with each memory, she’d get closer to death; with the successful resolution of each past conflict, she’d get closer to contentment. The game could then end with a discontent or content death.

In any case, I love the Graveyard and wanted to pass this along. Kudos to the team.

The Graveyard.

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.


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


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.

Long live role-playing games

I remember Roger Zelazny’s death poignantly because I always wanted the chance to tell him “thanks,” but never got the chance. So I am truly happy that I got the chance to interview Gary Gygax before his passing, as a way to highlight his influence and his contribution. I made it a point to seek out Michael Moorcock a few years ago to have lunch with him for the same purpose.

Gygax (and Arneson and many others) had such a huge effect on me as a gamer and as a person. It’s hard to execute great (or even good) video games. As someone who loves games and wants to see our medium spread to every person on the planet, I see this death as a significant event simply because it marks the end of a life that was full of significant influence over games (of many flavor), storytelling, film, books and even the way people socialize.

Gygax is gone. (As my friend Steve Powers lovingly put it: “Gygax is at -10 hit points.”) His influence, of course, is not gone. Same with Zelazny, the voice of my youth. Odd timing, but now my friend (and influential game designer) Erick Wujcik is sick.

All this makes me sad, but it also reminds me to tell people every chance I get when they’ve impacted my life in a positive way.