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Monthly Archives: April 2015

PSA

Life has been changing quite fast this past month.

I thought that I would have more time to game, now that I’m more or less single again. That turns out to be false.

I’m in a state where I really need to start focusing my skills and interests into a profession(s). Musically, I’ve been playing out more. I am also teaching more, and probably will need to teach more to supplement my income. Recently, I began leaving early for work to beat the traffic, and I am spending the extra half-hour each morning exploring game development.

All of this means that by the time I am done with my 6:30am-8:30pm schedule, I am really, really exhausted. I may have three–maybe four–nights a week when I’m home by 5pm, and at this point, I want to spend those night playing whatever game I feel like playing. Sometimes I just want to read something, or passively take in a TV show or a movie. I can’t even commit to a casual game like Hearthstone, where effort is needed to gain cards and more mental effort to experiment with deck-building. My MMO excursions have slowed down dramatically these past couple months. I feel bad being part of guilds, and not even remembering people’s names because I only see them once or twice a week, if even that. Last night, I came home at 7:30pm and went straight to bed without dinner. This morning, I am deliberately skipping my game dev time to write this post.

I want to be more involved with all of you wonderful people I’ve met in the online space over the past year, but I may be coming up against a hard wall here. I love the twitter gaming community. I love my WildStar and FFXIV peeps. The blogging community here is awesome. Maybe it won’t be so bad and I can start doing more as I adjust to my new lifestyle. We will see.

For now, I will cheer you guys on from my twitter feeds between lunch breaks and commutes.

Time to get to work!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Life

 

The Meaning of It All

I’ve been doing some self-exploration.

I’ve been chasing a musical career for a while now through schooling, playing, directing, and a little bit of teaching. Even with all of this knowledge in my head and the many years of experience, I’m not sure that it’s the right thing for me anymore. I love music. I’ve loved it since I was little and envious of my older brother getting to take violin lessons, while my mom and I listened from the next room. I loved music while playing in my school orchestra, and loved it even more when I bought a guitar and started playing rock music with my buddy. After studying jazz and classical music in college, and then spending a few years at a prestigious modern music school–where everybody was better than me, and great music was everywhere–I loved it more than ever. But now I realize that–while I love it–it’s not something I wake up every morning feeling inspired to do. For one reason or another, it’s a difficult chore when I set my creative mind to it.

Composing music is not something inherently inspiring to me. The inspiration comes from the craft, and seeing simple ideas develop into a well-formed, multi-layered, intellectually and emotionally stimulating piece. And it’s much easier for me to appreciate another’s craft than to do it myself. Maybe it’s just a simple thing like not having a proper workflow, where I can lay out all of my ideas and come back to refine them later–like I do with writing. There’s probably some of that, since music is much harder to pin down than the written word.

Spending the last several years planning weekly performances, practicing with several bands of varying skill levels, and feeling the drain it leaves on me at the end of the day–despite the moments of joy when the music finally comes together–leaves me questioning whether this is really the life I want. I will never quit music, and will keep getting better–albeit at a slower pace than those dedicated to the art–but, I’m finally discovering things about myself that may lead me to the next step in my life.

While it’s difficult for me to be inspired to create music on a whim, I don’t feel that barrier with writing. Since last June, when I started my foray into this medium, I’ve discovered that I really do love it–even when what I thought would be a half-hour writing project turns into a three hour one. I never hated doing it in school, but at the time, I felt it was a necessary chore just to pass my classes. Now I see that it’s a way to set the whirling, chaotic mush of my thoughts down into a fixed, permanent form. It’s a way for me to contribute to the never-ending dialogue of ideas. It was probably all the fantasy and science fiction novels I read during high school and the intense daily MUDding sessions which somehow seeped into my subconsciousness. That’s a lot of text I must’ve read.

I really enjoyed the last few months I’ve spent writing, blogging and self-editing. But now I have some new questions for myself: Why am I writing? Am I writing for the sake of writing? What is going to keep me writing for the foreseeable future?

I’ve been watching, listening to, and reading a lot of Ken Levine interviews these days, as written in my last post. This has me really thinking about exploring the world of game writing and development. Will it fit my personality and skill sets? Is it something I can be excited about doing every day? Is writing for and/or developing a video game something I will be passionate about?

Years of musical study–as well as a lover of books, films, and video games–have taught me to be observant of the craft of “time-based” artwork. These things have a beginning, middle, and end. They take the participant through a journey and the experience is often multi-layered. For a song, there is the flow of the musical composition, perhaps from a simple beginning to a climactic ending, both in the build-up of musical ideas and instrumentation; and there is the lyrical content which reveals the story piece by piece, oftentimes repurposing lyrics which emphasize the story–and sometimes even changes it–when repeated throughout the song. A film may build up a story through its actors, cinematography, plot development and music, all to create an emotional impact in the viewer by the time the credits roll. A video game can use the player’s involvement with the characters to make it a really personal experience, all the while engrossing them in the story and action throughout. No matter the medium, all of the interlocking parts must work together to create something transcendent of the individual components.

There is a certain pacing necessary in all of these mediums to streamline the flow of user experience to funnel the participant into the intended emotional state; the craft and insight to cut out extraneous content that detracts from this goal. The act of intense, purposeful editing turns what was once just a bundle of good ideas into a cohesive, immersive, emotionally satisfying–and even life changing–experience.

I love editing. Well, no. I love crafting. I love to chisel out what I have in front of me to create the final product that I would be satisfied if I were the audience. Can I combine this skill with my newfound love of writing and make something of it? Do I have a compelling and personal story to tell, and deliver it in a way that can be worthy of your time? How much will I be able to do myself, and how much will I have to collaborate with other talented people? What form will it take? What will be the central mechanics of the gameplay? The more I work on this idea and the more I flesh it out, the more I see the possibilities and the limitations. But I am excited about it.

Maybe these months of blogging was a preparation for something else. Grabbing an inspired thought from my head as I go throughout my day, developing it until it becomes something substantial, and then editing it into a focused product. I have developed a writing workflow that works for me; something that I haven’t been able to do with my music. It’s something that I can open up my computer before work and tinker with–add new ideas, develop characters and expand on storylines.

As a creator, I believe I have several things to offer: the love of great story; the awareness of the importance of an emotional experience and its delivery; a critical eye for great writing and great music; awareness of “flow”; the ability to self-edit and be flexible to changes; meticulous attention to detail; decent writing ability. As an amateur, there are other things I need to develop: the craft of writing, especially game writing; the awareness of the possibilities and limitations of gaming systems; coding; and probably much more that I will realize as I go on.

It’s all new and daunting, and I feel severely “under-leveled”. But at least it’ll be an adventure worth taking.

Quest accepted.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Gaming, Life, Music

 

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The Bioshock Effect: From Ideas to Implementation

I think it was about two weeks ago that I finally went and finished the Bioshock Infinite DLCs. I had played the main game last year, but held off venturing back into Rapture. I am sort of a scaredy-cat when it comes to video games. The only Resident Evil game I’ve played is the first, which I never finished. I’ve never finished Doom 3 or Alan Wake either, and struggled to finish the first Bioshock. I only made it through my first journey through Rapture because of the game’s amazing narrative – and also because I gave in and switched the difficulty to Easy.

My feeling now that it’s over is that… well, I’m sad that it’s over. Not sad at the outcome–I can accept it and live with it–but sad that I have to say my goodbyes to these wonderful characters I’ve shared a part of my life with; sad that I have finally turned the last page of this amazing story. I fell in love with the captivating voice-acting of Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth), especially toward the dramatic final moments of Burial at Sea, and then again with her singing. I watched several interviews of her on YouTube, which led me to watch interviews with Ken Levine, the writer and director of the series.

Several weeks later, I am still watching, reading, and listening to Bioshock related content. But, more importantly, I am becoming more and more drawn to this whole world of narrative game-development. Ken Levine’s talk and interview at BAFTA was fascinating. So was his talk at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference. Also, this interview with GameSpot.

Wow.

It was very eye-opening to hear over three hours of insights and perspectives from the mind behind one of the most well-crafted, emotionally satisfying game franchises I’ve ever played. What really got to me is the fact that he is first, a writer, who had to take his “ideas” and execute them in an effective way–not just to create an enjoyable gameplay experience, but to also create a fully immersive world the players can “live” in; to also create a relationship between the players and these walking, talking, bundles of code; and to ultimately leave the players speechless, jaws dropped, by the time the end credits roll.

That is a lot to ask of yourself and your team. But he did it, and I’m so grateful that he did.

I enjoy masterfully crafted works, from books to movies, songs to video games. The end-effect of these masterpieces are that they transport me to a moment of wonder, a moment of awe, a moment where something shifts inside of me and my life is changed somehow. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite certainly did that for me.

This has me thinking. Can I create a similar kind of experience for others? Would it be through writing? Music? A video game? How can I create an environment where someone, who is not me, can experience all the nuances of a complex emotional state that I once experienced?

In a couple of those interviews, Ken said something interesting. He said that ideas alone are worthless without proper execution. That hit me as well, because that’s the whole reason I started to write. Because I had things inside of me that I wanted to convey to others; these formless, ethereal -somethings- floating within our minds. There’s no real way for me to know whether I am succeeding or not, but I can only try, and then keep trying, until it clicks in somebody else’s mind. There is a craft in conveying ideas, and I certainly have a lot more crafting to do.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Gaming

 

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Games that Shaped My Childhood

So, a couple days ago, @jaedia, @maekagaming and @mylin1 on Twitter were chatting about this site: anilist.co. It’s a site where you can share what anime or manga you are watching, reading, or have watched and read in the past. I made an account and started to sift through their catalog which can be sorted in a few ways. The one I chose was by year… and it goes all the way back to 1986. I started browsing through and adding each one I remember watching as a kid – and I couldn’t stop. I kept going until I browsed through all of the years from 1986 to 2015. It was like reliving my childhood through remembering what I used to watch; some of them many, many times. Growing up with Japanese blood in my veins, I was fortunate enough to be able to watch a lot of these before the genre even became popular in the “West”. Some shows and movies, I know will feel ridiculous if I watch them now, but it was a part of my life back then. I haven’t gone through the lists of manga, and I’m not sure that I will, since the process was so time consuming!

This made me think: What games have I played throughout my childhood? I made a list from memory, some with Google’s help (what was that tank game in Atari… or that plane game?), but mostly from memory. Games that made a lasting impression on me. Games which I spent many hours trying to beat, and still failed (curse you Ninja Gaiden…). Games which I shared and played together with my friends. These span back from my childhood days to probably around college. A lot of more current games are not on this list (like the Bioshock Series), which definitely left an impact, but wouldn’t consider a part of my “childhood”. I’d say my active gaming life stopped after that until last year, when I kind of dove head-first back into the gaming scene once more. I’m probably missing some that I shouldn’t be forgetting, but here’s my list:

ATARI: Missile Command / River Raid / Qbert / Donkey Kong / Combat

NES: Super Mario Bros / Final Fantasy / Dragon Quest 3 and 4 / Legend of Zelda / Fire and Ice / Balloon Fight / Contra / Super Contra / Megaman 3 and 4 / TMNT 1 and 2 / Tetris / Gradius / Double Dragon Series / Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2

Gameboy: Zelda: Link’s Awakening / Super Mario Land / Solar Striker / Warioland / Dr. Mario / Picross

SNES: Zelda: A Link to the Past / Super Mario World / Super Robot Taisen Series / The Great Battle Series / Goemon Series / Final Fantasy 4 and 6 / Dragon Quest 5 / Ogre Battle / Tactics Ogre / Star Ocean 2 / Tales of Phantasia / Chrono Trigger / Secret of Mana / Secret of Evermore / Final Fight

Sega Genesis: Streets of Rage 1 and 2

N64: Golden Eye / Super Mario 64 / Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Playstation: Tekken 3 / Soul Caliber / Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 / Final Fantasy VII / Final Fantasy VIII / Chrono Cross / Grandia / Xenogears / Legend of Dragoon

PC: Oregon Trail / Number Munchers / Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? / Outnumbered! / Hugo’s House of Horrors / Monkey Island 1 and 2 / King’s Quest 1-6 / Police Quest and Space Quest (Don’t remember which of the series) / Quest for Glory / Wolfpack / Doom 1 and 2 / Duke Nukem 3D / AD&D: Pools of Radiance / Myst / Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time / Diablo / Warcraft 2 and 3 / Warlords 3 / Starcraft / Baldur’s Gate 2 / Morrowind

Online (MUDs): Gemstone III / Iconoclast / Achaea: Dreams of Divine Lands

Does any of this compare with your gaming history? What games shaped your childhood? (BTW, If anyone wants to see my anime/manga list, check it here.)

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 
 
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