Category Archives: General

General

Happy Birthday, Mrs D

The longer you’ve known someone, the harder it is to come up with something truly excellent for a birthday gift. Back when we were first married, it was possible to astound Mrs D with seemingly incredibly conscientious and well-considered gifts without too much trouble. For the most part, the key was just listening and remembering the important stuff, and on a few occasions it has involved timing a really big purchase so that it coincided with the approximate birthday time frame. Like cars. Which always go down pretty well, particularly if they’re luxury convertibles. In the old days, jewelry was a reasonably easy cop-out too. Rings, necklaces, ear rings, bracelets… you can get through a fair few years with well-considered purchases in that general area and keep the Mrs in a fairly steady state of awe at your impeccable taste and/or ability to interpret finger-pointing in catalogs and store windows.

After nearly nine years of being married and more than 10 years together though, it’s definitely getting harder. “Needs” start to outweigh “wants” (“we really need a new [insert boring thing for the house here] so maybe just get that?”) and you can’t just buy jewelry indefinitely, because it stops being romantic and starts being boring. So…what to buy the woman that apparently has everything? (Hey, she has me. What more could she possibly need?) This year, the boys and I went in on attempts to satisfy a triumvirate of needs/wants in an effort to hit the full spectrum of wifely/motherly needs.

By way of practical, domestic luxury cooking item we bought her a bread maker, informed by some comments made a few weeks ago after a neighbor brought us some home-baked bread. Humorously, these comments were later redacted by Mrs D, but by that point it was too late… the Amazon order was processed and the appliance shipped. For something practical in a different way (but still luxurious to some degree) we bought a pair of expensive Oakley sunglasses, and for something luxurious and pretty/girlie, my little guy picked out a silver bangle at Nordstroms. He also had all the salespeople in the jewelry department swooning at how charming he is during the process. He is nothing if not a real charmer. That boy’s going to be trouble when he gets older.

The result? Great success, I think. But I now I’m completely out of ideas for our wedding anniversary next month.

My life, shared

Here’s what I chose to share with the world today. There’s usually no rhyme or reason to what I post on Facebook or Twitter, but sometimes I find looking back to be an odd insight into my mood, and my level of engagement with the world in general.

So, to start with, I shared this picture of the back wall of my office. As part of the Trans-Bay mass-destruction/redevelopment thing, they’re tearing down the old bits of freeway that have been dangling above San Francisco for years. Big chunks of it ran right behind our building.

Next, I shared the fact that the “Let It End Like This” exhibition in New York is going to open this week, and the gallery had posted a preview with some pictures of all the pieces (including mine) on their website. The link to that is right here.

After that, I’d clearly been cruising news sites while eating lunch because I shared a story about antibiotic-resistant germs living on BART seats. Ick.

After this, I was clearly pretty repulsed and went completely dark.

What does this say about me? Destruction? Creativity? The pursuit of artistic recognition? Germs?

What I’m playing

One of my favorite parts of the old 1UP Yours shows (and subsequently my favorite part of any other shows I end up guesting on) are the “Whatcha been playing?” segments. Belaboring under the false impression that any of you actually give a crap about what I’m playing at the moment, I thought I would occasionally revive the concept here. This is hopelessly self-serving in several ways. 1) It makes me feel important and somehow entitled to tell you what I think is worth checking out or not, and 2) it gives me a templated approach to this blog that lets me get super-lazy and just default to something without having to give it too much thought when I can’t think of anything else to write.

So…

Battleheart

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it to quite the extent that I have, but I am totally and utterly hooked. For $2.99 you get a wonderful game with tons of replay value that’s optimized for both the iPad and Retina display on iPhone 4. If you’ve not had the chance to check it out, you really should. Imagine the fundamentals of MMO-style combat, with a touch-interface, and visuals as cute and kooky as Castle Crashers. Each battle is a single-screen affair, and you control four characters (from a much larger selection) that fall into the basic categories that you find in RPGs. There are magic users, healers, tanks, etc. The whole thing is just the best parts of grinding in short, digestible battles with cute graphics. There’s no story, and no dialogue, but it has tons and tons of charm.

Bulletstorm

Yes, still. I really, really didn’t think I was going to like it. And for the first few hours I’d sort of already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, but it won me over. Yes, the dialogue is utterly, utterly stupid (“I will kill your dicks!” Really? What does that even mean?) and it’s rather more violent than I typically like, but it just has a special something that shows the people behind it were really thinking about making it fun. It’s really well paced, the set pieces are spectacular, but not too showy, and the attention to player-motivation through emergent challenges is really admirable. Whether you’re riding a train while trying to avoid a giant rolling wheel of death, or destroying bad guys with a life-size radio-controlled T-Rex, it keeps things imaginative and interesting all the way through.

Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4

While we wait for Lego Star Wars III The Clone Wars in a couple of weeks, the boys and I have been working our way through Lego Harry Potter, and I have to say it’s absolutely the best game from TT yet. They’ve taken all the best gameplay mechanics and co-op optimized stuff from the Star Wars and Indy games, and put them to great use here. Because my kids refuse to play co-op games together and instead insist that I play with each of them, I’ve now played through all four “years” of this twice, and it wasn’t nearly the chore that some of the other games in the series were. The combat is fun, the puzzles are imaginative, and it manages to blend elements from both the books and movies very effectively. It’s testament to the game’s design that both boys still want to play, even after they’re done with the bulk of the story. I’m sure they’ll move on once Clone Wars hits though.

It’s all a huge lie

My intent with this was to update it daily, and keep up with my brother’s tremendously productive “one a day” schedule for blog posts. Over-achiever that he is, he manages to actually get something onto his page every damn day and has been doing so for more than a year now. I am not so organized. I scrawl notes every day, and I’m posting in a fashion that appears to be fitting to the “one a day” format (it’s a thing, Google it) but I’m not actually posting on the day that I say I am. I’m actually just a big fat liar. My Evernote box is overflowing with thoughts, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. As I’m posting this, I’m trying to work out how I can catch up with myself and actually get back onto a schedule of truth. But that probably ain’t gonna happen.

Confirming the Weekend

I’ve been shrinking away from being quite so opinionated in public since starting at GameSpot. My new job is quite different from the “frontman” style gigs I’ve had in the past, and frankly I’m getting to that point in my career where I do wonder if people really give a shit about what I think about games any more. I’m pushing 40, I have the time-constraints that come along with being a family-guy, and my personal gaming preferences no longer involve playing anything for 20+ hours a week. I love games, I love the business of games, and I love media – and in my new role, I’m much more about building and directing and strategizing and anticipating the future rather than declaring “this is great!” or “this is terrible!” As such, what I’ve spent the last six months working on is not yet particularly visible. It will be soon, but the real coming-out party will be in May and then throughout the second half of the year. I’m working with the editorial teams on both GameSpot and Metacritic to adapt to the changing tastes of gamers (as media consumers) and I’m having a blast doing it.

That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy occasionally imposing my thoughts and feelings upon the world from time to time.

One of the most frequent questions I get on Twitter is “do you still do a podcast?” The answer is no, primarily for the reasons outlined above, but I do miss it. Particularly with the old 1UP Yours crew. Just recently someone pieced together a 4-hour long epic “best of” version of 1UP Yours (dubbed “4-hours of sheer brilliance”, a sentiment that always surprises me) and it got all of us reminiscing about the “good old days” over IM and Facebook.

So… when Garnett asked if I’d like to be on this week’s Weekend Confirmed while he was in the Bay Area, I jumped at the chance. I always love working on shows with him, and actually if the opportunity ever arose to do a regular two-man thing like I used to with Tom Byron, that would be a lot of fun. I also always love being on shows with Jeff Cannata too. He and I see very much eye-to-eye on where we think gaming is going, and what’s important. Add in the fact that Mark MacDonald was going to be on the show too, as well as my old pal Xav de Matos and Q-Games producer Ariel Angelotti, and I was happy to help make a CBS studio available so we could all talk together for a couple of hours about GDC, the state of mobile gaming, the future of Nintendo, recently released titles like Bulletstorm and Dead Space 2, as well as imminent releases like Brink.

It was an absolute blast, and I wish I could do it more often. If you want to listen to it, you can find it right here.

Ever have one of those days…?

Ever have one of those days where you spend an hour speaking to a popular hip-hop artist’s management in order to work out what they get excited about, only to realize halfway through the conversation that you couldn’t remember the name’s of any of that artists recordings? Yeah, me neither. Except today. That was just how the day got started.

This week is the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. It’s always a busy week, and even though the show didn’t start properly until today, people have been in town since last weekend and there have been spurts of meetings off and on since the beginning of the week. After harassing the organizers to ensure that I have a press badge in order to attend the sessions, I’ve so far been unable to set foot inside the event itself. I’ve had meetings at the W Hotel, the St. Regis, the Marriott, and the Westin, but I haven’t actually picked the stupid badge up yet. What I have been able to do though, is spend some time (however brief) from all kinds of people that I’ve known for anything between a couple of years and 20 years of working in the games industry. It’s wonderful to see everyone… but it does make me feel a little old.

Speaking of which, there’s talk of lots of drinking and partying, but I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I’m just too old for that shit.

Stitches Out

Well, here’s some good news. I don’t have cancer. That’s a relief. I do have two gaping holes in my back from where they gouged out my skin though, one of which has been getting really itchy and scabby lately. Lovely, huh? This morning I went to get my stitches out, and was told that my body heals very quickly, and the itchy nastiness was actually my system rejecting the sutures because it doesn’t need them any more. I am like Wolverine, apparently. Only flabbier.