July 28, 2016

This Important Year

I am not an overly political person. I vote, sure, but I've never closely followed local politics. I have mostly only ever had a fairly broad sense of national politics. I have beliefs, and I try to relate those beliefs as best I can at the ballot box, but I've never been what I would call involved. Never donated; got a sense of what was going on mostly from the headlines, listened to NPR. There was even a time for a few years starting in 2002 where as a young father I just avoided the news entirely, for my own sanity.

I pulled the lever in a November when called upon, even once or twice bringing my young sons along to show them I thought that was important. Wore my sticker to work after. But ten minutes in line and two minutes in the booth with an idle background of the news was all I've ever really put in. I didn't see the value. I think that it's fair to say that especially after 2000 I was cynical.

That changed over the last two weeks.

Last week, I watched it all, every minute of hyperbolic vitriol in that convention, much of it in real time, some of it by stitching together YouTube clips the following morning. I watched it even though at times it drove me nearly to panic. I mean that in a specific way -- I felt the prickle on my skin and the pounding of my heart and that weird sensation inside your stomach like something's clawing at it. Classic fight or flight responses, all of them, and I'd stop watching for a while and breathe and get control of myself and my fear and then dive back in¹.

I dove into the news. Newspapers in our country are an embattled institution and at times like these we see just how much we need them. It would be easy to listen to last week's messages and think that America was in dire straits. The news reported on those messages but also picked them apart, and that helped a lot, even as Trump's numbers picked up a convention bounce. Thank you, those of you out there who are doing the journalistic work to make sense of what's going on.

Then this week, things started to turn around for me. I've watched every minute of the Democratic National Convention thus far, and I look forward to tonight as well. I listened to ordinary citizens, made extraordinary in the worst way by events like gun violence or systemic racism or 9/11, endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton. I listened to her strongest competition endorse her. I listened to people who worked in public office alongside her endorse her. I listened to a First Lady as she put into words the things I feel about this country when it is at its best. I've watched that speech three times already and I expect to watch it again.

As an aside, seeing that speech made me think about what a great gift we've been given in the oratorical powers of our sitting President and I went back and watched several of his speeches again, ones I saw when they were given. It was hard to see many of them again, such as the eulogy in Charleston, or for Sandy Hook. I watched again the Speech on Race and the speech in Selma. I watched DNC speeches from 2004 and 2008 and 2012. We have been lucky, given what we have faced, to have a man of his prodigious gifts working in that Oval Office. I'll never forget being in the center of Washington DC the night he was elected and hearing the car horns and the cheering and the excitement on the streets as McCain conceded. You could hear the hope and the excitement.

Back at the DNC this year, I listened to Vice Presidents president, past, and (I hope) future. I listened to Presidents present and past. Bill Clinton described a person who I felt I had never really been allowed to see, both in public and private life, in a speech I've already watched twice. President Obama echoed that so eloquently last night in a speech I expect to watch again. President Obama also elaborated on themes I have heard in his speeches again and again, about the ongoing project that our country and our democracy represent. President Obama gave me hope.

What I saw in these speeches that I don't think I had ever seen before in politics was people. That sounds absurd, of course; politics is made out of people, just three people if you believe the old saw. But for what feels like the first time in a long time I saw people who have devoted their lives to public service. I saw people who have worked hard on my behalf to make the world a better place, however they can see to do so. I saw people with whom I on occasion disagree. I saw people who I think on occasion make mistakes, and big ones. But I can't honestly say I wouldn't make some of those same mistakes under the pressures that they face. I can't honestly say that I can't see how they might make those mistakes. I can forgive them those mistakes because I believe they did the absolute best they could with what was available to them. And I can also consider the perspective that I might be the one in the wrong on these things I would call mistakes².

I've also seen a process that works going on in Philadelphia. I saw a platform shift because of the wishes of a large part of those who voted in the primaries; Bernie Sanders's supporters shifted what planks made up that platform. This is how democracy works! You build consensus. You give and take. You listen. You give a voice to those who disagree with you³.

I've never been much for politics, as I said in the outset. This week I have watched a parade of people who have done more on my behalf in any given year of their public lives than I have done politically in my whole life. Last night I even saw a "little old lady from Ohio," in her words, introduce the President who had motivated her to run for her local school board at the age of 73!

So this morning I've done what I never thought I would do. I volunteered for a Presidential campaign. I signed up on her site, and depending on what I hear back from that I'll get in touch with local organizers. Maryland will go for Hillary Rodham Clinton, but there are important states nearby that I'm happy to call or even drive to. West Virginia, Pennsylvania. I'll do that Election Day if I have to, get my vote cast when the polls open and drive wherever I can be helpful. I'll do whatever I can contribute to make her campaign a successful one.

What it comes down to is this: when November comes around, I want to be able to look my sons in their eyes and be able to tell them I did everything I could. I want this election not to be a near miss in either direction. I want this election to be a landslide repudiation of everything that fear-monger represents. I want Hillary Rodham Clinton in office with a mandate to make change.4 I want a strong message sent from across this country that the politics of lies and fear and cozying up with tyranny and dictatorship have no place in the America I want to live in. And that I want my sons to live in.

I'm with her. Whatever she needs.

¹I was also at times aided in this by things of wonder on the Internet like James Corden singing karaoke in a mini-van with the First Lady, about whom more later.

²This is such a sharp contrast to that blowhard on the other side, by the way. That's a man who never devoted a minute of his life to public service. That's a man who will never admit a mistake, except as a way to tear another person down.

³This is another stark contrast with last week, for what it's worth, where one person stood on the stage and strongly disagreed with that man. He stood out because so many of those who disagreed with that nominee simply stayed home. Including two former Presidents. Including former candidates and nominees. Including even the Republican governor of the state in which the convention was held.

4Bernie supporters: I hear you and I hear your concerns. I agree with many of them and in particular those that made the Democratic platform. Please vote for her in November. Please help us wash away Trump in an absolute tide. And let's keep up the pressure on our government to improve in so many ways afterwards.

Posted by Brett Douville at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2016

2015: My Year in Books, Films, and Games

Every year I like to look back and muse a bit about how I was feeding my brain, media-wise, and evaluate that against prior years. It's mostly navel-gazing, but I do it anyway.

The big thing about 2015 was that I was going to read more women, and I certainly did that -- everything I read this past year had a woman author (though in a few cases, there was a male illustrator, in some graphic novels). This was quite rewarding for me, though in all I read fewer books than in 2014. I read about 120 books, with a few interesting trends:

  1. I read quite a few ghost stories. I didn't set out to do this, but it kind of just happened -- there were some terrific novels by women that turned out to be ghost stories (and often I didn't even know this going in). Siobhan Abcock, who wrote one of them (The Barter), also wrote a pretty good essay about Why Every First Novel Should be a Ghost Story. I don't know if every one should, but certainly the conceit affords the author a way of examining some kind of trauma or misdeed or lost hope. In addition to Abcock, there was The Orphan Choir, Lake of Dreams, The Telling, The Little Stranger, and one I haven't quite finished yet. That's to say nothing of Sarah Lotz's two horror novels that weren't quite about ghosts.

  2. I read a ton of genre books generally. Way more than I usually do, and this was in part because I was reading or re-reading Rendell (a tad) and Christie (a bunch) but also encountered authors like Jo Walton and Lois McMaster Bujold (whose oeuvre is so large it has been daunting to know where to start) as well as Octavia Butler and James Tiptree Jr/Alice Sheldon. Surprisingly, I didn't actually get around to Ursula K. LeGuin, who I expressly wanted to re-read. No idea why. I finished up reading everything Sharon/SJ Bolton has published, including her newest. I tend to plow through books like these pretty quickly (and Christie's books, in particular, are brief). But in terms of genre, I definitely appreciated and enjoyed the difference in authorial voice of a woman writer, mostly. Whether it was a greater focus on romance (Outlander) or class relationships (Christie) or what-have-you, they felt different and enriching for it.

  3. Elana Ferrante is great as they come. I read the four Neapolitan novels this year and they were probably the most pleasurable sustained reading experiences I had all year. I want to read them all again. There's an honesty and a frankness and an exploration of the complexity at the heart of this friendship that is just so engrossing. The runner-up for a series of non-genre books would probably be the Regeneration trilogy, by Pat Barker -- those are also fantastic books, and it's interesting to read a woman mostly writing about male relationships (though admittedly, under the strain of wartime). Fascinating stuff.

I could go on and on about the books I read this year but those are a few trends. In the end, what's going to last this year is going to be maintaining more of a balance between men and women in my reading; in the short term, particularly, I'll probably still be reading mostly women because I'll be getting to the end of all those Poirot stories and probably reading more Rendell and yes, I do want to get to Morrison. Plus I've got a few still checked out from the library. I'm also champing at the bit to get to a few Stephen King novels that I haven't read yet, so those will probably appear in the next few weeks.

The big reason I read fewer books than the previous year was just how much time I spent on films and games. But looking over the more than 200 films I watched, it's hard to detect any real trends, and that's because I had no real goals for my film viewing this year. Sure, I watched quite a few Asian crime dramas, and a fair amount of horror and action pictures (mostly to watch with my son, particularly all the Fast and Furious franchise but a handful of other stuff). I didn't see much in the theater, really, at just nine -- nine! -- that is not many.

This year, though, I'm planning on spending more time writing for this blog about the films I watch, with a specific goal in mind. I've picked up the Pauline Kael collection For Keeps and I'm going to make my way through it, perhaps one or two films a week, and write up my thoughts both of the films and her writing about them. I love film and I'd like to learn to think more critically about it, both from a narrative perspective but also from the perspective of visual language. I feel like I have a good handle on the former, and not so much on the latter. Whether those thoughts appear here or elsewhere is yet to be decided; I kind of like the idea of making it its own thing. (I'll repost the Star Wars essay there if I do. That kind of kicked it all off.)

I also played more games! I finished what is probably a lifetime high of 42 games in the past year -- substantially more than in previous years. Part of this was down to having a fair period of bed rest in the middle of the year, and part of it was just feeling like playing games, which I take as a good sign considering the career I've been in for 18 years now.

Not only did I play more games, but I invested more in those that I played -- I know it's not interesting to talk about trophies/achievements/what-have-you, but I achieved the platinum trophy in several games this year: Infamous: Second Son, CounterSpy, Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Everyone's Gone to the Rapture, 4 (4!) Ratchet and Clank games, and The Swapper, Volume, and Guacamelee. So there were quite a few games where I was very invested.

If I had to pick a favorite of the past year, it'd probably be Guacamelee, which completely captivated me. I spent a fair amount of time in the world of Far Cry 4, and really enjoyed both Dragon Age: Inquisition and the heart-poundingly frightening Alien: Isolation. I finally finished Wolfenstein: The New Order which I also quite loved, but for me, the balance of player skill acquisition, Metroid-y level exploration, and aesthetic freshness of Guacamelee really won me over. Although I haven't finished it yet, and therefore it doesn't appear here, I have been completely loving Persona 4: Golden, and it would probably edge out Guacamelee had I finished it.

I don't really care whether I'm part of the up-to-the-moment discussion of games, but in the next year I'd like to write more about them. I had thoughts about Beyond: Two Souls and what I felt were some of its biggest missteps in gameplay and narrative structure that I never jotted down. I had things to say about Far Cry 4 that I didn't get to either. I should get in a better habit of publicly sharing my thoughts -- I do write down my critical thoughts, often, but don't polish them up to some sort of publishable form, and I'd like to do more of that.

So, there's my thinking. Going forward, I'd simply like to write more -- about film, about games, and maybe even about books. Check this space for some of that in the future.

Cheers, and a happy 2016 to you.

Posted by Brett Douville at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2015

The minutes, they are so few, and so precious

Lately I've been on vacation (to the extent that one can be on vacation from a semi-retired life), and have noticed the difference I feel between having my iPad nearby and when I don't. A few mornings, I have brought it down into the lower floor where my bedroom is, after finishing the New York Times crossword, and a few mornings I have not.

Those mornings where it's not nearby are significantly better, in a few ways; in particular, I'm more focused and more present in what I'm doing, whether that's reading a novel (this week, those have been The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, both highly recommended) or playing a few games of backgammon with my son once he's up. That investment of attention feels like the right way to be, to me, in comparison with the distracted and distractible condition that is my mental state when the device is nearby. In the case of the words I'm reading, it feels like they are building up enough to make a tide that carries me away, rather than splashing about in different puddles when I occasionally pop over to Twitter or check email, never gaining enough momentum to feel the transport I truly enjoy.

On the other hand, I need computers in my life. I find I think better when I type, writing a blog post or something else. I write by hand in a journal, but that works well because it fits the fluidity of accessing my emotions and thoughts, and it's not intended for publication in any case. When I am constructing something, I prefer to type, and obviously that's the only way to code. (I gather from some research I saw via Austin Kleon's blog that this is a better use of handwriting versus typing, so that's nice.)

I'm starting off by deleting the Twitter apps from my phone and my iPad, just to make myself a little more present when those things are nearby, which is often in the case of the phone especially. I'm planning on keeping them in "nighttime mode" most of the time as well -- the phone will still ring through, when it's someone I know, and that's the only time I pick up the phone anyway. Same with texts. We'll see how it goes.

I may ultimately abandon Twitter altogether, though I'm not severing that tie just yet. I unceremoniously quit Facebook a year and a half ago because it started to cause me to feel a falseness, that my "Connections" with my "Friends" became a performance rather than any meaningful indication of friendship. I miss the ability to see folks' photos, though I still catch a few via my girlfriend, who still maintains an account and who shares things with me that way on occasion, primarily posts from my family. I don't quite have that relationship with Twitter, right now, but I eye it more and more warily (and wearily) each day.

The thing with Twitter is, it has devolved into a meaningless source of distraction for me, and I don't know how to pare it down in a reasonable way -- I'm not sure it's worth the effort to me. When I joined it, it felt cozy in a way; many of the journalists and bloggers that I knew who were writing interesting bits about games were on there, and it was a way to connect with them. But the connections that I made that way have mostly been of particular interest when I've had a chance to connect with those people in person. I'm really glad to have met so many people through it, particularly the group loosely gathered around Brainy Gamer.

But making connections like those involves a lot of sorting through noise to find signal. These days, following the 800 or so people that I do, I find myself dropping tens of minutes a day pursuing links and keeping up with stories or dialogues that are ultimately the mental equivalent of empty calories; those are fine in moderation, but too much when it's every day.

Overall, the tenor of conversation on Twitter has changed, I guess. I used to be able to have a conversation with someone like Nels Anderson about my feelings about "Mechanical Apartheid" without having some anonymous GG rando to argumentatively question why I might find such a tagline to be distasteful (especially considering I had just made those arguments to Nels). That happens when things get too big, for sure, though the open and public nature of the thing is particularly weird. I'm going to prefer the smaller and more intimate, for a while, I think, like Slack.

So, I guess don't feel badly if I don't reply quickly if you mention me or whatever. For now, I'm keeping the account and will push out notifications when I do stuff that people might be interested in -- I've got that Republic Commando live-streaming to finish, and occasionally I blog a bit, and I still want people to be able to see that if they're interested (including this article) since RSS is more or less dead. And I also do like to have a point of contact where people who are looking for feedback about getting into games programming or whatever can find me easily. I'll probably check in with it from time to time just to make sure someone's not pestering me. It's been mostly something I've enjoyed for long enough that I don't want to kill it off entirely, but my relationship with it has to change; it isn't worth the fraction of my life minutes I've been putting into it lately, and hasn't been for awhile.

When the next thing comes along, be sure to let me know. :)

Posted by Brett Douville at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2015

The Year in Review: 2014

Each year I like to run down how I spent my time -- my free time, in terms of entertainment and such -- and write it up for the blog.

When it came to how I spent my free time, this past year was mostly about one thing: reading. I read a fairly staggering 182 books in 2014, substantially more than I normally read, averaging a book about every two days.

I'm pleased to say, too, that I read pretty widely, with a mix of genres and literary fiction. Here were a few trends:

  • I read Robert B. Parker, who passed away a couple of years ago, prompting me to read or re-read all of the Spenser novels written by him. It was interesting to read them in a compressed way like this. I think my favorites are dotted in amongst the early stuff, though there are some series extras whose entries are all pretty good, such as the Gray Man. I quite enjoyed the lead-up to Spenser and Susan establishing themselves as each other's great love, though there are several missteps in terms of representation along the way. Anyway, I wrote about genre a few years back and about how PI novels attain their meaning through clashing a single world-view with a series of challenges, and it's kind of nice that Spenser's world-view has space for a deep and abiding love. Anyway.
  • I read all of the extant Harry Hole novels, by Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian author. These are quite different from the Spenser novels, denser, richer, though you start to get a feel for their rhythms maybe a half-dozen books in. Still, completely worthwhile and absorbing.
  • I tackled quite a lot of Alice Munro (something I'll continue in 2015) after her Nobel Prize win. She's definitely describing a sort of way of life, and you feel richer for having read her stories.
  • I also tackled quite a few of the NY Times Notable Fiction from 2013's list, and that's something I'll probably try to do again in 2015, albeit only the women authors, for now.
  • I read Van Der Meer's Southern Reach trilogy, and I found them thoroughly strange and darkly wondrous, reminding me strongly of the feeling of the film version of Stalker. Highly recommended for science fiction or weird horror fans, I'm not sure where exactly it fits in. I saw this in Entertainment Weekly, I think, which I get as a supporter of the American Film Institute.
  • My second big discovery of the year were these four books in a series by SJ Bolton (now attributed as Sharon Bolton), featuring a London police officer named Lacey Flint. They really hooked me, and I have no idea who to thank for turning me on to her. I look forward to more. (Maybe also EW?)

Anyway, turning to 2015 for books I've decided to make it a year of reading entirely women authors. I felt like there wasn't sufficient diversity in the reading I was doing in 2014 from a gender perspective (between 20 and 25% were women), and so I'm going to make a concerted effort to only read women. (I'll have to make an exception in some cases, because I expect to be doing more reading in games writing this year, mostly because I'm teaching that course at Wabash. But that'll be the exception that proves the rule.) I have a few specific women I want to spend a lot of time with: Ursula K. LeGuin, Agatha Christie (mostly the Poirot, but I may also delve into the Miss Marple), Toni Morrison, finishing off Munro's oeuvre, Ruth Rendell, lots of stuff. If anyone has any suggestions for women who write horror, I'm game.

I'd like to do a tumblr about this "year of reading women" so look for a link to that in the future.

I did watch slightly less TV this year, in favor of more movies -- 25 seasons of TV (down from 33 in 2013), and 149 movies. I saw a lot fewer at the theater this year... I've become very curmudgeonly about the distractions of crowds. (It seems like you can't go anywhere without seeing people checking their phones. I was at a musical performance Saturday night and across the aisle there was a woman checking text messages or something in the middle of a number. I just... why go out?)

That said, the movies I did see in the theater were mostly pretty good! I was once again surprised by the quality of a Planet of the Apes movie, and similarly with the latest Captain America -- my favorite films of that increasingly enormous franchise, because of the earnestness of the hero. Snowpiercer was really great, featuring my favorite Korean star, and Blue Ruin stood the revenge picture on its head in a way, with some beautiful and clever shots. Plus I saw a handful of old favorites on the big screen again, which is always a treat.

The big stories in streaming for me this year were finishing off Star Trek: The Next Generation with my son (no idea what we'll do next, maybe BSG?) and my "31 Nights Streaming Screaming" that I did a tumblr for throughout October. I might try to do another marathon like that this year, we'll see... it turns out to be pretty grueling and take a fair amount of time away from everything else, but who knows.

Not listed in my viewing but a substantial amount of time was watching Casey Muratori live-program a game from scratch. I've watched maybe 20 hours of that stream and it's great fun. Highly recommended for streamers.

In terms of games, I finished slightly fewer than in 2013; I think I finished 25 in 2013, and I only made it through 17 this year, still mostly going through my back catalog. The games that grabbed me most were Deadly Premonition (just typing out the name makes me want to go and spend more time there), Super Mario Galaxy (which I finished first as Mario, and then as Luigi, making it the first Super Mario game where I've actually gotten all the stars), and Fez, which occupied a week or so of sick time in September and which is just a masterpiece of design.

This year, I've decided to at least play 14 games: I'm going to stream the Ultima series a couple of times a week. I've already finished playing through the first three to familiarize myself with them and hope to get set up with streaming this week. At the moment, especially with the early games, I intend to skip around to the best bits -- there's quite a lot of grinding, especially in the first few games. I'm also using various Internet resources to familiarize myself with the game, though I'll give viewers a sense of how you were supposed to solve these games back in the day.

The big thing I failed at in 2014 was making a game a month -- I did one in January and one in February, and then I abandoned it because I was working full-time on Sixty Second Shooter. It's something I'd like to do more of in 2015, but I don't know honestly if I'll find the time. I have a more substantial code base of my own, now, and if there are things on my general tech to-do list that could support a game of its own (or be a central feature) but at the same time move forward my code-base in support of my more ambitious projects, I'll do that. I don't know... it's possible I'll be able to do more. We'll see.

One last thing -- a former co-worker and friend of mine and I are going to give a podcast about indie life a go, more on that as it develops. That's yet another project for this year. I guess I'll be busy.

Cheers, and a great 2015 to you all.

Posted by Brett Douville at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2014

My current podcast list

Here's all the stuff I'm currently subscribed to (will mark stuff as "inactive" or "infrequent" as appropriate):

Games podcasts:

  • Designer Notes: Soren Johnson interviewing other designers, updates apparently monthly
  • Game Church: Discussions with game developers about belief (and maybe my favorite new podcast; note, I'm on it this week)
  • Giant Bomb Interview Dumptruck: Patrick Klepek records the interviews he does as the basis of articles for Giant Bomb, no set frequency (maybe one every other week)
  • Infinite Ammo: Host Alec Holowka interviews other indies, sporadic, tends to happen monthly for a while and then die down
  • Play Date: Davey Wreden and Shay Pierce play old games... hasn't updated in quite a while, may be dead
  • Sit Up and Shut Down: Monthly, SU & SD folks, enjoyable, board games
  • Talking Devs: GamaSutra started this, did three eps and nothing recently, possibly dead on arrival
  • Tone Control: Subscribed but is done in seasons, no idea when host Steve Gaynor will interview more designers for season two
  • A Life Well Wasted: probably ought to give up on this one, probably never coming back
  • Brainy Gamer: have put last because it's on hiatus -- Michael and I have talked about bringing it back, but recent cultural events have really kind of bothered me about this

Non-games podcasts:

  • 99 Percent Invisible: General design podcast with Roman Mars
  • Bullseye: General culture podcast with Jesse Thorn
  • Dinner Party Download: Culture and food podcast, weekly
  • Filmspotting and Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit: Film podcasts about new releases and streaming stuff, updated weekly and bi-weekly, respectively
  • Judge John Hodgman: Weekly silly internet cases, often quite funny but with heart
  • Selected Shorts: Actors read short fiction for audiences, updates weekly -- good stuff, usually a couple stories per episode
  • Serial: Spin-off of This American Life, revisiting a murder case in Baltimore MD (or as The Wire had it, Body-more, Murdaland)
  • Slate's Culture Gabfest: Cultural discussions on weekly topics with Dana Stevens, Julia Turner, and Stephen Metcalf
  • The Truth: Short radio dramas, weekly when in-season
  • This American Life: If you haven't heard of it, can't help ya :)
  • Welcome to Night Vale: Weird. Look it up if you've not heard of it. Tend to binge-listen on long drives.
  • What Are You Reading: Matt Debenham interviews authors about what they're reading, and what they read as kids that they remember

Posted by Brett Douville at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2014

Working at 3 miles per hour

A few years ago I started reading reports about the damaging effects of sitting down to work eight hours a day. As a computer programmer working in the games industry, I was obviously at risk, particularly when you consider that I might enjoy sitting down at the end of the day for a few more hours to read, watch a movie, or play video games.

So, I started standing up at work. I happened upon a crate that was just the right height to lift my monitor and keyboard to a comfortable height and sort of jury-rigged something together. I had worked with folks who stood all day in the past at LucasArts, and I had read about Noel Llopis's experiment with it, but as I recall I was maybe the first person to do it at Bethesda Game Studios, and I got a lot of quizzical looks and questions.¹ Standing and coding was no big deal; after a week or so it was completely natural for me to code standing up. A few folks followed suit, too, which was nice. I credit standing for the last year and a half or so of Skyrim with preventing me from gaining any more weight over that period, something I've especially struggled with since reaching my late thirties.

In early 2013, I happened upon a new trend, which was walking while working, and so I investigated. There were quite a fair number of DIY approaches to it online, people discussing how they had cadged together a set-up and how much it had cost, that sort of thing. However, there had started to be a few on the market as well, and I considered those more seriously -- I'm reasonably handy, but if I'm going to be working in a space for hours and hours every day with expensive equipment sitting atop it, I'd maybe prefer to trust someone else's engineering.

Ultimately I settled on the LifeSpan TR-1200 DT5 treadmill desk, which I bought on Amazon and had shipped to BGS. You can see with a quick search that it's not super-cheap and a DIY solution might better fit your budget. The company declined to let me install it in my office, so I brought it home and set it up in my basement. The hardest part of installation was fitting it in the back of my Subaru Forester; I made two trips one hot July afternoon. The combined weight of the boxes was something like 250 lbs, and the weight wasn't evenly distributed, so one box weighed 150 lbs on its own. Still, I managed to lug it down through my basement entrance with the help of a sturdy tiltable dolly.

Assembling the thing was really easy -- less than an hour of work, I'd guess, and I'd say it actually took more effort to wall mount a TV in front of it on the wall. It has caused me no problems, though I never did get the Bluetooth support working to automatically record my data every day; I didn't work super-hard on that, but for those who want all that superautomated be aware. No biggie for me-- I just throw the mileage, number of steps, distance, and calories burned in a spreadsheet when I'm done, and I've only forgotten a handful of times.

I started on it at fairly slow pace, around 2 miles per hour, and only played games or watched movies and TV on it, browsed the web, that sort of thing². On occasion I would find myself so engrossed in a game that I might misstep or drop my hand in frustration, triggering the interrupt -- there's a clip-on thing on a string that connects to a thing that plugs into the digital readout that will cause the belt to stop if you fall down. Sadly, I often would forget about it and pause the treadmill to go get more water³ or whatever, and would pull it away as I surfed off the back of the thing. (I've since given up on that clip altogether, and it just rests atop the desk while I walk.)

In September I ended my time with BGS, and in October I started walking while actually coding -- only a bit at a time at first, still just dipping my toes in, and gradually more and more until I was working about six hours at a time while walking. Originally I was walking around 2.3 mph, which I upped to 2.5 towards December, and as of late February or March I've been walking at 2.8 mph while I work, and as much as 3.5 mph if I play games.

I find it completely natural to walk and code at the same time -- it doesn't hamper me even the least bit. I'm writing this blog post at 2.8 mph and it has flowed as well or better than had I been sitting down.

I do, however, find it impossible to do any sort of handwriting this way, which is how I think through a lot of design issues, either for game design or thinking about how to structure the solution to an engineering problem. Typically, I just step away for an hour, sit down at a table somewhere and sketch out my solutions with pencil and paper, and then return to implement. I have a pretty good sense these days of how much stuff on paper will equate to six hours of coding, too.

The numbers have been pretty good, too. In eight months I've walked about 1500 miles, in a little over 500 hours. I've worn through a third pair of sneakers4, changing those out every five hundred miles, and I'll start in with another pair when they arrive. I've found that I'm pretty hungry and probably eat more than I should, but I've lost 20 lbs this way and I'm hoping to lose another 20 this year. When I walk my breathing is super clear and not really elevated too much; I think my head is actually quite clearer when I code, for the most part. My resting heart rate these days is in the low to mid 60s, which is quite good for a guy in his early 40s.

A few pointers I picked up that may be useful:

  • Make sure your shoes fit pretty well -- although I'm perfectly happy with the shoes I wear, they have left me with some good sized calluses and blisters at time from hours of friction.
  • After the first time I walked quite a long while (more than four hours), I ordered myself up some bicycle shorts to wear under my lightweight workout pants. There were... uh... chafing issues. Enough said.
  • I wear a sweatshirt with the cuffs all the way down. I tend to rest my wrists on the wrist rest the desk has on its user-facing edge, and my wrists often get a bit sweaty as a result.
  • Stay hydrated. I generally drink between half a gallon and a gallon of water every day I'm walking/working. I am walking at a comfortable pace, but I'm still definitely sweating a little bit, particularly in my legs, wrists, and chest -- not enough exertion to pop a sweat from my forehead most of the time, and the perspiration sort of sneaks up on you after half an hour or so. Good to have a quart of water handy.
  • If you try it and find yourself having a hard time, try a different speed for a few hours -- and faster might actually be better. I watched some videos of folks at a tech magazine trying it out, and they were moving far too slowly for it to be natural or comfortable.
  • Take breaks! If you're working on a particularly thorny problem and can't concentrate on it while walking, just stand and continue. I do this at times; mostly I'm more comfortable just walking, but there are times where I need to stop and take notes or just change how I'm working to make my brain think differently.
  • Desk height is super-important. If I'm just standing on it with my belly to the desk, elbows at my sides, I'm maybe at a 100-degree angle for my elbow bend to rest comfortably on the keyboard. I look slightly but comfortably down to look at my monitor, while I can look basically straight ahead to look at the TV. I occasionally put a day game on in the background on the TV while I work at the monitor, and I do all my gaming on the TV.
  • The device is quiet but not at all silent. I'm listening to some Spanish guitar while I type, and I can still faintly hear the hiss and roll of the thing under me. It's probably too loud for a cubicle farm, but not for a private office. Whenever I Skype, I pause it and stand to take the call.

As I said, I'm about eight months into this particular experiment and I can't really see myself going back. I actually find it kind of hard to program while standing around anymore, and it's even worse to try it sitting down. This is just how I work now.

Questions? Shoot me email at brett_douville on yahoo dot com or brettdouville on gmail. Or hit me up on Twitter where I'm @brett_douville5.

¹Eventually I found an infographic about the facts surrounding the damage sitting is doing you, and I just hung that up next to the entrance to my office.
²The first game I played on it was Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Throughout the rest of the summer I'd watch Red Sox play in the evenings, sometimes with a beer in hand, which probably counteracted any benefit from the walking. The Red Sox won the pennant and ultimately the World Series, but maybe that wasn't due to my walking. Maybe it was the beer.
³Hey, there's water in beer!
4I wear lightweight Nike running shoes, the Nike Free v4, I think. 5You can probably guess my user names on PSN and Xbox Live now, too :)

Posted by Brett Douville at 12:29 PM

January 25, 2014

Trademark Bullshit™

Little story.

Back in 2001, I shipped my first game on the PS2 for LucasArts, Star Wars: Starfighter. It did well enough, getting into the Greatest Hits collection on that platform and the original Xbox, but that's not the point of the little story.

Whenever you put out a product, there's someone out there who's going to come in and want a cut. In this case, it was 3DO.

You see, 3DO put out a product called Star Fighter on their system, based on an earlier product called Starfighter 3000. It's a fairly generic space shooter, haven't played it. However, it was trademarked, and to 3DO that meant we owed them a little money.

We heard about it shortly before the game came out. We were busy with development and management really didn't do much more than let us know, just so we knew in case it showed up on a website or something. It was important to the company that we weren't distracted, I guess, because we really had to make the fiscal year. So we heard about it, and I pretty much promptly forgot about it, figuring that the term was super generic and therefore the trademark was probably indefensible, and besides, George had a phalanx of lawyers.

Turns out, we paid 3DO off for the privilege of using the term "Starfighter," based on their trademark from a game that was at that point over 5 years old and on systems that basically no longer existed¹. The game couldn't be purchased anywhere, except used.

All of this to say that when the trademark system isn't bothered with by George Lucas, who at that point had some of the deepest pockets in the universe, because it's an annoyance, but still manages to screw the little guy... well, something's pretty damned broken.

My heart goes out to the guys behind The Banner Saga. Because basically this amounts to a really big company dicking over a really tiny company.

There are a lot of different ways this could have gone. They could have sent a registered letter to arrive the same day as they filed their opposition suit, letting Stoic know that they would settle for $1 of licensing fees, for example. This wouldn't mean that they wouldn't be evil in the future, but at least some bad publicity would be avoided and the little guy wouldn't get screwed. They could have publicly set a low price for companies of a certain size or revenue or whatever. Or they could have not construed their trademark as being on individual words (which, come on).

Instead they took the low road, which was easy for them... like taking Candy™ from a baby.

Back later, maybe even today, with some thoughts about Red Dead Redemption, which I finally got around to finishing.

¹I learned from a co-worker that the highest revenue earner at 3DO was in fact their chief counsel².
²Turns out, this was largely on the strength of a licensing or purchase deal he had done a few years before by selling off the 3DO hardware technology to Matsushita, as I recall, for something north of $300 million. Which was funny, because in 1995 or so, an acquaintance (Drew Something-or-Other³) had called me and asked my opinion of the quality of the 3DO hardware, because I think the firm he worked for was issuing a bond for Matsushita to raise the funds. I told him that it was expensive but good. But I digress.
³Why yes, of the New York Something-or-Others.

Posted by Brett Douville at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2014

Closing Comments

Kind of done spending hours of my life clearing out spam from the comment filter; it's dozens upon dozens every time I post now.

There are many opportunities for discussion on the Internet, feel free to use one of them either to speak with me or others. You can hit me up on Twitter or Facebook or send me mail. Use whatever other communities you have.

Posted by Brett Douville at 06:02 AM

January 05, 2014

2013 Round-Up

In the past I've occasionally done write-ups on the sorts and quantity of media I've consumed over the past year or so. I'm not going to go into much detail with this this year except to note a few trends and maybe make something akin to a resolution.

I read less. Early in the year I set myself a task to read the 100 Notable Books from the New York Times list of 2012.

I failed miserably.

In the end, I read fewer books this year than I have in any year since 2010, only 54¹. I set out strong and, well, the nonfiction list killed me. It took me a month to read one of them, early on --Far from the Tree, which I read in March, and which I really really enjoyed and found fascinating. The truth is, though, I find nonfiction generally a slog. It doesn't compel me, and the fact that I'm reading new facts and indexing them into my brain as I go tends to slow me down considerably. The prose is often less flowing and as a result, I don't flow along with it. It took me a month to read that; as a point of comparison, I read six novels while on vacation in Italy, which was all achieved in sort of dead time (the plane, waiting for others to ready themselves for outings, whatever).

The other thing that set me back, though, was that a couple of books I was really looking forward to in the fiction list just didn't gel with me, and so even those were a bit of a slog².

This year, I'm going to give another stab at just reading the Fiction Notables, but I'm not going to put too much behind it. I've read a couple so far, and I'll read more of them, but I won't let it put me out if I don't get through them all.

I watched more. I watched fewer movies, but a few more television series. I also watched a ton of baseball, as many as 100 Red Sox games. Probably won't change much here, except that I still feel like I watch too many television series.

I finished a lot of video games. I gamed way out of proportion to prior years -- typically, if I finish a dozen games in a year it's a bit of a surprise and I wonder how I got through so many.

This year I finished 29 games, which is very, very uncharacteristic of me. More than double what I normally get through in a given year³.

Some of this was as a result of not working, and having a generally lackadaisical approach to the game I'm working on. A lot of it was being generally drawn into those games that I was playing. Almost all of them were from my back catalog, with a few exceptions.

By contrast, I blogged not nearly enough. Especially in the latter half of the year, I didn't blog about the things I was playing, even having ample time to do so, and sometimes with plenty to say.

Not only did I not blog all that much -- only seven games appeared in the blog this year -- but only three of those games were finished this year. The others were holdovers from 2012, taken from notes. It's probably better just to go a little more freshly from memory, as long as a little time has gone by to allow insight to occur.

It's funny, too, because I have a small group of friends I send email to when I finish a game, and I usually give at least a brief write-up at that point. It wouldn't take much to turn those into blog posts, and I haven't. I can do better.

So, then, the "resolutions"5:

  • Blog about the games more. I'm going to write up two games I finished in the last couple of weeks as a kick-off: Deadly Premonition and Brütal Legend. But I'll try to keep on top of these.
  • Read the fiction Notables, but don't sweat it. I've put all these in an Amazon wishlist, mostly for Kindle. I probably won't read the poetry collections and I may not even get to them all, but I will give them a go. No telling whether I'll blog about them. I'll do more genre reading for pleasure this year, too. A programming book or two would not be amiss, either.
  • Ease up on the TV. It's so easy to blaze through an entire series on Netflix in a few evenings that I often find myself doing it. (Still going to watch a ton of baseball.)
  • Include board games on the blog. I play a ton of board games with my kids, and I never write that stuff up. Time to do that.

I'll also probably address my color scheme some day soon -- I know this site is ugly.

Oh, and hey, I've decided to join the #1GAM challenge -- finishing a game every month over the next year. I've got tons of ideas for games, many of them manageably small or which can have only small parts of them implemented. It's a good way to practice finishing/shipping solo-built games. Who knows what may come of them? I'll probably blog about those things, too, either as postmortems or in-progress, what-have-you.

Happy New Year, all.

¹Actual number is usually a couple higher, as sometimes things don't get copied over, but certainly under 60.
²Telegraph Avenue, especially looking at you here.
³By platform, these were: 5 PS3, 3 360, 2 iOS, 3 Gamecube, 8 PS2, 1 Vita, and 6 PC. This doesn't count the IGF, but I'm not even sure how to count them. They aren't always finished games, etc4.
4Ah, what the hell. Here's the full list, in no particular order: Little Big Planet, Resistance 2, Device 6, Beat Sneak Bandit, Pikmin, Super Monkey Ball, The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3, RTX Red Rock, Thomas Was Alone (Vita), Max Payne 3, BioShock Infinite, Papo y Yo, Tomb Raider, The Unfinished Swan, Spider-Man 2, Final Fantasy X-2, Dark Cloud 2, Final Fantasy XII, Rygar, Katamari Damacy, Halo 3, Super Mario Sunshine, Crackdown, Demon's Souls, Gone Home, The Novelist, The Stanley Parable, Brütal Legend. Still possible I missed one or two.
5"Resolutions" is too strong a word. They are four things I'd like to address over the next year as pertains to content stuff.

Posted by Brett Douville at 11:55 AM

April 01, 2013

Corrosive Anonymity and That Thing That Happened

Here's something that happened to me a long time ago. It was a little scary while it was going on, but in the long term it hardly affected me at all; I say this up front because I want to be clear that I know that the sort of fear I experienced then pales in comparison with what goes on today. Until recently I hadn't thought of the events I describe at all in quite some time.

It was 1990 and I was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania; I had chosen to live a second year in the Quadrangle, which is primarily a first-year dormitory. My room was on the top floor, and happened to be in a section of hallway that for reasons of modernization had been cut off a little bit -- there were only two rooms in the hallway. The other was occupied by a first-year woman, whom I met in the first week but with whom I had little interaction. For the sake of the story, we'll call her Marilyn¹.

A few months into the semester someone started leaving strange messages on my answering machine; first just a bunch of hanging up, which wasn't terribly unusual but then, it didn't seem to connect with any of my friends saying, "Oh hey, called you earlier, do you want to..." etc. Occasionally sort of a whispery noise, like a bad connection.

Before long, I started getting real messages, and they were a bit scary. Demonically raspy voices², saying the most vile of things, some sexual, some simply... bizarre. I had no idea where these were coming from. They varied in length, but the subject matter was always pretty disturbing. The first time, I can remember being puzzled, assumed it was a wrong number, a prank gone awry, and erased the message. But they kept coming and I started wondering what I had done to bring this on myself.

The messages got more particular; they identified me by name and by appearance, and then started involving physical descriptions of my girlfriend, always in this weird raspy voice that I can still only describe as demonic. This was where I really started to worry a bit, because it was clear my comings and goings and companionship were being noted. It seemed was being watched. I was pretty terrified, because I didn't know how to make it stop.

I started losing sleep; never a strong sleeper, I now found it even harder to fall asleep at night, and the whoops and hollers that are normal in the shared spaces of a dorm were wake me with a sense of anxiety until the wee hours. I'd lie there with my heart pounding, terrified in that way you can only be when you're awoken suddenly. My concentration and focus during the day suffered, too, and between courses, holding a job, and studying, I was exhausted a lot of the time.

I went first to my RA and then to the cops, bringing the tape along and they said they could put a trace on my phone, but I'd need to keep a log of when the calls were coming in. I put a notebook by the phone and waited for the next one.

One day I had just entered the hallway to my room when I heard the voice, and I ran straight for my door... and I realized I was hearing it not through my own door, but through the door across the hall. My phone stalker, for lack of a better word, was my hall neighbor Marilyn, a person with whom I had had almost no contact³ and about whom I knew almost nothing.

I went straight up to her door and banged on it, and when she opened it, I let her have it. I started with "This stops right now; I know that it's you, and I've already alerted the police to this situation." She tried to distract me, tried to dissuade me from what I knew, and had she been a guy I probably would have decked her. I went to my own room.

The phone messages stopped. I never spoke with her again. I called the cops and let them know that it had been addressed. I told my RA, who I admit wasn't terribly effective -- probably he should have gotten her moved to another dorm. I didn't ask him to, and he didn't push. I didn't want to rock the boat. Strangely, I didn't want to mess with someone else's life, even if that someone had messed with mine.

I spent several weeks still worried, with the paranoid thoughts that come in such situations, that she might be unhinged, that she might be standing outside my door some morning with a chef's knife. I looked through the keyhole every time I left my room for the rest of the year, and through the glass in the fire door when I entered the hall from the outside. I looked for opportunities to sleep elsewhere, such as at my girlfriend's, who was in her senior year and very busy with a heavy class load. It hurt my sophomore year experience, but I got past it. I even became an RA the next two years, but that's another set of stories altogether.

I'm telling this here and now because I see so much of this anonymous terrorizing in our culture right now -- the easy anonymity of the Internet and these social networks we have empower it. Friends of mine have experienced it, mostly through Twitter and email and comments on their articles, should they be bloggers and writers. It's worse now than anything I ever experienced, but I know something of the toll it takes.

The worst time for me wasn't when I knew that it was my neighbor -- the worst time was when I didn't know who it was at all. To feel that paranoia that it could be anyone at all, and that's magnified a thousand-fold by our current tools. Once I knew who it was I was in control again, I was able to sleep, the fear was gone and I could take steps to protect myself in case she was truly unhinged. Before that, it could have been anyone. Someone who at least some of the time tracked my comings and goings, someone who knew what I looked like, what my girlfriend looked like. All of these things are easy to find out in our hyper-connected online culture, and it makes this sort of behavior even easier. To a degree, this experience years ago is the reason why I present myself online only as myself -- my email addresses and handles are all some mix of my first and last name.

If you're one of those crushingly bilious people out there who hide behind anonymity to instill this sort of terror in people, I pity you. I pity what's missing in you that you think for even a moment that this sort of thing is okay. I pity that you allow these darker parts of your nature to come out, and that you don't stop yourself, that you lack the basic decency to stop yourself before you do this to someone.

There's worse out there than my experience with "Marilyn", I know. There are more horrible things in life, and I don't for a moment compare my experience with what women are experiencing every day. I also doubt talking about my own little experience would necessarily stop someone from pursuing such vile streams of hate as I see out there on the Internet every day. But I have to say something just in case it might give pause to somebody, somewhere, before another human being has to endure this sort of thing.

I just wish all that shit would stop. Please make it stop. If you have a friend who you know does this sort of thing, please ask them to stop. Our culture needs to move on from this.

¹Her name wasn't Marilyn, though it started with an M; that comes from the poster of Marilyn Monroe she had on her wall. I remember making conversation about it, when I introduced myself at her door, something along the lines of "nice poster" and her replying, "Oh, I know, I sometimes think that if I were as pretty as Marilyn my life would be perfect."

²Think Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

³I was a sophomore, had friends, girlfriend, etc, and didn't know her at all.

Posted by Brett Douville at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2012

What's with all the old games lately?

Astute readers of the blog¹ have obviously noticed that this year's posts have mostly been about old games from the PS1 and PS2 eras, with nothing really said about today's games. I was asked this question via twitter and found it impossible to boil down to 140 characters, so I'm throwing out this little post here explaining my thinking behind the decision to go back and play through my old library of unfinished or unplayed games. Note, this primarily describes my feelings as a player, not as a developer.

The Backlog

About a year ago I had cause to evaluate my consumption habits; every year I look at what I've read for the year, what I've watched throughout the year, and what I've played throughout the year. This year, I also took a look at what I hadn't read, watched, and played as well -- and I discovered that I had over a hundred games I've bought and really not gotten much out of, including 25 that were still in the shrink wrap, some of them going back over five years.

I view this as a problem.

It's a problem from a number of perspectives. First, having a hundred games on my shelf that I've not really played represents a conspicuous consumption that is rather unfortunate -- that's an investment of around $5000 in round numbers, money that was essentially flushed away. So I'm forcing myself to play through those games to cure myself of this impulse to buy new games that I haven't the time to play.

Furthermore, buying games only not to play them is a failure of my own private curation; it speaks to my inability to choose those games that I think will actually return my time investment with some kind of value. In other words, I've allowed my selectivity to wither away, though of course over the past year I've bought far fewer games -- and more about those I have bought and played later.

This is really just two sides of the same coin: make better selections that respect the amount of time I have for gaming, and learn to select those games that are going to really give me what I'm looking for in an experience at that moment in time. I'm looking to become a consumer who thinks more about what he buys, in other words.

The Escape

When I'm really honest about what most of these games are providing me, it's simply escapist entertainment, not much different than consuming dozens of popcorn Star Trek novels when I was much younger. These were books that followed a pretty established formula, and I've forgotten just about every word I ever read in any of them. And that's fine -- I'm making no elitist judgments about that, far from it.

I'm not sure, for example, that playing the latest and greatest JRPG is all that different than playing one from ten years ago, with the exception of the graphics². Although I've said before that graphics can greatly increase immersion, I think that's an initial experience with a new generation that fades over time. In the same way that people will say that they don't see violence in videogames as real violence, merely the scoring of points, I think I tend to dip into the systems that guide the experience very easily and stop being distracted by the graphics.

Setting graphical achievements aside, then, in the realm of AAA console games fairly little has changed over the last decade. And honestly, I don't think it needs to, despite what some folks have to say about how games aren't reaching their full potential. That's an alarmist position that I don't think can be supported -- there's plenty of interesting work going on in smaller games. Mainstream triple-A titles are akin to big Hollywood blockbusters: big budget films are tentpoles for their studios, but the fact is, if those really tall tentpoles didn't exist, there would be a lot less room inside the tent for the unusual, the off-beat, the deeply personal, those films that really cause us to turn a mirror on our own souls and explore what our humanity means to ourselves³.

(Put another way, without the 70 million PS3s out there made possible by the AAA experiences of Madden and Call of Honor 16: The Reckoninining, there wouldn't the same kind of market for a Journey or a Mark of the Ninja, both smaller games from the past year that I played and really loved4. There might be a way to find an audience for these games, but I suspect it would be hard work and a much bigger risk than it already is.)

Going back even deeper to the PS1 era, I will say that there were greater opportunities for variety in the AAA space than there are today in that same space, looking at something like Final Fantasy Tactics. This greater variety today has migrated to the phones and the PC (where yes, it has always been to a degree), in what Will Wright called a pre-Cambrian explosion at his GDC talk a year or two ago.

For my part as a player, I have to admit that the games we're playing today provide me largely the same escapist value as the games ten years ago. Certainly a lot of things are better, but when I sit down and get absorbed in one of these old games I pretty rarely step back and say, "That's really terrible." And when I do, I tend not to blog about it -- I'm trying to only say things when I have nice things to say, which brings me to my third and final section about why I'm playing these old games.

As a Developer

As a developer, having a bit of time between these old games and what's being played today is nice; I have to remember whenever I speak that people may take what I have to say as if I'm speaking with the authority of Bethesda Game Studios behind me. (I'm not.) So if I'm commenting on some game that came out ten years ago, people are less likely to get too outraged about it -- it's not fresh. But I'm still a person who wants to evaluate things and point out the strengths of a thing rather than its flaws; I think these old games have something to teach us5.

The other thing that appeals to me about these old games is that they were made by small teams, and that's something that is continuing to go on in the phone/pad and PC markets today; it's a direction I may go myself some day in the future though I'm far from having any specific plans. Playing something like Shadow of Destiny is helpful to remind me of the sorts of concerns one might face going through a console transition or with a smaller team or with a lower budget altogether, and how to address those through careful limitation of scope. It's good to keep those things in mind, even if you do have a much larger team at your disposal for your AAA title.

I'm also still working on some side projects, my "personal" games as I describe them. I have one that I hope to finish up by next year, and the techniques I've been using to build that come from a game that came out more than two decades ago, even though I'll be deploying it on the web instead. These projects I do are purely on my own time and aren't meant to make money; they reflect the fact that I enjoy design and game development for their own sakes.

Wrapping up

These old games have things still to teach us, and for me they are providing about the same level of entertainment to me personally as a player in most cases. I want to become more thoughtful about where I invest my time, and hopefully I can cure myself of this need to buy the latest thing just because it's the latest thing. I keep my eye on the AAA space constantly, and when I want to look for games that go a little bit deeper, I often look elsewhere. Hope that helps explain what you've been seeing in this blog space lately.

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers; I may have time to get to another post this weekend.

¹Hello! I feel like I could name you individually.
²One note about those graphics: I love beautiful graphics, and as a player I personally don't care one way or another if the graphics in the games are state of the art. Similarly, I don't mind if the cutscene animations are blocky or the game isn't voiced, or what have you. The first games I played were entirely text, and the "graphics" in those games are richer than anything I've experienced since.
³It should be noted that before the latest age of the blockbusters, starting in the mid-1970s with Jaws and Star Wars, Hollywood was dying of self-importance. While I love the films of this era, typically called "The New Hollywood," and I think they're fantastically important, I also don't think they gave a broad enough audience what it was looking for, and without those broad audiences, the studios couldn't keep their doors open.
4This argument is pretty broad strokes -- I know there would still be a PC market, I get that, I'm not ignoring it. I think that the two markets reinforce each other in interesting ways, and all of that is probably beyond the scope of this already long article.
5One good example is that there is something still interesting about games that are really challenging -- they aren't for all players, but old games are far more difficult than their modern descendants. I think we both lost and gained from that change, and I think the fans of Dark Souls and Demon's Souls would agree.

Posted by Brett Douville at 09:14 AM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2012

2012: The Year I Catch Up

A bit of an annual navel-gazy post

After 2009 and 2010, I took time to write a blog post where I talked about how much I read, watched, and played in the last year. (For no particular reason that I can recall, I didn't do that last year.)

Year in questionBooksFilmsGames

Typically, I look at these a few different ways. First, what's in the numbers:

  • 85 books. A number which surprised me, though I knew it was up there. I credit a few factors. 1) I got really invested in checking stuff out of the library this year, and got into a habit of going every three weeks or so and checking out a few books. 2) I got in the habit of reading on my Kindle app (via iPad, primarily), particularly when I traveled to France with my kids last summer. This meant I always had something at my fingertips. I even traveled completely without books when I went to my folks' over winter break, something I never would have imagined I would do. 3) I read a fair amount of light material (genre fiction). Balancing that out, though, I read three of Hemingway's novels and quite a lot of what I would generally call "literary fiction". By the numbers, it boils down to mostly fiction, with 68 fiction books and 17 nonfiction books, 6 of which I would consider "stuff I read for work." There were relatively few graphic novels on my shelf this past year.
  • 155 films. Likewise, a pretty staggering number. I saw 15 series of television as part of that number (series/seasons are just one entry), and 30 films in the theater. I credit this with having sons and a girlfriend who are all nearly as much into movies as I am. I watch a huge variety of stuff -- highbrow alone or with my girlfriend, and lowbrow typically with my boys.
  • 15 games. This is more than in previous years, and I also kept track of AAA titles that I started but didn't finish (another 8). Though there are a couple of iOS games in that mix, it's mostly big AAA titles, one from the PS1 era (see recent entry) and the rest on the PS3. I counted Skyrim once, but it would be fair to say I've logged hundreds of hours on Skyrim; I've probably played over 100 hours of Skyrim just since it launched, though not really on consumer hardware (devkits instead). I rarely play games to which I've contributed except as part of development or to show folks who are interested in what I've been a part of. I also haven't counted the uncountable games of Dominion, backgammon, Quarriors, Munchin*, and whatever else we played this year (Arkham Asylum, Qwirkle and Qwirkle Cubes, etc, etc).

I usually look at these through a few different lenses.

The Resolutionary. I'm pretty happy with my film and television balance (though I may have left out a couple of seasons of TV, such as Monk; I probably watched a season or two this year, mostly while doing short but mindless tasks like wrapping presents or folding laundry). I'm even more happy with the balance of literary to genre fiction and the nonfiction/critical stuff.

What I'm not happy with is this:

The bedside table

That's an image of my bedside table. There are 36 books or so visible in the picture; on the left, there's a book in the foreground that blocks at least half a dozen more, and under the table there are three more I haven't read. The strata of books on this table go back to purchases of at least as early as 2009, and maybe further (I worry about disturbing the delicate balance). There are books on the bookshelf behind me as I took this picture that go back even further, though there are also books on that shelf that I bought since 2009 that found a slot on the shelf.

This is to say nothing of the games. I have 109 console games I've bought that I either started and never finished, or in many cases never even removed from the shrink wrap (at least 25, though who really knows). I have easily a dozen DS games I never finished. I have no idea how many iOS or GBA games I never finished (though to be fair -- who really needs more than Drop7 on their phone?).

The resolution for this year is to make a dent in all of this. I've already read one of the books on the side table, loaned to me last year and soon to be on its way to the person from whom I borrowed it. One down. Dozens to go.

The Accountant: Wow, despite shipping a game this year, this is quite a staggering amount of content to consume. The only thing I'd maybe like is to see more films on the big screen - not that 30 is a small number. That does take a chunk of time, and with more baseball obligations with my kids on Sundays this year, finding that time was hard. This year we have a head start already - by the second day of the year we had seen three on the big screen!

The Apologist: I don't write much about the games I play here lately - largely because I'm working in the AAA space and that's often what I play. It's hard to make good games of this caliber and when I have thoughts, I don't want to be misconstrued as some successful developer looking down on his peers (believe me, I have more thoughts about the quality of games I've made). However, as I dig into the back catalog a bit I'll chat about those games as I see them. Hopefully, I'll find more time to blog, but as always, no guarantees!

That's my content consumption for 2011, thanks for dropping by!

Posted by Brett Douville at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2011

Alienated from the Arcade

Well, it's moved to a point where I can't ignore it anymore. I'm talking about the flap over at the popular webcomic. I don't need to recap the mess, I'm not going to link over to them (they hardly need the whisper of traffic I'd be redirecting), and I'm not going to recap other arguments about it.

I read the comic when it appeared, thought it a tasteless commentary about a humorous disparity between MMO written content and the behavior of players. And then I moved on.

I do tend to believe that humor should have no boundaries, though reasonable cautions to be sensitive to certain audiences with psychological triggers seem appropriate. Had it been me, I would have received initial complaints, apologized privately for the lack of such warnings (owing to my ignorance; I hadn't seen such warnings before this mess), updated my site to put such warnings in place, and never said another word, wiser for the experience.

It became a problem for me when they took it beyond the comedy and made it a policy to alienate others while appealing to the basest elements of their readers, who have responded in numbers under the purview of the Greater Internet F***wad Theory. (Indeed, if they find this commentary, no doubt my site will crumble under the weight. No biggie.) To those readers out writing the worst kinds of comments on blogs all over: try breathing through your nose for a little while and stop and reflect whether anything whatsoever has been taken away from you, while you're off on your idiot tirades and making your cruel, crude attacks.

Anyway, I was a huge fan. Heck, our second game had a code in it that unlocked the whole game based on the name of their site and comic.

Well, they achieved one of their goals, anyway. I'm alienated now, in a way I never would have been had it just been the comic. Time to move on from that particular source of humor, there's no shortage of others. I can't consume the content without feeling, well, a bit dirty, in a moral sense.

I'll miss it a bit, I'm sure, but probably less than I would have expected. I'll throw out the couple of shirts I've bought; I just don't want to be associated with that.

Thanks for the laughs.

Posted by Brett Douville at 09:40 AM | Comments (30)

October 03, 2010

In case you were wondering...

Barcelona is gorgeous this time of year.

A couple of posts are in the pipe and I'll post when I return.

Posted by Brett Douville at 03:33 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2010


I decided to go ahead and put the lists of books and films I've seen over the last few years as links from the sidebar, under "Current" and "Recent".

Posted by Brett Douville at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2010

Not much to blog about

Haven't had much to blog about lately -- a few thoughts but nothing that has developed fully into an idea for a post.

That said, for those who just can't get enough of me, I've had a couple of posts over on my employer's blog. The first is in our series called What I Read and the more recent one, posted yesterday, is about game development.

I'll probably have more to say here at some point, but at the moment just haven't had a lot to say. Cheers.

Posted by Brett Douville at 05:49 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2010

Where the Time Goes, Part II

or, The Year We Watched Too Much TV

As I did last year, I kept track this year of how much stuff I watched, read, and played over the past year.

The big surprise, looking at the numbers/lists, was just how much TV I watched this year, which is particularly surprising considering I do not have cable and no television reception to speak of¹. Instead, I have a Netflix subscription, which allows me both to receive movies and seasons of TV in the mail and to stream whatever's available on the service.

The other big event this year is that I jumped into the latest generation with both feet, buying myself a 360 Elite and a high-def television back in May or so. That has led to many many hours of games but also television and movies, via the Netflix streamer on the 360.

Anyway, here are the numbers:

  • 139 films, or more accurately, as last year, 139 film or video experiences. This seems starkly down from last year's 192, but when I stop to consider that I watched 28 seasons of television (yes, complete seasons) compared to the prior year's 16², I think, holy crap, did I watch a lot of television this year. Thankfully, I think this will slow down in the coming year and I can get back to watching films, including a pet project a friend and I will hopefully be doing in the near future. I have only one season of Buffy left, two of Angel, and LOST's final season starts in about a month. I have a few others I want to see, but if I were to make a prediction about this, I think this year was likely an anomaly.

    In any case, I saw 32 films in the theater, which is about the same as last year, and 19 of the movies I watched this year were primarily because I have kids (I'm looking at you, summer blockbusters).

  • 72 books, which is ten more than last year. I didn't count any of the books I read aloud to the kids save one (A Christmas Carol, which is sufficiently hefty to be countable), but I did read a fair amount of genre fiction this year. I read a handful of nonfiction books (4) and three books for work (3 -- also nonfiction, but separated out), which means I read more than 90% of people in my profession did this year, if Steve McConnell is to be believed. This is up from 62 books last year, with roughly the same distribution.

  • 11 games, which is up from last year as well, and those games I played I tended to play quite a lot of. I played Fable II and bought every property; I played Far Cry 2 and found or earned every diamond. I think I found all but two points of interest in Assassin's Creed (flags, or whatever), solved all the Riddler's challenges in Batman: Arkham Asylum, and found all the orbs in Prince of Persia. That's quite a lot of OCD gaming, my friends. And that's not even counting the games I've played quite a bit of but haven't finished (hopefully we'll see them here next year): Brutal Legend, Braid, World of Goo, Tomb Raider: Underworld... I also started several handheld games, never to finish them, and while I don't think I'm likely to, I did put some hours in there as well.

    And again, this doesn't count boardgames, though between me and the boys we have already started to amass a significant collection.

The Resolutionary: I have no resolutions really to make except that I think that much television is excessive. Four series really grabbed me this year: MI-5, LOST, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. Of these, LOST probably takes the least of my attention -- it's more an emotional rollercoaster while I'm watching it than anything else. I might also aim to play more quirky games this coming year, especially downloadables. I have played several but only finished a couple.

The Accountant: I honestly have no idea where I found this much time for all this entertainment. Granted, I was not crunching on a game at all, so perhaps that's reason enough to have found a lot of time -- there were two or three months in 2008 where I barely read, watched, or gamed at all.

The Biorhythmicist: Uh, why did I have this category last year? I guess I went into a period this year where I was really into playing games; all of the games I finished this year, I finished since May. I didn't play any in those first five months or so, at least, none that I cared enough about to finish.

The Apologist: Those seasons of TV were especially gripping :) And having said last year that I'd like to blog more about games this year, I'd have to say I largely fell down. I did post twice as many blog entries in the last year than the year prior, which is good; I haven't yet posted about several games that I finished and have something to say about, which had a lot to do with when I finished them and how driven I was to get to the next one. I played a bunch of games in November and December, and only posted about the one. I hope to turn that around this year.

See you in the next week when I start a series of posts about some game design work I did over a decade ago, and the lessons I learned doing it... I've already written most of the first one, so this is not an idle threat ;)

¹At least, I haven't tried with the new television. I had no reception with the old tube TV and although this one is LCD, I think I'd need to buy some kind of antenna or something. I'm not going to bother. (back)
²Even putting a season at a conservative 10 hours or so, this would mean about 60 more "movies" worth, meaning I'd have seen slightly more filmic entertainment than the prior year, or about the same. (back)

Posted by Brett Douville at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2009

New Sidebar Follows/Fellows

Just a quick heads up. I don't much talk about my work in this space, because the blog was kind of a way of letting off steam about what I consume and not so much what I create.

In any case, it's shameful that I haven't previously directed folks to two blogs by friends of mine from Day 1 Studios, Kyle Wilson and Adrian Stone.

Kyle has published a number of articles about the architecture of Day 1's Despair Engine, the sorts of trade-offs that they make and why.

Adrian talks about engineering concerns, often with regards to graphics but also general architecture or performance issues. His latest two articles are particularly nice and involve suggestions you can start using today on your own code bases.

In any case, I knew from the time I spent interviewing with these two gentlemen¹ a few years back that I could learn a lot from them, and it was a large part of why I took the job. Anyone else can read their thoughts on coding for games without changing his place of employment.

¹A term I use loosely with respect to Kyle. Kidding! (back)

Posted by Brett Douville at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2009

RSS feed

I've updated the RSS feed link to point at the atom feed, which works much better with Google Reader and I suspect others. For full text and better formatting, I suggest you unsubscribe from the feed and resubscribe.

Hey, while you're at it, you can follow me on Twitter.

Posted by Brett Douville at 09:01 PM | Comments (8)

February 21, 2009

Difficulty Post Crossed to GamaSutra

A couple of days ago my post on "managing difficulty" went up on GamaSutra. Lots of great comments over there, some of which I'm addressing here.

One thing to keep in mind is that there's a meta-rule when you're discussing any aspect of design, and not just design for games. Design with your audience in mind. My "tips" were specifically intended for games with wide, mainstream appeal, often accompanying a license.

Also, I didn't discuss the latest critical darling, Left 4 Dead in the post about difficulty, and not because I don't have thoughts about it, but more because I'd need more information to make an informed decision. However, the bulk of the comments focused on the story manager, which I think is a bit separate from difficulty -- the story manager manages a sort of difficulty, but within an overall difficulty setting. We have been playing the game on Hard in our co-op group, and the difficulty is just right -- hard enough that we have to do encounters a few times to get them right, but not so hard that we can't -- but basically, that's a factor of overall difficulty, and not specifically of the story manager. So, I'm not sure how I'd talk about it, though it's an absolutely splendid implementation. Stephen Chin does make an interesting remark about more experienced players coming in for more attacks in L4D... I haven't noticed that, but if true, it's a great way of managing difficulty in a co-operative game.

Story management, however, is definitely a very interesting area and one worth mentioning. I think this is a technology many will be attempting to rip off from Valve in the years to come. I do like Spencer McFerrin's suggestion on the GamaSutra post that the world and fiction reinforce what's going on in the difficulty space -- it's a variable we know about, why not design a little dialog system around it? Great thought.

I did stay away from Bethesda games, though not consciously. I'm a bit too close to Fallout right now to be objective, and I haven't been through a cycle with the design team yet thinking about our audience. Also, who knows, they might not be happy about it if I talked about it here. Also, I play relatively few open world games, and so I don't have much basis for comparison. And they aren't licensed games. So, they were pretty far from my mark.

Bart Stewart mentioned unique challenges, places where it's okay to be a little harder. I agree with this, so long as they conform to the other rules; it should be easy to change the difficulty levels in these contests, and the easiest setting should be completable by anyone in your potential audience.

I got a comment on the blog and I'll reiterate here -- we need to permit people who are motivated by challenge to participate alongside those who aren't. If the dial is there to change difficulty "whenever", well, don't turn it if you want the challenge. I would say, in response to one of GamaSutra's posters, that though Jedi Knight offered additional rewards to players who finished the game on harder difficulty levels, this unfortunately broke the rule about not giving rewards for difficulty that make the game easier. Great idea, though, and maybe a stretch goal for players. Some others in the post commented on this as well, but it bears repeating.

Post-post Erratum: So, actually, I was wrong about this. I happen to have one of the designers from Jedi Knight in town, and he clarified for me. The Light vs Dark Force Power bonuses in the game at the end of each level were for a) not killing (or killing) the non-combatants, and b) for finding secrets, as far as he recalls.

Rubberbanding came in for some heat; I haven't formed any opinions about that. I prefer games in which the driving AI can manage on its own, but I haven't really thought about it enough to speak intelligently, so I'll just leave that one up to developers who work in that space.

OK, I'll keep an eye on the post and round-up for any more comments I might have missed. If anyone's come over from GamaSutra to visit, thanks for dropping by! Give me a shout in the comments, let me know you're lurkin' :)

Posted by Brett Douville at 09:48 AM | Comments (1)

September 25, 2007

Blog Roll

Finally got around to posting a blog roll. I left a few things out that seem like they've died, and in one case left someone out who I think would probably prefer her privacy, but for the most part that stuff in the side bar is what constitutes my google reader feeds. Obviously a few things fit in multiple categories, but that's pretty much my categorization in the reader.

Posted by Brett Douville at 01:11 PM | Comments (2)

January 20, 2007

Guess I'd better post

The blog finally went empty today. Guess I'd better post -- well, I've got some time tonight, so why not?

Posted by Brett Douville at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2006

Ministry of Two

I was invited some months ago to preside over the wedding of two friends, Andrew and Jen, in California. The ceremony finally arrived and took place this past Sunday, on a beautifully sunny day at the Thomas Fogarty winery in Woodside, California, in the heart of the Bay Area. I am not a minister by trade nor by calling; this was, as far as I now know, a one-time thing.

In any event, several people at the wedding asked that I make the greeting and ceremony available online. Here it is.


Welcome, family and friends.

When I learned that Jen and Andrew had chosen a winery for the setting of their wedding, I thought it particularly appropriate. After all, the making of wine isn't so different from a marriage. It takes good roots, good soil, light, love, and yes, sweat and toil to make a great wine -- but it's a joyful toil, given the rewards. The result is a wonderful, complex, almost living thing which is the source of a rich variety of pleasures and flavors, much like marriage can and should be.

So, I thank and welcome each and every one of you who is here today, because you are the roots and soil from which Andrew and Jen grew, two people who mean a great deal to me, two people about to formalize a beautiful union. Like a fine wine, I am excited to see how they grow better with age.


I've selected two readings for today. The first is from the letters of Rainer Maria Rilke.

Marriage is in many ways a simplification of life, and it naturally combines the strengths and wills of two young people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into the future than they did before. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness, a new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner, and a great new danger for both.

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of their solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realisation is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side by side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

We'll come back to these thoughts in a moment, after a second reading from Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.

When you have arrived at Phyllis, you rejoice in observing all the bridges over the canals, each different from the others: cambered, covered, on pillars, on barges, suspended, with tracery balustrades. And what a variety of windows looks down on the streets: mullioned, moorish, lancet, pointed, surmounted by lunettes or stained-glass roses; how many kinds of pavement cover the ground: cobbles, slabs, gravel, blue and white tiles. At every point the city offers surprises to your view: a caper bush jutting from the fortress' walls, the statues of three queens on corbels, an onion dome with three smaller onions threaded on the spire. "Happy the man who has Phyllis before his eyes each day and who never ceases seeing the things it contains," you cry, with regret at having to leave the city when you can barely graze it with your glance.

But it so happens that, instead, you must stay in Phyllis and spend the rest of your days there. Soon the city fades before your eyes, the rose windows are exspunged, the statues on the corbels, the domes. Like all of Phyllis' inhabitants, you follow zigzag lines from one street to another, you distinguish the patches of sunlight from the patches of shade, a door here, a stairway there, a bench where you can put down your basket, a hole where your foot stumbles if you are not careful. All theh rest of the city is invisible. Phyllis becomes a space in which routes are drawn between points suspended in the void: the shortest way to reach that certain merchant's tent, avoiding that certain creditor's window.

Millions of eyes look up at windows, bridges, capers, and they might be scanning a blank page. Many are the cities like Phyllis, which elude the gaze of all, except the man who catches them by surprise.

I chose these two readings today as a pairing of things I wanted to say to Jen and Andrew, two things which play off of one another. When I first encountered the Rilke, I was struck by a peculiar sadness. I focused on the gaps between people, that uncrossable distance that separates us, two skins which often seem to be enormous walls of granite, or of lead, for all their impenetrableness. But as time has gone by, I've grown to view that distance as a source of continually renewing joy -- that despite those gulfs, love acts as a bridge to span that gap and allow two people to draw such rich pleasures, each in the company of the other. That over time two people grow and change, and each of them, with love and respect, watches over the other, in a full knowingness that though separate, they grow side by side and together. Constantly shout out your joy for each other from the parapets of these walls, so that the bridge remains strong, and so that you may never forget.

In the Calvino passage, I am reminded reading it again here of how full of wonder and awe each of your personal cities strikes me. Andrew and Jen, you are each glorious cities, which offer rewards beyond measure to your inhabitants, so long as they never cease to see them. To meld the two quotes a bit, you should begin to see each other as caretakers for the other's city, which will ever renew itself and grow, and change. Some districts will fall into disuse, some will be forever filled with light and crowds, but all of it will be the city that you watch over and love.

In a moment or two, each of you will place a ring upon the finger of the other and exchange vows. It's a very intimate moment, and all of us here are proud to be a part of it -- everyone here is focused on you, now, in the ceremony. A little bracing, isn't it? Perhaps a little scary? Before all of us, each and every one of us focused on you? Indeed, you could say the entirety of my ministry is focused on you.

You have spent a lot of time over the last months designing and considering not so much the ceremony, but the reception afterwards. But what I want to say to you now is that in each and every day, you must find a way to remember the ceremony -- to share a moment of intimacy, be it a physical remembrance such as a lingering kiss, or an emotional connection through the deep and meaningful sharing of some part of you that you have never revealed before. Each of you, like a city, has an enormous number of places to visit -- more than any one person could visit in a lifetime... but not so many that you cannot try.

Life is much like the reception -- it is all the things that take a lot more planning and care and which really end up driving you a little crazy, because it never happens as you expect. But the marriage... the marriage is here, in the ceremony, in the moments that you share alone, together. Promise me, while you exchange these vows, that you will find time in each and every day for the ceremony, a time when you don't think at all about the reception, a time when it is just the two of you, sharing an intimate connection, remembering or revealing a part of your cities that drew you to one another. Do this, and it will last.

And now, enough from me. Thank you for allowing me to share in the intimate moment that presents itself, the sharing of your vows, and the exchange of your rings.

¹It should be noted that I actually started the service by saying "I am Iron Man" and making a remark that I was in the wrong page of my missal because that the start of my purification ritual for beating Andrew at Guitar Hero. The bride was a little teary from her processional, so I ad-libbed something to lighten the mood for a moment. Both bride and groom looked amazing. (back)

Posted by Brett Douville at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2006

Administrivia: Podcast & Next Post

So, a couple of things:

1. Welcome to any folks who browsed here from Evil Avatar. A few nights ago I was interviewed by Phil Kollar/Kefkataran for their weekly "Evil Avatar Radio" podcast with my reactions to E³. That was a fun experience and maybe I'll do it again some day -- thanks Phil.

2. Yes, I have a new post coming, which has some of my thoughts about the appeal of Brain Age. I haven't been "playing"¹ that long, really, but I've already formed some early opinions that may be worth sharing. I'm hoping to get to it this evening.

¹I'll admit that in the context of games generally, Brain Age as an experience isn't really play, per se. (back)

Posted by Brett Douville at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2006

New Post Coming Friday

Sorry, I've been busy with lots of personal details. But someone gave me a hard time today about not posting, and I promised him I'd have something up by Friday to keep him "entertained and informed".

The post is called Industry in Crisis, which sounds a little like flame bait, now, doesn't it? Check back on Friday.

Posted by Brett Douville at 01:46 PM | Comments (2)

November 19, 2005


So, a few things.

1. Sorry for being absent for a while. Some personal business intervened.

2. Welcome to any Blogged Out readers who've come here. I've made the Blogged Out roll a few times now, it's always nice to be noticed (and read). Comment away, please, I'd love to hear your thoughts on current or past items.

3. Slight blog changes: I've removed the "Upcoming" area on the sidebar since it has swelled the size of the sidebar by 9KB¹ and ceased to be all that useful, even for me. The idea was to keep track of what I might post about next, based on what I've been reading, watching, or playing, but it had gotten so long that I doubt anyone was scrolling to the bottom anymore.

In future, I'll simply indicate what my next post is likely to be about, and you can still take a gander at what I'm reading, watching, and playing. Feel free to drop me a line at brett {at} brettdouville {dot} com if you care to discuss, digress, or discourse.

Upcoming article: On the sources of inspiration, spurred by a recent viewing of Finding Neverland and some other tidbits around the 'net. Likely to be posted in the next couple of days.

¹Which isn't so bad, except that it's part of every page on the site, and with all the comment-spam-crawling I seem to be getting these days, I suspect it was adding significantly to the amount of bandwidth I was consuming -- which I'll be paying for if it goes too high. Not enough for me to worry about it, but enough that small measures are probably worth taking.

Posted by Brett Douville at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2005

Man, the Spam

I've not been blogging due to a cold and then some travel. So's you know.

Anyway, while I was away this past weekend I got seriously spammed. I cleared all that out before I headed out again on Monday (business travel this time) and got thoroughly re-spammed.

Ugh. There are times when I hate the Internet.

Posted by Brett Douville at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

I made Blogged Out again

So, welcome back, GamaSutra¹ readers.

Jim Rossignol adds to the discussion, so I'll go ahead and keep talking about it in the original article's comments section.

Thanks Jim. And a belated thanks to Simon Carless for the first one.

¹Free registration sometimes required. I'm registered, so I don't know which are which.

Posted by Brett Douville at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2005

Welcome GamaSutra folks...

Well, turns out I somehow got mentioned on GamaSutra. I'm not sure how.

In any case, anyone who gets sent here from there, welcome. Browse away.

For anyone out there reading, I expect to post something about why I've stopped playing World of Warcraft sometime this weekend.

Posted by Brett Douville at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2005

I'm in Chicago

I've a post coming up but it needs to cook a few more days; I didn't get a chance to finish it up before I left.

Incidentally, the stuff I intend to post about is that "Upcoming" section over on the left of the page. I should probably reverse the order, but I take things off the bottom. So, expect that post to be about World of Warcraft. Cheers.

Posted by Brett Douville at 07:16 PM | Comments (2)

June 22, 2005

On Vacation

Hardly thinking about games at all. Well, maybe a little bit, but not about any games I'd be able to tell you about anyway. But mostly just relaxing the brain. I'll be posting again in a week's time.

Mario Golf, however, has been played quite a bit here, some with my brother-in-law, who has a healthy competitive instinct when it comes to golf particularly. Mario Golf helped my mini golf game, though -- beat him by two strokes, with just three over par!

Posted by Brett Douville at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2005

Ah, well

I was going to blog a bit today, but my hard drive crashed last night, so I am without a 'net, so to speak. This phone isn't great for posts.

Posted by Brett Douville at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2005

I think I'm back

Grief sapped my will to write for a little while there, but I think I'm back. Thanks for everyone's kind thoughts.

Posted by Brett Douville at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005

Regrounding the Blog

So, I've been thinking lately that while writing what I think about various books and movies is fun and all, one of the things I'd like to do, at least for a little while, is re-ground some of my thoughts in terms of what I do for a living as a game developer and as a game player. I'm going to give it a try for a little while, at least.

Some books & movies may have nothing to do with what I do, and yet may still have applications to what I do. Some have quite a lot to do with it, even directly, due to subject matter or whatever (as with Band of Brothers, the first entry to follow this new thinking).

Anyway, let me know what you think. Cheers.

Posted by Brett Douville at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Damn the Spam

I had turned off unregistered comments due to getting too much spam. I hate not having them on, so I've re-enabled them. Be warned that there may be some occasional spam I need to clear out until I've found a better solution.

Posted by Brett Douville at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005

Brotherhood of Mini

I bought a Mini shortly after I moved to Maryland -- I knew I was going to be in the car a lot, and after driving a Civic for 10 years, I decided to treat myself to something a little higher-end. So, as most of you know, I've now got a "liquid yellow" Mini.

So, now, as I'm driving to and from work, I often find myself seeing another Mini -- and exchanging a little wave. The best waves are the ones that come through the front window -- it's not like an afterthought, but like belonging to a club with a secret handshake. It's fun! Call it the Brotherhood of Mini.

What it reminds me most of is the random buffs you get and give in World of Warcraft¹. You're running along, you target someone and buff them, they maybe whisper thanks -- and you move on, a little happier, just in a tiny way. Feels good; it's not actual community, but it's communal feeling, and that's kind of nice.

So, to the gentleman in the blue Mini today, and the woman in the chili red one with the white bonnet stripes -- hey, thanks, you raised me up for a minute on the long drive. And thanks, too, to the high-level troll who buffed me last night; sorry, I didn't get your name, you were moving too fast.

¹Obviously, not unique to that, just what I personally play.
PS. In other news, Brent Sienna drives a Mini. Welcome, my cartoon brother. /wave

Posted by Brett Douville at 07:44 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2005

Here goes... something...

So, I'm off and blogging. Many thanks to my fine friend Loren's fine hosting service, I couldn't have done it without you.

My blog is intended to reflect my thoughts and opinions about a number of things, including games, books, and movies. I'm an avid consumer of all three, but a developer of the first. So, occasionally I may spend a little time talking about game development, like Jamie does, but mostly it will be more along the lines of reviews and such.

Expect the look of the site to be unstable for a little while as I figure out how I want it to look.

Cheers, thanks for reading.

Posted by Brett Douville at 07:21 PM | Comments (2)