Sun And Games

Computer Games, Life, Business, Family, Stuff

Monday, January 31, 2005

Great Games You've Never Played

Do you know what you're missing?
Some of the best computer games ever made are likely games you've never heard of. Created by individuals and small companies working in relative obscurity. They don't have million dollar budgets, some don't even have hundred dollar budgets. They don't have dedicated marketing departments, research analysts, sales teams, fancy offices, and cutting edge tools. They scrape together whatever tools they can, often discarded by the ultra rich game designers of big shiny game studios.

Making Miracles.
In spite of these deplorable working conditions, they create some of the most amazing games around. How do these game gems get created, and who are the miracle workers creating them. They're independent game designers. Sometimes called Indies for short. Working out of their bedrooms, garages, spare offices, and basements. They have a passion for what they do. They love games, they love the act of creation, and are relentlessly committed to their vision of what a game should be. They often build games they themselves would love to play. Simply because no one else will. These kind of games you won't find at the big box electronics store casting it's shadow over your end of town. These passionate Indies could care less what the marketing boys up on the 26th floor have to say about the latest game trends. Probably because their garages don't have 26 floors. They just know their love of games, and how much they enjoy playing.

Where do Indies come from?
Indie game developers come from all different areas. They're often former artists, programmers, or designers of some big name software companies. Maybe that quiet little programmer in that tiny corner cubicle dreams of being an Indie one day. Tired of the corporate rat race, and looking to express themselves creatively they become Indies. Some of been lucky enough to avoid the corporate avenue altogether and make a living doing what they love from the beginning. Regardless of their origins, they all have the passion and desire to create. To be able to put their name on something really great. They want to be recognized for their abilities and worth. But more than that, they want you to play their games, and have fun doing so.

Why are Indie games so good?
Indie games are good first and foremost, because they're fun. It's a game after all, and if it's not fun from the get go, then what's the point. They're also highly original, sometimes mainstream funny, sometimes just weird funny, sometimes morbid, sometimes creepy, and sometimes just downright gross. But, thats OK. Games should be a departure from the everyday. They should make you think in different, fantastic ways. So many big name games are just rehashed ideas done a thousand times before. Another sequel of the same old games from last year. Indie games are adventurous and risky. Indies take chances and devote their time to making something unique. So, take a look around, and try a few, till you discover the one that matches your own bizarre and fantastic interests.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

What Makes a Hero ?

Just finished watching the film "Hero" starring Jet Li, and a first tier cast of Asian actors. Most of whom I didn't recognize due to my over consumption of North American / Hollywood films. While I've never written a movie review, I thought it would be interesting to at least write down a few thoughts about the film. Part of my reason for blogging, is to become a better writer, and to tackle things I've never done.

Hero is considered a "swordsmen" movie. Got that phrase from watching the bonus features on the DVD ;) As I'm sure you can guess, it means pretty much all the action scenes use swords. This makes it different, from other martial arts movies where most of the fighting is done hand to hand. The "swordsmen" type movie, certainly gives the director a lot more to work with visually.

While the action sequences are certainly mesmerizing, what struck me most, was the amount of emotion and character development they conveyed. Action sequences in Hollywood movies are generally pure eye candy. While the action sequences in Hero are mesmerizing, they also propel the story, and aid in the character development. Specifically, I'm thinking of the fight scene in the forest which takes place in a whirlwind of yellow leaves around combatants dressed in flowing red robes. The character Flying Snow, speaks volumes by her lack of interest in engaging her assailant during this scene. Her sense of apathy creates tension, causing the viewer to wonder if she will even survive the duel, while at the same time, it's obvious that if she really cared, her opponent would be dead in seconds.

It's really the little things that make this movie so memorable. The way the edge of a blade can break the surface of a glass lake, as it propels it's master through the air. Where the Matrix coined the phrase "Bullet-Time", I think Hero owns the phrase "Droplet-Time". Jet-Li floats through droplets frozen in air, splattering each one on the way to deliver a fatal stroke. A droplet flies through the air from a battle of flying men over a crystal lake to land on the cheek of a recently departed loved one, and brings the battle to a dramatic end. Flying arrows that look like a sky of locusts. A rift of air cuts through a river of flowing leaves on the tip of a sword.

It really is a remarkable film. Visually stunning and vibrant with dramatic colours that shift with the tone and flow of the plot. One story told from several very different, but believable perspectives, that leave the viewer wondering . . . "which one is true?". And in between the story telling, are the poetic beautiful ballets disguised as action sequences, epic battle scenes, duels, and inner battles the characters fight within themselves. While a little different than what you may be used to watching, Hero is really a piece of art, that will draw you in and take you away, if you let it.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Security is for cadavers

I've used GoDaddy as my domain name registrar for a number of years, and I always thought they were a pretty cool outfit that provided great service. Now I know why. I recently stumbled onto the blog of their CEO Bob Parsons. He appears to be a pretty cool guy himself, with quite a storied past. I really liked one of his recent posts entitled “Robert, they can’t eat you!” My rules for survival. I especially liked his justification for rule # 1:

I hear people say, “But I’m concerned about security.” My response to that is simple: “Security is for cadavers.”

The one thing I don't understand, is why his RSS feed only has 2 subscribers in my favourite aggregator Bloglines. I mean, hey I have one subscriber (me), and I have yet to make the 2.4 Million Mr. Parson is about to spend on his upcoming Super Bowl ad. Although, one more subscriber in Bloglines, and I catch up to him. Look out Bob, here I come!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Voyage of the Northern Magic

While I was in Aruba last week, I happen to have the good fortune to read the book The Voyage of the Northern Magic. This is the story of a young family who took four years of their life, and circumnavigated the world in a thirty-seven foot sailboat. Mom, Dad, and three boys aged 5, 9 and 11 when they left. The amazing part, is that they only sailed six times before starting their journey. And, those six times weren't even on the boat they used for their circumnavigation. Foolhardy? Yes. Courageous? Yes. Inspiring? Yes Breathtaking? Yes! Yes! Yes!

I happen to have started sailing myself just a couple of years ago in a boat (29.5 Hunter) not much smaller then theirs. I thought I was a little crazy when I bought the boat when neither my wife or I had sailed before in our lives (not counting that little dingy hanging up in my garage). Having had some sailing experience, the story of the Northern Magic was that much more incredible to me. They encountered horrific storms, met some real life pirates, gave themselves the trip of a lifetime, and still managed to make the world a better place with their generosity and compassion towards those they met.

While the story is about sailing around the world, the lessons they learn and impart are universal. I could certainly apply their lessons to my dreams these days of running my own business, and the obstacles I face. The one that really struck a chord with me was number seven off their list: Never, never, never give up.

While the story certainly has a happy ending, the epilogue to the book doesn't. Diane Stuemer, the author passed away from cancer, shortly after the book hit the best seller list. But, what an adventure to have had, and what great memories her family will have to remember her by. The family has a website, where you can learn more about their story.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Aruba, Jamica, Ooo I wanna take ya . . .

Ok, time for a personal and fun post. And a quick one as well. All my posts can't be these long winded dissertations. Seems once I get going, I just can't stop. See, there I go again.

Anyway . . . back on topic. The family and I just returned from 8 nights in Aruba. It's our second trip to this little tropical paradise, and long overdue. The last time we went was 4 years ago. I wasn't all that excited about going at first. I think partially because, I booked the trip like a year ago, and I've been just so friggin busy between family, work and SunAndGames, that I hadn't spend much time thinking about it. A couple of days, before we left though, I was getting pretty pumped. We took a bunch of pictures, and video. It was a great time, and no one wanted to come home. I still can't figure out why the sand that's supposed to be outside my window has turned to all this white fluffy stuff. The highlight of the trip, at least for me, was sailing on the pirate ship. Rope swinging from an 85 ft schooner is not something you get to do every day. I did promise, this was going to be a short post, so time to finish. If you want to see more, check out the pictures. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, and I've got a whack of pictues to post, I guess this is not really a short post after all. Hmmm . . . maybe next time.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

This Business Needs Some Big Mistakes

I want to run my own business. Specifically, I want to be an independent games designer / publisher / programmer that runs his own business. Lately, it's been a bit of a struggle.

What have I done?

Over the last 9 months or so I've done a number of things. Brushed up on my C++ programming skills. Upgraded my computer graphics skill from horrific to just really bad. Read business books, programming books, games books, self improvement books (used to think those were only for wimps), how to build web site books, how to sell on the internet books, marketing books, etc etc etc. I've caroused in forums devoted to the business of independent games design, web site design, and internet marketing. I've read probably a few thousand posts. Personal success stories, personal failure stories, all the things you absolutely must do to run a games business, all the things you should never ever do to run a games business. Pros and cons for and against quitting your regular day job and devoting more time to the business. I've changed my daily schedule, so I'm up at 5am every day to work on the business. I've created and analyzed several personal budget scenarios, for how to manage on one income. I've collected a multitude of inspirational quotes.

"There are no such things as unrealistic goals, only unrealistic time frames"
--- The Power of Focus

"A dream is always a bargain, no matter what you pay for it."
--- Harvey Mackay

"Persistence and determination are omnipotent."
---Calvin Coolidge

etc etc etc

I have reams of collected notes, web links, more book recommendations, and half-completed business plans than I could read in a week. I have a game that is 90% finished, a web site that is up and running, as well as a big list of things to do.

Chris . . . we have a problem.

I also have a block. A block? Yes, a block. Writers block, programmers block, entrepreneur block. Call it what you will. Things have slowed to a grind for the last few months, and it's frustrating the hell out of me. Part of it could be that my day job has become more demanding, and is leaving less energy for me to devote to my business dream. Part of it is that tough phase in any project, where you just want the damn thing to be over with, so you can move on to something different. It's a chore at the moment, and not so long ago, it was fun. Too bad, I tell myself, just suck it up and finish what you started. However, the army sargent shtick, doesn't always seem to work when the sargent and the enlisted guy are one in the same.

Nothing to fear but myself.

I think I'm afraid. Afraid of what ? Afraid of failure, that's what. I seem to be able to devote endless amount of time to reading about how to build this business. Reading books, forums, blogs, how-to articles over and over. My news reader (bloglines) has 120 RSS feeds that I have been reading religiously. It's like an obsession. It's like I have to read every little post, to capture every grain of knowledge, so I don't make too many mistakes, and fail at this business dream. Because, than what happens? Back to working for "The Man" forever and ever. I don't think so. Pretty crazy huh? I agree.

Time to screw things up.

So how about this for a plan. Stop reading and trying to devour the entire sum of knowledge on the internet, and the local library. Here's what I need to do. I'm gonna get out there and make some mistakes. And make some big ones. Some I'll remember. Cause, those are the ones I'll only make once. The little ones I'll probably have to repeat a few times, before I learn. Finish the game. Polish the game. Polish the web site. Market the game, and then market it some more. Ultimately, make that first sale, and then the next one. One foot after the other.

Then what Einstein?

And then, start it all over again. With game number 2, 3, 4 and so on. Bigger, badder and better. This time though, not so many big mistakes ;)