Moving blog... again...

I've decided to move my blog to another site due to blogspot's tendency to eat comments.

The new link is:

Sorry for the inconvenience.


An Explanation of the Groundwork

I realize that a series links can seem ultimately uninformative of what I was really trying to get across, so I decided to go back and write some explanation for the groundwork.


Schools Kill Creativity: We have enormous human potential. We waste almost all of it.
Drive: Incentive structures don't work for creative tasks. What does work for creative tasks is the fact that people WANT to do well to begin with.
Secret Powers of Time: We perceive time differently based on culture and personality.
Empathic Civilization: People are naturally empathetic, if we see someone else in distress we are biologically hardwired to feel their distress as well.
The Four Act Structure: The four act structure is a system of organize a stageplay into 4 acts, intro, everything goes wrong, hero overcomes the setbacks, final battle and resolution.
Ira Glass on Storytelling: Storytelling is best done in broadcast as anecdotes, a series of acts connected by causality, and with questions that it is infered you will answer during the "moment of reflection."
How to Start a Movement: A movement is not solely about a leader, in fact most people in a movement are not following the leader directly, they are following the first or second follower who tend to be the engine of teaching others how to enter the movement.
Teaching One Child at a Time: Don't wait until you can do everything before you do what you can. If you do what you can, what you can do will increase. In fact it's very rare for what you can do to increase at all without you already doing something.
Flow and Counter-Flow: Contemplation is not anathema to games, it's an element for use at your disposal. Just as great musicians know that silence is also a tool in a musical composition.
The remainder of my articles: Never assume that I'm talking about things in the context of present games, I'm simply not. As someone so marvelously revealed to me, I've had a chicken moment (http://spinksville.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/realid-around-the-web-the-future-will-be-written-in-chicken/) and I don't necessarily expect everyone to always get what I'm saying. Still, I already have a concept of a compelling non-combat mmo, of a societally heavy game that has pvp without becoming a wolf vs sheep dichotomy. These may not have come fully into being, but I have the road maps to those points available to me, I accept them as possible destinations for the industry. On the single player side... well I'll be talking more about Pax Imperator in a bit.

So what does this all mean? What narrative am I weaving out of these points of thought?

First I want to get one point of philosophy out of the way. It is my belief that sentience and tool usage is the final pinnacle of evolution. The reason is, we can now evolve ourselves. If we find that we have, say, a terrible gene that is killing us, we can intelligently act to remove it. Should we find that we cannot communicate fast enough, we can do research and find a new faster form of communication. This is somewhat of a simplification, but overall the point stands, we CAN BE anything we WANT TO, so long as we are willing to make it the priority and put in the work required for it to happen.

Given that, the most important resource to our future survival is how well we leverage human potential towards a desired future. What scares me is, we are terrible wasters of human potential. The good news is we're better than we've ever been, the bad news is we've never previously been anything besides completely and utterly inept. In order to move forward in that field we need several major paradigm shifts. Three factors play the largest part in making that change possible.

First is the creation of systems for the communication of important information. With the advent of the internet we are crushed by an ever growing constant torrent of information. So much so that very few systems are able to keep up with this flow of information and turn it into something people can use, and as far as I can tell all of them have been invented for the sole purpose of handling the internet. Wikipedia, it's entertainment cousin TVTropes, google maps, search engines, etc... and so forth. Second is education, I don't think I have to go out on a limb to declare that our education system both in America and around the globe is starting to show serious signs of structural failure. Now I actually do see a lot of value in something like a college degree in that it provides me a level of certainty as to the kind of foundation a persons learning has. The problem though, is that we are spending 18 years of education to prepare for college that a massive number of students either won't go to or won't graduate from, and that won't really be worth that much once they have graduated 4-6 years later. On top of that, we are sticking to the worst parts of our educational institutions analog roots and finding that they simply fail to have any impact at all with children who are growing up in a digital age, and often rightly realizing that their mastery of digital mediums will be far more valuable in the long run than their ability to sit still in class for 8 hours. The last is organization. We have more and more organizations popping up all the time, still only a very small percentage of that has any goals or plans over 10 years. We need more long term organizations, and more people who know how to be effective in the tasks of organization. Also in the modern world, it's not a matter of solely local organizations, there are many fields where global organizations are required in order to make the most of it's membership.

Modern games are at the crossroads of these three issues. A game designer is a systems designer with a sense of fun, I always say, and it is in fact our job to generate and communicate information efficiently and such that the important information is understood immediately. Learning is one of the key elements of fun, and games are definitely teaching machines even if we haven't decided to teach anything all that important just yet. Finally, for online games we have thus far been leaving our communities basically to their own devices, I don't think that's good enough. Note, I'm not advocating some sort of authoritarian dictatorship of your community, I'm advocating that we channel our community resources into equipping our players with the tools, information, and training they need to become effective organizers.

There are also some points I'll be going into in later posts about things I've learned while making my games. About work ethics and the power, or sometimes the lack thereof, of ideas, and some of those speeches I link speak to details about those that have come from other fields. In order to be effective, we will need new metrics. What we measure now is not going to help us get better so we need new measurements and systems of collection. On the matter of storytelling, the ability to tell stories is a key component of people's lives and it would be to our shame to abandon that in favor of pretty explosions. Our gameplay needs to connect with higher parts of people's mind, and the only way to do that is story, written, spoken, ludic or otherwise.


Lucius Mummius commander in charge of the Roman force that broke Corinth and conquered Greece.


Some Groundwork

I'm going to be writing some new stuff on games and game making. However there are some fundamentals that I really want to get out of the way before moving on to serious discussion.

Chip Conley: Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile
Michael Sandel: The Lost Art of Democratic Debate
Sir Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity
Drive: The Surprising Truth About Human Motivation
The Secret Powers of Time
The Empathic Civilization
The Four Act Structure
Ira Glass on Storytelling
Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement
Shukla Bose: Teaching One Child at a Time
Flow and Counter-Flow
The Specific Problem of Game Ecology
Intercession Tanking

I've tried to talk about making games several times, but at the end of the day it tends to wind up bogged down in attempts to explain the context in which I'm speaking. These are all designed to create a context, a framework of ideas and philosophies to hold more specific items in place.

At it's core, only work has value. All ideas are individually meaningless. However, their position in your framework modifies the value of your work. Better ideas make a stronger framework for more valuable work. A better communication of that framework, leads to more productive conversation on items within that framework, so hopefully this will help to illustrate the framework that I've built.




Since it's on my mind:
A correctly run scientific experiment does not attempt to prove a theory. It attempts to disprove the theory, on the grounds that the truth is impossible to truly disprove.




To the dipshits who call out the Signs aliens

"What kind of stupid people with an allergy to water land on a planet where not only is 70% of the surface covered with water, but the shit falls from the sky!"

We are. Us. Humanity. We fight on submarines at pressures that would instantly kill us. If given the chance we'd fight in space, where we cannot survive for more than a few seconds ANYWHERE. Hell, we even developed a way to fight 30,000 feet in the sky... watch that first fucking step.

Lets face it, if we found an alien planet with an atmosphere that was completely toxic to our simean asses we'd still be sending in marines and shitcanning them if they moaned about it. If it rained acid we'd just issue new tents and tell them grin and bear.

So no, that is not the question. The question is what kind of shit stupid alien race goes somewhere that has a toxic substance hanging in the air (humidity) and decides it's best to just walk around NAKED!

And now back to your regular schedule...






It probably isn't working, but I just felt the desire to play around with neon green and orange for some reason...


#46, NSFW

"Return with your shield, or on it."



The Deal
I draw or paint 300 Spartan themed sketches, paintings, and illustrations.
I take donations for the glasses, tablet and monitor I need, with anything extra going to Child's Play.

The Status
Over $300 dollars raised so far...
I have the glasses and the tablet, next is the monitor.





The original frenemies.



"I'm certain they thought to break our morale by using the grotesque corpses of our fallen brothers in such a manner. Instead they had the opposite effect. Where as once the men had been held together only by their soldier discipline, with no interest in the welfare of this land so far from their own homes, now they fight with a new purpose. Now they feel this fight is theirs, that it's personal, and for that alone they are fighting as though ares walked among them."



Spartanasaurus Rex.



I recently watched a great presentation on character design, if you're wondering why my style has changed so much.





Hopefully these two have a bit more personality than my last attempt at Spartan/Persian pairing.



thought I'd go with something more 3d today...



So Monday was a total clusterfuck on the project I'm currently working on to keep myself in house and home, and in the process this kind of slipped my mind. I'm just going to shift and end this week's selection on Saturday rather than Friday, hopefully life will be returning to normalish next week.


Flow and Counter-Flow

I've been in many game design discussions, and one of the big things to come our way in the last decade or so is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research on flow. We know, through artists and athletes that flow is a very activity based feeling. It presents itself as we do things and apply ourselves against the world under the right conditions.

Now Csikszentmihalyi's work and thinking is backed up by scientific studies and research, whereas what I'm about to talk about has no grounding other than my own limited life experience. What I want to talk about right now is what I'm calling counter-flow due it's very opposing nature to the traditional conception of flow.

So if flow is our optimal state for pressing ourselves against the world, then counter-flow is the optimal state for the world to press against us. You could use the terms contemplation or meditation, but those are to me activities not descriptors of a state of being. Much like flow, counter-flow only appears under certain conditions. First, you need to have lots of free floating information, second, you need focused time. It's important that time not only needs to pass, but it also needs to be focused, either by being contiguous or by being spent on related activities, but not the same activity.

Counter-flow is not inspiration, but when in a state of counter-flow you will be inspired. The best way I can explain it is that you will find yourself traversing a web of connections which you have definitely before observed, but never before noticed. Problems which had previously been too large to handle will have their solution simply slide into place. Unlike flow, counter-flow will not necessarily make you happy. Depending on what you discover, it may make you angry, depressed, ecstatic, anxious, or really any of a large range of very powerful emotions. However no matter the emotion, the experience from within the state itself will always be one you cherish, and make a part of you.

So why am I talking about it? First let me get it out of the way that there are some people for whom counter-flow is the real high, who go out of their way to find these experiences wherever they may be. You may have seen them around art galleries, museums, libraries, monasteries, or turn based strategy games... Though the numbers have turned against them, there is still a core of gamers who seek out this kind of experience in their own games. They submerge themselves in slow moving overwhelming walls of information, taking breaks to read up and discuss the vagaries of their recent experiences. On a larger scale though, in my hubris fueled opinion, every great work that is not primarily utilitarian in nature contains both flow and counter-flow.



I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad that I managed this one in a time frame that made yesterday's pixel art look downright laxadaisacal.





WIP - Brawler Cast





Fever dreams.









kind of screwed over on my current project, hopefully I'll be able to make it up to you on #29 or #30



I really wish I could have restarted this one and gone more into exploring the pottery inspired pose of the Persian, or even just done something far more focused on the Persian. Unfortunately, today there just isn't a lot of free time in my schedule, so I only got one shot and this is what came out.

The Hard Truth

The "Hard Truth"... if you have ever wanted to get into the game industry as a designer, I probably don't even need to tell you what that means. For everyone else, it goes a little something like this.

"Hey I have this great idea for a game!"
"Well the Hard Truth(tm) is that nobody wants your bleeding idea. You'll either need to get a job in the game industry, you lazy bum, and wait out the three to twenty years of being an executive's ass wipe or pour blood sweat and tears by the bucketload into making it by yourself. Oh and good luck finding anyone to help you, nobody wants to work on other people's ideas, they have their own."

The trouble isn't with the core message, 'it's not that easy', it's that every time someone broaches the issue they're always in some sort of sadistic competition to be even more cynical and condescending than the last person. Obviously these peons simply didn't get how wise they were when they were level headed about it, and now it's time to remind them all what useless pinheads they are.

Now I'm not an industry insider, in fact I'm an amateur indie developer, but I have something to tell everyone whose ever read a Hard Truth(tm) put down. They aren't wrong, but they aren't actually telling you anything useful either.

So what is the useful information? It's simple, if you want to get involved in making games, you kind of have to actually like making games. If you either can't be bothered to learn the software for a mod kit, or get an office job, or just hate those activities with a passion, then maybe game design isn't for you. It's probably not something you'll ever like being a part of, and in the end you may come to hate your own idea because of burnout. But that's only side A. If you love getting involved in modding, if you love programming, or working as a hiring person, or game testing, or writing, then boy are you in for a surprise... You're actually welcome here. Okay so nobody is going to trust your pitch with the ten million it needs to become reality, but that's okay, because you know what you get to do in the mean time? Have a lot of fucking fun doing something you love.

If you're a writer, write. Get out there and write a book, you may not have an in to get hired as a writer straight up, but maybe you'll get to write a book for a game. Then do some writing for the next game, or if your book gets that popular, maybe they'll approach you wanting to make a game for YOUR book. If your an artist, take your time, nail that portfolio, work in movies or comic books, hell print ads are excellent for learning composition. Then guess what, you'll have a portfolio and people who think what a swell person you are, and all while doing exactly what you loved doing.

The fact that your idea is going to have to mature before it actually gets made shouldn't be a horrible disgusting truth that must be borne in order to enter the club. It's a chance to get some experience, get better at what you already do best, and most importantly, relax and have fun. After all, if you screw up, at least it wasn't your idea.



And Jules Verne leaped out of his time machine and approached the man sitting towards the center of the bar. "Are you the so called 'King of Rock and Roll'?"

"And if I am?"

"Then history needs you! Sparta needs a king!"

"Well, good thing I'm The King then."

And in the next second they were gone...



Just under deadline by my clock...






#22 NSFW

I don't really have anything clever to say about this one.



Just a drawing, having fun with the new tablet.


Progress Update

Pax Imperator

So in the land of my current game project, I'm having some trouble changing the color of the background. On the plus side, I managed to take a quick proof of concept with a single planet, and extend it out to having multiple planets and a camera. Next step is probably going to be some basic UI.

Fallout 3 Modding

I recently picked up Fallout 3 and it's been an eminently entertaining diversion. I also have it modded to high heaven and back... So I decided that I might as do some modding of my own for it. This has thus far produced the texture recolors for the faction seen here, the pistol I posted last night, and a triple damage mod that actually doesn't make the wasteland much more dangerous, but certainly makes the main character much more deadly.

A bit of thought as to the background of the faction, they are essentially a matriarchal society that sprung up around the survivors of Fort Knox. They weren't a serious power early on due to an alliance of four major raider gangs controlling Texas and the surrounding area. However, a GECK in a nearby vault malfunctioned and rather than terraforming the area it instead caused the growth of a single enormous tree. The tree then became a symbol of hope in the wastes and a new religion sprang up around it as people came in from all corners of Kentucky and Tennessee to be near it. The resulting increase in manpower, combined with their already formidable training program from some former spec ops members among them resulted in their coming to dominate the area. During early encounters with the enclave they stole a great deal of tech. Their access to surpluses of gold has allowed them consistently stay ahead of the pack in terms of electronics manufacturing. This has lead them into many head on confrontations with the Brotherhood of Steel.


Hopefully I'll get the chance to fix the texture, but otherwise, I'm kind of proud of this baby. 908 tris in all.



The big 2-0. This one took much longer than I usually spend, hopefully it shows...



Due to some forgetfulness on my part, today's Spartan wound up being a sketch.



Thanks to a very generous donation, the new tablet is in the mail and I'll be getting that eye exam here shortly. Yay ^.^.

The last item on the list is the monitor, and then it all goes to Child's Play after that. So we're only at #18 so far, plenty of time ahead of me on this.



more word-stuff next post, when, hopefully, my internet can hold a connection longer than five minutes.