Friday, July 24, 2009


The following are pros and cons of growing a beard:
  • Pro - You get called boss and sir far more often when shopping for things
  • Con - You get asked "Are you buying these for your kids?" when buying cartoons or family movies (only really a con if you don't have kids or aren't buying said cartoons/movies for your kids)
  • Pro - You can save parts of meals for snacks for later
  • Con - Other people can see you saving parts of meals for snacks for later
  • Pro - Men respect you more (see Chuck Norris)
  • Con - Women are less likely to find you attractive
  • Pro - You're one step closer to becoming a wizard, mighty pirate, first mate of a starship, lumberjack, computer programmer, etc.
  • Pro - You can really emphasize how hard you are thinking at any given moment
  • Con - People will know when you're plotting evil schemes (no no I wasn't twirling my moustache!)
  • Pro or Con - People are highly unlikely to kiss your cheek
  • Pro - A good, thick beard successfully hides zits underneath it
  • Con - An improperly cared for beard may cause zits
  • Pro - At any moment (assuming the beard is long enough) you can shave off the beard and gain back 10 years of your life
  • Con (possibly) - You look 10 years older with a beard
  • Pro - You have an excuse to get a moustache comb
  • Con - You have to buy beard trimming equipment (unless you want the gross, unkempt beard look)
  • Pro - You get asked one less question when getting a haircut (ie "Do you want sideburns?")
  • Con - Wearing fake beards will no longer work as a disguise

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Waggle Staff of Kings

So I just finished Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings. Apparently the Staff of Kings is Moses' staff from the Bible. I don't remember it ever being referred to as the staff of kings, but I guess I'm not a big archaelogist buff. This game started off incredibly fun. At first I was thinking all the Wii motion controls made a lot of sense and fit the game really well. You put your Wii-mote at the screen to fire the gun when you're in shooting gallery mode, you put up your dukes with nunchuck and Wii-mote in hand and do jabs, uppercuts, and hooks by doing the appropriate motion. You even fly a plane by holding the Wii-mote like you would an airplane joystick. As is always the case with Wii games (at least the ones I've played so far), it starts off making sense, but then the more you do it, the more you realize just how imprecise it is and just how frustratingly stupid waggle controls are in the heat of combat. At one point I'm surrounded by 8 nazis and was constantly just running around throwing things at them and fighting like a pansy because everytime I tried to stand and fight using my fists or the objects I was throwing at them, Indiana Jones would stand there uselessly while Eric Heine was shaking the circuit boards out of his controllers. Not fun. Another part of the game had the opposite problem, where the controls were too sensitive - the plane. I crashed into more walls because of overcompensating turns than anything else. Not fun. The last motion control problem was when the controls just plain didn't make any sense. The very very very final part of the game has you driving a motorcycle, but instead of driving it Mario Kart style with the Wii-mote sideways and you turn it to turn, you have to hold the Wii-mote AND the nunchuck as if they were one handlebar. How did that ever make sense to anyone? Half the time the bike wasn't turning because I guess I wasn't holding the controllers correctly and the other half was overturning just like the plane. Not fun.

Okay, so enough of my rant. Most of those complaints are from the final level, so if you bought the game and stopped playing right when Indy gets on a zeppelin, I think the game would still be fun. They clearly rushed the last level with no test time or just had very rookie designers and programmers working on them. At least that's how it felt to me.

Okay really. I'll stop complaining now. What's fun about the game is every other level; the exploration, shooting, and level design are all really good. The voice acting is good. It wasn't Harrison, but it was a very good sound-a-like. The music was very Indiana Jonesish. The two reasons I bought the game were co-op mode and the inclusion of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (including voiceovers!). Co-op mode is Indiana and his dad essentially playing a varied amount of mini-games working together with a completely different story than the main story. I haven't beat it yet, but I enjoyed what there was so far. I only started playing through Fate of Atlantis to see what it was like on the Wii (I've beaten it countless times as a child). The version I owned as a kid didn't have voiceovers, so I do look forward to playing through that at some point.

So if you take my advice and stop playing the main story when Indiana jumps onto a zeppelin, then I'd say this game earns 4 fedoras. If you hate yourself enough (or if you're like me and just have to complete things) then it earns 12 poisoned dates. What do those numbers mean? Absolutely nothing. If you remember my original purpose for starting this blog, then you'll remember I hate review numbers because they're meaningless. If you played Uncharted, Prince of Persia (the newer set, not the original), or any game that involves ledge climbing around ancient ruins with (in my opinion) combats that really mar the whole experience and liked them, then you'll like this. If you want a good Indiana Jones experience, this game will fit that well. If you want a really great Indiana Jones experience, get Lego Indiana Jones.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Motion/voice controlled gaming

Ever since the Wii was announced, there's been a trend of motion control technologies released.  Two of these were just announced at this year's E3 and the technology isn't finished, so I'll try not to judge them on how glitchy they may look.  My big concern with this trend is that a lot of games do not work with motion controls.  At least not without losing precision or feeling gimmicky.  Project Natal specifically has this video of a family very happily playing a bunch of really dumb looking mini-games together.  Let's assume for a second that anything shown in that video is possible (a big assumption in my opinion), sure that's great for like a 10 minute gameplay session with a bunch of people, but I don't see how that entertainment would last at all or be any fun when I'm playing a game by myself.

You've got a racing game where three people sit there and watch one person play for a very very rare moment of "Now I get to play!"  If I were that dad, I'd tell my daughter to go to the pit stop every lap just so I could get to play.  You've got a Godzilla game that looks like a glorified EyeToy game, which had the same problem of no games for it besides lame mini-games.  You've got a game show game where the motion is hitting the buzzer.  Didn't they sell that game only with an actual buzzer so you can't complain about it not registering your hand movement in time?

Maybe I'm just jaded because of the Wii's waggle-rificly inaccurate motion controls and constant stream of shovelware mini-games.  Speaking of the Wii, they've released some new technology to make their motion sensing more accurate.  If that works then that helps one problem, but developers still have the problem of slapping in motion controls in games just because.  Like Wario Land: Shake It!, which would have been a fantastic old-school platforming game save for the fact that every half a minute or so you'd have to violently shake your controller to get money out of bags or get enemies out of their armor.  This completely broke me out of the enjoyment I was having playing the game every time I had to do it.  That's not the goal in my opinion.

Some games did manage to do the motion controls incredibly well without feeling gimmicky.  Mostly because it wasn't shaking or waggling the controller to do things.  It was pointing the controller like a gun to fire my in-game gun at people or making a motion like I was tossing a garrote around someone's neck to choke them (violent I know, but it is a game based on the Godfather).

So I guess my problem is two-fold.  I really don't trust Project Natal for most games because I think it's important to have the feel of something in your hands while playing a game.  Imagine playing Rock Band with no instruments.  Air Rock Band Hero.  Closets around the world would love that because they wouldn't have to hold so many plastic peripherals, but the controls would have to be so dumbed down to feel at all accurate, which would just ruin the experience.

The other problem I have is that for most games, I play at home to relax sitting on the couch.  I can't do that if you're making me stand up and punch the air or run in place to get across the land of Azeroth or some such thing.  If I had to run around as much as I make my virtual counterparts run around in games, I'd be the world's fittest marathon runner in existence.  I don't see that being fun.

On the other hand, I do see Project Natal being great for workout games or line dancing or something related.  My biggest complaint about working out is that it's mind-numbingly boring.  I'm sitting there doing a repetitive motion staring at nothing, trying to get my mind wandering so it can be happy, but at the same time trying not to lose count of how many sit ups or push ups I've done.  If I could be running on a treadmill while my TV is in front of me displaying a hiking trail I'm "running" on, that would be awesome!  Or having a virtual personal trainer.  Or even if I just had a simple progress bar above a virtual me that counted my reps for me and kept track of my stats so I could level up (ie turn working out into an RPG) then I'd buy that no questions asked.

So I'm wary of the future.  If developers just cram in motion controls everywhere just to try and make a quick buck with "casual gamers", then I fear for the future of gaming.  If developers are smart and use motion controls as a clever tool for more interactive gaming that makes sense and isn't a lot of work for the player, then I'm all for it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Movie Rules

Horror movies:
  • Splitting up is certain death.
  • Hooking up with the hot chick before the killer is dealt with is certain death.
  • Walking up to inspect a body lying on the ground is certain death.
  • Thinking it's over is certain death.
  • If you're a jerk, you're going to die a horrible death.
  • If you're a jerk, but redeem yourself at some point, you'll die, but it won't be as painful.
  • Only the nice guys and hot girls survive.
  • If you see/hear something suspicious, don't investigate.  Really just a more general version of the "dead" body rule.
Action hero movies:
  • If you haven't killed your nemesis yet, then the moment you're happy and think everything's going your way is the moment right before true tragedy strikes.
  • Everything blows up.  Use that to your advantage.
  • No matter how much you get shot at, the worst that'll happen is your leg will get shot.
  • You'll never have to feel guilty for killing the hundreds of guards just doing their jobs.  Don't worry.
  • Don't make friends with anyone because they'll either betray you or get killed right before your eyes.  (See the first rule of action hero movies)
Romantic comedy movies:
  • If you're in a relationship at the beginning of the movie, expect it to fail very shortly.
  • No matter how many embarassing situations arise that would make a girl in real life lose all interest in you, she'll still be interested in you.
Any movie with a computer:
  • You never have to worry about learning Unix or DOS commands because every system has a convenient GUI to use when you've hacked into their system.
  • Hacking is a simple process of hitting random keys very rapidly until you say "I'm in!"
  • Viruses always have some visual effect to your computer like a silly animation mocking you or graphical corruptions on the screen.
  • All computer programmers are geniuses can make any program for any purpose.  This one's actually true.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Ever since moving to Monterey, I've been trying to get more and more connected to a church.  This is especially true after Pastor Bryan spoke on faithless action and faithless inaction.  Faithless action is when you strive so hard for something you want without putting God in the equation until at some point, that thing you are striving for becomes your god.  Faithless inaction is when you rely so much on God's promise to bless you that you do nothing, but wait.  God doesn't reward laziness.

After hearing that sermon, I finally got off my butt and got the courage to join a dGroup (Monterey Church's small group).  Then the following Sunday after going to church, I was invited to Easter dinner by the leader of my small group and met more people.  So I could immediately see God's blessing with just one tiny bit of action.  But still I was afraid to do much more for awhile.  There's been a constant call to help with children's church and setup/teardown of the theater we meet in before and after church, but week after week I would dash out of church passing those sign up sheets by.

Over a month later I wrote this and realized I was doing the same thing as before.  Letting my excuses control me.  So the next Sunday service I signed up to help setup since I figured I'm always up early anyway, I might as well do something good with that time before church.  So I sign up and then the following Saturday, I get an e-mail telling me what time I need to be at church for this.  Turns out my early (around 7:30) wasn't as early enough since I needed to be at church at 6 am.  I had also promised my housemate, Mike, that I would pick him up from Monterey airport at 11 pm the night before I had to be at church at 6 am.  So this was ample opportunity for me to come up with excuses that were actually somewhat legitimate.  But I remembered what I had resolved to do about excuses and did both like I said I would.  It was difficult, but it was worth it.

So I figured now I'm connected enough.  I'm doing some nice behind the scenes work for the church and I've got my small group and I've been going to church consistently.  Well I guess God's not done with me yet.  After small group this week, one of the other members suggested I become a small group leader myself.  Immediately I felt scared and I could feel the excuses coming up.  I've never really liked being a leader, I prefer the behind the scenes stuff.  I have concerns for meeting at my house since I have three housemates and I don't want to kick them out of the main room.  Etc.  Etc.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  After more discussion, our current dGroup leader, Pam, said she might be leaving for good soon.  She's still not sure, but if she did she wouldn't want the group to just fall apart.  So I'm pretty much getting all the signs that I should be doing this (I don't want to, but I feel I should; there seems to be a need; I seem well equipped to fulfill that need).  As a first step I'm going to teach a lesson (I guess next week?) at dGroup.  We'll see how God guides me after that, but I'm pretty sure I've finally gotten the hint.

The most comforting thing for me is Pastor Bryan has said on a few occasions that he also never wanted to be a pastor.  He too wanted to be a behind the scenes guy.  But he felt God calling him to being the pastor and I'm glad God did because Pastor Bryan was one of the biggest reasons I kept going to this church.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Star Treknology

Star Trek has a lot of technology that I really look forward to enjoying (whether that's a realistic hope or not).  Teleporters to eliminate traffic jams, car pollution, and long distances.  Replicators to eliminate hunger, lack of food variation, and bad cooking.  Holodecks to see what it's like to pilot a Gundam, to travel to Ireland without going anywhere, and to play in a jazz club without fear of being booed off the stage.  But after this week, the technology I want most from any series of Star Trek is the Borg alcove.  I had to look up the name for this thing and I am incredibly underwhelmed.  The purpose of the alcove is a place for a Borg drone to go for 6 hours for their regeneration cycles (basically sleep).  What I would love is if every night, I could go into a device and just turn it on and not worry about having to fall asleep or being woken up by stuff in the middle of the night or getting the right amount of sleep.

The quality of my sleep seems to come in cycles and I am currently in the "constantly being woken up in the middle of the night" cycle.  Whether it's because I didn't drink enough water that day and wake up at 4, 5, or 6 with a very dry throat, because I'm overheated, or because of a bad dream, something keeps waking up in the middle of the night and then my brain thinks it's morning, so it starts going off thinking about what I want to/have to/get to do that day and I can't get back to sleep even though I need it.  Even if I can get back to sleep, it never seems to be as useful as a full 8 hours of unconciousness.

Eventually this loss of sleep catches up and then I start sleeping well again.  This is very tedious and overall I find sleep to be very stressful and not a pleasant thing.  As Q put it in the episode Deja Q (I had to look this all up, I'm not THAT much of a Star Trek geek):

Q: [Captain Picard visits Q in the brig] Truthfully, Jean-Luc, I've been entirely preoccupied by a most frightening experience of my own. A couple of hours ago, I've realized that my body was no longer functioning properly. I felt weak, I could no longer stand, the life was oozing out of me, I lost consciousness... 
Capt. Picard: You fell asleep.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Time Management and Hobbies

The reason I left Liquid back in November was because the job was taking away all of my free time, so I had no time to invest in anything else.  Whenever I did get any time and spent it with friends, I never had anything interesting to say about what I had been up to recently because it was always the same: "Work."  This really started to bug me because it always made me feel like I was a really boring person to talk to.  It also worried me because part way through Rise of the Argonauts I realized that I didn't want to move up in Liquid and thus I wanted my life to be about something other than that job, but I had no time to make my life about anything else.

Now that I have the time to spend developing my hobbies and doing other things I enjoy, I'm finding I completely suck at time management.  I have so many different projects I want to work on or games I want to play or TV shows I want to watch that I find it hard to pick one and focus on it.  I'll be in the middle of something and then a stray thought will pop into my head making me think of one of my other projects or remember a great moment in some game I played and then suddenly I'm switching projects again.  Or when deciding what to do, my infernal need to complete my mental checklist will sort it in order of quickest things to complete, which is almost always watching my weekly shows or playing a video game and then BAM no more free time.  I don't always feel like this time is wasted, but I feel like I let down the projects that are actually more important to me and my future.  What's worse is that the longer I take to get back to a project, the harder it is to go back to it because I'm either out of practice (piano), forgot what I was doing (game design), or I feel like no one's going to care since I ignored the project for so long (blogging).

What I've realized lately is that these are all just really lame excuses.  A friend of mine once called me the King of Excuses back in high school.  That comment has haunted me to this day because of how true it was and still is.  I'm quite masterful at giving excuses why I should or shouldn't do something (not usually very good excuses).  What's even worse is I know I'm doing it and the part of me that knows I should or shouldn't do whatever it is I'm weaseling out of/into to has a hard time fighting the much stronger lazy and selfish part of me.  If you've ever seen the movie Yesman (and if not I highly recommend you watch it - with me if possible), I feel almost exactly like Jim Carrey's character.  What I've started to do (prior to watching that movie, but more so after watching it) is if I feel a reservation about doing something for a lame or selfish reason, then I commit myself to whatever it is I'm trying to get out of before I have a chance to make an excuse.

What started this particular ramble is that it's almost been a month since my last post and it was a few weeks between that and the previous post.  I know myself well enough to know where that's going to leave this blog if the part of me that cares about this blog doesn't take a stand.  So from now on I'm committing to at least one post a week, most likely on Fridays (because I do so love routines and schedules).  Hopefully once I get that discipline down I can commit to more a week because my favorite webcomics and blogs are the ones that post consistently a few times per week and I want to be one of my favorites.  :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gaming Morals

I just finished playing Godfather 2 this weekend.  The game is, of course, based on the second movie of the Godfather series (none of which I have watched even though I played, beat, and loved the two Godfather games that have come out).  At its utmost core, the Godfather games play a lot like GTA games.  There is a big open sprawling city where you can run around, hijack cars to get around faster (or just take one of your own at one of your safehouses), escape from police if you're caught doing something bad, etc.  In the Godfather games, your ultimate goal is to take over the city/cities from other Mafia families and rub out the soldiers, capos, underbosses, consiglieres, and dons of the other families.

It probably sounds like a very violent game where you play a terrible person doing awful things, which it is, sort of.  I say sort of because even though the story is pre-written and certain evil deeds are required of you, there are a number of ways you can resolve certain situations.  For example, in order to find out where the rival families' higher ups are and how you need to whack them, there are people scattered throughout the cities with little keys over their heads.  You do a favor for these people and they do a favor for you.  I discovered fairly quickly that there are way more people with keys (most likely randomly generated) then there are rival family members.  This allows a choice for the player for which quests they want to do.  Gameplay-wise they're all the same.  Steal this, beat up or kill this person, or smash up this story.  But the reasons for why people need this done are incredibly different.

One person wants you to take out their competition who doesn't have any insurance, so they want you to smash up the store to put them out of business.  One person hired a woman of leisure and then woke up the next morning to find her and his wallet gone.  So bad people wanting the help of bad people, right?  You'd think so until you find the ones like the woman who went on a date with a co-worker, didn't put out, and now the guy is spreading nasty rumors about her, so you're tasked to beat up the guy to show him she won't stand for that.  Or a reporter (assumedly) tells you he/she wants you to steal some pictures that got stolen from him/her so they can use it as evidence in a political scandal.  Or (my personal favorite) a person has a sick kid, but their spouse wastes all their money on gambling/drinking, so they got life insurance for that spouse and they want you to kill them so they can have money to help their kid.

I say that one is my favorite because it brings a very interesting moral choice to the game.  I've played many games with moral choices, but usually they're along the lines of kill this guy or forgive him everything and give back your reward money.  Like super black and white, very dumb choices.  This one is interesting because you're helping a sick kid, but you need to kill someone to do it.  What's even more interesting is that choosing one quest or another makes no difference gameplay-wise, but it helps make your character (Dominic) your own.  In any good story, you have to connect to the main character and this is especially true in games because you're the one controlling them and you're forced to do what the story has the character do.  This is why I hate games that have super dark, violent, angry characters with no humanity in them.  I can't connect with them.  I have no desire to kick puppies or shoot babies or eat kittens.  I know it's a game, so I can suspend some disbelief and do things that I, Eric Heine, wouldn't do, but I'm not going to like a character that I can't empathize with or understand.

So what this character choice allowed me to do is play this criminal Mafia lord in a way that I could really connect with.  I wasn't just a thug out to murder people and cause destruction.  I was the Mafia Don who was out to protect the innocent people of his domain by doing the evil things that they couldn't do for themselves.  I refused to do any favors where I felt the victim didn't deserve what they got.  So any favor where I was going after a cheater, a thief, a murderer, or a rapist?  Yeah, sign me up.  I'll serve out justice Mafia style.  But you want me to take out that other business just so you can profit?  No way man.  Get outta my town.  This also applied for taking out the rival families.  I did that not just because the game told me to, but because I can't trust those rival families to be respectful of justice or the innocent.  They probably take advantage of them.  So I need to take over so I can make the world a better place.

What would have really been interesting was if I could shut down certain crime rings because that wasn't my Mafia's style.  For example, one of the crime rings I could control was a drug ring.  If I could have shut that down after taking it over, I certainly would have.  The Corleones are better than mere drug traffickers.  We've got class.

So while playing through this excellent game, I was playing a meta-game of observing how and why I did certain things in the game.  The most memorable games are ones where you get to create your own stories alongside the real story and this is a perfect example of that.  I wish more games gave the ability to make moral choices without it affecting anything because as soon as it affects the game through rewards/punishment, it affects how I will play that game.  All Bioware games have the static good/evil/neutral choices.  I always choose the good path just because I don't want any negative points on my permanent record.  As soon as I can determine that my choices have an outcome like that, I stop playing a character and start playing a game, which is okay, but it can be better.  Games can be more grown up and mature (and not the "lots of sex and violence" mature that seems to be the definition of mature games currently).  Games can and should make people think about their choices and teach the player about themself or life.

Other things I discovered about my morals while playing:  I have little problem with stealing as long as it's for a good cause; it takes a slightly greater cause to get me to beat up a male civilian; it takes an even better cause to make me beat up a female civilian; it takes an extremely good cause (the sick kid) for me to be okay with killing any civilian (except if I'm driving, but that's more because I wasn't good at driving in that game).  None of the people who wanted me to bash in the stores had very good reasons, so those didn't fit in here.  And obviously I'm only talking about doing this stuff in a game and not real life.  In real life I'm only okay with stealing if I can get away with it.  :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

GDC 09: Day 5

The final day of GDC started off with a lecture on how Disneyland can be used to create better level design.  Walt Disney has always been one of my role models and thanks to my Disney class in college, I already knew a lot of the clever tricks Disney used to really immerse people in the fantasies that exist in Disneyland.  There were a lot of tricks I didn't realize that went even deeper.  For example, in Frontier Land, the guest is supposed to feel like it's the old West, so they have a lot of freedom to do what they want.  So the paths are much more open except for specifically placed planters that add the illusion of different choices the guest has on how to get places when in reality they're still going from point A to point B.  On the other hand, Adventure Land is supposed to feel like a bazaar in some foreign country, very crowded, lots of things to distract you, etc.  So the pathways are much tighter and every step you take brings more distractions into focus (Jungle Cruise, Aladdin's show, Indiana Jones, shops, etc).  Here the planters are meant more for crowd flow control.  New Orlean's Square is all about rewarding exploration, so there are a lot more nooks and crannies and little alcoves with jazz bands hiding in them, which gives you the feeling of reward when you discover them (which I've experienced myself).  Hopefully, I can get the slides for this so I can post them here.

After that talk, I went to a few shorter lectures, one on designing player failure and one on the paper prototypes of Spore.  The failure design one was interesting because the guy was a games researcher at MIT and he discovered that the idea that casual game players hate failing is a myth.  It turns out that it matters less how many times you fail, but more on how failure is treated (ie, what's the failure cost).  Failure cost was figured out by multiplying the failure count (how many times you fail), failure communication (was the player insulted when he failed?  Encouraged?  Merely told he failed?), failure setback (how much time did the player just lose because of that failure?), and the failure repitition (do they repeat the same game as in Mega Man when they fail or is it more randomized?).  Another interesting point was how if you play a game, you like it, you want to show it off to a friend, you play really well at it, and then they lose horribly, your friend is going to hate that game because they feel like they're the only one who is bad it.  I've lived this example with Ticket to Ride.  I don't like that game because the first (and only) time I played it, my brother and sister-in-law did so much better at me that I just lost all interest in that game entirely.  It was no fault of my brother or sister-in-law, that's just what happens if the failure cost gets to high for someone...or something like that...

The Paper Protoypes of Spore talk was interesting, but it had less to get from it.  There were basically two slides of takeaway information, but that was near the end so he was blazing through it, which meant I didn't get to take very good notes.  All I got is that you should make paper prototypes of your game's systems to balance them, you should focus on the key idea you're testing at the time, be abstract with your prototype (don't try and match the controls of the game, etc), it doesn't have to be fun (you're not making a sellable game with the paper prototype), and it helps build a vocabulary when discussing that system that just pops up when you start playing the paper prototype.

The second to last lecture I went to was about a state-based scripting system used in the PS3 games Uncharted and Uncharted 2.  It was interesting, but I didn't take any notes, so I'm not sure what I learned other than that having a scripting system allows designers to do a lot of the work programmers would have to do.  I'm not sure how we can use it with Delta3D since we A) don't have any designers and B) don't work on anything with more than one level usually, so it's just easier to program it.

The last thing I went to at GDC this year was titled "Games Have Feelings Too!".  I'm really not sure what to pull away from this.  Basically it was an hour long lecture about how game is art now, Citizen Kane was a failure at its time, so we shouldn't expect anything different with our Citizen Kane (ie super artsy game), and games evoke the more subtle feelings.  Sometimes.  It was interesting, but I didn't really get anything out of it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

GDC 09: Day 4

Today had some of the best lectures I've been to so far. However, it didn't start out so great. The first lecture was called "How Sackboy Learned to Love Physics". Sackboy is the adorable main character of the PS3 game, Little Big Planet. All week I've been trying to mix up going to lectures that I should go to for my job (programming focused) and ones that I want to go to (game design focused). Unfortunately, the programming ones I've attended for the most part have been pretty lame. This one was not the exception to that rule. There were some interesting points about how physics is faked for a fun game, like how you can control your horizontal movement in every Mario game while jumping. Try jumping forward and in mid-air start traveling backwards. The other bizarre example was in Quake how if you are strafing to the left and fire a rocket, the rocket moves straight from the point it was fired at and doesn't take your velocity into consideration. Other than that, I didn't really get the point the guy was trying to make and his slides weren't very useful.

After that, Hideo Kojima, the man behind the Metal Gear Solid series, had a keynote named "Making the Impossible Possible". His slides were very professional and humurous. Most of the keynote was on the history of the Metal Gear Series and what problems had to be overcome for each game. He made some really interesting points about how when you come upon something that seems impossible, it's most likely just your perception and with some alterations on how you're viewing the problem, you can solve it. If not, give it a little time and the technology will resolve the problem. He left us with the quote "90% of what is 'impossible' is possible. The other 10% will be possible given time & technology."

The next talk was on Left 4 Dead and how they made a cooperative, replayable video game (and succeeded amazingly in my opinion). First off, the game was built with cooperation and replayability as the two core concepts. Some of the most interesting parts of the lecture (although I'd love to talk about it in greater detail with anyone who wants) were how each enemy type was built with a specific rule/play style they were meant to break up. The way they made cooperation so important is that they made it impossible to succeed alone, but not in a heavy handed way like invisible leashes to keep the characters together or anything. Instead, they made regular Infected stop you when they hit you, so it's hard to run through a mess by yourself, but even if you manage that, the Hunter was specifically designed to kill stragglers and lone wolves. They also found that coordinated teams plowed through enemies too easily, so they added the the Smoker whose purpose is to break up a well organized team by sucking out one of the survivors. To break the typical gamer rule of "Shoot everything that moves", the Boomer was added (or rather merged with a previous enemy type named a Screamer). There was also an extensive dynamic AI Director system that decides how to create a more unpredictable game by forcing a lull in the action if things get too intense. All in all, this game was incredibly clever and hopefully I learned enough to use some aspects in future games I design.

Another fantastic lecture I attended directly followed that one and was all about using User Interface design ideas in puzzle design to keep from making puzzles unclear and thus making players feel stupid. I'll sum it up real quickly because I'm running out of time on my hotel internet. Depending on the puzzle type, you should make it very clear what tools the player has available to them and every action the player can take should have some kind of positive or negative feedback to indicate whether they're on the right or wrong track. There should be a good dialog between the game and the player at all times. Maybe when I get home I can write my notes up here on this.

The final lecture of the day was on the terrain in the new game Halo Wars. Usually terrain is created using a map of the heights of each vertex of terrain at a point or a height-map. One interesting concept they had in Halo Wars was a vertex heightmap. This way, each vertex stored a whole vector instead of a scalar value, so the terrain can be sculpted into interesting overhanging shapes and such. It was fairly technical and I'm not completely sure I got it all, but it was possibly the only programming talk that I understood most of and was interested by. It was a good way to end a very good day.

GDC 09: Day 3

This is later than I intended because last night I spent sleeping trying to get rid of a headache and instead just slept through until this morning. Hopefully that won't happen again. At least not until I'm home in my own bed.

Yesterday started off with a keynote lecture by the president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata. The first half of it was Mr. Iwata explaning how their top designer Shigeru Miyamoto (Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, Nintendogs, Wii Fit, etc) designed games and what his process was. Hopefully I can take a lot of that and use it in my future game designs. Then he started announcing things for Nintendo such as a new menu system for the Wii that allows use of higher memory SD cards and loading games directly from an SD card. He also announced that after the keynote, we would all get a free copy of the new DS game coming out in a couple weeks called Rhythym Heaven. It's from the makers of various Wario Ware titles so it's got a real mini-game feel to it, but it's all rhythym based. Oh and we got it for free so that's AWESOME. Oh yeah and he also announced a new Zelda game for the DS called Spirit Tracks. And I got to be there in person for the announcement. 5 rows or so from the front of the room. I'll beat you to it, Adam. LUCKY!

After the keynote, I went to a couple lectures that weren't as interesting to me as I'd hoped they'd be. One was on an open source project by Sun Microsystems (creators of Java) called Project Darkstar. It's basically a library that makes creating an MMO easier because it takes out all the stress of dealing with servers and communication. I'm not sure how we can use that with our game engine, though, especially because the server code is in Java.

Next up was a discussion on how to make games look good without a lot of bloom or motion blur. I was very interested in this just because I'm tired of how nearly every modern game now has crazy angelic glowing characters with all the bloom and nauseating motion blur to make things look cooler. Unfortunately, I'm not a graphics programmer, so a lot of it was over my head. But after talking about it later with my co-workers I realized I did get more out of it than I thought at the time. It was all about subtle little shadows (contact shadows) and details. There should be details on everything at all sizes. When you get a chance, go somewhere with a good view and look at the objects up close and far away. Both of them have tiny details that make them interesting. Right now I'm looking out over San Francisco and the windows in the buildings far away are all different because of how people's curtains are. So if a game were to portray that, they shouldn't have one really flat uninteresting texture for the far away things because that's: A) not interesting and 2) not how it would be if that place existed in real life.

To cool my brain off a little, after lunch, I went to a game design challenge where four top game designers were told the specifications of the challenge a couple weeks ago (or due to some crazy shenanigans, 36 hours ago...). The theme of the challenge was "My First Time", which was essentially an autobiography on the first time they had sex. It was highly amusing and only one of the designers had entirely inappropriate slides up at one point. I don't think I really got anything out of that lecture, but it was a lot of fun to watch and it was highly amusing.

The last lecture I attended that day proved to be the most interesting non-keynote lecture. It was all about the software engineering behind the tools of Insomniac Games. They did a lot of clever things to make their tools very modular, which makes things easier for programmers, and user-friendly, which makes things easier for the content creators. I won't really get into the details, but it was good to find out that programming tools seems to be where I want to focus on at my job. Previously I wasn't finding any aspect of programming that really grabbed my attention and made me say "Ooh! I love programming this!" But making powerful tools that are easy to use and not scary or hard to learn is a new goal of mine because good tools help the users do better at their jobs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

GDC 09: Day 2

Today at GDC instilled in me an even deeper desire to design games, only now I'm thinking more along the card/board game variety. We started off the day continuing our robot training by adjusting the world destroying robot's programming so he was stoppable. The biggest twist of that exercise was once he was tweaked to the point where that game was dramatic, we took our robots and faced them against other groups' robots. This was very surprising because we were changing the robots with tanks in mind, not other robots, so it was interesting to see how they all fared. R.U.F.U.S. (our robot) was doing very well in our 4 way battle royale until BPPT-3000 fired a rocket at another robot, which self destructed and killed everyone playing. So in the end, none of our robots one. I think that's the best ending for a mad scientist destructo-bot battle royale movie.

Then we came back for another exercise that everyone in the workshop was involved in where we took an existing video game and deconstructed it into a paper game version, so the controls, graphics, sound, and music were all gone, but the essence of what made that game a fun game was still there. As a challenge, our group chose Rock Band as our game. There was much debate and little playtesting at our group (which was counterproductive), but eventually we came out with an incredibly solid experience that's like a weird co-operative game of Simon. I wish we had more time on it so we could add some other key Rock Band elements like the Overdrive score multiplier, but we did accomplish what we set out to do. We even got a ringing endorsement at the end of the entire tutorial by the guy in charge of our group. Hopefully next year our game will be on the slides as a good example of this exercise.

Then after lunch we had another elective where I joined the 100 Zombies group. In this exercise, you start with a pair of people, one random character, and a 7x7 board with 24 zombies on the outside edges of the board. The zombies would move every turn based on the roll of a die. If a turn ends with a zombie on your character, the character dies. Our job was to create a set of rules for our character that fit the character's stereotype and was possible to win or lose with. My teammate and I got the Farm Girl, so every turn she could do two of the following things:

1. Move: If zombies are adjacent to the farm girl, movement is determined by the roll of a die, otherwise she can move one space N, S, E, or W
2. Lasso: Pulls one zombie N, S, E, or W of the farm girl to the spot right next to her
3. Attack with shotgun with accuracy based on distance to zombie:
- Zombie is adjacent: Roll a die, 4, 5, or 6 is a hit
- Zombie is 2 spaces away: Roll a die, 5 or 6 is a hit
- Zombie is 3 spaces away: Roll a die, 6 is a hit (Shotgun is more effective at closer ranges)
- Zombie is on top of farm girl: Roll a die, 6 is a hit (She is too freaked out to aim properly)

Then we joined Farm Girl up with another team's character making a 7x14 board with two characters surrounded by 48 zombies. We were suggested to make combo moves for the two. So Farm Girl joined up with Math Whiz who is a kid in a wheel chair with a potato gun that he must spend time making ammo for. The twist we added is that if the Math Whiz was 4 spaces away from Farm Girl, he would be forced to move near her (because he liiiiikes her). If she was on the same spot as him, Farm Girl would be forced to move because she finds him disgusting. So one turn, a zombie ended up on top of Farm Girl, so she moved away (so she could get a good shot at it), but landed on the Math Whiz, at which point she had to move away again.

Then we joined our two characters up with two more to make a 14x14 board with 4 characters and 96 zombies. Sadly, Farm Girl did not survive this game. She lassoed a zombie to try and get a better shot at it, missed, and subsequently freaked out, running into the mass of zombies and never coming out...she wasn't too bright.

Sadly, the rest of the week has lectures and roundtables instead of tutorials, so there will be a lot less interactivity on my part, but now I have some good ideas of some side projects I can start working on in my free time. Plus, tomorrow morning I get to hear the president of Nintendo speak, so that should be exciting.

Monday, March 23, 2009

GDC 09: Day 1

I could never find the free breakfast thing at Starbucks, but it's okay because I didn't wake up early enough to enjoy it. I did get to enjoy a fun day of learning about game design. The day started with us getting into groups and playing a game called SissyFight. It's a card game where on each turn, everyone can either solo attack someone, team attack someone, or defend yourself from attack. You have 10 health, a solo attack takes away 1 health, a team attack takes away 2 health per person joined in the attack (or 0 if it's a 1 person team attack), and defending cuts this amount in half rounded down. Fairly simple game.

Our task was to pick a theme that fits this game and then adjust the rules to fit the theme (fiction) and make the game even more fun. We couldn't pick a single one of our themes, so we ended up joining the fiction of vampires and polygamy, which resulted in the Brides of Dracula. Each player is a wife of Dracula and the object is to be the favorite. The poker chips represented your affection with Dracula. Each turn Dracula grows bored with everyone, so you ante 1 affection per turn. When you attack each other, you steal the affection from them. There were a couple more rule changes we added, but all in all it turned into a really fun game I'd like to play with people. I think the funniest part was when we changed player's names from colors to more gothic sounding names and then accents started popping up during play.

After that we had some electives. Mine was the 4 C's and Facebook. We were supposed to come up with a fun Facebook application using the 4 C's of design (Creativity, Collection, Community, and Competition). Personally, I don't think many groups (including mine) came up with anything really fun. But that does kind of sound like a lot of Facebook apps (including ones I play like Mafia Wars...). Some people's games didn't even sound like they had ever used a Facebook app. Like one where everyone has to click a button at the same time...I really didn't understand that one...

The last event of the day for me was an elective called Us vs. It (which will continue on tomorrow). This exercise was similar to the first one. We played a game together and then re-wrote the rules. The purpose of this exercise is to remake an incredibly hard (if not impossible) co-op game to be possible, but still have drama. Essentially, the game is four of you are tanks trying to stop a rampaging robot from getting to town. Every turn, the robot must follow its program, so in the exercise, we were tasked with changing the program to try and make it better. We almost got there by the end of the day, so hopefully tomorrow we can finish it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

GDC 09: Day 0

So here I am in San Francisco, in a Hilton, 30 stories up from the ground. The view is amazing, although I have yet to see any ninjas practicing their art on any roofs. I guess that's more a New York thing...I get to spend this week at GDC (Game Developer's Conference) learning how to do my craft better and having fun at the same time hopefully. And all of this is funded by my job. Gotta love it.

So we (the Delta3D team) drove in from Monterey this afternoon, checked into the Hilton, and ate some good Chinese food in Chinatown. Unfortunately, we didn't get here quite early enough to see The Blanks in concert, but that's okay. Maybe I can make that trip to LA to see them. After dinner, we came back to the hotel and finished the night in typical nerd fashion, a game of Settler's.

Somewhere in this room there's a coupon for free Starbuck's continental breakfast, so tomorrow morning I plan on using that before my 2 day tutorial on Game Design. I'll keep you updated on how GDC treats me and what all I learn. I'm so excited for this week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spending Time vs. Hanging Out

This past weekend I went up to visit my grandparents (and my mom as a bonus).  My grandparents don't have a computer or the internet, which I would've been more concerned about had my trip been longer.  As it was, I found it an interesting test to see just how addicted to technology I am (there's no question of if I'm addicted).

What I found most interesting about this test is what we occupied our time with.  We'd wake up early (I was the late riser getting up around 7:30 or 8) and have breakfast together at the dinner table just talking and enjoying delicious food, then we'd stay at the table talking until it was lunch, then we'd eat more delicious food and stay at the table talking a few more hours.

Normally when I'm hanging out with people, I have this need to "do something".  I always feel like I should be watching a movie with them or playing a game with them or doing some other kind of activity with them.  It was really refreshing to not feel this impulse and instead get to really spend time just being with them.

A few weeks ago at church, the lesson was about practicing various spiritual disciplines and one of them was just slowing down.  For example, pick the longest line at the grocery store and take that extra time to just relax.  Ignore the impulses to get everywhere as fast as possible.  I think spending time with people rather than hanging out fits in with that perfectly.  I think if everyone just took 2 hours out of every week to spend time with someone without doing anything, the world would be just that much better.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pandora's Box of Groovesharks

At some point when working at Liquid, I started listening to music nearly every day. Partly because everything at Liquid was open (ie no cubicles), so occasionally I needed a way to shut out everything else so I could focus on work. Partly because I saw the lead programmer listening to music, so I figured it must be okay. The IT guys had specifically said no internet radio streaming was allowed, so I had to rely on what music I had or what a co-worker was sharing.

Listening to the same songs day and and day out got kind of tiring, so for the first time in a long time, my CD collection started growing. I've never really been into the music scene, so I never know who I would like. I'd listen to the radio on the way to work and could sing along with songs, but have absolutely no idea who sang the song (still true). So I'd have to trust recommendations from peers (which brought me such wonders as Gaelic Storm and the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack) or hope to find something good through the websites I check (which brought me The OneUps).

Then when I started working at NPS, I discovered we had free reign to stream whatever we wanted to at work (hooray for the government and their large bandwidth!). At some point at Liquid, someone told me about a website called Pandora. This is exactly the sort of thing I had been looking for. You give it a song or artist that you like and it will create a radio station for you based on that style. What this means is that you will occasionally hear songs from the artist you told (or the actual song the station is based on), but mostly you hear other artists playing similar styles. For example, today I wanted to hear some good banjo music, so I created a radio station based on Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Hoo boy did I hear a lot of great bluegrass all day! Other radio stations that have been incredibly successful include The Fray, Gaelic Storm, Nobuo Uematsu, The Insyderz, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. If you want to see my whole list, you can add me as a friend on it with my junkmail e-mail address (first initial last name AT hotmail DOT com).

The one downside of Pandora is that if you really like a particular song and want to hear it again, you have to wait until it decides to play it again (which it will relatively often if you give it a thumbs up on that song). Apparently this is due to how they license their music. You also can't skip too many songs or play the exact song you want. For this, there is the other good music site, Grooveshark. Grooveshark lets you search for an artist, album, song, genre, playlist, or people and play the exact song you want to hear at that moment.

My experience with Grooveshark has not been that great however. I don't think I've heard a completely uninterrupted song (ie it can't stream the song fast enough) and that's assuming I actually found the song I'm looking for. Granted, I've been searching for some newer (and thus less known) names, so it's fairly likely they won't be on this site yet.

So if you find yourself in need of music at a computer and have the ability to stream music, I would recommend Grooveshark (if you know what you want) and Pandora (if you don't). Happy listening!

Monday, March 9, 2009

If Life Were An RPG

- You would be able to cure any sickness by drinking a certain type of potion
- You can cure death by talking to a priest at a church
- Getting to work would take even longer due to having to randomly fight monsters
- Everyone would have a list of every skill they are capable of, how good they are at it, and how much more work they have to do to get better at it
- Switching jobs would be a matter of going to selecting a new job from a menu (possible requirements from other seemingly unrelated fields)
- Banks would only exist to protect your money in case of death at which point a friend can go to church to revive you (see above) and you can get your money back
- If you lived in a small village, there's a good chance you'd be called on to save the world from imminent danger (even more likely if you had spiky hair)
- Strangers wouldn't mind you barging in to their houses, rooting through their stuff, taking what you want, and leaving without saying a single word
- You'd probably start to notice that everything looks the same from one area to the next, just in different colors

Saturday, March 7, 2009

There was a priest, a rabbi, and a nun

I read a lot of comedy books. In fact, that's almost all I read. I love to laugh and I love reading clever jokes. But how many times in life have you read/heard a joke setup that got interrupted in a book, movie, or TV show? I guess a lot of these jokes are dirty jokes that most people should know or something and should get the reference to, but I always wonder what the rest of the joke is. Is the joke actually funny or was it more amusing that it got cut off?

I think there should be a repository of unfinished jokes. Then people can add the ending to the joke (if it's appropriate). I also wonder if making a character in a story whose sole purpose is to start unfinished jokes that keep getting cut off would be funny.

Another thought just occurred to me...other than books, movies, and TV shows, I don't really hear jokes set up like this. Do I just not hang out with the right people? Or are jokes about religious figures and pianos and such like cole slaw, a favorite of a previous generation that my generation just doesn't get?

Friday, March 6, 2009


Another useful website that I've discovered thanks to my housemates is BillMonk. If you ever find yourself splitting bills or covering lunches a lot and don't want to have to remember who owes money to whom or if you lend out your stuff a lot and want to keep track of who has your stuff, this site is for you.

When you first sign up, you invite or add friends to your lists using their e-mail addresses. Then whenever you say, pay a bill for the house, cover lunch since no one had cash, or buy groceries for the house, then you just add the bill (which can be a evenly split bill or an itemized bill) and BillMonk will keep track of who owes whom how much money. It displays pretty pie charts of these things, lets you see your entire loan/debt history with people, and lets you shuffle debts between people in case you owe one person money, but are owed by another.

Another feature that I haven't really used because I haven't loaned out anything since discovering BillMonk is the Library feature. Whenever you loan something out to someone, you can add that item to your library (or add anything loanable to the library from the get go) and then tell BillMonk who is borrowing it. So this way, you know at any given time who has your stuff.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dish scrubber +1

One of the things that came from the aforementioned house meetings is the use of a site called Chore Wars. Chores are a common cause of arguments in households larger than 1 person so Chore Wars is a way to make doing chores more rewarding.

You start off by making a character with a certain class (really only the character's name matters as the class changes when leveling up) for each person in the house. Then one of you creates a party and invites the other members of the house into that party. Everytime one of you does a chore, you claim an adventure associated with that chore. The default adventure list has things like paying bills, grocery shopping, cleaning dishes, etc. You can add, remove, or edit adventures at your leisure.

Everytime you claim an adventure, you get an amount of experience defined by the adventure (hopefully these amounts are proportional to the task, so taking the garbage out gets less experience than doing the dishes). You also have a chance of getting items, gold, or fighting monsters on your adventure (all of these are defined as possibilities in the adventure). We have an adventure for cleaning the stove top and one of the potential monsters to fight is a Crusted Cheese Goo.

The enemy fights serve no purpose other than to keep the RPG feel the site has going. The items and gold are used based on what the house agrees to. My house hasn't decided anything, so I just keep stockpiling gold and alley cat hair. Some possibilities are to "spend" some gold so you don't have to do a particular chore one week.

What I find useful about this (and really the only reason I do it anymore) is it's a good way to track who overall is not doing their share of the chores. In theory, everyone should be getting about the same experience per week and so if someone is a lower level character (you level up after reaching certain amounts of experience, which adds stats based on the chores you did and changes your class to match your stats) then you know they are slacking. You can also track who did a particular chore for the past six months, so you can tell if one chore tends to be done by one person or the whole group more often.

If you live with other people and haven't settled on a way to deal with chore distribution, I would highly recommend Chore Wars. Especially if you also happen to like fantasy RPG settings.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Housemate Rulesets

In my life I've lived with other people four times, not including my family. Once was with a roommate in college (of which I'd like to not think about), once was a house of four in Santa Cruz, once with a co-worker in Pasadena, and now with three co-workers in Monterey. What's interesting, is each time the social dynamics have been completely different.

In Santa Cruz, my housemates would occasionally watch me play video games, we'd watch movies together, we'd occasionally cook meals together/for each other, but for the most part we were four separate people living in one house. There were no hard rules about anything and the only thing we shared was toilet paper. This worked really well, but I think mostly because we were all pretty laid back. There was the occasional grumble fest by whoever couldn't handle the sink filled with dishes anymore, but no real explosions.

In Pasadena, we didn't have any real rules either, but I found my personal grumblefests to happen more often. I believe most of it was my crazy inherited OCDness, so I tried to keep things to myself and do passive aggresive things like turn off the kitchen light while Jeff was still in the room hoping he'd catch on that it bugged me when he left it on. That never worked.

So now I'm in a house with four guys, who are all programmers (who I think tend to be more stubborn about their opinions than most). We also all work together, so we see a lot of each other. These are the probable causes of what seem to be more conflicts and grumblefests in this household, so we've been having house meetings and setting up sets of rules as we go. What makes me laugh about this is when we watch the show Big Bang Theory and we realize we're those four guys. We haven't gone so far as to need motions to add something to the agenda of our meetings (we haven't quite gotten that bureaucratic yet), but I wouldn't be surprised if we got there at some point.

Blog Revamp

I woke up last night at 5:20am and couldn't get back to sleep. For some reason I was feeling especially creative and was coming up with all sorts of random thoughts and ideas that I wanted to share. At some point I realized this blog would be a great place for that because I clearly wasn't using it for its original purpose. So I used what I always use when I want to remember something, Post-Its.

I make sure to have a stack of Post-Its in easy reach anytime I'm at home or at work because I learned from my mom that Post-Its are the best thing to use to remember to do things. My computer glasses' case carries my filled out reminders to and from work until whatever it was I needed to remember is dealt with. I used to e-mail myself things back and forth, but then my I'd keep thinking I had new e-mails and would open it up to find my own notes (sometimes ones I sent minutes ago and forgot already). I also tried just putting the Post-Its in my pockets, but that ended with wet soggy paper after laundry day. My glasses' case is the only thing I can trust to put Post-Its on that I can: A) have at work and home and 2) actually see and deal with the Post-It at home and work since my glasses case always gets taken out of the backpack and put on a desk.

I still want to aim for the original purpose of this blog, just not as forced as I was originally thinking. So now this blog will be more like other blogs, a random guy rambling on about random subjects they care about it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The POV Purpose

I spend a lot of time consuming media. I am always looking for more media to consume, but I'd like to have a good sense of if I'll like it or not before purchasing media. Generally, that's where reviewers/critics/user reviews come in, but since opinions are by definition subjective, I have to know if I can trust someone's opinion. Do they like something as much as I do? This is precisely why the number/star system of ratings makes no sense. What does a 7.5 given by one person mean to another?

With this blog I'm going to try to start a revolution on how media is reviewed and rated. Along with a list of things that I like and dislike on my main page (so you can get a feel for whether you'll like what I like or not), my reviews will contain comparisons on similar things. I'm hoping this will be a better indication for readers to know that if they like one book, movie, or game, then they would most likely like another.

Also, for a better idea of how I think, I will occasionally post about my philosophies, theories, and beliefs about life. Also also, because I enjoy reading random blog posts, I'm going to be reviewing random things. Websites, restaurants, particular roads, whatever I feel like. This is my blog after all.