Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mark's on the Olde-Fashioned Wireless with Jan

Some of you may know that I have written stories for games. Some of you may also know my friend The Comic Writer who writes narrative (and knows games).

We are gonna be discussing these very things on ABC Radio National's The Book Show (10am-10:45am Friday the 23rd of whatever this month is)*

There will also be a very interesting and intelligent man by the name of Mark Pesce involved. Sparks will fly, heads will roll, stats will rise, XP will be accrued, weapons will be exchanged for bigger weapons...

Ahhh shut up.

*Melbourne 621AM
Adelaide 729AM
Brisbane 792AM
Canberra 846AM
Darwin 657AM
Gold Coast 90.1FM
Hobart 585AM
Newcastle 1512AM
Perth 810AM
Sydney 576AM
...and via satellite to over 220 regional centres

Friday, June 09, 2006

E3 Part 3: Not-Beer, Churros & Shaved Balls

E3 all done…

Saturday through Monday seems like one day...is it because outside of E3 the major incidents in life are much further apart? Is it because our brains are still operating at the much faster rate required for high-level business?

No. It is the sleepy and the beer.

We wake up sometime very late on the weekend and blunder down (across? up? over?) to Santa Monica and Venice Beach, about which an Angelino later said “pretty weird” and we replied “actually it was a welcome relief.”

Think St Kilda meets Chapel Street but with more drugs, dogs, skaters, kites and thongs (for those readers in Melbourne).

It was nice. Then we had burgers the size of your ass at Johnny Rockets


An example of a thong, with a standard-size ass, for burger/ass comparison.

Later we went to Universal City – this weird hilltop, outdoor, multi-storied mall thing and accidentally ordered non-alcoholic beers (Michelob Ultra sounded so hard-hitting on the menu) while watching people fall off a mechanical bull

Then on Sunday night, while looking through the Your Guide to the City of Angels glossy in the hotel I happen across an article explaining that what I stupidly thought was a dud neighborhood (North Hollywood) actually has a one block section that apparently hauls it up into the company of such world class locales as the Left Bank, Notting Hill and Wherever You Live.

It’s called NoHo (oooh, like SoHo, but not) which is described as an ‘arts precinct’.

We get our fedoras, jackets and whips and go for a walk.

I don’t want to insult anyone (too much more), so I’ll keep this brief.

For future reference, pay attention everyone - one block with a thin layer of tattoo parlors, a fortuneteller, a single theater with three rotating 1 act/1 person plays and a dog grooming saloon DOES NOT AN ARTS PRECINCT MAKE!

Especially when it’s still slap in the middle of the North Hollywood suburban desert. (Not all of North Hollywood of course, especially not your house…your house is really nice. I love it.)


North Hollywood, mmmm, better than sex...

Anyway after our short lap of aesthetic delight we took a different route back to the hotel, come around a corner and…

There’s a huge park, and smack in the middle, under the towering trees, in the orange LA dusk, is a fairground.

With everything, carousels, two Ferris wheels, a tilt-a-whirl, a crazy portable mini roller coaster and thousands of people. Awesome!

And of course it’s only when we’re in the middle of it that we realize we are considerably taller, considerably paler and considerably less Latino than everyone else there.

We are the only two Anglos.

I want to make it clear that we didn’t leave because we were afraid or because we hate Churros or from any racial prejudice on our part, it’s just that we thought maybe it was a really big birthday party or something, and we were crashing it.

Say goodbye to Hollywood, Say goodbye my baby.

And finally, out of LA in a hire car to San Francisco for combined business/relaxation. Just me and Business Partner #1.

1) Signs you might need to review your impulse control.

You only feel safe on the drive between LA and SF at top speed (legal of course *cough*) on the freeway. That was relaxing.

The big city at each end going 20mph, that was terrifying...

2) Signs you’re a schnook…

When you come off the freeway in your cherry-red rented Pontiac and see SF spread out ahead and the crap 80’s CD you bought for the drive just “happens” to start playing the Miami Vice* theme (thanks BP#1) you get so excited you almost cry.

*yes I know that show has nothing to do with SF, but you know, somehow it still worked, and ‘Are You Going to San Francisco’ is ass.

3) Signs the world hates you…

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Okay. Stop just skimming, read this properly. This next bit is one of the top 5 most aaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee things that’s ever happened to me…

And I grew up in a mining town called Mount Isa, went to school in a beach-city so...so parochial and literal that it's called Surfer's Paradise and I work in the friggin’ game and animation industry, so pay attention.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

San Fran is beautiful, we’re pumped.

But we’ve arrived one night early and we can’t load another night on the front of our hotel stay and we can’t be bothered cruising blindly trying to find a nice AND affordable hotel at 9 at night…when we remember a backpacker/hostel joint mentioned by a friend back home. He said the rooms were nice, some were just doubles and it was in a good area and quite nice, for a hostel.

Hey it’s an adventure, like when I was young. Except I never went anywhere when I was young because I didn’t want to travel backpacker style and couldn’t afford adult style…

But we arrive...looks okay from the outside, it’s near a pub it’s all good…

They don’t have doubles.

Okay, fuck it, it’s just one night…maybe we’ll get to bunk with some cool kids. Maybe they’ll be Scandinavian and incredibly clean.

We knock.

Nada.

We unlock the door.

We stare.

Those who know me know how finicky I can be, but even BP#1 (considerably younger and more travelled) said this was not a good room. Like Hitler was not a good boy.

All four bunks had stuff on them. The sink had a breakfast bowl in which the uneaten food had turned grey and become hardened; no longer returning calls from its family or even able to relate to normal members of breakfast cereal society.

Balanced upside down on top of the bowl was a kickboxing helmet. In the sink.

Scattered around the room were various arm and leg pads and multi-colored martial-arts jackets and pants.

From this, plus the immense mound of brightly colored, XXXXL t-shirts we could estimate this guy’s size and demeanor pretty easily – he was a 7 foot tall, 300 pound kick boxer (with hygiene issues).

I shit you not.

But then we were thrown by other evidence.

1 - Boxes and boxes of Christmas wrapping paper, so he was obviously a giver. Or a Venture Capitalist with some really bad choices under his belt.

2 - The disposable razors...in the bath

So he was obviously a ball-shaver.

And only very sensitive lovers are ball-shavers. I know.

3 - The swivel chair with a towel over it, two feet in front of the TV which was crowned by an immense stack of adult DVD’s, the top-most being “Girls Who Ride Jumbo Joints – Or Die Trying”, so he was obviously a practitioner of self-abuse. And you can’t love others unless you love yourself.

And everywhere wet towels and crumpled tissues and stains and discarded pennies and moldy food and…

So, 4 hours, 37 beers and some crying later we return to the room.

We knock. The door opens…

Monday, June 05, 2006

Look Boobies!

This post was going to be titled with an apology for its tardiness, but...well tough...

Actually speaking of you guys, they say you can judge a Blog by the quality of its comments, in which case you, dear readers should be writing this.

E3 Part Two

A) Signs that maybe you can do your job okay – of the three Australian games nominated for
‘Best of E3’ my company, Game Mechanic worked on one.

Another, more egotistical way to look at it is that in 2006 my company contributed major creative elements to 33% of the nation’s best games. Yes, yes we did.

B) Coolest piece of weird promo crap at E3 – a life size Optimus Prime.* (And the full-sized helicopter gunship and humvee were pretty striking)

* I think he was life-sized, it’s unclear to me how big a Semi would be in anthropomorphic form, a dilemma I’m sure J.D. Salinger fretted over when he originally created Transformers; Robots in the Rye.

C1) Weirdest real life/game convergence moment – on arrival (see previous entry) while trapped in LAX’s huge, snaking security line, one of our party spotted someone they'd rather avoid, so in order to evade eye contact we had to surreptitiously revolve around each other while close-talking as the line started and stopped.

If rendered isometrically I think it could actually have some pretty decent gameplay. Maybe as a cell phone game.

C2) Actually maybe this is the weirdest convergence – I’m probably not the first to notice, but downtown LA is actually a video game level.

When there are a lot of people walking the streets (early morning/early evening) and the game engine is a bit stretched the city elders reduce the building's visible "draw distance" with fogging.

Every single time.

The few times you could actually see a reasonable distance, there would literally be NO ONE else on the streets.

Also we noticed that there were only ever 4 car models in RAM at any one time. A stretch limo, an SUV, an SUV with a texture change and a 10 year old Nissan.

Just like Grand Theft Auto.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dear Mark,

Speaking of GTA isn’t this supposed to be some kind of game industry blog? Will you ever actually say anything about games? Or E3? You didn’t really go did you? You are a liar and a hack.

Yours,

A disgruntled reader.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Good point

D) Best meeting @ E3 – the very polite Korean CEO who had a Korean-American woman translating for him. And they both talked incredibly quietly. And then we all bowed like crazy and it all happened while a bizarre Korean Girl Pop band played REALLY loud on a stage two feet from our heads.

Except the girls weren’t playing they were miming their instruments.

But they were actually singing.

E) Best meeting that never happened (but man we were tempted) – with Christian game developers* and we had it all worked out…

US – Hi! We’re a specialty game design consultancy, and we’d love to talk to you about the possibility of collaborating on future Christian games with your company. Hallelujah!

THEM – Interesting, have you boys accepted Christ as your savior?

US – no, we’re from Australia, we don’t have Christians there, but we believe that’s an advantage that will let us treat your Licensed Property, the Bible, like any other game IP – we can use the strongest elements and discard the weakest to get the best gameplay possible! Barukh atah Adonai, Elohaynu!

THEM – weak elements? Wha…

US – Yeah, Mark’s read it, well most of it and there’s some great gameplay in there. Parting the Red Sea, healing powers, loaves and fishes - that’s some good resource management right there, beating up on Romans and money lenders with your Son of God Power™, playing Cain and fragging Abel. But let’s be adults here, there’s some stuff that just won’t fly – you can’t really have Self-Resurrection at will, it’s gotta be a renewable, power-bar resource. Maybe based on how many pick-ups you’ve collected. Allãh-u-Akbar!

THEM – GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!

US – Yes, that’s exactly who you’ll play in the sequel!

*That's what I'm saying, they only make Christian games, and I’m not talking a ‘Press Heal Leper, Press Heal Leper!’ 2D platform game on GameBoy, I’m talking big-budget 3D extravaganzas – there was more than one of these companies so the fact that I’m not telling you which one will make the bitter pill of my apparent anti-Christian attitude go down more easily - well done me.

F) Sign you might have watched too much TV – every American says your American accent is perfect. No matter which one you pull out. Even the lame New Orleans one.

G) Signs you’re swimming with the big fish (or at least in the trail of crumbs and poo they leave behind) - when the very nice Publishing VP you’re drinking with tells you he can’t meet up the next night because he has a dinner date with Brian Singer.

H) When a huge African-American gentleman in Armani keeps shoving you aside and saying excuse me sir and you end up jammed against a massive Nintendo display and you say really politely, “what's the problem man?” and he gestures and it's some Nintendo of America VP giving a guided tour to a surprisingly short gentleman in a baseball cap by the name of Steven Spielberg.

NEXT TIME; E3 ends, but the adventure continues in this summer’s biggest family-friendly blockbuster 'Mark Angeli and the Hostel of Doom.'

PS - Anybody having trouble with layout weirdness in IE for Mac?

Let me know.

Friday, May 19, 2006

And so...it begins.

Been considering a blog for a while, ever since I started writing irregular e-mails to non-industry friends detailing the insanities of my working days. But now I have no excuse. Because now I have attended E3 for THE PURPOSE OF BUSINESS.

And as my Polish Comic Writer buddy said, “if you don’t blog E3, you’re never gonna blog”.

And yes, there will be insights into the industry and game design tips and advice and awesome gossip. But right now, for the next couple of posts, it’s all about me…

What this won't be, because other people do it better...

1 - An excited tirade about how awesome/ass the games on display at E3 were.

2 - A calmer, still impassioned assessment of the industry’s future based on carefully selected interviews.

3 - A collection of booth babe photos.

What it will be...

1 - All about me.

And yeah I know it's late, but I been workin' (business meetings in Cali’s Riviera – Sausalito…).

E3 Part One
I won't go into the details of who/what/why we were at E3, not because it's boring but because I don't want my nuts crunched by an NDA.

1) - You know you're not in Australia anymore when;

1a) After the grey blandness of the hour long security check at LAX, we wander out kinda down and disillusioned, Business Partner #1 mutters about the lack of LA-ness and general disappointment with our arrival in the promised land. But finally we step out into sunlight and a big black woman with fantastic nails and makeup pounces on the last person in line (me).

HER - “Hey handsome* got a minute? We’re collecting for the homeless.”

ME - “I only have Australian money.”

HER - “I only take Australian money, honey.” (and it was true, her clipboard was full of it)

After a brief chat we ask whether taxi or bus would be better to get to our hotel in North Hollywood** she advises us and mentions we should go round the corner to Sunset Boulevard where I would… “Have a great time, darlin’”

And she actually does that “finger snap/head-weave thing.” We are really excited by this, because in Australia African-American women don’t do that. Mainly because we have none.

1b) Protesters. There were some very well-dressed alternative types out the front on the first day with signs saying “Make Lovegames not Wargames E3” and “Where’s the Love E3?” I couldn't work out if they were ironic or not, but either way it rocked.

2) – You know you’re staying in the wrong part of town when;

2a) One of the largest neighboring buildings is Vivid HQ, America’s biggest Adult Entertainment provider.

2b) The nearest Starbucks is almost 15 minutes walk. In LA. 15 minutes.

Did I mention we’re in LA?

2c) They send a cop car, a fire department EMT vehicle and an actual firetruck to remove one drunk guy from the Starbuck’s courtyard. Which I personally thought he was adding an eye-catching element of interest to.

3) - Signs I’m a nice gentleman;

3a) After I ask the scantily clad ladies handing out the glossy “E3 Daily” magazines for elaborate directions in the massive E3 insanity (seriously, this place is big, until you’ve been in it you can’t imagine. It’s like “biggest mall in the state” big).

Anyway I thank them for helping me when it wasn’t their job, and one of them whispers sotto voce “what a nice gentleman.”

You know that kid with slicked-back hair who helps out the actresses backstage at the theatre where his uncle has got him a job and they all treat him like a younger brother but secretly he hopes they'll have sex with him? I'm that kid.

4) - Signs that after all the fretting, last minute purchases and girlfriend advice that your grooming is up to scratch (or maybe TOO good);***

4a) We wander into a meeting room and the CEO of the publisher we are there to meet yells across the room, “hey you guys look like a British rock band, nice work.”

4b) A guy in the hotel elevator says “wow nice threads, you guys in a band?”

4c) A woman at publisher’s reception leans over so her boss can’t hear “You guys come on real strong. You all got a different look goin’ there, you’re like…The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! I like it!”

*It is egotistical of me to mention this, but tell me you wouldn’t.
***Ditto for this whole section.

**This is not as cool as it sounds, in fact a local resident said “There’s a NORTH Hollywood?” True story.


NEXT TIME; Actual game-related stuff.