Apr 252013
 

I had a “misanthrope” wrist band for most of 2012, but it snapped back in November. It made me very sad.

I also became single back in November; I decided that it would be a good time to start travelling the world.  I was going to strike off on my own – put my stuff in storage and experience life.  I was pretty excited about this because living abroad is actually, in most ways, cheaper than my old digs back in Victoria; it seems foolish to not do this!

It would also give me a chance to escape people. I hate people! I’m a misanthrope, after all!

So what have I been up to since then?

  • I flew out to Boston for a few weeks, where I met some wonderful new friends.  I was staying with Dejobaan which was awesome and comfortable, though we were crunching on MLY! so it was also a bit stressful.
  • I popped back to Victoria to say goodbye to my friends and make sure the LevelUp community was all sorted before I took off.
  • I flew down to Mexico for over two months. There I stayed with the Northways, my old friends from highschool who have been doing this “living abroad” thing for years now.  These months were some of the best days of my life – it was incredible, relaxing, and I even got some work done. I’ve made a few blog posts about the Mexico leg of my trip, but one of my favourite things is meeting all those new friends, learning new tricks (kiteboarding!), and just generally having a blast.
  • After that I flew back to Boston where I forged even more new friendships, some I would say are quite special to me and I hope last me the rest of my life.  I stayed with Dejobaan again and we spent a week crunching on, and finishing MLY!, then it was time for PAX East where I had a booth.  Graham Davis, a good friend from back in Victoria, flew out to help out with my booth so it was good to see a familiar face again.
  • Next up was GDC in San Francisco where I stayed with Dejobaan for a third time. GDC was back-to-back with PAX this year so the stress was a bit higher than normal, but I also skipped buying a badge this year – no attending talks, and just barely visited the Expo floor. I was only attending evening parties! This let me get all my socializing and business meetings done while still getting enough sleep and relaxation in. It made the trip quite enjoyable; I think I’ll do it again next year. Some of the after-parties and events were amazing, and I met even more new friends and forged some new relationships that I’m sure will be with me for the rest of my life.  I get really excited whenever I’m in SF; there’s always so many people to see, and so many things to do.  GDC13 was probably one of my favourite “party-weeks” ever. I’m still riding the high, a month later.
  • And then, I took a big deep breath in, and hopped on a plane to Australia (starting in Brisbane). This is my first time crossing an ocean! I had never left North America before. I had a tinge of extra nervousness, though, as I had a date lined up with a woman I met online.

And here I am! I’m in Australia. That catches us almost up to the present.

The date I had lined up (let’s call her “D”) didn’t end with a romantic happily-ever-after,  so I won’t linger on it too long.  D has been my tour guide for the local beach-towns I’m staying in, and we’ve spent many nights staying up late, drinking and chatting.  She made an interesting observation though: that my bullet-pointed list up there sure contains a lot of people. Maybe I don’t hate people after all? Maybe I’m not really a misanthrope!

Of course, this argument got me very defensive and I started listing all the ways that I hate humanity, but I slowly settled on how it’s probably true… I hate people, I do! I hate how stupid the world can be sometimes. But my friends? I love them. I love my friends to bits. I get energetic and enthusiastic around them, my game-production-multiplier increases, and I have a lot of exciting fun times being around my game-developer-buddies, chatting about things like how nature and the world around us can inspire code, or game ideas. I want to stare at the ocean and chat about how many games there are in the concept of water alone.

And I’m missing all of that, here in Australia.

I’m lonely.

Turns out I like travelling with a partner, or with my friends.  Without those, I’ve just changed the scenery and my life is largely the same: Sitting on my laptop, making lame tweets about the world that goes on around me, making blog posts that are way too long.

It’s making me very unhappy here.

There are other things that make travel a bit harder for me, too; I’m not really in to doing the touristy stuff. I don’t really want to see the big rock in the desert, or holding a koala at a petting zoo, or going on some guided snorkeling adventure. I am interested in living; going grocery shopping. Seeing all the different things people buy. Doing things locals do on weekends, kicking my feet up at the beach, and just relaxing about town. Sitting at the pub and watching the surfers. But I feel like I can’t really do that stuff: Australia is really expensive. REALLY expensive.

I think I can safely and categorically say that nearly everything is twice as expensive in Australia as it is in Canada.  The beers available at any of the local pubs are [big-brew crap, and] only available in this bullshit “Schooner” size which is like, half a pint, but 50% more expensive than a pint.  Mixed drinks are typically $5-8 at most places in the US and Canada; the cheapest I have been able to find down under is $12 (but the average seems to be $15). [To be fair, Australia's minimum wage is around $15 vs. Canada's $10, so cost-of-living is probably a bit closer to what I had hoped. But I'm not working here.]

Groceries are expensive.  Clothes are expensive.  Rent is expensive.  Everything is really, really expensive, and it bugs me because I wanted to travel to make things cheaper for myself. I wanted to travel to not have to worry about money. Sure, MLY is doing well, but I haven’t gotten my first cheque from Valve yet and the whole money thing stresses me out so much I’m pretty much paralyzed.  I can’t enjoy myself at the pub. Every beer tastes like regret (for both price and flavour reasons), and I find myself ordering tiny servings or going to really shitty hamburger stands.

But, I do feel like I could stomach those shitty burgers and expensive beers if the Northways were here. If my old roommates back in Victoria were here with me. If there was a conference going on. If I had compatriots; if I had someone to share the pain with, to laugh about it with. Someone to bounce game ideas off of, to distract me from the pain of the price.

But no; I sit here, largely alone, tentatively poking at my ultra-expensive swill, gazing out across the ocean as my bank account drifts farther into the red.  Sure there’s been some good days; and around half my time here is spent having a lot of fun with D (playing in the surf, trying new foods, cramming vegemite into my face, her laughing at my wobbly skateboarding, etc) – but it’s not enough.  Her company is wonderful, but I’m still feeling cut off and lonely, feeling separated from my game development community. One of the highlights of my trip was watching my copy of Indie Game: The Movie with D, and I think that’s probably hinting at something.

I started asking myself: If money was no object, what would I do right now?  After buying a helicopter (obviously), I would definitely leave – I would immediately book a flight back to North America. Back to my friends.  I just don’t travel well alone, it turns out, and this was my first time trying it.  The only reason I’ve been sticking around is because the airfare was so expensive – I feel like it’s a sunk-cost and I have to make it “worth it” by sticking around, making myself miserable.  Sticking around to make your plane ticket worth it is a really shitty reason to stick around.

So I bought myself a return flight. I’ll be returning to North America in a week or two from this post, and I’ve got some plans to head out to Boston, Vancouver, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and maybe even New Brunswick and Newfoundland — all for conferences, game jams, and seeing all my friends. I’ve already got plans to live for a week on a houseboat in Arizona. I’ve got a lot of friends I want to see, new relationships to catch up on, and adventures to be had… Adventures with people. Adventures with friends, adventures with (hopefully!) a partner.

I’m not done with Australia – far from it. I think it’s wonderful here; I am celebrating having crossed an ocean, I am enthusiastic about this continent and want to explore it, and the people within. I daresay the drivers are more courteous than any other place I’ve been, and people talk with their endearing accents all the time. There are plenty of gamedevs scattered throughout that I’d love to visit and hang out with.  I do still love Australia and their TimTams… And yes, even their Vegemite.  I just need to experience it with the right people to not ruin it for myself.  It’s my dream to go to New Zealand, and I was originally planning on doing it with this trip. I’ll put it off though, I want to save that… so I can share it with someone special.  Travelling alone just doesn’t work for me.

I have a new wristband now. It doesn’t say “misanthrope” this time; it just says “don’t read the comments.”

Nov 292012
 

In my last blog post I alluded to some big personal things going on in my life. I’ve had some time to think on it, and I think I’m ready to share what’s going on with the world (don’t worry, cleared it through all other parties too) – gotta uphold my transparency policy. I firmly believe people should share their Y axis in business, and I guess this is me sharing my personal Y axis. It’s one part personal therapy, but I hope there’s another part that is informative or at least helpful to someone else out there.

Around a week ago, my partner and I split up. We had been together for some years, and as one would expect, it’s tough – though amicable. There’s no throwing of plates or angry words. Things are in surprisingly high spirits. We are still in the same house, with our roommate. I have just moved my bed to be down next to my computer desk, in my office in the basement. Not much has changed, though I have consumed more alcohol than average in the last week.

Beyond standard break-up stuff, though, I’m being pushed to a new space in my life – one where the future is unclear. There are a lot of questions I’m asking myself. Things I’m not sure of. Questions about where I want to live, what I want to do with my life, where my career is headed. What kinds of safety nets do I have. How much money is available. When am I going to do all that travelling I dreamed of? Questions about what I want in future relationships, if I want another one at all. Even basic questions about myself, my sexuality, my emotional needs. It seems like everything is up in the air right now, and none of those questions can be answered unless I first answer all the other questions surrounding it.

It feels impossible. It feels overwhelming, and like a terrible burden. I’m complete bollocks at making up my mind about things in the first place, and when confronted with a tough choice I usually go with the dangerous impulse decision.

And that’s why I’m running away.

It sounds dramatic, but it’s not so much; I’ve been planning on heading to Mexico with the Northways in January anyway, and then there’s PAX East, then GDC, then PAX Australia. I was planning on being home in between of all those trips, but now there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to. I’m paying for travel anyway – might as well spend a good long time there, right?

I am probably going to end up spending 6 months of 2013 away from “home,” such as it is. I’ll get some travel out of the way, get some business out of the way, and hopefully figure out the answers to some of my questions along the way.

It’ll be fun. I’ll have my friends, but it’ll be emotionally lonely. I know I can manage it, and right now I feel like I have to do it – because the alternative is sitting here, moping, and feeling sorry for myself.

Anyone out there live in New Zealand? I’ve always wanted to go, but have no idea where to start. Since I’ll be down there anyway…

May 242011
 

I run the local Victoria game developers group (LEVEL UP!), but our sister group in Vancouver (FullIndie) was having it’s one-year anniversary last week and I was invited over to give a nice short talk of some sort.

The Trip

I had a blast on the trip. FullIndie had probably over a hundred people show up for the birthday celebration, and we all went roving across three pubs after our talks. It was great to meet so many new people – but the size was a bit overwhelming! I couldn’t even meet everyone if I tried.

I took my FlashGamingSummit talk and slimmed it down to around 14 minutes (originally 60 minutes!). I basically cut out all the “facts” and just left the jokes and the summary “lessons learned” and tried to quickly barge through it all. Because of the size of the meetup, I actually had to give the talk twice to two seperate groups of people! They were both laughing most of the way through though, so I think I did a good job. :) It was a lot of fun for me anyway. A student was there filming one of my talks, maybe it’ll find it’s way online someday?

SteamWorks Brewpub let us into their secret cellar meeting room, which was pretty cool. Had some awesome pints and talked my throat raw. Good times!

The day after the event I hung out with some new friends, played some prototype video games, and even got a few board games in. Wonderful trip.

Since Victoria is on an island, seperated from Vancouver without a bridge – we have to take a 1.5 hour ferry ride between the two places. During the day, the view is beautiful and inspiring, as the ferry weaves between the Gulf Islands. At night, the wind and chill is usually so great that it’s best to huddle inside and do something productive…

I decided to do a GameJam!

The Jam

I was jamming on my own but I invited others along via Twitter. I did a screencap of me working at night spliced with the earlier trip during the day. Check out my rough editing skills here:

(Thanks to DVGMusic once again for his awesome tunes that accompany the video.)

In the end, I made an educational game that attempts to teach people fractions. I didn’t have a lot of time so a lot of elements are missing, and it could definitely use some work – but it might be a neat app to develop further in the future. My girlfriend teaches math, and she approves! Check it out the first prototype here:

AheadFull!

(You’re supposed to be at the speed controls of the ferry, being shouted orders by the Captain.)

Jul 132010
 

Well, my girlfriend and I have completed our Cross-Canada 2-month-long roadtrip. We’re back in Victoria safe and sound!

Our road-trip blog is still a bit behind, but we’re working on updating it as soon as we get some of these backlogged photos and videos done up.

It was a really fun experience. I got to meet up with several fellow Indie GameDevs, old friends, and family; some for the first time. SteamBirds money is starting to run out, though, and I’ve got to get on finishing a few more of my projects to keep paying those bills!

I am going to be at Casual Connect in Seattle next week, giving a post-mortem talk on SteamBirds. Anyone else going to be there? Let’s hook up!

Apr 252010
 

Thanks to the success of SteamBirds and the aligning of some special stars in the midnight sky, an opportunity to take a three month long, cross-Canada road-trip has surfaced! And by gum, I’m taking it.

Normally I’d post all about it, right here on this blog – but it’s a joint effort between myself and my lady, Aubrey. Individually, we are awesome… When combined, we form BEER CRISIS!

Head over to that link there and sign up for it’s RSS feed. We’ll be posting travel anecdotes, photographing scenic vistas, taking shots with our ArmorGames-provided HD Camcorder, and meeting up with friends and game developers along the way.

While the trip goes on, I’ll be updating this blog with personal/SteamBirds/etc. stuff still.

Sep 082009
 

I attended PAX (The Penny Arcade Gaming Exhibition, aka PAGE; or at least it should be) this last weekend for the first time. People seemed to get so excited about it that I had quite high hopes.

And I was pretty let down.
I caught the Nerd-Cold that was being passed around PAX so I’m a little fuzzy-headed and not feeling my best, so I’ll keep this contained to a few brief bullet points:
Post edit: Rambling fail. This isn’t short at all.
  • You can meet and talk to the developers of the games!
    Not really, no. Sure if you are lucky, or you rush in right at the buzzer, or if you catch one at a quiet moment. But mostly, the exhibition hall is so packed full of people – and the developers are so busy with their tasks – they don’t have time to talk. The few developers I did manage to snag for more than a few minutes only had time to tell me that they had a lot of fun making the game (shock!) and that they had an interesting experience and would do it again (double shock!); all the while handing out pamphlets or t-shirts to passers-by of our conversation.

    The typical meet-the-developer experience is to stand in line for 45 minutes and get spoken at with a megaphone. The words are usually empty; the standard press-fare you get around games. Everyone sounds like a talking press-release. Then you get a t-shirt for your patience.

    I attended GDC, where I could (and did!) talk to some developers for over 30 minutes. Some even went with me out to lunch for for a beer. There was never a line.

  • You can play all the latest games!
    Most of the titles at PAX have already been released. A few are on the cusp of being released. But then again, I don’t really put any value in playing new games first. I don’t really care about that benefit. I would love to (and do) participate in pre-release testing and sharing opinions to help shape the game – but when the game is pretty much gold and just waiting for the discs to be printed… all I’m doing is getting a sneak peak.Playing games “first” simply means that the game hasn’t run through all the review sites yet, and there’s a much higher chance that it’s a piece of crap. Kinda like how the new movie GI Joe wasn’t screened to reviewers when it launched – going there on Day 1 means that yes, you are first… But odds of having a horrible experience? Pretty high, and you have no chance of being warned beforehand.

    I really don’t know where this whole “I got it first” mentality comes in. I’m not the kind of guy (14-year-old?) who runs to his friends and says “HAHA I PLAYED xyz BEFORE YOU!” and my friends get genuinely jealous. I’m a patient fellow; I wait until TV series are cancelled before watching them, for example.

    Contrast this with GDC, where you get to play early builds of games that companies haven’t even decided on release yet; prototypes; exploratory gameplay visions… It’s quite exciting.

  • You get to see all the FUTURE… TODAY!
    Again, I’m going to have to say GDC wins this one. A perfect example was the 3-D gaming concept.At PAX was the marketable (aka Cheap) version of the 3D gaming experience. Showcased by nVidia, they alternate frames on the display for your left/right eye, and using specially sync’d glasses they turn off your opposite eye from receiving said information. Being displayed on a nice 28FPS LCD display, that equated to 14FPS, with a very heavy (and very annoying) flickering effect. The technology is cheap though – a big enough video card with a special jack for the glasses, and you’re set. I watched Resident Evil being played in 3D, which I admit looked cool – but ended up making me feel a little naseous and the twinges of a headache. Plus you are tethered to your gaming box to keep the glasses in sync, or you have to keep swapping in batteries for the wireless replacement. Either way is annoying.

    And I’m one of those guys that rolls my eyes at reviewers saying racing games makes them queasy. I’m pretty robust in that department.

    GDC’s version was Sony’s booth. They had a new TV, where they essentially doubled the pixels. Yep, you have to essentially buy two TVs to get this to work. Half the pixels on screen show left-eye information, and the other half show right-eye information. You get the full 28-FPS experience from your television set, which means no flicker, no headaches, and more information. Since the left/right channels are permanently polarized, you can use any standard cross-polarized pair of glasses – no batteries, no tether. Technically speaking you can also get 2xHD resolution in 2D as well. Obviously expensive though – new TVs for everyone!

  • PAX Panels are awesome!
    No they aren’t. I was riveted to my seat for 3 days straight at GDC; I walked out of every single talk I attempted to attend at PAX. It’s obvious in retrospect; the attendees are not game developers, they are game players. They don’t want the straight-up insightful answer; they want to hear the generic bulk answer.I’m also pretty upset that most of the talks I attended ended up being microphone-driven. That is to say, the panelists introduced themselves and immediately opened the mic to questions, and just answered them for an hour. This annoys me for two reasons. First, it implies that they really don’t have anything to say or share on their own; the talk has no actual foundation. Secondly, the questions are soooo inaaaaaane.

    Someone went up to the mic and asked the PAX10 panel if Microsoft’s XNA framework supported multiplayer. (!!!!)

    Another dude asked the PAX10 panel, “Now that you’ve released successful games on your own, have you been able to get good jobs at the bigger gaming studios?”… This one just blew my socks off. I suppose the average gamer dude doesn’t realize that indie games are an escape from the corporate world, not an icebreaker into it. I guess I can’t fault them for that, but all in all it was just a waste of my time.

I guess what I’m saying is, most of the things people attend PAX for can be seen a hundredfold better at GDC – minus the lines, the headaches, and the hassles. Of course, GDC tickets cost 10 to 20 times more.
I had a pretty good experience in another genre at PAX though. It wasn’t all bad news.
I ended up spending most of my time at PAX playing boardgames. A crapload of them. And I had a ton of fun doing it – it was really interesting and exciting, playing a bunch of things I had never heard of before. I picked out one or two that I’d even like to purchase, and I had some long talks (and played games with) the staff of the creating companies.
Then the realization hit me: This must be what people are getting out of the video-game side of things. I’m fairly entrenched in gaming media – I subscribe to every gaming site I know of in my RSS reader; I read most interviews and watch a lot of gameplay videos. Everything at PAX I knew before I attended. However, I subscribe to zero board game blogs. I don’t even know of any that exist (I’m sure there are though), and as such I was taken completely off guard by the scope and selection of awesome board games at PAX.
I therefore conclude one of two things:
a) PAX is for gamers that do not have the internet (and are not aware of upcoming or released titles),
b) PAX is for gamers wanting to expand their horizons beyond their favorite medium, or
c) Both A and B.
I fall into category C, I suppose. Video games were a complete bomb for me; but Board Games was an awesome experience.
I don’t have any plans to attend a future PAX (I don’t see there being another 40 new board games for me to play if I do go), but if I did attend I’d probably spend all my time exploring RPGs or figurine-games like Warhammer and the like (since I didn’t get a chance to myself).
Seattle itself was kinda fun though. I was so exhausted and spent most of my time at PAX itself that I didn’t give a good go of the city, but the few places I went to were great. Tried some decent beers and had a really good curry or two.

Destinations

 Travel  Comments Off
Jan 092009
 

The Whopper Sacrifice is the best Facebook Application ever made.

People ask me where I plan on going on my global adventures. Well, I have a “short” list of places I want to travel to.
First and foremost, I want to live for a time on the beaches of Belize. I went there once a few years ago on vacation, and during my 6-day-stay it was pure heaven. I look forward to seeing them again.
I’ve never crossed an ocean, so I plan on doing that at some time. I don’t have a particular draw to any country, but here’s a short list:
  • I wish to see Norway’s Fjords
  • I want to take a good look at some New Zealand landscapes
  • I want to hang out with those wacky Austraaaalians and listen to their accent while drinking their beers
  • I want to check out some small Pacific Islands
  • South Africa might be neat
  • A tour of Egypt
  • aaaand finally I’d like to see Easter Island if I could. Maybe just for the day.
It’s a pretty long list, but it’s a lifelong one at that. If I can knock them all out of the park in the next few years, all the better! But my only goal for 2009 is Belize.
Specifically, I wish to return to Caye Caulker. The place is pure magic. A small population of 1200, it is very cozy and doesn’t have a lot of development on it. At least, last I checked. I hope it hasn’t gotten too pricy.