November 25th, 2015 by harold

When I feel down, I feel like looking at FLW architecture. It relaxes me and excites me about the future. Maybe at some point we’ll stop being stupid and we’ll look into ways of making people happy by building great, affordable houses.

I love the mystery. You look at this and you wonder what is going on. It’s not playing on weirdness a la Gehry, it’s just low key different and pure. No bullshit. Straight lines and a couple ornaments that’s it.

That was a drawing for a huge house for very rich people. Deemed too mysterious they cancelled it and built a huge, tacky, Italian style house. I look at that drawing and I imagine people living there and how special this would feel, surrounded by nature, kind of not being able to actually visualize the entire house, just moving from room to room.

This shit looks cozy as fuck, I’m sorry but I’d kill a turkey with my bare hands to be able to have Thanksgiving in this living room. FLW had a massive sense of aesthetic. I imagine laughing and being warm in this, just feeling fine.

That one looks like a sanctuary/bunker, ready to tackle any kind of zombie invasion while you’re sipping some nice coffee and working on your computer. Our houses today are boring as hell.

Dat corner glass son. I’m not sure it’s legal anymore but damn it looks just perfect. Who wouldn’t want his home studio to have a view like that. Off the grid house surrounded by nature, that’s all I want and I suspect probably all we need.

I immediately think about prefab that one, maybe even 3D print it. FLW designs and modern construction would work so well. He was wrong on a lot of stuff but what a vision. That design is from 1938. Still looking ultra sharp.

Unbuilt. The sphere was supposed to be the living room. We’re so not used to spherical rooms but the induced relaxation is probably hardwired in our brains because we all come from a rounded belly, that’s how we started. I bet projecting movies on the wall while laying down on a comfy sofa would be kind of the ultimate Netflix & Chill.

I think I saw four different Harold owning a FLW house, maybe I should be the fifth. Maybe I’ll never be able to have one. At least there are some rentals through the US so I shall see.

Paris 13th

November 24th, 2015 by harold

“Well I’m kind of glad to be the fuck away from all this” At some point I thought that, on that Friday 13th. After texting family and friends. I can’t even imagine what I would witness in Paris as a dude who could be considered one of them but isn’t.

I have seen enough in thirty years. I have seen how white people in France never liked arabs pretty much ever, how arabs grew sick of it, how they made white people even more not liking them etc. Being an outsider I have the privilege to have people speak their minds on this from both sides. It’s a trip to be accepted by white people and arabs, listening to them trash each other. Maybe around 1998-2000 when France was unified around a soccer ball, maybe at that time some progress could have been made ethnicity wise. Maybe France could have started to create a real Republic where we unify on the fact that we are stronger together and that diversity allows us to be smart in a way a monoculture can’t, not because of some antic artifacts like religion and secular BS. But it didn’t happen, 9/11 and fear did. France went hard with laws against muslims that were knee jerk reactions and unfair. It’s a spiral that ended with 90s born French citizens who pretty much have nothing to do with Islam, committing suicide in the worst way possible.

It’s not about Syria. At all. That’s a scapegoat for politics and international affairs. But everyone buys it, it’s so much easier than focus on what France and only France knows and needs to tackle since forever: its weird ass racism hidden in plain sight.

There’s a say in my country, “arab’s work”. It means shitty ass job. Doing some arab’s work means you’re doing the worst kind of work. You would think that this say would have gotten out of fashion through immigration, it didn’t. Way too many white people in France believe this, I’m not exaggerating. Then I will always remember that mid day news about that highly educated arab who couldn’t find a job in France because of his name and had found one in the UK. And it’s like, shit happens. Like it’s not a HUGE issue that needs to be fixed because what kind of fucking hope can you have if the best of the best is judged, stigmatized and stuck in a spiral of unemployment and incomprehension in the country he is born in. It’s just asking for anger/desperation to grow as much as it can for all the people who are not even in this favorable situation. And it did. Radical religious assholes only have to scoop them up. Those kids are craving for respect and purpose and they get that in spades with religion, it’s not rocket science.

France is this great place that encourages you to the “joie de vivre” and independence of thoughts but hasn’t been able to materialize that unless you’re white, drink wine and tolerate Jesus. France is this country that was absolutely right in not wanting to attack Iraq after 9/11 but bombed Syria 24 hours after local terrorism happened.

France can lead the West in hypocrisy, It’s painful to see. You were supposed to be better than that.

Recording session

November 18th, 2015 by harold


Misc shots

November 10th, 2015 by harold

Biking selfie





Office view

Game audio stack vs design

October 31st, 2015 by harold

I watched the new Unity5 audio system stuff, it’s pretty cool. They don’t dig so much in how performance is when you use a granular synth and sub mixes on top of an actual game with AI and input though. They are going full native avoiding the managed code part so it’s promising but even “offline” audio processing using native plugins is heavy on recent CPUs, I don’t think we’ll be able to use those effectively in-game soon at 60fps.

They are a bit if not a lot overlapping with well known and used third party solutions like FMOD and Wwise.

Miyamoto once said:

A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather solve multiple problems at once.

I like this quote because advanced audio features tend to solve one single particular problem while adding tons of complexity while simpler solutions can not only solve a sound problem but also a game design, UI feedback problem at the same time.

My focus as a designer is not to use fancy tools to the max. More features doesn’t mean it’s going to make things so much better. Two things make me think that:

– Most game audio that people remember is not related to anything technical, it’s usually from games where audio is played or stopped. No convolution reverb or complex variables to make something duck –4.5 dB in the background.

– As Iwata, a fantastic programmer said after working with Miyamoto: “it’s about content”. Even though technical mastery is useful ultimately it’s about what people will hear, the content.

And that works for me: I’m enjoying Else Heart.Break() made in Unity which has basic audio integration but the content is great: the music is awesome, the foley and little sounds are cool (I really like the fake TV show sound). Content first.

GunPoint has some clever FMOD layering going on but if the music was bad, it wouldn’t have mattered. And the layering (happening when you switch to hacking mode) can actually make it tiresome from time to time.

Kentucky Route Zero is the master of the past few years in terms of ambiance and mood, achieved by fantastic audio design with about zero fanciness or parameter-enabled function. It’s just a great sounding game.

With time I feel like people enjoy and remember two things from game audio: music they can hum, and sound/voice effects they can remember because they heard them a billion time (“KAY-O” and other “the bomb has been planted”). It seems like the loop/repeat paradigm is part of game audio’s DNA and we can’t escape it.

The only games that require massive audio systems and tech are the CoDs and Halos of this world: big battles, hundreds of sounds being played, the need for a robust system to control what’s going on is inevitable.

But for most games? Nah. Audio designers, focus on making great sounds. That’s what will make the game better.


October 22nd, 2015 by harold

Within a 50 meters/100 feet radius of my place

None of that existed a year ago. The elephant is already gone as there is a big ass Magneto instead.

I finished my online portfolio:

Which finally sports a sound design demo, check it out here it’s the first video: http://harold.la

Man, so much work is going on. Physically in shape more than ever, just in need of some right shoulder massage (bass killing me…). I might post more pictures of my face, trying to get a window in the present for my future self. That’s what’s up bruh.

We need to shift

October 7th, 2015 by harold

I don’t know, Barack. Invoking “sickness of the mind” sounds so terribly middle age-ish and ignorant. Plenty of not so bright people don’t go on killing rampage like that. They might throw hands at you while drunk, that’s it.

B, I think the problem is in the culture. The environment is making people sick. That’s the constant.

You don’t need gun laws because of those constant shootings and dead bodies, you need gun laws because it just makes sense to heavily regulate something that is designed to kill in a modern society. But that will not change the environment.

I can see the cocktail: heavy religion mixed with bullying culture, heavy binary world where you’re either good or bad, add some incomprehensible student debt and some of those kids reaching their 20s lose it. Boomers still don’t get the massive shift we have been going through and I’m not downplaying the effects on people starting their lives in this mess.

Gun laws won’t stop kids to feel desperate and angry, B. I think those shootings also make us numb because a lot of us know the huge task that is to redirect a culture that has always been very content with brutality and death.

I see them kids running in the Baldwin Hills with the US ARMY shirt, being yelled at, it breaks my heart. I see new Virtual Reality technology coming out soon and one of the big demo from last month involves holding guns and shooting at people. And of course culturally I’m supposed to WOOHOO this hard and ignore potential impact on people living in sick environments that is, tons of people.

There’s a lot of shifting to do.

On actors and game development

September 30th, 2015 by harold

Bad voice acting has been part of games for so long.

First off, we need to get rid of the Creative VS Technical debate. In gamedev both are equally important and usually dealt with by people who are both creative and technical. That’s the default state.

No, your motion capture performance ain’t shit until someone spends hours cleaning it up and integrating “your animation” in the game engine. Your voice acting performance ain’t shit until someone picks the best take, minimizes your mouth noise, makes it sound like you’re in space and integrates it in game.

Do not create classes. We’re all in this together. Flatten that stupid pyramid, please.

Second, union VS non-union and how game developers to this day don’t have any, like VFX houses. Two factors:

   – People are drowning in work and don’t bother dealing with this. We all work insanely hard –we all do but bear with me- at finding solutions to problems that didn’t exist before. People completely forget that: game development really is Research & Development. TV or movie technicians or actors, they swim in a pool of “been there done that”, we are not. Even when things look the same and that we think that we can use an old proven method to do something, it turns out that we still have to write some new code, maybe change an entire wall. It’s fucking nuts, I’m not exaggerating. VFX houses do the same, creating 3D that you have never seen before, dealing with mad constraints etc.

I stand by this distinction: we all work hard in the entertainment industry, but game development is the craziest. Look at cycles: 2, 4, 5+ years of development. Hollywood can churn out a massive Marvel movie employing 1,000 people every 1.5 years. So no time –and by that I mean brain time- for game developers to negotiate and meet with companies which will not help to establish unions, not their interests. Which brings us to the second factor:

   – Not enough older people. In TV and movie production in Hollywood where unions are very powerful you see people of all ages, early 20s to late 60s all the time. We all age and we need more security and less snacks, that’s how it is. But the game industry really enjoys people from 20 to 35. Especially before 30. Obviously young people will never care about unions. In TV you’d BETTER have your union card to get good work so when you start, you don’t see it as a thing that drags you down but as an opportunity to be treated fairly (yeah unions bring socialism all over the place, job stability, nice healthcare etc).

That is a weird thing: if game development is so much R&D, why would you not create a pool of veterans and use them to mitigate risks? Because they could unionized and sort of demand stuff? That might be one of the answer. Unions in Hollywood can shut down any production at the blink of an eye, I’m sure most big game companies are not looking forward to that.

But yeah as a veteran game audio designer who can barely use his skills outside game development, I feel so overwhelmed by the work (sound design, implementation, new tech showing up etc) that unions –despite looking good on paper- are so not in my head. To be fair in a game studio with a good reputation, salaries are usually good and relationships are flat enough that there’s no need for unions VS bosses.

I tend to think that’s progress. I wish it was expanding and that game culture wasn’t so stubbornly aimed at the youngest, things would change in developers’ favor more probably.

No Ads

September 20th, 2015 by harold

So there’s this big mess about ads and iOS9 and how Apple is going to make money and screw so many people etc.

Web 1.0 was full of pop up ads, it was terrible. Web 2.0 was supposed to be the clean web for which we subscribe to (Flickr being the poster child). But Google happened and people wanted everything for free, and everything for free has a price: the web we have today, full of scripts, tracking, hidden ads etc.

It doesn’t matter so much to me. I have always found that most of the best content online is not from websites running ads and in need of revenue. It’s from people writing good stuff, for free. Because they are real.

It is a constant to me.

So many articles trying to make it like they are real, deep reflections on subjects but they just look like so scholar and empty in the end. It makes sense, those writers are getting paid. Headlines are all about money.

Full RSS subscription has been the absolute best to me. Pure content, nothing else. It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to the web.

Extreme OPML
Back in 2011 I made this and it’s still fucking relevant. 

People just gave up choice and privacy completely to brands like Google and Apple, and I’m not talking just about devices and services but also ads (basically Google distributes all the ads on the internet) and hosting (Apple’s 30% cut on anything, all the time, forever). That’s gallons of Kool-aid.

People don’t realize that for example they go to Gamasutra to read an article from Warren Spector on a page serving ads, when the article has been available on that dude’s blog through RSS without ads, a day or two prior.

For the big news, they are everywhere for free outside the web! Yes, paid by ads but their nature is different: ads in a magazine or on TV are not making my hands or TV choke, nor do they track me all around.

People are forgetting that we actually can have a fast, clean, relatively private internet. You just need to fight for it. Never stop to create either. Your think piece/rant might be far more influential than you think.

The last technology we need is super easy micropayment to bypass tech and news giants, then we’ll be good.

Competitive shooters and TV

September 18th, 2015 by harold

Blizzard’s Overwatch. Competitive shooter, fast paced action.

Bosskey’s Lawbreakers. Competitive shooter, fast paced action.

Epic’s Unreal Tournament. Competitive shooter, fast paced action.

They all are coming soon. After being all the rage around 2000, the arena shooter is back. But there’s a problem: people watch people play now, and it’s a big deal.

I watched Overwatch’s 16 “heroes” and you have to appreciate Blizzard’s surgery at work, how things are readable in a chaos of green, blue bullets, force shields, particles and so forth. It’s amazing how good they are at manipulating color palette.

It is also super fast. It’s pretty much unwatchable for 90% of people if not more. This is what Twitch most watched games are, most of the time:

Those games are slow. If not reaaaally slow. Titanfall is really good and doesn’t appear here. No Quake. No fast paced games. People compare Team Fortress 2 to Overwatch but TF2 is far slower.

Game design wise, what makes Counter Strike far better at being watched is the fact that you can be eliminated in one single bullet from any weapon. Therefore you can’t be running around and you can’t be sloppy in your retreats. You have to be always careful and that creates tons of mechanisms: always move with a teammate, be silent, secure a zone with a flash grenade before entering it,  think how you can surprise your opponent etc.

We watch this, we witness this incredible tension that doesn’t exist in arena shooters because everyone is running and blasting everywhere. It’s fun to play but there is virtually no strategy or tactics compared to CS. It’s too fast! Just kill everybody without getting killed. It’s like a football –soccer- game with only the penalty area and only one side.

The absolute beauty of Counter Strike is its high dynamic: you can rush and play like an arena shooter or you can meticulously form an attack/defense. Everything can work and everything can fail equally. The economy makes every mistake count –if you lose, you can’t buy good weapons-. Which means that watching a match means you never know who is going to win (when teams are about the same level, obviously). I can’t count how many times I watched a game and thought that it was over no way the other team comes back from that oh shit they are fuck that’s awesome they might win!!!!!

Sports fans know what I mean. That’s the core element in watching skill-based entertainment: DRAMA. Automatic, endless respawn kind of kills it, by design.

Second thing that makes CS so good for TV purposes: you don’t have to know classes, there are no classes. Overwatch’s 16 different characters with each different abilities is a lot to remember (and I can’t even imagine the work to balance them out). It’s overkill for anyone not heavily involved in the scene. I don’t want to understand all that. Baseball has classes and like four countries in the world like that sport.

I showed a friend a CS game the other day, it was his first time and in 5 minutes he was into it. Very easy to understand and visualize yet, it’s already borderline pace wise when things get hot.

Arena shooters were the shit and disappear for a reason. Counter Strike is continuously in the top 5 sellers on Steam. They sold over a million copies in August, when the major competition took place in Cologne. 1.2 million people watched the finals (and probably another million watched them later) that’s the score of a modest, successful show on TV. No other FPS comes close to those numbers. It took Counter Strike fifteen years and billions of hours played to be that balanced.

If I was a big company trying to get into esports with a shooter, I would copy the fuck out of CS. Just change the anti-middle East theme and you good for years if not decades.