I don’t think you are

April 29th, 2015 by harold

I wonder if I keep coming back to wanting to play Counter-Strike and old school shoot ‘em ups because those games taught me to be a much, much better navigator in crowded spaces.

I’m not in the mood of playing Bloodborne because oppressing atmosphere+dying every 90 seconds is not what I want when in real life it’s open season on black people. I can’t be in the mood.

Going from there, I feel like escapism is… Ambiguous. Games are so good at that though. We just “try” and then it’s three, four hours later. And then we’re just kind of confused and weirdly satisfied?

The Indie Soapbox this year had Jenova Chen wonder about what’s going on with games and if he is asking too much, wanting them to be more than what they are now.

You know something with a big, positive impact culturally and socially? Really memorable, across generations games? Are we doing this with or without competitiveness? How? Very difficult questions to answer.

In progress

April 25th, 2015 by harold

It’s been a little intense in the past few weeks. Things got cancelled, people quit, I didn’t get a job that I was eyeing hard and as too often in this economy or world I don’t know, I just don’t know where I failed, where I can improve. Things looked pretty good, on my way to the third interview aka the Final Stage but yeah, nope. There will be other opportunities. Time to regroup and breathe.

Still watching or not watching those videos of black people getting murdered, brutalized, killed. Everyday. My mind becomes an anechoic chamber. Not a single white person talks to me about that, I can tell it’s not even on their radar. Not even a little, two minute chat where I can hear a white person tell me “yeah, this is fucked up” so that I don’t feel like we’re against each other. Black people are on the edge and you keep looking away. I feel like this summer is going to be crazy and desperate.

Of course this stays here or locked up in my mind and I just act as if all of that wasn’t happening most of the time. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a good thing to lie to and convince myself that everything is cool, everything is awesome when I have tangible proof that it’s fucking not.

Sorry! I forgot to breathe.

The other day:

Stuck dad
Yes, I stopped and helped him too.

That clueless old white man got his car back on the road thanks to five black and brown young people pushing his ass back in the parking lot. I thought it was consistent with the world we’re living in.

From good design to bad design to business

April 25th, 2015 by harold

I just saw Windows 10 Mobile screenshots and oh god no.

8 on the left, 10 on the right. The blue squares don’t stay this way once you have a couple pictures. They show up and make it look good, son. Personally, the 80s desktop real file looking icon has to disappear. 2015 ffs.

I have been using Windows phones since early 2011. The stark design and simplicity of the OS have been fantastic to me. Not only competition never looked attractive –kind of a first time ever with MS products-, competition started to seriously look like my phone with iOS 7 and whatever Android version brought the square and flat design all over the place. I would stop on gadget blogs and be like “wait, is this on WP?”.

I think the WP design team was far ahead and still is in their vision.

The Mad Men & Women of the Windows Phone design studio
Yep 20 people, 8 women. Almost parity. I don’t know, it feels right.

Good design makes a product useful.

All the built-in features of WP makes it extremely useful without downloading apps, out of the box. It is good design to integrate services like they did in the people hub, how the Facebook chat is baked in –you don’t have to use it-, the possibility to update multiple social network at once etc. Think about it: no app to search for, no website to visit to look at the offer, no app to install, no app to learn, no app to update. It’s just a login/pwd and there you go, your content, contacts etc. Imagine today something like Ello instead of having to use a terrible web app you would just login and update on your phone exactly like you do with other networks.

This is good design.

Of course, business and strategy wise that’s not making anyone happy but Microsoft. And the user. Because partners complained and don’t want to depend on MS, Microsoft successively took those features away with 8.1 and now Windows 10. So you have to download “official” apps now, for everything.

I haven’t updated yet.

Good design helps us to understand a product.

Icons are stupid. There, I said it. Icons regardless of how good they look, always have to be guessed. Or need text. WP went brutal on this: TEXT. No visual distraction. It’s very bold but one thing is sure: you know exactly what you’re doing and what you’re clicking. It is honest. Good design is honest, doesn’t try to impress you with busyness.

Good design is unobtrusive.

Which is not the case with notification centers and red dots of FOMO and battery %. That shit is obtrusive! It is telling you constantly “watch me, hey, hey, look something happen, look bright colors, emergency hey hey”. WP design is all about opting in. Yes, you have to choose to unlock your screen to look at notifications. Immediacy is not the only thing that matters in the world, far from that actually.

Good design is as little design as possible.

And that’s where I see WIndows 10 going all Frankenstein annoys me. I understand the challenge: make something different, that will make both developers and users happy. Developers and users are used to iOS/Android and Windows pre 8 UX, MS needs to cater to that insanely diverse and massive crowd. Developers want/need to code as less as possible. This is also consistent with Microsoft’s will to have their apps on all platforms regardless, since the 1980s. So, design compromise for a billion reasons.

The problem is design kind of has to be something you impose without compromise. If you start following trends that makes you look weak, usability gets confusing and people think you are a follower. To create trends you need to stick to them. To gain respect you need to stand still, show interest in people who understand what you’re doing and improve on their feedback. Ain’t happening.

It seems clear that since Steven Sinofsky left after Win8, design centric MS wasn’t into design so much anymore. People as usual with innovative things, hated Win8 by default (remember all the people hating the iPhone’s lack of buttons?). But if you look at forums now, tons of people are as usual with innovative things, liking Win8. I’ve seen people apologize!

It just needed time and now that the public is getting used to it, MS dilutes something they had that was unique, discerning.

Timing is a bitch and ultimately, Microsoft wants market share more than identity. Not sure it’s the best bet, good design is hard. They mostly had it.

Sticky Intro

April 25th, 2015 by harold

Composed in November 2014.

SWG by Raph

April 21st, 2015 by harold

Yes, computer generated landscape.

Raph Koster has been writing about Star Wars Galaxies development circa 2000-2003 and it’s a fantastic read (more).

First impression, the amount of challenges and design issues to deal with and solve is staggering. We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about polishing 2D “me-too” games on mobile the past few years and I had forgotten how complex and utterly insane -giving the technology available at that time- it was to develop a massively multiplayer game in 3D, for what is probably the biggest IP in the world. It’s mindboggling.

One of the best post mortem I have ever read. I now understand why he stayed silent on the subject for over a decade.

I started to work in games in 2000. MMOs were still fairly new but extremely promising in terms of game development in that they were demanding and that would be good career-wise: shit ton of work for years to come. I think that’s when the term game industry made sense. Video games had been a juicy business for decades but now they needed hundred people teams, which was quite a new thing.

For better or for worse, it didn’t happen this way. You can read in the post mortem how a couple decisions –tied to constraints- can destroy years of work real quick. I think Raph’s Jedi ideas were right (NPC only or “secret unlock”). I wanted to play SWG. But once Jedi masters were everywhere and based on grind, I didn’t even bother try the game.

Those blog posts show the intrinsic relationship between design, code/tech and intent and why you should stop reading game news websites and grab RSS feeds from developer blogs. Real shit is going on on those (Cliffsky about launching a game these days for example).


April 14th, 2015 by harold

“As is the position of the artists on the stage. I’d be much more impressed if they all ankled their deals, got rid of the major labels and went it alone. That’s why they’re not making much money on Spotify, not because of the free tier, but because their deals suck. But these same deals apply on Tidal! They’ve got to license the music from their bosses!

That’s where it hurts. Those massive stars don’t own their own music and can’t make money off of it as they’d like to. You might have a shop but you’re still a peon, my friend.

It makes me think of Unlocking the Truth and Sony. I hoped they would not fall into this industry mess but they did and they’re already fed up with it.

We have tons of examples from the past century, century of how the music business is quite a nasty beast. And yet they offer me $1.8M tomorrow for a couple albums, I don’t really know how I would say no. But then again:

Read The Fucking Contract. Resist. Think long term. You signed to get fucked in the end. Classic.

Hollyhock house

March 29th, 2015 by harold

So I visited this bitch yesterday. I’m still processing it.

My favorite part of FLW’s work is the dynamic and mystery. You never know what the hell is going on from the outside and you have no idea that it’s so soft (wood) inside when the exterior is so brutal (concrete). This long outside corridor with at the end front doors made of concrete opening up to a low ceiling entrance I mean, you have to live it to understand how sanctuary-ish that shit feels. I wonder if it gets old.

As much as the concrete doesn’t look so great when untreated, inside with its particular soft green color mixed with some gold, connecting with the wood… Concrete can be very cozy. The craft and detail cranked to 11 on every single item, surface in every single room definitely makes it a historic cultural monument. It’s amazing.

The main “attraction” is the living room:

The mantle’s art is awesome. Water was supposed to run at the bottom of the fireplace, connecting with outside ponds. The skylight was providing wind and light so basically you would have all the four elements in one place: Earth (mantle) Air (skylight) Water & Fire (fireplace). All those design decisions materialized, it’s so cool to see.

Sounds nice but obviously having a massive running water system in 1920 was insane and still is in 2015 in L.A. They never used it. The room is so big you barely see that there’s a hole though.

$7 to get in. Not a lot is open to public unfortunately, but it’s a good initiative in this city where everything changes so fast. Preserving and pondering guys, it’s important too.

I know everything

March 25th, 2015 by harold

I know everything. I know we’re nothing I know we’re everything

I know we’re fucked up I know we’re greedy I know you want that property

I know everything, even how Lord of the Ring warns you about that bling

I know rent doesn’t exist, I know in some ways we have no heart

I know we could. I know we should. I know we would

I know most people can’t see long term, I know they still want those kids

I know we have enough to provide for everybody, I know we fake scarcity

I know them plants and trees are ready to save you and me

I know technology would do the rest if only

I know everything, tits lips and p-spot

Hemp, passive gains and how much Dubai costs

I know God is a fallacy, I know all you need is empathy

I know everything, system theory pattern recognition, meat salad and St Emilion

I know white people can’t deal with Nature, that Queen who’s refusing their future

I know women can’t deal with that endemic sense of entitlement, we vile creatures

I know we can do better, I know we’re trying harder

I know persistence is all we got

And I don’t know where it’s going to take us


(inspired by the verse 2 of Kendrick Lamar’s Momma, written in one shot)


March 23rd, 2015 by harold

OK so I stopped watching a dude playing CS:GO on Twitch. Instead, I’m watching the best teams in the world going at it.

For those who don’t know the game, the yellow dots have to plant the bomb either at yellow A or yellow B. The blue dots need to stop them.

It’s within the first minute and you can see that the yellow dots are all together while blue dots are spreading. One is alone to get the information on whether the opponent is coming for yellow A or not. Looks like it’s going to be yellow B. Good read from the blue dots!


Counter Strike is so good. It’s kind of the perfect mix of Go and soccer. Everything can change at any time and it’s all about terrain control. I think soccer because US teams are playing like the US soccer team: very aggressive, very willing but totally lacking finesse which results in them getting their asses handed over. But it’s probably closer to basketball because well, five players and a coach. Five players to defend two zones means a 2/3 split which means one zone is weaker than the other. It’s all about that little advantage you can take over your opponent even though it’s not a guarantee at all. It’s brilliant.

Like in sports, all teams and players know each other inside out so they try different techniques, changes of pace to overcome their opponents at different venues and matches. Emergent stories popping out from a system of rules that’s the juice, narrative-driven folks.

It’s really good to watch, a map is about 45mn to an hour long. I definitely applauded the last action in the last round of the ESL final and last map between the two Swedish teams NiP and Fnatic. Insanely tense!

Two things that suck: I don’t like the fact that we use terms like kill and death. Too strong. And of course, the total lack of diversity in the scene. I can’t forget that I stopped playing that game online early 2000s because of all the inappropriate niggers thrown at the team chat and my headphones.

Too bad.

Systems and diversity

March 21st, 2015 by harold

Two articles particularly interesting to me:

Toe Jam & Earl game designer Greg Johnson speaking at GDC about lack of diversity in games.

Ian Bogost writing about how games are better without characters.

I have always felt that games are better as system toy machines. I’m a designer I know people are scared of systems and think of them as not fun and cold. But to me as Ian puts it perfectly:

A game, it turns out, is a lens onto the sublime in the ordinary.

It’s the essence of what is so unique to computer games. But let’s go back to escapism.

For the lack of diversity with characters, let’s just have game engines give you the option to morph your avatar as you like.

It’s something funny: in any story in games, how the character looks like doesn’t matter at all, never did matter because the story is lived by one person, the player. The notion that you need character consistency across players experiences is weird as hell, if not totally stupid. What a brake on what can be possible, it’s a shame.

The only limit is technical: allowing players to shape their avatars means that some stuff can’t be done in some games (memory print). That is quite vague and the Saint Row series showed to the world that you still can do a lot with a custom avatar creation tool.

So technically it’s doable –if you take that into account from the start-. Also characters are such a small part of culture diversity. Black culture is way more than just having black characters.

What is bad with how we handle diversity is the notion that it’s not worth it. Now that’s ridiculous because it couldn’t be further from the truth.

White dudes don’t care so much about avatars, so used to have them mold to them for decades. Everybody else likes having avatars looking like them. It’s not just in games.

On TV Empire just exploded and demonstrated that a massive black and brown crowd exists. And that this crowd leads interest:

I would imagine that an Empire mobile game or adventure game would be widely successful. And yet I don’t see that happen anytime soon. So frustrating. In the meantime as again Ian puts it perfectly:

What if replacing militarized male brutes with everyone’s favorite alternative identity just results in Balkanization rather than inclusion?

I don’t know what to think!