Old Wii Utopia

May 17th, 2016 by harold

The Wii, man. Announced ten years ago this week, it hurts my senses.

When I think about it it was so unprecedented and has never been replicated. The hype was monstrous. It was so great to work on it at that time –playing with it six months before the public- and how much people were excited (contrast with way, way superior technology like VR where people are just like “cool”). I had to fight to get one for my little sister. Pure madness.

Three years after its 2006 launch, the Wii was selling more than the PS360 combined in December. That’s nuts.

Ten years later the Wii U is such a disaster that I haven’t had the opportunity to play it once.

What if the Wii had been created to actually cement a blue ocean of games instead of just being a money printing machine for Nintendo after a disappointing GameCube business? It would have been cool I think, let’s see what was missing.

HD

I’m not speaking of raw power but come on big N: at least hdmi output. The entire TV market was switching to digital in/outs and Nintendo was like “nah we cheap and profitable, no digital output”. Which made the Wii a pain in the ass to plug to brand new flat TVs. That probably killed its lifespan more than anything else.

Of course more CPU/GPU power would have been welcome too. It was underpowered but that wasn’t necessarily an issue for tons of games. The Wii’s feature is/was its controller it would have been easy to keep making more powerful consoles down the road. They did just that with the 3DS. Weird.

WiiMotion+

Yesterday I was listening to a 25 year old basketball player – aka the core market- straight up saying that old school controllers are awesome because “you don’t have 16 buttons to memorize”. The wiimote, answered that and then added a piece of tech to make it better. That should have been integrated in the first place. Or at least not make it an extension but switch to Wiimote with built-in Motion+ tech ASAP and encourage developers to make stuff for it. Make it compatible with Windows even. I still think the Wiimote is one of the best controller ever. I miss it. I’ll never forget playing with the entire family, the only one time it ever happened.

Virtual Console

It’s the kind of shit… Nintendon’t do online well amirite. They just needed to release everything we played on 8/16bit, ASAP. That’s it. That and make the process to make games for that channel much more easier for indies. With those two changes it would have exploded in popularity, probably reaching Steam levels if not going further.

If those three points had been taken care of, ready for the future, we would still be swinging da ‘mote.

Prince

May 4th, 2016 by harold

I don’t know where to start. It’s ridiculous what playing someone’s music on your instrument almost daily for 15 years can do to you. Sometimes, skipping songs to jam on I would be like “man not Prince again, although I like that little intro” and I would play the song anyway. I don’t know how many times I did that with Lady Cab Driver.

57 makes me feel so vulnerable. If I had to go like him that’s 20 years left, 4 times 5 tiny years that’s not much. Not much at all.

One of my favorite memory is waking up in the last 80s for school at 630am in winter in Paris East suburbs, listening to Sign O The Times introduction with the singing percussions and the cold ass bass/synth riff while his monotone voice circulates in between. Then the Stratocaster takes over.

It’s June.

I didn’t love it, I just really liked it. It was and is completely unique.

Prince was all over the radio in the 80s and 90s. I liked Purple Rain but I was still a kid in France, couldn’t relate that much with it and what it meant. Sexy MF was the jam, I was old enough to understand the controversy and how he didn’t give a damn with his pistol-mic.

Then he started rapping and kind of disappeared from my life.

He reappeared in a weird way when he had a blog in 2000 way before anyone known. He was talking about how labels are bad and he was letting other artists write their points of view about Napster and that digital revolution. And then he released The Rainbow Children in 2001 which is an excellent album. At that time I was absorbing anything and everything I could about music production, musicianship, etc. I read a lot of musician interviews saying how important Prince had been to them even if they were not playing guitar and R&B funk at all.

So his trademark “produced, arranged composed and performed by Prince” line note got be amped up. That dude became some kind of mentor, in a way. I started to listen to his old stuff for real this time, reading everything I could find about him. Met with Prince fans, some of the most hardcore fans I have ever seen. I know why.

And I finally understood why he was such a corner stone for music from his respect and collaboration with the past, present and future of music to his finger skills and humor.

And so I spent pretty much every day of the past 15 years playing at least one song from the purple genius on my bass, from the most simple bass lines to the most exhausting ones. Played over his 1987 New Year’s Eve concert in Paisley Park I don’t know how many times, crying over his Purple Rain intro or how he controls his band when Miles Davis shows up on stage like a black hole in the middle of a funk galaxy.

His parkour on the edge of blackness and whiteness, masculinity and femininity, old and new will always be remembered as an act of freedom that we are all still scared to go through even though he showed us a path where all of those labels, boxes, are just prisons.

Just play, put it out there. Let’s go crazy. I can’t believe it happened.

That self-driving tomorrow

May 3rd, 2016 by harold

I drove too much in the past ten weeks. And I also read that article:

About a dozen trucks from major manufacturers like Volvo and Daimler just completed a week of largely autonomous driving across Europe, the first such major exercise on the continent.

I can’t stress enough how hard this is about to change our current state of affair. I can’t stop thinking about it:

– Millions of jobs connected immediately superfluous. Where we needed ten people for logistics we’ll now need maybe two or three? The fact that technology takes care of hard and dangerous tasks is great, now it really asks our society how do we live when jobs get destroyed in a few years? We know how, I just hope autonomous vehicles will spark a serious conversation about that. Right now the media tells the story of the evil Uber that everyone uses, a company who doesn’t compensate its drivers as it should but Uber is already at the next step, guys.

– My fantasy/anime imagination sees fleets of self-driving trucks attacked by old rebels who still know how to drive real cars with real sticks and dirty gas with youngsters hacking those robots through AR. Mad Max meets The Matrix.

– My foster uncle is a veteran truck driver. He drove through Europe for three decades. He connected with other truck drivers. He learned to speak a bit of English, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian. Trucks drivers shared stuff from their countries. We’re going to lose that. We’re going to be even more inside our bubbles and stranger to each other.

– No more tragedy with overworked truck drivers killing people. We put a stop on that on day one autonomous trucks hit the road. I had a big truck drifting on me on the I-5, I moved to the left and I saw the driver being tired as fuck. This needs to never happen.

– Yes the possibility to work, have sex, sleep do weird deals in self-driving cars is going to go up by 45,000%.

– I look at cities like LA and I feel like train is not the answer at all. That road network is perfect for self-driving cars. Peer to Peer. Door to Door.

– Which means biking will be safer than ever, yay.

– It’s going to democratize transportation to the max. My generation will be the first to get old and unable to drive and that will not be a problem at all, we will still be able to go anywhere. I still remember when my grandfather couldn’t navigate around town anymore. Huge hit on the moral, man. No need for grandkids to drive them around!

Overall way less stress. I can’t wait.

Dream Funk

April 17th, 2016 by harold

Produced in LA and tested at night on the 5 and 405. Enjoy.

Workwrkwrrrrrrrrrrrr

April 11th, 2016 by harold

Work

Just chilling for five minutes. 15 days to go. Or is it 3 weeks? Damn.

Tripping

March 28th, 2016 by harold

AlphaGo. I’m one of those nerds who was fascinated by the fact that mastering Go was a big milestone in AI and years maybe, probably, decades away. Done.

This is where we are, again. This time it’s going to go way faster. This is still the best article on AI and its implications. We’re deep into elections talking about minimum wage when we should talk about vouchers and basic income because work to get money is about to become… Rare.

NBA. I’m watching the Warriors ridiculous stats and of course Stephen Curry who’s changing the game. To give an idea of scale he put more 3 pointers in one season than Magic Johnson in his entire career (16 years at the Lakers). On his birthday last season, Curry ranked 59th in all time career made three-pointers. One year later, he ranks 25th.

Witnessing something special here. But I’m more interested in the match VS the Spurs. Who didn’t do so well last year. This season everyone is forgetting about them because of the Blue and Yellow but they’re damn strong. I love Kawhi, even more now that I have read that article. Saving money and building a modern house? Dude’s my dude. And what a great player, great vision. It’s going to be very interesting. Warriors defending a title with stellar basketball, Spurs super hungry and knowing that it’s the last time they can with the Old Guard –Duncan Parker Ginobili- win that championship and set the New Guard –Leonard Aldridge Mills- on a quest to keep the Spurs dynasty shine. Unless KD and Russell Westbrook show up? What about the East? Ha! yeah right.

Damn I’m into it. People call 3 pointers snipers which makes me think of CounterStrike, obviously. It’s a classic game design rule: make something powerful (3 pts in one shot, one bullet one kill) but make it expensive (you miss your 3 rebound is very likely to be for the other team, you miss your snipe shot, you’re vulnerable as hell for half a second).

Every time it works 100% of the time, creating dramatic events within the game would it be on a court with a ball or inside a computer with a mouse.

Soulless motion and touch

March 26th, 2016 by harold

Touch

I’m grabbing my bass, putting my fingers in position. My right hand on the neck, sliding, pinching, muting, slapping, squeezing those four strings in many different ways. The metallic coil flows under my fingertip skin, softly abrasing them. I can feel each one of the little rods that are composing a bass string. My mind magically transforms all that information into notes that make you want to move. It feels good.

Now touching screens and activating faucets through motion activated systems –just move your hand in front of a sensor- are making me feel… Sad? Something is missing.

I know it’s not just me aging or being a musician when I see kids with tablets. They play with the one physical button ten times more than the touchscreen. Haptic feedback is satisfying. I mean it’s not weird, we live in a real 3D world with texture and we have nerves in our bodies to feel all that.

But in the digital world these days, we lack this element. I’m enjoying typing on a real keyboard with all my fingers receiving instant feedback more than before, these days. Using the mouse too. I like trackpads but the left click on a mouse is very, very satisfying compared to tapping a hard, information-less surface.

So engineers are working hard at simulating that. Using vibrations. That require motors. Which require a LOT of power. Which is a pain for batteries. There are already so many cables involved with VR/AR and it’s going to get even crazier…

Anyway if future generations are soulless psychopaths grossed out by the outdoors, blame the touchscreen upbringing.

Indie games the end

March 6th, 2016 by harold

Independent game development was about professionals making a living making games without the constraint of dealing with a publisher, that relationship being more often than not abusive.

Independent game development became “indie” games, a nostalgia-induced aesthetic both built by small teams of professionals and amateurs. Making a living making games –which is what game developers describe as “being able to make another game”- became optional.

It’s disappointing that we keep forgetting about sustainability in this business. When even to this day really good, experienced game developers with all the privilege required –aka money- barely break even with their games when we never had more players playing games. It is a big big issue.

We need cheat codes at this point.

workworkworkwrok

February 29th, 2016 by harold

Working like crazy. Driving a lot. Nine weeks to go.

SFII 25th

February 13th, 2016 by harold

I still remember the sequence that led me to see Street Fighter II for the very first time in July 1991, in Canada.

I’m 11. I’m entering this arcade. Those back then were super rare in France so I’m happy just looking around and listening to all those digital sounds. First I see a Canadian foosball table which makes sense, then I see Final Fight which I already knew and then I see two guys going at it.

It’s Guile’s stage. Guile VS Ken. I lose my shit over the design, the sounds, the moves. Everything is dope as I can’t barely process it. I realize how accurate that F-16 in the background is

(they have blue clothes in the arcade version right? That’s probably a SNES pic who gives a fuck anyway)

And then I see and hear the SONIC BOOM and Ken’s HADOKEN and TATSUMAKI moves and I’m like what is going on?? At that time, Dragon Ball is on TV in France, Dragon Ball Z is about to start and I can’ help but be like WHAT IS UP WITH JAPANESE PEOPLE AND FIREBALLS THIS IS SO COOL

That was traumatic in a very good way. The best part of meeting SFII had yet to come though.

Fast forward, it’s 1992 and we’re all trying to get some parents to pay for an imported SNES game and soon all my friends have SFII and two pads. Before SFII, all fighting games were played this way: go through characters, find the strongest and beat the game. And then have stupid matches against your friends.

Not with SFII. I realize as my friends start trying to master Ken/Ryu that all characters are capable. Capable of beating the fuck out of any other character. I choose Dhalsim to run some experiment and although it’s very hard, matches end up incredibly close despite the notion that this character is the worst possible. I sometimes even win flawlessly.

Something clicks in my mind: it’s intentional. Having characters perfectly balanced or as much as possible was the team’s goal. I understand all of sudden the concept and importance of balance in game design, which would bring hilarious matches and unexpected ends. Depth, longevity and having fun.

Also, audio. Back in 1991 a game with digitalized voices was more than the 4K/60fps of today. It was groundbreaking, we still were mostly playing with bleeps and bloops on 8bit systems. Those impact, punch and kick sounds were perfectly balanced too, between fantasy and realism. You didn’t need to look at the health bar, those pitched down smack sounds were letting you know that your opponent was hurting.

Kids today want the full story and everything in between. I grew up on SFII filling up the blanks of each fighter’s story, daydreaming about it. It made it mythical. That was cool.

SFII, the only one.