Tech threshold

January 26th, 2015 by harold

So yeah the Hololens. Neat. I can see some cool games and apps (architecture hell yeah).

However I think people are not that ready or excited because we’re far behind what technology is capable of.

See it this way: if you haven’t moved from where you live for the past ten years and use a computer on a desktop, wired or wireless internet didn’t change your life. Traveling made you aware of wifi’s badassery. Skype is old as fuck but if you’re not using it to communicate with people very far away regularly, you still don’t see how big of a deal it is. And so forth.

So VR, AR “wearables” haptic feedback and all are out of our reality for like, years. I still don’t have a tablet and don’t feel like missing much years after the first one came out. I was waiting for 20 or 24” tablets –audio design on this? fuck yeah- but they’re not coming because you make more money selling loads of smaller screens, I always forget about profit rules (rule #3: fuck people’s needs).

I think there’s another problem: the experience, which barely changes. You can listen to music on your $700 phone with a $10/month subscription and fundamentally, it’s not different from my $20 USB key and my FLAC files. Firefox support the Oculus Rift but you’re still reading pages of text. The biggest change so far has been mobility and we already have it.

There’s also this fatigue. People are already hooked on tech, know it’s bad and now you want deeper connections? Add the NSA and that’s enough for people to chill and play a platform game. In 2D. With a gamepad. On a TV. Offline.

Scale

January 24th, 2015 by harold

I’m impressed by scale. Scale is an important concept because it’s easy to see 4 (2 power of 2) but way less to see 65536 (2 power 16).

Here’s a stupid example that shows how complex things can be:

So for some computers running Windows 8.1 or above, when you crank up the volume you get that annoying popup.

Damn it Microsoft, it’s all your fault and you suck and you’re the worst oh god why?

Where does that message come from? Well Reddit answered and a MS engineer confirmed that there’s no code in Windows that displays that popup.

This popup is a European Union requirement that manufacturers are free to implement or not at the audio driver level. So Samsung thought it would be cool to implement that on my laptop.

It’s not much of a deal –it’s loud enough before the popup shows up 90% of the time- but what’s interesting to me is that at the scale Windows and Microsoft work, there are tons of shit we don’t know about, things that as users we think are all about Redmond getting their shit together but it’s not. It’s WAY more complex there’s even countries chiming in.

Right there we have MS, computer manufacturer, audio driver maker, EU battling over the sound volume experience in an OS.

If you don’t know now you know.

Hollow

January 19th, 2015 by harold

A quote about a professional game reviewer and writer’s feeling about games these days:

The time passes pleasantly, maybe even thrillingly at times, but it means nothing, there’s no sense of achievement other than Achievements. Maybe it’s more compulsive masturbation than Disneyland (or maybe Disneyland is masturbation? Discuss) – make the itch go away, risk a faint sense of guilt and self-disgust afterwards, then do it again anyway.

I’m perfectly happy for these things to exist, and even to spend some time with them myself, but I worry a) that this model is taking over, that the hollowness of Farmville is creeping into games on an intrinsic level and b) that I’m too lazy to resist playing them. I don’t want to miss out, and once I start playing I struggle to stop until most of those icons go away, because some reptile voice at the back of my skull tells me that cleaning up the map is essential to my wellbeing. That’s not what I want for myself.

Me neither and that’s why I block that reptile voice and don’t even start playing those games. As a commenter rightly says:

Unfortunately (?), that means I’m drifting away from mainstream gaming (and mainstream gaming culture) more and more with every passing month. I’m starting to look at itch.io with more interest than I look at Steam. Not that I don’t find some great gaming experiences anymore, among more “traditional” games. Transistor and The Talos Principle are wonderful, and Dreamfall Chapters is a thing. (just 3 games of 2014, off the top of my head) But they’re handpicked and unique games in a sea that mostly looks… uninteresting and unappealing, when not downright manipulative (Skinner Boxes, achievements, bars to fill, collectibles to find) and dedicated to the pursuit of escapism beyond repair. (Hollow is a good word for it)

Gaming is the only environment in which “addictive” is used as a positive term.

I’ve only played and finished KRZ last year and it was a really great experience.

We need so much more distinct look and feel to existent game designs and we need more risks taken but the vibe right now between political correctness, me-too behavior and development costs is not saying “it’s happening” at a large scale, sadly.

Merci Charlie Sorry Charlie

January 8th, 2015 by harold

Hello 2015. Damn, not a week in. The NAACP bombing was gross but that Charlie Hebdo tragedy touches home for me.

They were a big symbol across all media, for over four decades of freedom of speech in France. I would take the train and look at the newspaper stand and quickly read the front page like millions of people in Paris probably. It didn’t matter if it was brilliant or corny as hell, we all smiled or giggled before getting in the tube. We all took that freedom of speech for granted.  We got warnings but we’re so complacent about how we’re soft with everything, even fundamentals.

What trigger? A generation imploding under heavy unemployment with no upward social mobility: when people are not happy, even smart they become stupid. Religions scoop them all. Second, 9/11. Since then and the monumental hammered in message that it’s “us against them” -I guess Christians VS Muslims kind of vibe?- it’s utterly fucked up.

I see all kinds of messages. France needs more guns. France needs less Muslims. France needs to stand for freedom of speech.

I think France and obviously other nations need less religion. Separation of the State and the Church remember? It’s like we forgot. But as vital, we need to redefine how we get people together economically and how to redistribute our vast wealth. It’s just, it needs to happen.

And dear obnoxious media, you need to stop with “cool pope” and “Islamic terrorists” it’s not a sports game with teams. Fuck.

On game culture and business

January 2nd, 2015 by harold

Last year has probably been the most challenging ever for most people working and living in the game development world. I mean hell, it’s been awful and I’m trying to see what’s the deal. Let’s go back.

Games on computers have been a boy’s club for the first three decades of their existence (70s 80s and 90s). Boys, not adults.

Then 2000 happened. For the first time of the existence of games and consoles it was hype, cool to be in your mid twenties and play games like GTA after work.

Then things got faster. By 2004 games were really entering mainstream with Popcap killing it in the PC downloadable business with their puzzle games for moms. WoW reaching out like crazy. The Nintendo DS. The Wii at the corner of 06-07.

In 2004 ten years ago I felt that game culture was maturing and finally showing to the world its tremendous power. But a major crowd –commercially speaking- was still a boy’s club.

Boy’s club means sexism in some form. It’s not tied to games, it’s everywhere like that. White boy’s club adds racism.

And we in the industry we fed them with everything they wanted, guns titties no diversity you name it. Those guys have enormous pockets and buy tons of games game developers have been making billions thanks to that crowd.

I thought that game design would change, cater to more different people but production costs rising exponentially meant that we had to make money instead of making the medium progress, smarter.

Don’t get me wrong for the past ten years the medium progressed and tons of interesting and different games that I couldn’t have thought being possible have been made but game culture still relies on the Original Gangsta game culture: the boy’s club. The videogame boy’s club, hardcore games and questionable aesthetics.

Like a fan of a band always prefers their first album, a lot of people in games players or developers value that OG side, we grew up with this! But that’s where I didn’t stick with it. It’s the past to me. I want something else badly.

Nintendo tried to avoid that crowd after the Wii, thinking that the market was big enough. They at first presented the Wii U as just an evolution of the Wii but sales made them quickly go back to cater to the boy’s club: big guns, pads with 4562467 buttons etc. Those guys have money. However Nintendo knows they nail the kid department so the boy’s club is just additional revenue. The blue ocean is a mirage, it’s more like millions of swimming pools and the boy’s club one is still the biggest and most reliable revenue-wise. Publishers have issues though.

I look at Watch Dogs by Ubisoft, 28 weeks to pull 3.4M units sold. That is bad. In 2010 they would reach that amount in 7 weeks. And it’s their only game in the top 20. By comparison Pokemon for 3DS, 3 weeks in the charts 5M units sold. That’s what all AAA publishers want and basically outside two publishers and two games (GTA and CoD), no one is making that kind of money with the boy’s club anymore. There are too many games out there and gamedev costs are insane in the brain. 20 gigs first day patches are the result of extremely complex game development scenarios.

From the programmer to the player everybody is like “fuck this”. We truly reached a point.

I think it’s going to give tons of people some room to redefine game culture and game business for real this time. I hope.

2014

December 31st, 2014 by harold

So yeah, crazy year. I didn’t know how or even if I could make it back to CA so sitting down here on my couch in my little room, watching the sun go up through the windows of my private patio on W. Adams is quite good. Craigslist has been fantastic to me for now maybe I should stop using it before getting that terrible experience that will shatter my faith in bloody humans.

It’s a weird world we’re living in. There’s that struggle for money for tons of people, in so many unexpected ways and yet the super out-of-needing-anything people use the same shit as we do: laptops, taco trucks, UberX (no one cares about other Uber options), Prius, Starbucks. You would not believe the crowd of homeless people on Sunset and Vine drinking their coffee in the morning, most have shoes in better shape than mine, all have smartphones and one has a tablet. People with mansions have three or four Prius parked in the front. Right, the taco truck parked in Beverly Hills is probably for a private party but it’s still just a freaking taco truck.

That cognitive dissonance man it’s been all over this year. Economic inequality has never been bigger and yet we’ve never been closer in lifestyle in so many ways. So I think better redistribution of wealth is even more obvious but anyway.

This year I’ve worked hard to not get much but I knew it would be the case. Transitions, they’re little bitch ass things. Now that I’m mostly settled I have a lot of work to do and I feel great about it. Like, I’m really good at what I’m doing. I’m thorough and reliable. I get what I kind of always needed but never got in France, respect for my work ethics. It feels fucking good. It makes me hungry in a good way. I’ve seen people using computers around, I’m realizing my value my skills more and more and there is no doubt that I can excel and flourish here in LA. Just need a bit more contact, which happens with staying here which is what I’m doing. It feels great not to have to take a plane for once.

I’ve been tripping on Vice’s Epicly Later’d lately, a series of videos on skateboard history. I feel that shit because I see mid 90s footage of LA, which I had seen back in France where I didn’t know anything about Los Angeles. But now I watch it and I know where it’s at or I can tell 12 year old Guy Mariano was probably taking the train from Burbank to DTLA, I can notice differences and of course, nostalgia of that 93-03 era which was fucking amazing skate-wise hits me hard. I look at my deck next to my basketball. Should I go ride today? What if I fuck my ankle up and can’t work huh? Let’s wait a bit before going crazy.

How about stop

December 27th, 2014 by harold

I get the philosophical angle of that question but honestly screw the “why?” what about the “stop, you dumb fucks?”

Why the why should matter? We know enough shit about this world to comprehend that it doesn’t matter why darker people suffer most, it really doesn’t matter. It’s like when people go deep into the system to understand how a jury can not indict a murderer caught on camera in HD, I don’t give a fuck about the detail when it’s so blatantly evident that justice isn’t for all. It is so blatant that darker people shouldn’t have to live in fear their entire life.

What matters is that it needs to stop. What matters is that darker people don’t suffer or die for a fucking body envelope. Every fucking day I read about another dead black person. I’m physically ill reading this stuff, months that I struggle creating with that looming shit. I feel there’s a war going on my body. It makes me want to have black babies now, reasons? Part survival, part I just want to give the middle finger to lighter people.

Fuck your why son.

Içi c’est LA

December 22nd, 2014 by harold

50+ hours in 4 days, I was fried Friday. Saturday basketball and cleaning up the house. Thursday, sunrise from the 17th floor of an empty and still quiet building in Hollywood, majestic as fuck. Meeting new people everyday. Got the “your accent is amazing” half a billion times now. I still get stuck explaining stuff -I still haven’t match my French vocabulary- but at least I sound good.

Sunday morning listening to my white dad laying down some classic, casual racism and inconsistent liberal thinking on Skype. I love him but is it hard to hear these days, I just blink and move on. Sunday night I was dancing in a backyard in south LA with like 2 white people in a sea of brown and black skin. There’s this release, this real freedom this safety going on I can’t even explain.  And then there are those sunsets going from surreal to apocalyptic in two minutes. My balcony is the bomb.

What a fucking intense year it’s been.

Funk XZBit

December 15th, 2014 by harold

Y’all ready for some funk? Instrumental, electro-now post-future Funk?

Composed in November 2013.

XZBit B is the closest musical representation of me enjoying a bike ride in sunny LA.

XZBit A is more about that car ride when the night is coming up.

Enjoy, you lucky bastards.

House concept

December 14th, 2014 by harold

Using Sketchup to sketch my future house. Yeah the blue is the vast amount of glass that allows light to get in, classic passive solar system. The shape is the result of some research. With the right full south orientation and hemp insulation that house would will be the bomb. I have more classic shapes in mind –rectangle, L-shape- but I love this one.

Now the annoying part, building stupid details like more windows, doors and shit. I have started some layout but it’s tedious. I just see it in my head and try -as usual- to visualize if it can work or not. I looked at tons of interiors through rss for months and years, getting ideas here and there. The “science” behind a good kitchen can’t be underestimated.

Now building my house is a far away dream but first I’ll never buy a house, they all suck energy-saving wise. Enjoy your insane energy bills in winter 2020. Second, it’s good to have a goal it helps tremendously with hope and stuff. Third, finances could change faster than I expect and if it happens BAM who can quickly go see people to start that project and prefab walls? That guy.

I’ll have prints of those three pictures somewhere. They’ll be worth zillions.