Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I don't want to be a computer engineer anymore

I know I promised more writing than I have delivered, and I still have plenty of stories to tell, so hopefully I'll get to it before it all becomes irrelevant and we're talking about E3 2012. However, for now I feel I should mention the most significant part of E3.

To be blunt, E3 made me rethink my entire life plan. Prior to this summer, I planned to drag my feet through 2 more semester, feverishly search for an internship with some big tech company, and make it through a third semester to complete my degree and go on to live a life of being a mediocre but high payed employee. Now, I'm not so sure.

One thing is clear. I want to work with video games. I'm 21, I don't think I'm going to grow out of them. The pay may not be quite as well, but it's certainly respectable. I have a long way to go, and I'm not really sure what I need to study and learn to make it there, but it's what I want to do with my life. For now, I'll probably stay in computer engineering at UMD but do a bit of searching and talking to some people smarter than I to see if I should finish out that degree or switch to some other major. I know very little about game design, but I have a strong programming background which should certainly come in handy.

Why video games though? Outside of the fact that they're fun.. I'm a subpar computer engineer. That is a fact. My grades are lower than average, and my grades are a pretty accurate representation of my understanding of the material. I was assured that it's just a matter of not giving up and studying harder, but I don't want to go into a field where I'm subpar. Even if I can make a living there and support a family, I don't want to be mediocre. I don't think I have a mediocre mind. It's taken years to admit it, but I'm rather convinced that my mind is capable of some amazing things. I feel like I have the ability to perceive certain things in a way most people can't, and that I can thrive in a certain field rather than drag my feet through it. I don't like the prestige and arrogance of the tech industry, but I'm in love with the playfulness and innovation of the gaming industry. I'm starting to think that's where I belong. That's the area in which I can hold a conversation, a debate, delving into details of the different elements that make up a game, and enjoy every second of the discussion.

I want to make games. If anyone reading this has any insight on how I can get from here to there, I'd be glad to hear it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 3 Pics

Now, for a much awaited rest. Hopefully I'll do a fair amount of writing over the next couple days to share my thoughts and experiences and all.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

E3: Day 2

I came to E3 expecting to be able to cross a dream off my list. I figured I'd have a good time, relax, get to see some super exciting stuff, and come back and resume normal life. I'm finding out now that I wasn't really ready for what E3 is, what it represents.

The thing about dreams is that it's very rare that you achieve one without it being replaced by a new one.

Yesterday I talked mostly about what I saw, so it's only fair that today I talk about what I felt. From the moment I saw the outside of the convention up to now, somethings been growing. I've become more and more sure where I want my life to go. I love this industry. I want to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, these thoughts come with a bit of anxiety and stress. I can't help but wonder how I'll make it into the field or what I should be doing. My grades aren't great, I'm still a bit socially awkward, and I didn't really come to E3 prepared to network and meet industry professionals. Beyond that, I'm not really sure what I'd excel at in the video game field. My interest is mostly in hardware, not game development. Tough as they may be to deal with, these thoughts don't make me any less sure that I want to be a part of this. I don't want this to be my last E3. I want this to be my last E3 as a spectator, though. I'd do anything to secure an internship at a game company next summer and come back to E3 as an exhibitor.

I want to be clear that this isn't just the hype talking. It's hard to explain, but there's an instinctual feeling that tells you that you're exactly where you belong and that feeling has never deceived me before. So here's to hoping there's a place out there for me in the gaming industry, and I can find it sooner rather than later. If I can make it across the country and see E3 with my own eyes, anything can happen.

Day 2 Pics

You know the drill!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

E3: Day 1

Yeah, I know I never did a post on the Nintendo conference. Hopefully I'll get to it. The hotel's internet is some garbage, and I have no way of..actually watching it. I saw the WiiU bit on my phone this morning though, so that'll work.

E3. I don't know where to begin. It is beyond words. Seeing what you see, talking to the people you talk to, taking everything in.. It's really something you have to experience to understand. My eyes watered up a bit when I first saw the convention center with those massive posters outside of it. It's that same picture you see every year, except I was looking at it with my own eyes.

We got to the convention center at 9 in case there was a line to pick up our badge holders (there wasn't), so we were able to do a bit of exploring before the expo opened at 12. Unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot to see since they kept the two main exhibit halls closed off. After an hour of looking around and 2 hours of anxiously sitting near the bottom of the escalator into the south hall, we entered. I can't really recall how long my jaw was dropped for. It might be a new record. What followed was a series of incredible experiences until we eventually decided to head over to the West hall for a second set of incredible experiences. The south hall contained most of the big game development companies like Ubisoft, EA, Square Enix, etc. Each of the main booths had a ton of games to play, as well as some amazing light and sound systems to give it an awesome feel all around. Lots of free stuff, a couple beta keys, and the overall excellence of being near so many game developers and famous people. I had a bagel for breakfast and ate nothing more until dinner at 7. The games sustained me.

I'm not even sure where to begin as far as describing the booths. EA had a big central area with a ton of small, 15ish people viewing rooms circling it. We sat in on a Sims 3 pets demonstration and got ourselves some lovely dog collars. Square Enix had a nice little light wall thing set up, along with a huuuuge viewing screen for trailers and several FFXIII-2 stations, along with other games (Dead Island looks fun). Activision had some sort of drop down 360 degree theater for showing off MW3. Nexon let us try out the new Vindictus character and some Dragons Nest gameplay, giving us tshirts for both and a beta invite for Dragons Nest. I could continue for hours.

The west hall had a few other major game companies (Konami, Capcom) and the maaaaaasive Sony and Nintendo booths. Nintendos was less of a booth, more of a gym-sized tent with WiiU demos, 3DS game demos, and easily the best booth babes to be found. Sony had an amazing amount of games to try out. Resistance 3 multiplayer is pretty freaking fun.

I'm pretty exhausted so I'll leave it at that for now. The pictures tell it better than I can. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try out the WiiU and the Vita tomorrow, so I'll post my thoughts.

Day 1 Pictures!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 0 Pictures!

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E3 Press Conference Roast: Sony

Alright, Microsoft did it's thing and next up is Sony. Well..things have been rather bittersweet for them lately. A terrible ps3 launch that finally started to get momentum until the psn crashed for a month. Their entry into the portable market wasn't too bad, but the psp go was a joke. Luckily with the Vita and a few strong first party titles, they have something to bring to the expo this year.

Sony opens the show up with an excellent montage. Ok, I'm a sucker for dubstep. I've always thought prebriefing montages were a good idea though, gives you an idea of what to expect. But seriously, that dubstep song. Who's that by? I want it. Actually, let me just get all the songs used in that montage.

Mooooving right along, and trying to ignore the fact that the whole audience is wearing cheap looking 3d glasses (Smart move, Sony..make a briefing being televised across the world 3d for the sake of the couple thousand in the room)...actually wait. Hold on a second. I don't know if you've worn 3d glasses before, but the polarized lenses make it VERY difficult to look at screens. Cell phones, laptops, etc..they all turn completely black at a certain angle. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE THE MEDIA PEOPLE WEAR GLASSES. That's just retarded!

Also why do they let Jack Tretton talk? He's old and annoying and nobody likes him. Find a PR person, for God's sake. The apology about the PSN was lovely, but I found it mildly hilarious that he said, "This isn't the first time that I've come to the stage at an E3 press conference with an elephant in the room." Yeaaaah Sony, times have been tough for you. Ouchhh.

First title to be featured was the newest Uncharted game. Not really my thing, but I guess I can respect. But seriously, what is that guy's accent? The dude talking about it..I can't understand a word he's saying. They should hire someone who speaks English. I think that'd be a smart move. Also, for someone so good at..adventuring and stuff..Drake looks like he's absolutely smashed when running on this boat. I mean it's not even moving all that much and he's staggering around like a middle schooler on 4loko.

"Pretty amazing guys, we're going to sell a couple of copies of that..bad..boy." No Jack Tretton, shut up. You're weird and awkward and I wish you'd go away.

Next up, another heavy hitter exclusive title. This is like the MS conference it's the opposite. Resistance 3, another series I never really got into but have heard is excellent. But why is the bro playing the game using a pink controller? Queeeer. Also the gameplay on this one looks like a big fire and lightning orgasm. Seriously, they're shooting lightning and these lightning guys to make them explode into fire and lightning, which they shoot fire at for more fightning. I just made that word up, as it seems to be necessary to adequately describe what I'm seeing here.

Taking a break from the games, Tretton starts talking about a new Playstation TV and glasses. Ok, this monitor thing actually looks pretty sick. Apparently two players will see two different images from the same tv? I'm really curious to see that in action, as my overwhelming skepticism makes me..well, skeptical. Also, what the heck would happen to a third person looking at that tv without glasses? Would their brain explode? I'm thinking their brain might explode. Also, at 500 bucks, this isn't even remotely worth it. For the same amount I can get a 3d display of the same size for my pc, which I also considered overpriced but would MUCH rather have. 3d is still wayyyy to expensive. Good try, but no.

Playstation Move. Still a Wii ripoff. No thanks. Get outta here with yer crazy gimmicks. And here comes Kobe Bryant, which I also would consider a crazy gimmick. Especially considering how TERRIBLY scripted his lines are.

Skipping ahead to something people actually care about, Starhawk. This game looks sort of amazing. Hopefully it lives up. I'm not sure why the spiritual successor to Warhawk is Starhawk, maybe Sony's just trying to be more like Blizzard. Which is setting your sights a bit high, since Blizzard is too cool to come to E3 these days.

Bioshooooock <3

So, the Vita announcement is the epitome of this whole conference. However, Sony was kind enough to leave me with a sour taste in my mouth before the announcement. I HATE HATE HATE this whole idea of console companies getting exclusive content in cross platform games. Our Mortal Kombat has this character, our SSX will have this level, we have kinect support, well we have move support...It's ruining gaming! Think about it..Sony and MS are no doubt paying some mega bucks to take content away from the gamers. The developer makes 10 levels and charges 60 bucks, but gamers only get 9 because one is exclusive xbox and one is exclusive ps3. This is happening more and more often and it's really a bad thing. Please stop.

Aaaaaaand the Vita. For those who don't know, the Vita is Sony's next generation portable, no doubt butting heads with the Nintendo 3ds. Sony claimed the Vita would launch this year, and the specs are looking pretty nice for the 250 dollar price tag. I'm not sure almost seems too good to be true. The thing has like..2 cameras, 2 touchpads, a million buttons/ has freaggin everything. Putting that much into a console and pricing it at 250 makes me wonder what kind of quality we're working with here. Hard to speak until I see it for myself, but..well, interesting times are ahead. And if this little bugger is everything it's hyped up to be and launches with the titles planned for it..Well, you'd better have something up your sleeve for the 3DS, Nintendo.

That concludes part 2. I'm sitting in the hotel now with the slow as dirt internet and a bit of jet lag sleepiness, but tomorrow marks the first day of the actual convention! I can't even imagine what it'll be like, so hopefully I'll have some good stories to post tomorrow night!

Monday, June 6, 2011

E3 Press Conference Roast: Microsoft

First up in the press conferences is Microsoft, who..well lets just say they're not looking so hot. With Sony's Vita and Nintendo's Cafe, they don't have a whole lot of anything to show for themselves. Luckily, they have an hour and a half to prove us all wrong! Lets see if they do it.

Starting the show with a bang, its...well..more CoD Modern Warfare. Except we can't call it that anymore because we fired those dudes, so...MW3. After studying the gameplay video in depth I have determined that it looks liked MW2. Oh boy. Gotta love the disconnecting controller too, smooooth. I mean don't get me wrong, MW campaigns are usually amazing. But seriously guys, can we try something new this time? Also I'm pretty sure that gameplay just ended with a boat driving into another boat that's also a helicopter, so I guess that's cool. 10 points for a great game, -3 for lack of originality, -7 for being on every console known to man and having nothing to do with Xbox.

Also, the guy on stage thanked everyone for making 2010 the best year in Xbox history. They say that every year. I'm calling shenanigans.

Next up.. Tomb Raider! This game looks amazi..oh..oh geeze. Tell Laura Croft to shut up. Seriously, she's SO freaking whiny. This game has officially been completely ruined for me. She's limping around some sort of cave thing screaming, moaning, and throwing in the occasional "oh god" for good measure. Ok, we get it, you're hurt. Doesn't change the fact that I couldn't play this game without someone upstairs thinking I'm watching porn.

Cue the EA guy that finds his way onto stage a few times every year, reassuring us that the next iteration of *insert ea sports franchise here* will have kinect support. Cool story bro. Now go away so I can see some Mass Effect 3.

Aaaand there it is. Mass Effect 3. Beautiful game, amazing series, can't wait. Of course, they don't show us a trailer or any sick gameplay scenes. Nope, they demo the kinect feature. Voice support. You can now dictate Commander Shepherd's lines instead of clicking them. Listen to the audience carefully and you may be able to hear the sound of nobody caring. However, there is a gasp of excitement when Shepherd stabs an alien with his omnitool. Sometimes I think devs make features that seem cool without ever stopping to ask people if they want them, because I don't see ANYONE choosing to talk to their xbox instead of clicking a dialogue option. I mean, outside of sounding like a creeper, it takes so much more time..

Next up, the Ubisoft guy takes the stage. Wait, don't all these companies have their own conferences? And aren't ALL the games we've seen so far on other consoles as well? You're really pushing it with this "better with kinect" claim, Microsoft. Anywho, Ubisoft is showing off a new Ghost Recon game that actually looks kinda neat. The kinect features look super responsive, and I have to admit the idea of reloading and aiming and shooting all with your body is kind of cool. But lets stop and think for a minute..does anyone really want to do this? Sounds like something I'd get hyped about and show off to my family and friends in the first week of launch, then completely stop caring about when I realize its more work than its worth and can never be a serious way to play an FPS.

At this point in the conference, we FINALLY see something press conference worthy. Microsoft showing off its new interface and media..hub..thing. It looks pretty neat, I'll admit. I mean, no reason they're just now getting this, but better late than never I suppose. Also, gotta chuckle at the Bing demo. Shameless self promotion, Microsoft. Everyone still uses Google. Still, mild props I s'pose.

Gears of War 3 is Gears of War 3. 'Nuff said. Also, Cliffy B is a doucher and Ice T is annoying. It had to be said.

Ryse looks..interesting..but I really don't have any desire to act like a Spartan in front of my tv. Neat concept, but I'm not buying. Also can someone call Crytek and tell them to stop spelling things with y's instead of i's? It was neat in middle school, now it's just weird.

The next few games are all the things that leaked a few weeks ago, because apparently Microsoft sucks at secrets. They should ask Nintendo for some tips. We got a new Forza, a new Fable, a remake of Halo 1 that nobody really seems to care much about. Lots of Kinect flaunting, which honestly I'm still not really sold on. I don't like putting things on rails, which seems to be the price of a lot of these motion controlled games. Minecraft on the 360 is an interesting move, though I still feel like people are going to prefer it on the PC. Who knows. A lot of fun things for kids, but the 360 never really came off as a kids console so I'm rather skeptical.

Skipping over some other stuff that I don't really care about, we come to the Halo 4 announcement. They promised Halo was a trilogy. Then they decided they wanted money so they made 3 spinoff games. Now they realized if they call Halo 4 the start of a NEW trilogy, they didn't technically break their promise AND they're covered for the next 2 times the drug lord demands his money and they have to come up with some quick cash. Seriously though..that series has been diluted beyond all recognition. Pick an amazing game serious and count the number of titles per console generation..usually 1-3. Halo 4 will be the 5th 360 game, right? Pathetic.. Also I can't help but notice the lack of a Bungie logo. Hmm.

That just about covers it for Microsoft, I'll probably write something up for Sony and Nintendo as well. Expect Nintendo's to be super late if at all, seeing as the briefing is an hour before the convention opens and I'll have better things to do.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A dream come true

Nineteen hours. In nineteen hours I'll be on a plane headed across the country. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. Some of you may not know why I'm going so far away for a three day expo, or what E3 even is. I guess now is a good time to explain.

E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, arguably the most important annual event in the video game industry. Game companies big and small from all across the world gather in LA to announce new products, build hype for their games, and demo new games and prototypes. This isn't a nerd convention where people dress up and talk about how much they love games. E3 is the heart of the industry. Video game celebrities, innovators, designers, etc will all be in attendance. And I get to meet them.

It's worth mentioning that video games have evolved far beyond the superficial entertainment medium they once were. The overwhelming popularity of games have forced developers to become more and more creative to get their newest title to sell. Sure, there are the big corporate companies repackaging last years game with a new title and a few new features for no other reason than to bring in some cash (*cough*CoD*cough*Madden*cough*), but looking past those we see the artistic indie games (Bit.Trip, World of Goo, Minecraft) and the games that redefine and create new genres (Portal 2, Borderlands). Developers must come up with radical new ideas at an extremely fast pace to survive, and being at the epicenter of these productions is a dream come true.

No really, it is.

I've been talking about going to E3 for years. Ever since I was old enough to care about press conferences and announcements, I hoped to find my way to the convention one year despite the hefty price tag and 3000 miles between me and it. Making matters worse, E3 is an industry only event; that is, only people who can prove direct connection to the gaming industry are allowed to purchase a pass. There was a period of time during which E3 was almost cancelled- massive downsizing and uncertainty about following years made the dream seem like an impossibility. However, in a glorious fashion, E3 was revived and my lovely brother-in-law and his friend have offered me a chance to check this one off my list. Needless to say, it took no time at all for me to make my decision.

In closing, I offer an excellent quote from a Kotaku article on Portal 2, explaining what exactly makes the game (and video games in general) so wonderful. (Full Article)

"As important as writing, storytelling, music and voice-acting are, play is the thing that makes a game a game. Play is why we are so passionate about these odd digital artifacts, why we spend so much time talking and reading and carrying on about them."

Leaving tomorrow!

So, tomorrow around 3ish I hop on a flight headed to LA. Tomorrow also marks the day when the press conferences begin. Thanks to Richard Branson being awesome, I'll have wifi on my flight and be able to watch them and post my oh so cynical comments WHILE IN THE SKY. So that's cool. For those interested in watching:

Microsoft: June 6, 12:30 PM EST
EA: June 6, 3:30 EST
Ubisoft: 5:30 EST
Sony: June 6, 8:00 PM EST
Nintendo: June 7, 12:00  PM EST

The convention itself runs June 7th-9th. I figured rather than clutter up my blog with video game stuff, I'd make a separate blog for the trip. If all goes well you'll see commentary, pictures, stories, and more pop up here over the course of the week. So feel free to bookmark, follow, spray paint the url in the nearest bathroom stall, whatever you feel inclined to do. It'll be great fun.