www.chadbordwell.com NOTE: My opinions do not represent those of my employer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Measuring My Art Chops

I've been tinkering around with a project at home.  It's a little overwhelming to sit down in front the computer and just create a game that isn't there in any form.  Where do you start?  What can you do yourself and what do you need help with?  These are the questions you don't have answers for until you dive in.

I have an art degree so I thought I might be able to handle the art myself but as a game designer it's been a long time since I created much art.  So I thought I should see what I can do in Photoshop.  My goal for the project's look is to have a style that was fun and sort of cartoonish, something like Warcraft.  To start I decided to do something simple and just create a board or a texture for a beam of wood.  No particular scale or metrics, just see if I could get the look I was going for.

This was sort of whimsical and fun like I wanted and was going the right direction but it needed more details like dings and chips.

So from start to finish I'd say it took about 3 hours and looked pretty close to what I had in mind.  At least I accomplished my goal of measuring my current art ability.  At the start I felt a little rusty but after turning on some music and digging in it started flowing pretty naturally.  I think it turned out alright.

Monday, August 22, 2016

My No Man's Sky Experience So Far

UPDATE: Apparently there isn't anymore to this game that what I experienced.  Pity.  Perhaps someone will finish the game in a mod.

I read a one sentence review that said, "No Man's Sky is miles wide and an inch deep." I think that is the main issue with the game. You are given and endless expanse of nothing to do in it.

I enjoy the freedom of doing whatever I want but that isn't what the game is. You are actually very limited. You're not building structures or creating a base, or building a ship, you are wandering lost everywhere gathering resources. You sort of create and trade things in your inventory but it doesn't make you feel grounded with a goal and an understanding of what you're doing.  Some say it's a survival game, but does that mean if you can maintain all your shields and systems then you've won?  No, of course not.  You are supposed to feel a drive to explore and find more of what is out there.  But the game doesn't tease you that there is more out there.  For me after visiting three planets I see pretty much the same things and I'm doing the same tasks.  In a game where they say you'll never be able to see it all, seeing it all really isn't a goal you try to achieve.  So is exploration the goal??

You start the game with a crashed ship and use raw materials to "fix" it.  An amazing feat.  But for a character with the ability to do vast space exploration it feels strange to not know anything about where you are and where you're going. You feel like a super smart infant with no clue of the world they inhabit. To make me care about what I'm doing I'd like to know who I am. You are a lone what? Human? Nothing really tells you that. Every intelligent life form you encounter is described as an alien. But you have a fancy ship and fancy tools so where did you come from? Are you a part of something bigger? Have you just lost your memories? Did that question matter to the game's creators? What the hell is the premise of what you are and what you're doing? 

I also theorize that the game might be too open for people to easily grasp and in some cases myself included. Many people need at least a little guidance . Looking at the Elder Scroll series from Morrowind to Skyrim you can see Bethesda tightening the reins on the amount of hand holding and still some people found Skyrim too open and don't know what to do with themselves. I loved Morrowind and hated the more guided direction of Oblivion and Skyrim but No Man's Sky give you nothing at all.

I'm going to continue with No Man's Sky for now. Maybe the game is exactly what I've seen and nothing deeper but I can't shake the feeling that I just haven't figured it out yet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Warcraft Confusion

I really enjoy getting into the Warcraft lore, but the Warlords of Draenor expansion confused the hell out of me.  Of course I understand the expansion went back to an alternate reality of past events but I thought Blizzard specifically said this was an alternate timeline that does not affect our current world.  My guild has basically dissolved so I also didn’t get into any of the dungeons or raids that might fill in the blanks for me. 

Now with Legion coming out at the end of this month I see many teaser trailers with Gul’dan.  I’m thinking what? But Gul’dan’s dead in our timeline.  Is Legion also in the past timeline?  Why is Gul'dan still a part of Legion?

Also Vol’jin is the Horde Warchief.  Isn’t Legion going to be the first time he really needs to prove what kind of Warchief he can be? Or was that also something I missed in WoD?  I mean WoD was an alternate timeline so Vol'jin technically hasn't done anything "Thrall-like" yet correct?

Like I said I’m very confused.  Any chance someone or is there a good YouTube video can clear this up for me?



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where My Interest in Games Came From

I often credit my intro to the video games to a Wolfenstein 3D demo but in reality if I think back I was interested in games way before that.  I lived out in the Iowa countryside so I rarely had access to video game arcades.  So I was super lucky in 1982 when my grandmother gave me a mini Donkey Kong console for Christmas.  I played this thing to death and was grounded on several occasions for playing it under the blankets when I should have been sleeping.  It was super simple but it was all I had.  This game had to
get me through a number of years because it wasn’t until I was in high school that I was able to hit the arcade with any kind of regularity and Wolfenstein 3D was 10 years away.  When I did get to the arcade I would go for Duck Hunt, Tempest, and Rampage but my favorite was always Joust.  I don’t know what it was about those flapping ostrich riders but I couldn’t get enough.

After graduation I had a roommate and he had a Sega Master System and I was hooked.  Space Harrier, Ghost House, Psycho Fox, Fantasy Zone.  My game play became pretty regular and annoying to the people around me including my roommate who wanted his console time back.  But like everyone fresh out of school I had no money and when my girlfriend and I moved out and got married we didn’t have money for games and again my inner gamer went into hibernation waiting for the right conditions to emerge.

These conditions happened years later when my wife mistakenly agreed that we should get a Sega
Genesis system.  BAM!! Again emerged the gamer sleepily playing until dawn, beating each expensive and carefully selected title to completion.  Golden Axe, Ghouls & Ghosts, Altered Beast, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, the list goes on and on.  I never crossed that line into Nintendo gaming.  I think from being a car enthusiast I was stupidly brand loyal and Sega was my brand, the underdog.  I kept my Genesis until I moved to California to attempt a career in animation.  Which is where we bought a Windows 486 PC and my wife came home with a Wolfenstein 3D demo disk that some guy at her job said, “Chad might like this.”  That guy later got a job at Activision and helped me get hired as a game tester in their QA department.

One day my wife came home and found me yet again playing Wolfenstein 3D rather than working on my animation portfolio which lead her to say, “Chad we moved to California so you could become an animator, but instead of working on animation all you do is play games.  Maybe you should work in games instead.”  I whole hardily agreed and the gaming industry is where I have been ever since.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Holding Onto Home

In my industry there tends to be a high chance of layoffs and studio closures. Very unexpectedly you can find yourself looking outside your State, Province, and even country for your next job. This makes it difficult to commit to big lifetime purchases like houses and hard to put down local roots in an area. It also makes it hard to keep relationships with people that can’t or don’t want to move. So you can feel like a "temp person" everywhere you go. In the past I have also lost my home, friends, and relationships due to studio layoff as have most in the game industry. This experience was much more difficult than I expected. Close friends become long distance friends, the house you raised your children in now needs a quick sale because you need to leave. Your kids are pulled from their schools and friends and you really have little choice.

It would seem however that working in a tech driven industry your physical location shouldn’t be such an issue. Video conferences are commonplace, instant message services and email keep everyone constantly connected, work can be securely sent online. Is there really a need for a physical workplace anymore? When working in LA on Return to Castle Wolfenstein our AI programmer lived in Australia , and that was back in 2001. Certainly business and security has evolved since then.

I would love to see more companies like Hinterlands which have a headquarters but allow people to live wherever they want in the world without being forced to a physical location. Being forced into or just wanting to make a career change shouldn’t cost you your house and relationships. Game developers want to have normal lives like everyone else. We also want a place to confidently call home.

- Chad

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Games I Want to Understand But Don't

There are a few gaming things I don’t do but would really like to.   The reason I don’t play them is either lack of knowledge, overwhelmed and intimidated, or just don’t have the time to get involved.  I would like to change this and any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

1. Pen and Paper RPG.  I’m old-ish.  Oldish enough that I was the right age to play when all the D&D stuff started up.  When I was 19 my girlfriend knew I was interested in it and bought me all the books and modules she could afford. I think in an attempt to force me to socialize but I still never played.  Mainly because I never found anyone else that played it.  Later in my late 20s I became friends with a guy whom I found out played regularly and I asked to join.  He was very reluctant telling me, “Man, it’s nerdy.  I mean REALLY nerdy.”  Finally one day he called me and said they were going to play a certain night but again greatly stressed that he didn’t think I would like it and it was super super nerdy.  I took it as a hint that he would be uncomfortable with me there and bowed out.  I even worked at Raven Software for 8 years which is a great haven for the nerds and still never played a game even though they had many game nights.  A few years ago I was trying to help out a friend that was creating a pen and paper RPG and bought his game rulebook and it sits on my bookshelf unused.  I’d really like to experience playing a game if for nothing else to just understand it as a game designer.  I’d especially like to try the game I bought, Darkest Age.  So far I see no prospects.

2.  Eve Online. I don’t know what it is about this game.  I have subscribed to it 3 times and I’m so intimidated and overwhelmed by it that I literally just sit in the hangar with my ship.  I know nobody that plays so I have no help.  A few times I have flown around the space station and then docked again.  The complexity and vastness of the game blows my mind to the degree that I let my sub run out and don’t renew.  Then later my curiosity rises and I sub again and repeat.  It’s the fear of getting lost, losing my ship, and dying in the middle of nowhere that has me spooked.  As I understand it you have to insure your ship and clone yourself to avoid this but what if I die a lot out there?!?  I bought Elite Dangerous and find I have been having the exact same experience.  Space games really get me, I so badly want to be a part of it but just can’t get out there.  If there are any players out there willing to give me a hand to get me started please drop me a message.

3. Dwarf Fortress. I REALLY want to get it but I don’t get it.  I hate to say it but I think it’s the lack of visuals that is throwing me.  Just looking at the symbols I feel like I’m failing a math test or attempting C++ programming.  The concept behind it sounds so interesting and as I understand it’s inanely detailed.  I have downloaded and attempted playing several times but I feel I don’t really know what’s going on.  I’m moving things around and I think I’m doing things but I’m not really sure I’m doing it correctly.  I’ve watched a few YouTube videos explaining but still not certain.  It would be so awesome to have it running while I’m working so I could replace watching YouTube or listening to music with something more constructive.  But maybe that is the disconnect, perhaps it requires my full attention.  I really don’t know.  Do you know any good videos or guides you can share?

Got help or advice to offer?  Shoot me a message at cursethedawn @ gmail or hotmail or leave a comment.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Canadian Shipping Companies Suck

I enjoy ordering online.  It’s easy, convenient, and fairly secure.  Knowing something is on its way to you is a little bit like xmas.  But there is one part of it that falls short for me and that is the delivery.  When I pay for delivery to me it means I don’t go pick anything up, the package comes to me.   However what seems to happen 99% of the time is instead of the package I get a little note delivered telling me where I need to go pick it up.

I don’t want to pick it up, that was the entire point of paying for delivery.  If I wanted to pick it up I would go to the damn store and buy it myself.  To try and avoid this problem I have nearly everything delivered to my workplace.  My work has 300+ employees running around at all times.  There is a reception area but it’s open to the lunch area where people are always abundant so there is absolutely no excuse for not finding a person to sign for a package.  However what I seem to be encountering is that the delivery people are extremely lazy. If there is nobody with their butt planted in the reception chair they turn right around and leave.

Here in Canada the blame for these lazy deliveries has mainly been Purolator and Canadian Post.  Purolator in particular has failed to deliver every single package I have ever ordered.  A few times I have lost my temper and they got the driver to turn around and deliver it later in the day.  I have to go through this every time I order a package.  I now refuse to order from companies that use Purolator.  Canadian Post on the other hand is basically the government mail service and they frankly don’t give a shit how you feel about anything.

We as consumer have little control over how sellers ship their products but we should have the power to take responsibility and approve the person delivering it to just leave it.  Just drop off the damn package like I paid for.

Today yet another package failed to arrive and I got an email saying they attempted a delivery but among the hundreds of people in the lunch area they couldn't see a single person that knew how to sign their name.  They also didn't even leave an attempt note telling me where to go get it.  So I get to bitch at them for the address and drive to downtown Toronto to pick up a package I paid $20 to deliver.  I try to scour the internet looking for a local store to buy the products from since I'll end up going to pick it up anyway.

What if I paid for delivery on a certain day?  The package would not be delivered and instead be heading back to their warehouse.  It's in transit so you can't even get it on the delivery day, you have to wait until the following day.  This is a complete rip off.

Shipping companies make online shopping pointless.  Stop being lazy and make a real attempt to deliver packages.