Sunday, May 25, 2008


I am now bedding down a mere 2 hours out of LA. Tomorrow will bring me to Burbank and the beginning of the summer festivities, and for now I'm trying desperately to stay awake and adjust to the new time zone. It's difficult work.

Staying in hotels always brings out the weirdest of dreams. I learned a long while ago that, when explaining dreams, they are never as exciting to your audience as to you, so I will try and keep this brief.

Predictably, the dreams were smattered with ETCers. There were zombie monsters in something that felt like a play that turned into a reality. There was a secret Disney lab which we invaded. There was a swimming pool with layers, and a picnic table amidst a battlefield.

Everyone was wearing the most ridiculous outfits...Andy was a ghost. Brian Evans was dressed very much like Rambo with the exception of a collared, button-down shirt beneath his ammunition harness. Jesse wore two pairs of engineering goggles, one over his eyes and one propped on his forehead, along with a lab coat and a pair of dish gloves that we were all supposed to believe were official science gloves. We were searching for Bryan Cash, who may or may not have been turned into a zombie monster.

There was much activity. Betsy McIver stabbed a zombie monster in the eye with a screwdriver. Vimal kept bounding in and out of existence with tutorial-like advice. There was a faculty decree that banned all animal migrations, with the exception of migratory fish.

I was FURIOUS about this, and put up a rebellious protest.

Certainly, I am purging some weird stuff from the school year...

Friday, May 23, 2008


Well, it's the second night of my cross-country drive on the way to my summer internship in LA. So far so good!

I've been trying to keep a frequently-updated Twitter log of my adventures, for anyone interested in micro-updates.

Thus far, my father and I have finished the first two Harry Potter audio-books, and it appears we'll finish off our trip with the third. My dad really enjoys them, which pleases me, because I figured he would. I also knew I'd never get him to read the books merely by suggesting it; I had to trick him by trapping him in a car and forcing him to listen to the story. It's all worked out, though, as he claims he'll be excited to read the rest of the series upon returning home.

I realized, in listening to the stories, how the releases of the Harry Potter books are convenient landmarks in my own timeline, as I associate them with specific points in my life. It was an interesting thought, and at some point I might make a media-referential timeline of life events, relating significant moments to particularly memorable media for me at the time. May be a fun experiment.

At any rate, the drive continues tomorrow. I should be in Burbank by Sunday with no problems, if all continues well!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring Semester Photo Journal - Abridged!

I posted about the fancy camera I got for Christmas, and I do enjoy using it! However, I'm really bad about sorting through and posting photos after I take them. So, every now and then, I dump all the photos off my camera to clean them up.

Here are a few shots from this semester's photo dump. Take a look, you might be in there!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This is cross-posted to my Mailing List. I normally reserve these longer, more in-depth updates to my mailing list, so if you feel like you've been missing out, please feel free to join!

Wow, I can't believe it's taken the entire semester before I ever wrote an update about Bandology! That's how things go, though, I suppose. A little background first: At the ETC, each semester you do a project course, which means you are put on a project with a team of people and that's what you work on for the entire semester. Some projects are client-based, meaning the ETC is building something for some outside organization. Others are student-pitched, which is basically the students saying “Hey, we want to make this!” and then doing it.

At the end of the Fall semester, my friend and head TA approached me about joining his team for Bandology, a continuation of a student-pitched project from the spring before. I was delighted! Here is a picture of my AWESOME team...Andy, Joe, Edmundo, me and Carlos.

Bandology is a massively multiplayer online casual game about being in bands built by my team. We spent all semester setting up the technical foundation and pipeline, and iterating on designing the core game. The big experimental gameplay mechanic we were exploring this semester was the idea of Asynchronous Cooperative Gameplay.

It sounds fancy, but the idea is very simple. We wanted to make an online game where you play in a group, and where everyone feels like they're helping the team, but where people aren't playing the actual game at the same time. This spawned from our own experiences as busy graduate students. We all love games, and we love online games that you play with friends, but doing something together in World of Warcraft requires a lot of juggling of everyone's schedules. Our goal was to make a casual game that people could play on their own time, but still feel like they were contributing to the gameplay of their teammates.

After a semester of vast gameplay iterations and design work, I think our experiment is a success! Our biggest challenge has been explaining this Asynchronous Cooperative Gameplay idea to other people, for as Jesse pointed out midway through the semester, explaining experimental gameplay ideas is HARD.

I could explain more about how our game works, but it'd be easier if you just signed up for playtesting :) The game itself is a casual puzzle game, so don't be scared to give it a shot. Our beta test is coming up, so we'll need playtesters!

So, that's what I've been doing all semester, and it has been a joy, mostly due to my AWESOME teammates. I have been spoiled rotten by having such a wonderful team. We worked really well together as a creative entity, and I will miss my teammates terribly. As far as what I've done on the game itself beyond design, I did a lot of programming on the character system (loading characters, controlling animation, building the customizer, etc.)

A shout out to Dr. Shannon and the Centre CS department: one fantastic thing about working on this project was how well-designed the foundation of the game was. There are 3 programmers on my team: me, Carlos (who did all the gameplay programming) and Edmundo (who did all the web backend programming), and from the beginning we made sure to set up the system in a totally modular way. It made things a joy to work with, as we could each code away without getting in each other's way. Beyond that, this was an invaluable experience in design iteration and playtesting; a semester well-spent!

But, as things often happen at the ETC, the work is not yet done. Our goal with Bandology was to get 100% of the very basics complete, which we did! But an MMO has many features, and there is much to be developed. Our next milestone is to submit Bandology to the Independent Games Festival, around October. Weee!

Stay tuned for another big update about Game Design class. In the meantime, I am preparing for my summer internship at Insomniac!