Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Review

- 2010 was a very social year. Granted, a lot of it was geeky socializing (Venture Brothers marathon, D&D, board game night, frisbee golf, Magic the Gathering, craft fairs, crawfish festivals) but I was still probably more regularly socially active than I’ve ever been in my life.

- Goal 1 for 2010 was “Get a Cat,” and so I did! Mr. Davis has become a beloved member of my family and a huge part of my life. He is simultaneously the most affectionate cat I’ve ever had while also being the most headstrong, and I love him very much. I miss his snuggly face and can’t wait to get back to it!

- Goal 2 for 2010 was “Go to Japan,” and thanks to the generosity of host and friend, Scott Coffrin, I had another short but AMAZING trip to the country. I really do love that place.

- The biggest bonus for the year was starting my relationship with Nick, my awesome boyfriend. Last year’s review noted how I was putting off the attempts of dating, and it wasn’t long after that I found someone. Turns out all I had to do to find someone amazing was stop looking, and he came into my life :)

- I joined a CSA, which is a small note, but one which I’m proud of (both in that I’m supporting local farmers and doing more experimental cooking, and that I’m actually eating vegetables now).

- 2010 was a big year for me at work. My team was tasked with creating our level into a demo for Sony, and trying to get it to a polished state as a visual high bar for the rest of the game. If you’ve seen the recent stuff for Resistance 3 with the gameplay on the boat, that’s my level! It was a big challenge but a fun one, and my awesomesauce team really pulled together and made something great and fun. It was really exciting when we hit that milestone, and it’s even more exciting now that gameplay from my level is out and about in the world.

- I started playing Starcraft II, went to Blizzcon, and discovered I really like watching RTS games in a tournament setting.

- I visited home and educated the youth about game development, and then turned around and went to another fantastic Project Horseshoe.

- Didn’t get home for Thanksgiving, but had a really fun Orphan Thanksgiving Dinner in Burbank.

- Had a fantastic winter break! First of all, I am ever grateful to work for a company that is not in education and still has a Christmas Break! Second, it was really fun to bring Nick to Kentucky and show off my hometown and introduce him to my family and my most beloved of friends. Showing Louisville to someone who had never been made me look at it through the eyes of a newcomer, and it made the whole experience of being at home feel fresh.

- Meanwhile, I’m finishing off the break with a crazy relaxing time in Sarasota. Many a day I have slept in, and upon waking, reached for my laptop and spent hours WoWing in bed, which is like having breakfast in bed only way nerdier. We’ve had strolls on the beach and met up with Nick’s family and friends, and just mostly chilled. I feel very relaxed and ready to jump back into the swing of work next week.

Maybe it’s a little out of form to post my year review before 2011 has fully rung in, but I anticipate a relaxing evening, some socializing with Nick’s old friends, and then falling asleep in the laziest of fashions. I’m really excited about what the next year has in store!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More Christmas Stuff

This Christmas vacation so far has been just the right balance of lazy relaxing and fun adventures. After Nick left I spent the remaining days with family and friends (mostly being lazy) and had a lovely family Christmas.

I got:
- Donkey Kong Country Returns (played a bit here in Florida with Nick, it's super super fun!)
- Sonic Colors
- pre-order for Lost in Shadow, which should arrive in January
- a WoW trivia desk calendar
- Amazon gift credits, intended to be used for presents for Mr. Davis. I'm going to get him a cat condo/tree. I also used some of them to pre-order Okamiden
- Some cash monies
- a new pair of pajamas (I get one pretty much every year, which is good, because I wear through pajamas like crazy!)
- Betrayal at House on the Hill

A splendid collection of gifts if ever there was one! My brother and I got my parents Netflix, which they liked a lot. Hopefully they won't watch through the whole streaming library in a single month :P

After Christmas I flew down here to Sarasota to spend the rest of our break with Nick. We went to the Ringling Museum, which was pretty varied and interesting. Otherwise there has been a lot of lazing and meeting friends and playing games. I think it will be a relaxing way to see out 2010!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Meat CSA?

So, I absolutely LOVE my CSA ( It encourages me to eat vegetables which I would never do on my own, the produce is yummy, and I like to support local farmers.

Does anyone know if there is something similar in southern California for meat and dairy? Like a meat CSA? I'm going to google it up, of course, but if anyone knows something firsthand, do let me know!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vacation and Goals

My visit home to Louisville has been splendid thus far! Nick and I hit up the Speed Museum, Science Center, and Slugger Museum. We ate at Dragon King's Daughter, Ramsi's, Old Spaghetti Factory, Coco's Chocolate (fondue!!) and Nord's Doughnuts. We met Ian's puppy and played many games with friends and hung out with my family.

Now he's off to Sarasota so we can spend Christmas with our respective families, and then I'll join up with him again in Florida afterwards. Josh checked in on Mr. Davis for me at the Cat Hotel, and apparently he's settled quite nicely and made friends with the other cats! Yay!

Meanwhile, I'm starting to ponder my goals for 2011. Last year the goals were: get a cat (check!) and go to Japan (check!). I already have a few goals in mind financially, but I'm molding some others in the meantime.

First, I'm feeling purge-ish again, and every time i get in the mood to get rid of stuff, the circle of influence of my grip shrinks. This time it's the old game consoles that are feeling invasive to my space. I've been really thinking a lot about the way I consume media. Earlier in the year I borrowed games to try them (offering pies in exchange) and I liked the way it felt. I felt motivated to finish the games because I had to return them, and didn't feel any guilt over a game half started and then sitting and staring at me from the PS3.

I find myself drawn more and more to Steam and PSN and investigating Wiiware titles because of the lack of physical "stuff" that comes attached to them. Perhaps I will pick up the borrowing habit once more in the New Year.

Which leads me to my second goal of consuming more games more regularly. Right now I play games in long stretches and revel in them, such as Starcraft and WoW and Minecraft. But as has been pointed out time and again, one of the flaws of my industry is how much really good content is pushed out so frequently. I feel like everyone knows someone who has a mountain of unwrapped games that they haven't even touched yet.

I've attributed this need to keep up with games to be like practicing an instrument, and I think this year I need to buckle down on that and really set aside time each day for games. NEW games, I mean, not just the ones I'm in love with and playing anyway. If I can work it into my routine I think I can pull it off, but new routines are very hard to get rolling!

We shall see what the new year brings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blog idea

You know how when you're explaining an idea to someone, sometimes you whip up a little sketch that makes things so much clearer? And yet, viewed out of context, the little sketch looks like an indecipherable scribble?

I'm considering starting a blog and posting these guys, just for fun, unless such a blog exists already. If it doesn't, would anyone be interested in contributing?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Educating the Youth

Yesterday and today I went back to my old high school (an all-girls school) and spoke to several classes about game development. They were really into it and asked really great questions, so I'd call it a success for sure.

One of the theories about the low number of women working in games is that it's just not on a lot of young girls' radars as a possibility. I found that to be the case here, as during QA time I turned it around and asked what about my presentation surprised them the most. Every single time, for the 8 classes I presented to, they said it was that they had no idea how many different people and roles it took to make a video game.

Seed planted. Mission accomplished!

I also learned a bunch of interesting things myself, which I will share. For the most part, each of the classes I spoke to were freshmen and sophomore girls (with one group of seniors thrown into one class). Usually the groups were between 20 and 30 girls, and I presented to 8 groups. Early on in my presentation, I polled them about who played video games and what sorts. Here are my findings:

1) In general, 99% of the girls played video games (maybe one or two groups had like 1 or 2 girls who didn't)

2) The majority of the girls played console games

3) PC games (like the Sims and MMOs) came in second for most show of hands

4) iPhone and cell phone games came in 3rd

5) Very VERY few of the girls played facebook games, even though they used facebook. This was probably the most startling finding for me, as I assumed that teenage girls would be big on facebook games. Not necessarily, it would seem! (in fact, many groaned in distaste when I asked if anyone played facebook games)

I was really impressed with how interested they were. My presentation was 2 parts, one was a summary of the general roles in game development (artists, programmers, designers, audio, producers). I explained the jobs and what they did, then showed a clip of Ratchet gameplay and diagrammed out where everyone had a hand in it.

The second part was about how I wound up as a game designer and my path after graduating high school. The theme of this section was "if you have no idea what you want to do with your life, don't worry, because it might take you 8 years to figure it out."

They asked really perceptive questions, the most popular being "how long does it take to make a video game" and "what's your favorite game," but a good variety of other ones. Again, I think my visit was a huge success, and maybe I'll make it a regular thing to go back and speak every few years.

Now to enjoy the rest of my vacation (and hopefully get rid of this cold!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

BlizzCon Wrap

So, I had a really great time at BlizzCon, even though I did not go see any panels (I hear I didn't miss too much on that end).

I got to try Diablo III (I like the Monk), StarJeweled (BEST STARCRAFT MOD EVER), Left 2 Die, (probably would have been more fun if we'd had more time), and Cataclysm beta (<3 Goblins). I enjoyed seeing all the costumes, and of course seeing Will's epic dance contest entry.

On the downside, Jay Mohr is teeeerrible, how is this his 5th BlizzCon? His humor is off and his jokes are tasteless and he nearly ruined all of the costume/dance contest for me, bleh!

The most surprising part of the event was how much I enjoyed watching the Warcraft III and Starcraft II matches, and the WoW Arenas were great, too. I think I spent most of my time there at one of the two stages, watching the epic battles unfold. I suppose this seals in a new layer of geekdom that I never thought I would have acquired.

My favorite part about the matches was how positive the audience was. One annoying thing about watching sports for me is how much team support can override and diminish the experience of just watching a good game. For example, watching football or watching the World Cup, when "the other" team makes a good mood, it is impossible to acknowledge without scorn, and I haaaaaate it when the non-home-team makes a great play and is met by booing from the home fans. So annoying!

With these tournaments, the audience just wanted to see people who play really well. Sure there were favorites, but all in all, if either player made a fantastic play, the entire audience erupted in cheers. The atmosphere was fantastic! It's a shame there aren't many Starcraft II tournament viewing venues in the US.

Anyway, I have a long layover before getting back to Kentucky, but I can't wait to see my family!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

15 Games

Can't resist a meme, sometimes.

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. 15 games you've played that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what games my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the note -- upper right hand side.)

1. Super Mario Bros. 2
2. Doom II
3. Sonic the Hedgehog
4. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
5. Gemfire
6. Shining Force
7. Okami
8. World of Warcraft
9. Spyro the Dragon
10. Final Fantasy 7
11. Silent Hill
12. Warioware (the gamecube one)
13. MarioKart: Double Dash
14. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
15. Halo

You'll notice I didn't tag anyone. That's how I roll.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Benedictine Spread

The Benedictine Spread was a big hit at the beach firepit party last night, so I'ma share the recipe! Of course you can find recipes just by googling the term, but they all have some variation in them, so this is specifically the recipe that I used last night.

(Extra info: Benedictine Spread is a Louisville, KY recipe, so if you make it that means you're all cultured and stuff)

- 16 oz neufetal cheese (the original calls for cream cheese, but neufetal is just sliiiightly more savory, so I used it instead)
- 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and grated
- 1 medium onion, grated
- 1 Tablespoon mayonaise (some recipes use more of this to the point that it becomes a more dominant flavor, but I think mayo is gross, so I just use a very small amount for a creamier consistency)
- 2 tsp salt
- dash of cayenne pepper

1. Grate the cucumber and onion, then drain and dry with paper towels. This is an important step, otherwise the spread will get too watery
2. Mix all the ingredients together in bowl
3. If you want, you can add a drop of green food coloring so that it turns bright green and looks like the lost boys' food from Hook. I just didn't have any handy last night
4. Serve cold on chips or bread or whatever

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cat Field Trips

I need ideas for field trip locations for Mr. Davis

When Josh's cat-allergic roommate was in England for months and months, I used to take Mr. Davis over there for day trips. He enjoyed it very much, and I think it started the trend for his thinking of "car trips are okay." But alas, Ryan has returned to the states, so a new venue is in order.

I did take him to our soccer park once, but he did not like the wide open space, and we crossed the street to the residential sidewalk instead. I've also taken him on a few errand car rides (he's a star in the In-N-Out drive through line when we go for milk shakes).

He does pretty well in the car, but he seems unsure of how he feels about it from time to time. Often he'll stay up in the front seat, paws on the windowsill, watching outside. If I leave his crate open in the back seat, he'll sometimes climb back there and do repeated short, soft meows. I'm not sure what they mean, they aren't his "scared" meow. Josh's theory is that he wants me to know where he is.

Anyway, I'd like to keep up the trend of car trips, just because exposure to new places and people and experiences is good for him. Any ideas? Anyone want a cat visit?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why I hate voting-based internet contests

Attention humans! This is a public service announcement. Oft times on our internets, there are contests that involve voting. Inevitably, someone involved in the contest will send a link, asking all their friends to vote for them so they win the contest. Pretty common occurrence, yes?

I just want to make sure everyone knows that these drive me mad. There is nothing worse than "hey here is an organized competition on which people really should vote on the criteria of the content itself but instead it's really just how many people you know you can get to vote for you without considering what the contest is even about." It's an insult to the people who organize the competition hoping that people will treat it legitimately.

If I am linked to a contest, I want to treat it fairly. That means I would want to review the applicants and vote for the best one, not just vote for the person I know. Usually, the thought of having to go through all the applicants and judge them fairly is exhausting, especially if I'm busy or not particularly interested in the contest subject or whatever. So, I just don't vote at all.

Be aware, that when you send me these things, and I do not vote for you, it is not because I don't love you. It's because IT DRIVES ME CRAZY WHEN PEOPLE DO THAT.

It would be easier, I think, if all content were stripped from the contest, and the criteria were simply "see how many people you know you can get to vote for you, for no reason, really, other than that they know you." Then whoever rallied the most people would win! And really, that's how these contests tend to work, right?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Ben showed me this awesome volunteer program he's doing, and after looking it over, I signed up right away. Basically, you act as an e-mentor and penpal to a 3-5th grader. The kid reads books throughout the schoolyear, and you read the same books. Then you write letters to one another discussing those books.

The idea is to both get the kids excited about reading, as well as help them improve their writing and vocabulary by modeling it through your letters. It sounds great!

I'd been snooping around for volunteer opportunities because I feel like that is one area of my life that is lacking these days. It is difficult, though, with the busy and often erratic schedule of a game developer to create time for a regular commitment. This is something that I can slide right into my life and keep up with.

I'm surprised I hadn't heard about it until now, and I wonder how common it is in grade schools across the country. I will have to suggest that my teacher friends look into it.

Hey! Teacher friends! You should look into this.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Todayborday is Labor Day

This weekend was fun-busy and restful all at the same time, as any good Labor Day weekend should be. There was lots of Starcraft II, some WoWing, some Magic, some Critter Crunch, and some Halo: ODST Firefight mode. I sadly missed Rich when he was in town (sadface) but I did snag a lunch with Bryan Cash on his brief stopover (happyface).

The Starcraft phenomenon is baffling to me. Could it be that I wasn't ever as bad at RTS games as I'd thought? Or was it the privileged one-on-one (or one-over-one's-shoulder) coaching I received in the beta? Somehow or another, I'm enjoying this game, and hold my own well enough that Nick and I moved up to Gold League in 2v2 (I remain convinced that this is 90% Nick, but I do feel I am improving!)

I am still skulking around in the practice leagues as far as 1v1, though. Every time I muster up some courage to do my placement matches, it fleets away before I can go through with it. Right now I rely on Nick during 2v2s to help me identify stuff when scouting if the other guys are playing Protoss or Terran. At work at if I'm lunchcrafting and doing my practice matches, I do the same thing with Nick and Ben, yelling "you guys what is this that they are building what does it meeean??"

In theory, I should play some Protoss and Terran myself so I can at least have an idea of what the strategies and structures are. But, I don't wanna. <3 zerg. Ah well, I'll figure it out eventually!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mario Galaxy 2 and Scott Pilgrim

Upon entering Nick's apartment last night, we discovered that Nathan was playing Mario Galaxy 2, and the two of us immediately had an epic battle to see who would get the privileged position of Bit Collector. With a sigh of resignation, Nathan dug out a second Wiimote, and Nick and I settled to take turns collecting Bits.

Like its predecessor, the game is an absolute delight, but it took me awhile to realize that the role of Bit Collector had been expanded somewhat. I could now pick up coins and 1up mushrooms in addition to grabbing bits, and if I chose, knock down and kill enemies in addition to just holding them in place for Nathan to stomp. These were nice additions, but still didn't put too much pressure on the Bit collector, which I liked.

Will and I had this conversation about the last game, about how it was very clever for Nintendo to acknowledge that gamers have friends who are not necessarily as good of gamers as them, but would still like to be involved, and accommodate that role. And not just that role, but the role of the Watcher, which is one that I often adopt, even though I do enjoy playing games.

Watching other people play games takes me back to my childhood, and the times when I would sit and watch my brother play games. This is a comforting experience, though confusing to some when I deny their offer to play as well, and insist that I would just like to watch. Bit collecting is just enough sideline opt-in engagement to involve me a little more in the game without overwhelming the brother-watching comfort feeling.

Third on my list of "Lisa's indie games that she'll make someday" will be a hard core shooter that has a casual opt-in support role for the players' less skilled or watch-savvy friends. I'm not sure what that would be, but I have fun brainstorming about it.

ANYway, after collecting the Bits, we gave the Scott Pilgrim game a go. It is a good time, as one might expect, even though I am terrible at 2D beat-em-up games (I have a really hard time figuring out if I'm on the same horizontal layer as the enemy I'm trying to attack).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cats, Vets, and Starcraft

I am so proud of my cat! He did really well at the vet, wasn't scared at all (though he was grumpy about being restrained to get his heartrate, and was absolutely affronted by having his temperature taken). He's also in great health, so I feel reassured as a cat mom.

He had a little tartar buildup on his teeth, but the vet said we could safely wait until next year for a teeth cleaning, so I have a new goal. See, the vet offers a service where they can clean the teeth without putting the cat under, which would be ideal. But, Mr. Davis isn't keen on having his mouth handled right now, so he wouldn't be a candidate for that.

My goal for the next year is to train him to accept handling of his mouth, so that he wouldn't have to get put under for the cleaning. Can it be done?? Only time, clicks, and a lot of treats will tell.

In other news, I've been playing Starcraft II 2v2 and occasionally 3v3 versus the computer with Nick and Nathan, and having a fantastic time. We've worked out a way to play that is great fun for me, but I don't think it'd work very well against human opponents.

I'm not very good about dividing my attention between base management and then microing my units out on the field of battle, so I just give Nick control of the units and churn out dudes and send them his way, whiles't he lays waste to the opponent with the ever increasing army. I'm like Hydralisk Depot over here, which is fine, because base management is fun for me. When Nathan plays with us, he does his signature move of "build a ton of expansions."

We rocked the computer's face for the most part, but after a faulty mouse incident, it was clear that Nathan and I are as defenseless as newborn puppies without Nick leading the forces. Oh well, it's still a fun time!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Crawfish and Fun

It'd been a rough time for me in terms of sudden and terrible vertigo that plagued me for most of the work week. This happened to me once before about 2 years ago, and it's probably just a viral inner ear infection or something, but I was out flat for most of the week.

Today it was mild enough that it didn't interfere much with our adventure to the Long Beach Crawfish Festival! This was my second year for the festival, and it was tasty as ever with good music and an amiable crowd. I didn't actually partake in the crawfish feast this year (those little crustaceans are too much work for the sustenance they provide), but I did hit up the booths for some jambalaya and bratwurst.

We also waited in the longest line ever for beignets, but to their credit, they were pretty tasty.

Hoping for a reprise of last year's festivities, we walked over to the nearby arcade only to find it had been shut down. How depressing! No worries, though, for we all ventured over to Josue's place to partake in some good old fashioned 4 player split screen Halo 1.

It was a blast! For a bit there I was back in my junior year of undergrad, in Rodes 2, pistol sniping (and regular sniping) an jaunting about Hang 'em High and Blood Gulch and running my Halo mouth just like old times. That game holds up incredibly well :)

It would seem that most shooters these days don't support 4 player split screen, often because of the decrease in visual quality (we can't have poor visual quality on our beautiful next gen games! It would be SCANDALOUS. I was not a fan of the original Goldeneye, but kudos to them for supporting it) or because it's just not possible given how much the game squeezes the console. What was so common in the past has become rare in the hopes that "everyone plays online now."

This, in my opinion, is a damned shame.

In addition to my platformer that uses Rock Band peripherals, the next game on the list of "Lisa's To-Do Indie Game" list will be the ugliest freakin shooter known to man, made explicitly for the 4 player split screen experience.

But! Enough sighing for the lost past. There is WoWing to do and StarCraft to squeeze in at lunchtime and board games to play and D&D sessions to be run and Indie Picks of the Week to play through. Adventure!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thoughts on Home

One of my secret guilty pleasures is managing my monthly budget, which, I suppose there could be worse guilty pleasures. This month I hit my savings goal to get home for Christmas, so I can now start planning that trip.

It's tricky to plan so far ahead, since I haven't even done my first trip home slated for October, and since it's inconvenient for most friends in the area to know what they're going to be doing 5 months from now.

Last year I doubled up and went home to Louisville for Christmas and then to Pittsburgh for New Year's, which ended up being a fantastic trip. This year I'm less certain of my plots, especially since I'm already worried about who's going to catsit for Mr. Davis in October, let alone for 2 weeks in December when most everyone I know in LA will be out of town anyway (and I'll need a fishsitter then, too)

I'll figure it out eventually, I'm sure, but in the meantime, here's a list of things that I miss about Kentucky:

1) Lightning bugs, as was previously established (thank you Eric for the video)
2) Thunder storms, even though they cause me pain. There's nothing quite so soothing as napping safely inside while it's storming outside. Except for the pain part, that is.
3) The smell of season transitions, which we don't really get out here.
4) The greenness, which is something that Josh observed when he flew out to drive me across the country, and which I didn't really understand at the time. Now that I've been in the desert-pretending-not-to-be that is LA for a year, I understand completely.
5) Katydids and tree frogs at night in the summertime
6) Autumn and trees changing color
7) Cardinals, pileated woodpeckers, and robins (there are supposed to be robins out here, but I've not seen any)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


As mentioned on Twitter, I used plums from today's CSA delivery to make dumpling-like pastries, thus called plumplings.

I essentially just used this tasty recipe for plum pie, only halved.

Instead of the pie crust, I split the dough into 12 balls, flattened each, put them in muffin tins, filled each with the filling, and sealed it up at the top.

They are nothing to write home about, presentation-wise, but MAN they are tasty!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Out and About

I feel like my life as of late has been rich and full, like a giant chocolate cake. The days and nights outside of work have been filling up with new experiences and adventures and time spent with various friends in varied circles.

Today, Josh, Nick, Nathan, Ben and I set out to the Renegade Craft Fair, which was fantastic. There was a huge variety of local and touring craftsfolk selling their wares.

One interesting thing about it was that every booth was incredibly unique in its ware, be it the style or the craft itself or some clever idea or twist. However, when you have a huge collection of things and every one is unique, it creates a weird, noisy effect that's hard to digest. You can't really easy group or categorize things, and my overall impression of the festival was "loud," but not in terms of audio.

There was great stuff, though! I helped myself to a crafted pocketwatch, a wallet made from photography, and a few homemade scented candles.

Pho was had for lunch and we set out for home and a brief nap. Afterwards, Rob, Carlos, and Carren came over to my place for a last minute pool party, grillin, and games. It's crazy that Carlos has been here for as long as he has and I've only gotten together with him but one other time!

We played The Great Dalmuti, Monty Python Fluxx*, and Give Me the Brain, and generally caught up and played about. When everyone departed, Nick and I closed off the evening by taking Mr. Davis on a late-night walk.

For the moment I'm content to chillax here and blog on the couch with a Nick at my feet and a DJ Hero-ing Nathan at my side. Socializing and adventures are all fun and healthy, but I feel like tomorrow is going to be the laziest of days.

*Note, the Monty Python theming still didn't help Fluxx win my heart. It's just that the game has no pacing whatsoever by its very nature. I know some people love it, but I don't think I ever will.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zucchini Chips

Nick vetoed zucchini from the stew we made last night, so I improvised this recipe. Fortunately, Nathan likes zucchini, so they got eaten up.

- 1 egg
- olive oil
- pepper
- coriander
- ground ginger
- thyme
- sliced zucchini
- sea salt

Combine egg, oil, and spices/herbs in a bowl. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet (if you have previously browned beef in said skillet so there's leftover beef goo, all the better). Dredge the zucchini slices through the egg mixture and cook them a few minutes each side on the skillet. Sprinkle with salt and let cool. Nom.

Today's CSA delivery included plums and nectarines, which I will use for a pie. It also included radishes. What am I going to make with radishes?? (Other veggies included: white corn, carrots, tomatoes, more zucchini, and lettuce. Suggestions welcome)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New laptop in my future

I'm contemplating a new laptop. My little Fujitsu tablet gets the job done, but with Starcraft II and WoW Cataclysm on the horizon, and my grumpiness at not being able to use UDK, it may be time to move on.

I got my tablet for grad school, and used it and its tablet feature to death all throughout. I do draw with it occasionally now and again, but I don't think I'm in the market for a tablet PC in the future.

Nor do I want a desktop. Getting rid of my desktop towards the end of grad school was incredibly liberating, and the thought of getting another one and all the baggage it brings along is exhausting (baggage being monitors, speakers, a desk, a chair, etc...)

I am looking for a laptop:
- with a dedicated video card
- on which I'm able to enjoy the highest graphics settings in WoW and still get a good framerate
- used primarily for gaming and development, but not an actual gaming rig
- reasonably affordable

I do not want a mac (sorry, Eric)

Shopping around Newegg, something like this seems up my alley, though I've never heard of ZT before. The reviews seem good, all the same, and with having to buy Windows 7 on top of it, it would put me in the $1000 range.

Honestly, though, by the time I save up the money, there will probably be something else better on the market for about the same price.

Input desired. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The games I'd make

My team just finished hitting an intense deadline at the end of June, and I'm finally winding back down to a normal pace. As such, I've been thinking a lot about games and that question that every game designer gets asked...

"If you could make any game you wanted, what would it be?"

I've been asked that a fair amount recently, and I've always responded with "I have to think about it," not as a dodge but just because I really did have to think about it. I spent the better part of 2 months pondering the matter, and have finally come up with my response.

If I could make any game I wanted, I would make another platformer that used the gamecube kongas as a controller.

Wait wait, before you say I'm crazy, let me explain a couple of things. First is my unusual relationship with Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, from whence this inspiration is derived. When that game came out, it was during a period of my life where I was in a lot of pain and no one knew what the hell was wrong with me. It had come to the point where I could not manipulate a video game controller for very long because it was too painful.

Thoughts of carpal tunnel syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis had been spinning around in my brain*, and I'd thought that there might come a time when I couldn't play video games at all. It was incredibly depressing.

When DK:JB came out and I played it at a friend's, amidst much laughter and hilarity, I found that using the kongas, as bizarre and silly at may have been, did not trigger pain like a normal controller, I imagine since there wasn't as much fine motor manipulation involved. Needless to say, I got the game for myself and played the CRAP out of it. Over and over, collecting more and more bananas, getting more and more skilled at racking up combos and surprising myself to learn that you could get platinum medals on the levels.

That game has such a special place in my heart, purely from the fact that I could play it at the time.

The second factor is that I've figured out what stirs my passion the most about games, and it is unusual interfaces. Whenever I snoop around the indie game picks of the week, I'm always most drawn to the games with the weirdest, cleverest, or most experimental means of controlling the game.

This delight may tie as far back as high school, when a group of friends and I managed a 5-player-at-once game of Spyro the Dragon using a DDR pad.

So yeah, it may not have to be the kongas specifically, but maybe a platform adventure for, say, the Rock Band drums, or some other bizarre input device that was never intended for the type of game I intend to make. This is what I want to make!

"But Lisa, no one would play those games."

Yeah, so? What of it? I'd play 'em, and I know like 3 people who would also play them. I can make a game for a 3 person audience if I want. So there.

*Eventually, after way too much money spent on medical testing, it was determined to be fibromyalgia, which is not progressive, and now I take pain-thwarting meds such that I can play games all day and all night once more.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Walking Mr. Davis

As most of you know (and occasionally doubt my sanity for), I walk my cat on a regular basis. It only took about a week to train him on the harness, and now we go out pretty much every day.

From Walking Mr. Davis

It's forced me to learn how to relax my brain in new ways. Before I had Mr. Davis, when I came home from work I would usually crash right away, occasionally sleeping the night through. Now, I have to force myself to stay awake long enough to take him out.

Walking a cat is not like walking a dog. It's more of an amble, really. The cat just wanders about and sniffs here or there, and you follow along, and if he ever starts to go someplace you don't want him to (under the hedge, perhaps), you just let the lead go taught.

It gives me a lot of time to still my brain, and I think it's probably good for me. It's definitely good for Mr. Davis! I don't know if it really gives him more exercise, but it certainly gives him more intellectual stimulation. That's important for cats - a bored cat is generally trouble.

More photos!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Some Kind of Soup

I recently joined a CSA, as incentive to eat more vegetables. So far the routine goes like this: The vegetables arrive, I hunt around for recipes using those ingredients, Nick comes over and we cook up something experimental, we take it back and feed it to Nathan, success of the experiment is gauged.

This week we made Some Kind of Soup, which is mostly my own concoction after perusing a bunch of recipes and getting ideas. It turned out pretty tasty!

olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
carrots, chopped
bunch of swiss chard, stalks and leaves, chopped
1 head of cabbage, shredded
2 cobs worth of white corn
2 cups lentils
7 cups pork stock (I used this because I have a ton in the freezer, it gives the soup a pretty distinct taste)
bay leaf
salt and pepper

1) Heat some olive oil in a large pot. Saute the onions and garlic
2) Add the carrots, chard stalks, and corn and cook a bit
3) Add the chard leaves and cabbage
4) Add pork stock and bring to a slow boil
5) Add lentils and stir up. Add water if necessary to cover
6) Throw in seasonings to your liking.
7) reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes
8) Taste and adjust spices as you like

Enjoy! It's particularly tasty with sourdough bread dipped into the soup.

After eating it, I felt the urge to eat chocolate or ice cream to counter the healthy, but I ended up just falling asleep instead.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Day 6

Well, the trip is winding down to a close, and just in time (I think I'm just about out of fuel). We spent the day at a nearby amusement park that JC was jonesin' to go to. The rides were pretty tame, but the company was good, so it made for a fun day. Managed to sneak in another nikuman for dinner, so I'd call it a day well spent just for that!

I've had a fantastic time here. We pretty much nailed every kind of experience I wanted to hit in the short week I was here, and I am extremely grateful to Scott and his friends for hosting me. Thanks, you guys!

Tomorrow we're going to chill out in Osaka before I have to go to the airport, maybe hit up an arcade or two. Who can say! Anyway, that about wraps it up.

Hooray for Japan!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Day 5

I really should have called this series "Kyoto Adventure" and been done with it, since we've been spending way more time in Kyoto than Osaka. Anyway, today Scott and I went to Monkey Mountain, which is exactly what it sounds like.

On the train out, two little old ladies sat down next to where we were standing and started doing origami. Scott commented how unusual that was to see - people randomly doing origami on the train - and we laughed and chatted about it a bit. When they were done, the little old ladies handed their origamis to us without a word! It was the cutest thing ever! Scott thinks they were intending to give them to us from the start.

The monkey part was, like all things cool in Japan, at the top of a very tall and steep mountain. But the climb was worth it! The monkey colony that lives in the park is very chill with the presence of humans, so it was great to sit and observe them and feed them in the feeding area. Plus, the view of Kyoto was fantastic! Photos of monkeydom found here.

At the base of Monkey Mountain we did some shopping (I got so much Kyoto-style mochi candy to bring back, you guys. Insomniacs, prepare yourselves, because it's coming to work!). We then went into the city for dinner, and I had two nikuman all to myself. NOM!

We went to one of the conveyor-belt sushi restaurants, only this one had a second track where you could place orders and a little shinkansen would bring it to your table. Glutted on fish, we set out for home, and I am exhausted! I think I'm done climbin mountains for a bit, you guys. Still, it was worth it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Day 4

More of Kyoto adventure again, sort of, kind of. Today we ventured out to the boonies at the very end of the rail line to visit Mr. Kurama, which is host to the Kurama Temple and a fantastic natural onsen. We climbed about a billion stairs and winding paths up the mountain, but every step was a magical corner, so it was totally worth it.

I'll let the photos tell the story of that place.

Meanwhile, the natural onsen was amaaaaaaaazing. I feel like the onsen is the one experience that I truly can never get in the United States, so I soaked up as much of it as I could. Japanese treats can be sought out and bought if you try, but I don't have my hopes up for the public bathhouses to ever catch on in the States. Alas!

After a busy day on the mountain, we came back to Scott's city and played about at the arcade. Here I was introduced to purikura, which OH MY GOD WHY DO WE NOT HAVE THIS IN THE US?? It would go over SOOOOO well with the fledgling teenage girl crowd! Hells, it would go over well with the ballers.

For those who don't know what purikura is, it's essentially a photo booth that prints out stickers, only way elaborate. You can fit like 5 people into the booth, and you pick your backgrounds and whatever, and then you have countdowns to get into your poses. The photos are lit really well, so when you're all done, you get to draw on them and put stamps on them and add fake eyelashes to people and change peoples' hair colors. All kinds of fun stuff like that. The photos you get are tiny, of course, but they're super cute and fun to stick on whatever.

After arcading, Scott, JC, Marius and I did karaoke into the wee hours (look, midnight is a wee hour for me these days). It was my first Japanese karaoke experience, and while it was fun, it really just made me miss my Rock Band sessions with Nick and Nathan. I will be full of songs upon my return, guys!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Day 3

Well, Kyoto adventure today. Scott lives in a town that is smack between Kyoto and Osaka, so it's great for day trips to either one. After a tasty gyoza lunch, we set out on the train to visit Kyomizu Temple.

I love temples and shrines in Japan! They are so beautiful! It was very busy today, since it's Saturday on holiday. It was pretty big and sprawling, but we made it to the top eventually. There was a beautiful view of Kyoto on one side and the mountain foresty area on the other.

I'll let my photos do most of the talking for this one (on facebook for now, I'll get them up on Picasa eventually)

At one moment I noticed a worm worming its way across the footpath, and was like "oh noes he will get squished!" so stopped to capture him and transport him to safety. This apparently utterly baffled an older lady who passed me, and she looked at Scott in amazement. Can't help it, the worm was in danger!

On the way back down from the temple, we found a nikuman stand, much to my delight. LOVES ME SOME NIKUMAN!

It was an exhausting day at the temple, so we're just takin it easy for tonight. The future holds museums and onsens.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Day 2

Yesterday was the one day on my visit that Scott had classes, so I took it easy and did the vacationing part of my vacation (meaning lots of naps). I did venture out for a walk around the neighborhood, hence the most recent batch of photos.

When the crew came back from class, we began preparations for the night's nabe party. Nabe is like hot pot, except there's just one big pot that you shove everything into and everyone dishes out from it. We went to the grocery to pick up ingredients, and I rode on the back of Scott's bicycle. It kind of gave me flashbacks to when I was little and rode in that plastic seat attached to the back of my dad's bike, though less terrifying and more painful over bumps.

The nabe party was delicious! There were 11 of us packed into the room, so we needed 2 pots, but there was plenty of tasty food to go around. Scott explained that nabe parties are pretty typical for the college crowd in Japan. I think I'd like to wrangle one together back home!

Now, even though I'm pretty much over my jetlag, I'm still an early bird and get sleepy way early. The plan was to go to karaoke after the nabe party, but 11 rolled around and I couldn't keep my eyes open. I do not have the stamina to keep up with these college kids! Granted, when I was in undergrad I rarely had the stamina to keep up then, so maybe it's just me. Anyway, I ducked out of karaoke, and it's a good thing because they JUST got back (it's like 6am over here). There's no way I would have made it.

Anyway, a fun day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Day 1

We got right off to an adventurous start today. After waking up and enjoying a tasty Scott-cooked breakfast, we made our way to The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum.

Lo, the educational wonders of the rich history of instant ramen! A large timeline wall displayed every product since instant ramen's inception in 1958! A colorful cartoon clearly geared for 10-year-olds explained the birth of the idea for cup noodles! And best of all...

That's right, I got to make my very own instant ramen! And I mean the noodles themselves - we got to roll them out and cut them and decorate our own package! Let's ignore the fact that Sena and I were the only two adults participating. Don't worry, photos will be forthcoming.

Other than that, I got reacquainted with all the little things I loved about Japan from my last visit: the textured sidewalk paths for the blind, CC Lemon, those little shortbread and chocolate things in the shapes of mushrooms, etc.

This evening, Scott cooked a delicious dinner of rice and pork and veggies. They have lemon-infused soy sauce here! I want to bring some home, if I can, but the logistics are tricky since I don't have any checked luggage. Anyway, Scott's mom would be proud of the cooking prowess he has inherited from her :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Osaka Adventure - Travel Phase

I am safe in Osaka, all! Chillaxing at the airport, currently, as Scott went to the wrong airport to get me, doh! Worry not, through the magic of Skype and free wireless internet, we were able to touch base and he is on the train bound for the correct airport :)

Meanwhile, the traveling phase went well enough. One of my super powers is my ability to sleep like a rock in even the most uncomfortable of situations, so I snoozed soundly through the long flight to Seoul. On the brief moments I was awake, the lady next to me was very enthusiastic about chatting and sharing her life story. She was bound home for the Philippines, she has seven children (all grown up), she and her husband have been married for 50 years and just got done driving up the coast of California and back. She was very nice, and envied my ability to sleep for the majority of the 14 hour flight.

Meanwhile, I had the longest layover EVER in Seoul. I got in at about 5am and my flight out wasn't until 1pm, so there was ample time for killing. I'd never been to Korea before, and even though I don't technically count being in just an airport as having visited a place, I did find the place enjoyable. For one, I think all airports could do with more large touch screen displays that give you step by step visual directions from where you are to whatever gate you need to go.

Also, they had these classy relaxation/lounge areas on the upper floors of the airports, with really comfy lounge couch chair thingies. I promptly took a nap for several hours :)

I killed the rest of the day with naps, a nice breakfast/lunch/jetlag meal (gyoza and orange soda, does it count as ethnic? I think it's still airport food, but it was tasty), interneting (I wish all airports in the world had free wifi!) and playing Phoenix Wright.

The hop from Seoul to Osaka was short enough, and now I wait for the arrival of Scott. What remains to be seen is if I can hold out for real food or if I'm going to buy 3 boxes of pocky and devour them before he gets here. Only time will tell!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

General Update

Things are going well in the Lisa-verse! Life is busy but good and generally on the up-and-up, though Derby season always makes me a little homesick for Louisville.

Last night, Nick and Nathan and Ross and I spent the evening playing Arkham Horror, which was my first time playing the game. I liked it quite a bit! I'm a sucker for cooperative board games anyway, but this one had a nice adventure element going on with it. It is very much like playing a one-shot session of D&D without the planning overhead that the DM has to do. Thinking about it in this way made it much easier to stomach the fact that it's a 5 hour game.

Granted, we all were devoured in the end, but I'd happily devote another evening to it. Next time I play I'll have a much better understanding of how things work, and make a more educated choice in my character.

Other updates!

1. Mr. Davis is doing really well - he loves the clicker training, goes out on walks with me, and is generally all about affection and snuggles. However, he has recently taken up the habit of climbing up the screen door when he's riled up and playing, which is problematic. What I need is a long, narrow strip of carpet that I can mount on the wall for him to climb up. Any idea on where to procure such an item?

2. I'm going to Japan in like 2 weeks! SO EXCITED! I'll be visiting Scott Coffrin, who I haven't seen in years, so that will be fun. It's a short, week-long trip, and I'll be in Osaka for most of it, with a day trip to Kyoto somewhere in there. Can't wait!

3. I have a boyfriend! That's old news to most of you, but I know not everyone keeps up with facebook relationship status changes :) We are going out on a fancy-pants date this very evening, in fact.

4. Work remains busy and fun and exciting and awesome.

That's about it from me for now, I suppose.

Monday, April 5, 2010

You seem to have alot of interests/hobbies/activities your currently active in, are all game designers like this or are their "lazier" ones?

Hmmm, an interesting one... I'm going to switch out "lazier" with "more directed in their interests," because I honestly don't think I know any lazy designers. It is true that I have a pretty eclectic pool of interests and experiences, and I do pull from each of them to help me in game design. Let me do a mental tally of the game designers I know and stack up their interests and hobbies, just a sec...

*Thoughtful intermission*

Interesting. On the one hand, 99% of the designers I know do each have a pretty varied range of other-than-game activities in which they participate and incorporate into their lives (cooking, music (listening, creating, performing), creative writing, outdoorsing, juggling, curling, building ninja warrior courses in their backyards, epic badminton tournaments, photography, going to the theater, slacklining, and on and on). Even the ones that are extremely passionate and devoted narrowly to playing games are generally up for the seeking out of new experiences. I guess that makes sense, it's like field research - the gathering of experiences.

On the OTHER hand, it would seem that most of the other game devs I know - programmers, artists, etc. - also fall into this boat of eclectic interest. Could it be that this is a common feature among game developers in general?

Ask me anything

Sunday, April 4, 2010

If you could be any kind of tree, how would you use that power to help mankind?

Were I to be a tree, I would be the mighty baobab tree! Roots are branches, up is down! I would dance about and stir up wonder about whether things are what they seem. Are those roots in the air? This is very un-treelike!

I would use this power to remind mankind that the world is full of puzzling things, and not to be afraid of contradictions.

The baobab is the Tree of Insight, and mankind is nourished by his insights.

Ask me anything

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Training Mr. Davis

I decided before I ever got my cat that I wanted to do clicker training with him. Mr. Davis is taking to it extremely well! One of the more recent things we were working on was having him jump up onto my wooden cube and wait there as I got his food for him - we've probably been at this for a little less than a week - me clicking and treating to get him up there, then clicking for him staying there for longer periods of time, then making the food and stopping to cue him back onto the cube and click and treat whenever he jumped down.

This morning, he meowed, jumped on the cube on his own, and watched me intently (and quietly) completely unprompted. He stayed there the whole time while I got his food, and waited until I said "Okay" to jump down, all without any clicks. I was so proud! It's super helpful, too, because he was one of those cats who twined around your legs while you were in the kitchen, making food preparation a treacherous occasion.

The biggest trick is figuring out the course of action to take to train him to do something, since it involves shaping tiny steps in the right direction. My current challenge is his morning "is it time to get up yet?" habit, which includes climbing up onto my chest, meowing in my ear, and putting his paw on my face. Since the idea being clicker training is that you reinforce behavior you want, and I can't very well bring the clicker and handful of treats to bed and spontaneously click when he's sleeping quietly, I will need a different strategy.

Other clicker skills I've taught him are "up" and "down" on cue, and to sit and let me put his harness on. Still working on a reliable "come," and a way for him to ask for me to play with him (his current strategy is to meow sadly and threaten the couch). Also, I'm teaching him to go into his crate, and to let me handle his paws so that I can clip his nails.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Kitty

I brought home my new cat from the shelter today! This is my first cat as an independent adult-type-person, and he is wonderful. His shelter name is Mr. Davis, and though he's been at the shelter for about a year, he doesn't seem too attached to it, so new names are up for grabs.

We were apparently meant to be, as when I visited him the first time at the shelter he crawled right into my lap, bypassing the finger-sniff-test altogether. Today when I went to pick him up, all the cats were stressed and cranky (they are moving locations, so everything was being packed and shuffled up. Mr. Davis was laying on the ground with a very "don't touch me" swishy tail, and the shelter people were looking for where they had packed the treats so they could lure him into the carrier. Then, all of a sudden, he stood up and waltzed right into the carrier, and then laid down and made himself comfortable. The shelter volunteers were in awe. Didn't make a peep the whole ride home.

He was very low key when I brought him home, and after some sniffy exploring, made right in with the purring and the snuggles. He's quite big, but very sweet. Here are photos!

And no, he doesn't have a drinking problem, Josh was just using that bottle as a scale clue.

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

From New Kitty

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Church trap

Every morning on my way to work, I pass a little church on Buena Vista which, like many little churches, has a sign out front with a new message every week. This place, however, has the most bizarre, quippy, and humorous messages I've ever seen on a church sign. It's to the point where I eagerly look forward to passing it, to see what weird or witty message is up.

Some favorites:

"I love the smell of chaos in the morning"

"It's not about the shoes"

"Avoid churches" (which was followed by a bible verse, Matthew, I think, I cant recall it)

I'm intrigued to the point that I might stop in one Sunday and see if the sermons are as snarky as the board sign.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Website wonders

Internet, what am I going to do with my website?

I've come a long way as a builder of website, from scrappy do-it-yourself php, to work-done-for-you plugins like Gallery, to now when part of me just wants to dump everything and use Google Sites because of how simple it is. I realize that everyone's website is "under construction" to some degree, but I have a bad habit of stopping early in grand designs.

Right now my biggest problem is that I feel dispersed across the internet. I want my website to be a centralizing force, but I'm not sure what I want that to mean, exactly. Here's an inventory of my internet doings:

My portfolio site, which rose up to a state of half-finishedness before my getting a job and losing all motivation to make it pretty. The process was this: I'll just lay out all the text and the basic format, and go in and make a stylish design and fancy menu later. As is evidence by my straight up text link navigation, "later" never happened. It is certainly minimal and straightforward, and I did toy with integrating some personal site stuff (as evidence by the sidebar on the first page), but nothing is set in stone.

My personal site, which is in absolute shambles. My intention for this place was to store my various non-professional projects and art, and at the time I was super proud of myself for getting Gallery up and running and integrated. I love to have that stuff sharable, but I hate that my personal site is tucked back and hidden. Is it appropriate, now that I have a job, to once more integrate all this stuff together?

My blogs, one of which is this one, and crossposted to Livejournal, my personal site, and Facebook notes. The other two could fall under the category of "projects," I suppose.

My Picasa site, where I post my photos, both social fun photographs and my fledgeling attempts at Photography.

Add my Formspring and Twitter pages and I am spread and crossposted pretty thin.

Everyone has the sweeping desire to overhaul their website from time to time, and I'm up for the undertaking, I just need a *plan* before I go in this time. Should I Google Site it afterall? What are my goals with my web presence, beyond just consolidation? Who is my audience? What are my intentions??

Any advice is welcome.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Strawberry Kiwi Pie

My pie-for-games program at work has been a huge success. The long and short of it is, I want to play a new game that's just come out, so I say that the first person to finish the game and lends it to me gets a pie of their choosing. Cheng won this round with Heavy Rain by lending it to me before he'd even played it, as he wants to play Assassin's Creed 2 first.

ANYway, he requested my strawberry kiwi pie, which is somewhat of a Lisa Brown concoction, and I thought I'd record it here to share (and so I can look it up easily later. I swear I wrote this down on the internet sometime before, but maybe not.)

I always use the crust from this recipe for my pies. It's simple and tasty. If you have another crust recipe you prefer, then go ahead and use it.

2 1/2 cups(ish) of strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
2 1/2 cups(ish) of chopped kiwi
(I'm really guestimating these amounts, I tend to grab "what looks right." So maybe 4 or 5 kiwi fruit and a container of fresh strawberries)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees F

Prepare the crust as per this recipe.

Mix the filling ingredients together.

Line a pie pan with half the crust. Pour filling into the crust. Dot the filling with 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. Cover with top crust and slice vents.

Put some foil around the edges of the crust. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350, remove foil, and bake for 25-30 minutes more, until it's all bubbly and such.

Friday, February 12, 2010

depict1 and Robot Unicorn Attack

Two games to discuss tonight, go!

First up is depict1, a platformer that's also kind of a mind trip. It's full of smiley surprises, and it has a subtle way of playing with our natural instinct to trust and listen to the tutorial man. In a way, it probes something deep down and makes me a little squirmy, but just barely, and not enough to decrease how enjoyable the game is.

The trick is not to get frustrated by its initial premise and the search for controls. Just check the readme file, it's not that big a spoiler.

Secondly is the ever-popular Robot Unicorn Attack (short ad before the game). Now, I thought that Canabalt was pretty clever, what with its procedurally generated courses and all, but I played it like 2 or 3 times and then shrugged it off. Robot Unicorn Attack, on the other hand, I can't stop!! The music! The rainbows! The sparkles! I cannot resist their juiciness!

It just goes to show how important the theming and aesthetic wrapper of your game can be. (For those who don't feel like playing them or don't have the time, here's the spoiler: it's the same game).

Also, I want that song, surely that song has to be in downloadable form someplace by now, right?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Football insight

While watching the Superbowl tonight, I had an insight. I realized that the time I started enjoying football corresponded with when they started using augmented reality to render the first down line.

I used to be all, "I don't know what's going on! Wait, why are they switching out? What happened? Was that a good thing? Did something good happen?" And I pretty much gave up on attempting to watch the sport.

Now it's easy, I just look at the screen and think "Okay, they have to get to there, got it." Suddenly, football is enjoyable to watch!

It's amazing how a little piece of technology can make something so much more accessible to a casual audience!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Game Design Toolbox

One of my favorite assignments in Game Design was building the Toolbox. We had to think of games we'd played from every year starting when we were 5 years old, and jot down a useful memory about the game. Useful in terms of something we learned from it game-design-wise. It was a very useful tool, and I'm always adding onto it.

However, I wanted to do two things: 1) Put the toolbox in a format that would be easily categorized, searchable, and easy to add on to, and 2) A format that was easy to share with others.

As such, I've started a new blog: Wertle's Game Design Toolbox

I've already copied over the information from the original toolbox, but there is still MUCH to add. For example, as a preliminary exercise, I made a list of every video game I can ever remember having played EVER. Now I have to add each one to the toolbox with a corresponding memory.

I have about 200 entries to add, and that's just video games. I haven't even started a list for other types of games!

This is a huge project, but I intend to catch up, so that eventually adding new entries will be gradual. I also intend to make lots of tags, so that I can look up entries by system, by genre, or by insight.

How long do you think it'll take me to add all my games?


Today's favorite of the Gamasutra weekly indie game pick is Sheep, a game where you are a sheepdog herding sheep! Well, sort of.

See, in this situation, the sheep chase the dog instead of the other way around.

Regardless, I found it had a few nice little twists on game mechanics that I'm used to. For example, the rams will hurt you if they touch you, so you have to keep away from them. But you are still leading them, so you can't let any of them die by falling into water or getting caught by the wolf.

I don't think I'd ever played a game before where you have to preserve and keep safe the thing that is chasing and trying to hurt you. I'd like to explore that idea further!

There are a few quirky things about the game, such as the difficulty ramping being a little sporadic (I found the hardest levels to be sprinkled throughout, rather than each level being more difficult than the last). Regardless, I found the interaction to be fresh and fun, and the music was nice in all of its midi-ness.

It's very short, so give it a try!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I've been keeping my brain filled up on books, but I've been slacking in my intentions to give my thoughts on them. My two most recent excursions have been A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins.

A Confederacy of Dunces was a bit of a rough read, not because it was bad or anything. On the contrary, the dialog brought its characters to life in impressively distinct and colorful ways. It's just that most of the characters are so dreadful and hate-able that it's hard to endure their presence for very long. I kept thinking "if these people don't each get theirs in the end, I'm going to be really upset."

Fortunately, I was not upset! The ending wrapped things up in the most pleasing way it could, and I was satisfied. However, I don't think I'd go on that adventure a second time.

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, on the other hand, I enjoyed very much from start to finish. Tom Robbins has a way of pouring out words in buckets, and my brain had a way of lapping it all up into order. It's strange, too, because some wordy authors I don't like at all, I just read too quickly and get tangled up in the words. With Robbins, though, everything synched up, and I ended up being delighted by his wordiness. Not to mention the fact that the story was engaging and the characters all felt real.

It was also fun because Josh, who lent it to me, had written notes in the margins and underlined phrases throughout. I love it when that happens in books, because it makes me feel like I'm spying on the inside of someone's brain.

Anyway, if you're looking for a new book to read, I'd highly recommend the Robbins book, but approach A Confederacy of Dunces at your own risk.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Silent Protagonist Does NOT Guarantee Awesomeness

The theme of today's entry is "correlation does not imply causation," except I'm not talking about vaccines. I'm talking about the frequent notion that a silent protagonist in a video game makes for a more immersive experience. A recent Kotaku article got me thinking about this, but I intend to look at the matter in a more specific and less, uh, prickly point of view. Now, I'm going to slim the playing field a bit and talk specifically about silent heroes in first person shooters, in interest of time and clarity of point.

This blog post is Longsville, you have been warned.

The argument goes like this: In an FPS, immersion is very important, and not having the character speak will help the players put themselves into the role of the character, and thus become more immersed. I am on board with trying to solve the presented problem, but I think the proposed solution is making the problem worse, not solving it.

First off, yes, immersion IS very important in a first-person game, because experiencing a game in first person is the LEAST immersive format for interacting with a game world. All the other immersion tricks have to kick it up a notch, because you're already working in a very challenging structure. Playing a first-person game, to me, is like watching an event through a video camera. It sucks to be the camera person, because your world is crammed through such a limited scope, that even though you were there and you technically *saw* the action, you feel like you're missing out on the experience. And cranking up the field of view certainly doesn't help, because generally the only thing you have to anchor your brain into is the weapon you're holding in front of you.

So yes, immersion tricks are very important in an FPS. But is having it so your character doesn't talk a good way to create immersion in the first-person world?

I'm going to look at two pieces of evidence often used to support the silent protagonist argument. One is, Half-Life 2 was awesome. The second is, FPS games where the hero talks have often had terrible dialog.

Let me knock out the second one real quick: I don't believe that the game being in first-person causes the dialog to be terrible. I believe the dialog is terrible because the dialog is terrible. Terrible dialog in third-person games is also pretty terrible, and I could go on, but I've made an entry before about my feelings on the quality of dialog writing in games in general. I'll sum this paragraph up by saying, what the hell kind of argument is that anyway?


On to Half-Life 2. For those of you who've never played it, Half-Life, specifically Half-Life 2 (hereon referred to as HL2) is a game where you never see yourself and your character never makes a peep, EVER. There are no cutscenes in the game, but it has highly cinematic moments and the story is told via how the other characters interact with you. They even occasionally jest at your silence. HL2 is also one of the best first-person shooters ever made, and super awesome fun times.

Now, for me, the most annoying aspect of the game was that my character never spoke. I didn't feel like "oh it's ME in the game" as a result of that, I just grumbled a bit moved on with enjoying myself. That's purely a personal thing, as probably most people don't care about the fact that Gordon Freeman never speaks. Otherwise, it was fun, and pretty immersive for an FPS. It certainly wouldn't make my "Top 3 Games where Lisa Felt Integrated into the Game World," but if we limited the scope to just FPS games (having outlined their default handicap in immersion) HL2 would certainly be #1.

Here's where it gets tricky. If HL2 was Lisa's #1 immersive FPS, and the character never speaks, then having a silent character is a good way to get immersion into an FPS, right? NO. No, you guys, no no no. Correlation does not imply causation! CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!!

First, the thing that makes HL2 super immersive for me is that gravity gun. This is probably a very personal thing, as it is doubtful that many people set out to whitewash Ravenholm once they discovered that the paint bucket would leave a splatter on the surface of anything it collided with. ANYway, the point is, this game has a lot going for it to get the player into it: environmental interaction, great design, inclusive cinematic storytelling, etc.

So lets talk about Gordon McSilent Freeman. The argument says that a silent hero lets players put themselves into that role and act as themselves instead of a character; that argument doesn't really apply here. I was Gordon Freeman, I wasn't me, I wasn't even Lisa Brown in a Gordon Freeman suit. People weren't talking to me, Lisa Brown, they were talking to Gordon Freeman. They made it very clear that I was Gordon Freeman, because everywhere I went every NPC was like "OMG it's Gordon Freeman!" And I felt awesome because everyone loved me. Me, Gordon Freeman. There's an excellent article someplace about how Valve strengthened the character via how everyone in the game interacted with him, and it's cleverly done and you should read it sometime, once I dig it back up to link to it.

Gordon's silence was annoying to me, but it made sense with the game, and it was executed well since you never, ever, ever, EVER saw yourself. If Freeman had talked but I'd never seen him in a cinematic, yeah, it'd be totally weird. So it works for HL2, that doesn't mean it works for all FPS games.

Lets talk about shooters with cutscenes where you get to see the character you are playing, and watch him interact with NPCs, and hear him speak.

Someone once told me, more or less, that if a game HAD to have cutscenes with the main character speaking in it, then the best you could do in spite of those cutscenes was to have the character silent in gameplay. This is COMPLETELY counter-intuitive to me, and I feel the complete opposite is true. If you're watching your character, the person you're anchoring your brain in, and you see who they are and how they act with people, and in gameplay never say a word at the EXPENSE of its use as a storytelling tool, you are working against immersion!

What I mean is, if having the character say something in gameplay would a) Clarify a situation, b) Make an efficient connection between the story and the gameplay, c) Avoid awkward and expository dialog on the part of the NPCs who are talking to you but not with you, d) Delight the player by having his character say what is in the player's mind at the right time, drawing him more deeply into the world, e) Strengthen the anchor between the player's brain and the character he is engaging the world through, f) And you have the talent and resources to write good dialog and get good actors to perform it, and you choose to throw that tool away in order to accommodate protagonist silence, you are throwing away an elegant tool for immersing the player!

To me, Gordon Freeman's silence in Half-Life 2 was NOT a tool. It was something that had to be supported by the rest of the game to make sense and feel right. If you really want to make a game with no cutscenes a la Half-Life, but you can't for whatever reason, then doing it halfway doesn't get you half of the awesomeness. It doesn't work like that! You have to approach it in a different way, and get your awesomeness through a different channel! Character voice is a potentially amazing tool, and you'd better have a damned good reason for cutting it.

And now for your tl;dr summary:

Even though there is a correlation between a silent protagonist and Half-Life 2's awesomeness, that does not mean that the silent protagonist was the CAUSE of Half-Life 2's awesomeness.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Borderlands' Lost Opportunity

As a pre-birthday treat, I spent aaaaaall day today playing Borderlands with Josh. As I mentioned before, I am finding Borderlands an absolutely delightful co-op experience and am having a great time. But man, they blew it for me today.

A tale follows of a missed opportunity. There are spoilers, but apparently they aren't that big a deal.

So one of the very first quest-givers you meet in the game is TK, a one-legged blind man who lives alone on a little ranch just outside of the first town. He's a quirky guy and you go out on a lot of quests for him, dealing with bandits and such, eventually even retrieving his prosthetic leg from the Scag who bit it off some years ago. Of course, it's nothing more than a stick and a boot by this point, but seeing that TK reattaches it to his stump brought a smile to my face.

Much later on in the game, you get a quest to go back and check in on TK to see how he's doing. I was excited by this, because I liked the character a lot and was hoping he'd have new quests for us, now that we were grown-ups compared to when we first met him.

When we pulled up to his ranch, I saw that his porch chair was empty, and I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. TK never left his porch, nor did he ever leave the door to his ranch house open as it was now. When we entered the house, there was TK. He was hanging by his artificial leg from the ceiling fan, slowly rotating over a pool of blood.

I was like:

. . .

NOOOOOO!!! I was heartbroken! I swear I haven't had an emotional response to a video game this strong since they killed off Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. Josh and I were OUTRAGED. We thirsted for vengeance! A few bandits ambushed us, the culprits no doubt, and we mowed them down in fury.

Then we hopped back in our car and rushed back to New Haven (not Connecticut, the town in the game) to turn in the check-on-TK quest. We were anxious to get the next stage in the quest, which would surely be to hunt down the mastermind behind TK's murder and DESTROY him.

Anxiously we rushed up to Scooter and turned in the quest. What we got was:

"Aw, TK's dead? That's too bad. We'll drink to him tonight!"

And that was it.

I was stunned. Really? That's it? THAT'S ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY??? Now I was outraged for a new reason.

WTF, Gearbox, you had such an amazing golden opportunity to act on an emotional investment in your game! You had it right there, in the PALM OF YOUR HAND! It would have been so easy to capitalize on that. SO EASY. And that's it? Nothing?? REALLY????


I'm making up for the lack by pretending that every boss we set out to kill now was part of an elaborate scheme on TK's death, and that I'm assassinating each person responsible. But really, how dismally disappointing.

It was RIGHT THERE. Why didn't you do anything with it? WHYYYYY???

Arglebarglebargle! Hrmph.

Don't worry TK, I'll remember you. I'll always remember you! *Sniff*

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun with Words

So I was thinking about how something in my last facebook status post sounded off, and upon identifying it, I became curious. I should have said "since Drew Barrymore was IN E.T" and not "on." Saying on was making me think of Entertainment Tonight, not the movie.

Have you noticed that we tend to say an actor is "in" a movie, but "on" a TV show? Why is that? From whence did it develop?

Linguistics friends, I expect answers!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy times

I've packed more social activities into this week than I have in ages! Granted, they all took some form of nerdery, but it's still hard to stay "on" for so many consecutive nights. I shall look forward to a day of rest in the morning. Not to say that I'm complaining!

We've started up a mostly-weekly board game night at work, and this week I brought my cards to the table in the form of Give Me the Brain and my favorite card game, Once Upon a Time. It is an absolute joy to play Once Upon a Time with a group of creative storytellers who play in to the cooperative part of the game! I really do need to get a whole deck of blank cards to expand the storytelling arsenal. It's an exhausting game, however, requiring a lot of creative energy, so it is paired well with Give Me the Brain, which is quick and low-key.

Friday night was the first in a twice-monthly D&D campaign, again with friends from work, and it is a fantastic adventure so far! I love pen and paper RPGs, and have nothing but respect for people who are willing to DM. The format is lax enough that people can come and go from the core group, so that we don't face the often-game-killing dilemma of not being able to get everyone together at the same time. We're playing 3rd edition, as it was all of our favorites (I have no experience with 4th edition, but the ones who had played it didn't like it at all compared to 3rd).

Today I visited with Josh and we gave Borderlands a try, and ended up playing all day long! I really enjoy the game, but I can see how it shines best when played cooperatively. I think the music in the game has been under-appreciated - it sets the mood so well! It's a good combination of genres for my tastes, too. The FPSness is pretty mild, and the RPGness isn't too deep. A good "casual" blend, though I realize that casual is probably an inappropriate word for what I'm trying to describe. Plus, anything with quests is a hook in my mouth, and I foresee playing more in the future.

Tonight, I went to Will's to kick off the Venture Brothers Marathon which we have been talking about doing for some time. We skipped season 1, since I've seen it in full several times, and got good headway into season 2 tonight. It always surprises me what a well put-together show that is!

As for tomorrow, I intend to do some nesting, a bit of cooking, and then spend the rest of it in bed. Is the last week of January upon us already?!?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Defend Your Honor

I post links on twitter a lot to various short indie games that I like, but I'm trying to get into the habit of making more thoughtful journal entries on them (like I did for Continuity).

Today's game of choice is Defend Your Honor, a Flash fantasy-themed tower defense game. I went into this one cautiously, because I'm generally not a huge fan of tower defense games.

This one, however, was great! It has a silly story and a rudimentary but appealing art style, and the music is quite enjoyable (the theme that plays when you're out in the dungeon picking out which door to go to is delightful and addictive).

I think the theme wrapper of the game as a sort of classic, D&D-style dungeon fantasy adventure helped hook me in. The units you control are quite simple, and the battles themselves are relatively short. I never failed a battle more than twice, but there were plenty of close calls that made me feel clever and kept things interesting.

Having the meta-game of getting the keys and statues to progress through dungeon rooms really helped to break up the pacing, as tower defense games I've played in the past have exhausted me with their format. Plus, having the units be introduced to you as characters is a nice little tie-in, but they didn't overdo it by trying to over-explain things (like how you can buy multiple units of what appears to be a single character). The lightness and crudeness of the story makes this tactic acceptable.

I played through the whole thing in an evening, but it does save your progress. So, if you've been "meh" about tower defense games in the past, give this one a try. It's quick and fun!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Decade Photos

Here's a meme I just made up. Post a photo of yourself from each year of the past decade, with accompanying blurb. You only get to pick ONE for each year!

From Lisa's Decade

I'm actually only 99% certain this is from 2000. As I recall, it was my last volunteer trip on my last summer as a volunteer for the Louisville Science Center, to the magical realm of COSI. If it's actually from 99, then some LSC person correct me. Either way, my brain says it's 2000, and what a magical unicycle ride on a tight rope it was!

From Lisa's Decade

In February, I dressed up in a cupid-like fashion, ran around and shot people with my nerf crossbow, and then showered them in "hugs and kisses" (of the Hershey's variety).

From Lisa's Decade

That's me in the booth! I was running the light board for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at Centre. A fabulous performance, if I do recall. Lookit how long my hair is!

From Lisa's Decade

This is me at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, whacking a machete against a rock. Ah, the tasks one does in props!

From Lisa's Decade

While scavenging the Long Island Sound, I found this horseshoe crab! A good portion of 2004 was spent living in Connecticut.

From Lisa's Decade

This was the year I went to Japan. Here I am eating my first meal in the country with Andrew.

From Lisa's Decade

This is my favorite photo ever of me with my cousins. Hooray for family!

From Lisa's Decade

The year of the ETC! Here we are as bright and ambitious young first-years, at the Chihuly exhibit at the Phipp's.

From Lisa's Decade

OMG you guys remember when it snowed a bunch and we made that gigantic snow monster? TEAMWORK! No one was crushed by the giant snowball we pushed up onto the other giant snowball by using a ramp made of snow.

From Lisa's Decade

Ah, graduation. Don't I look all Dr. Professional?

From Lisa's Decade

One of the first photos of the New Year! Me with Tracy Brown (no relation) at the New Year's Eve feast.