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.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Decade in Review

I've seen lots of these go around, and in spite of being a year short, they seem fun and insightful. It's certainly a nice way to scope one's accomplishments in the long term.

So, Lisa's Accomplishments in the Past Decade...

1) Graduated from High School

2) Ran the longest (and probably most enjoyable) D&D campaign I've ever been involved in

3) Went to and graduated from Centre College, stuffing my brain 4 years full of liberal arts experience and knowledge

4) Learned to paint with oils, painting many pieces therewith

5) Became a glassblower, and spent several years in the intense artistry of working with hot glass, making many pieces in the process

6) Took a computer science class on a whim, having no prior programming experience, and ended up double majoring in it

7) Ate sushi for the first time

8) Started my Livejournal

9) Immersed myself in the world of theater tech, ultimately becoming a props and puppet designer

10) Went to England and saw 30 plays in 3 and a half weeks, all over the country

11) Built a glass furnace from the ground up

12) Sold my first art

13) Used Napster

14) Won an award for the comic I drew for the college newspaper.

15) Got a job in regional theater building props

16) Ate my first lobster

17) Quit the theater

18) Had my first romantic relationship

19) Began keeping betta fish

20) Became a web developer

21) Got a job at the high school from which I graduated

22) Got my first apartment and spent 2 awesome years living there with Scott

23) Helped out on a number of independent animation projects, as producer and occasional animator

24) Started playing World of Warcraft

25) Went to Japan

26) Started a video game club for the students at an all-girls high school

27) Applied to, was accepted to, and eventually graduated from Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center with a Masters Degree

28) Found my calling as a game designer

29) Started a career

30) Lived in and visited cities all across the United States, including Louisville, Danville, KY, Stockbridge, MA, Westbrook and New Haven, CT, Pittsburgh, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin, TX, Orlando, and probably a few others that I'm inevitably forgetting.

Phew! I did a lot in 10 years!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Review

On my birthday last year, I made the mental note that 27 was going to be a good year, and it turned out to be true! I feel like I have grown leaps and bounds in just one year, and I'm very grateful for everything that has happened thus far. Let's sum up 2009...

- I opened the year in the most restful of ways: a self-imposed 2 week sleep experiment, wherein I slept as much as I wanted and when I wanted. I not only caught up on much needed rest, but learned a good deal about myself and my biological needs, enough to no longer feel guilty about sleeping too much. In a way, it was a means of forgiving myself. I have since become much more accepting of myself and my peculiar lack of energy and rest needs. It's amazing how simply not feeling guilty about something can change so much!

- I finished off my last semester at the ETC with a game design internship at Schell Games, working on unannounced projects and doing design work on the Disney Fairies MMO. My time at Schell was amazing and full of fun and good learning. I think my favorite thing about the company is the commraderie of its employees, the quality of which I haven't run into any place else. Schell Trek, our some-months-long lunch time Star Trek marathon, complete with trivia quizzes and pez dispenser prizes, was probably the best illustration of this. Not a lunch went by where the Schell Games lounge wasn't packed full of studio devs, anxious to watch that day's specially chosen episode. It was a fanatastic close to the spring. I love you Schell Games!

- The spring of 2009 also saw a lot of my time spent volunteering at Animal Friends, an animal shelter local to Pittsburgh. The relationships I developed with the animals there greatly improve my quality of life. I am anxious to get back to shelter volunteering now that I'm in LA, but when I moved out here, all the volunteer orientations for the local shelters were full. I'll have to wait until later this January to get back into the swing of it. Volunteering in some capacity, I think, is an important part of my life that I am often prone to neglect.

- 2009 also saw my feeble attempt at internet dating. Spurred on by the recommendations and success stories of friends, I gave OKCupid a try, figuring a little social education couldn't hurt. I talked with a variety of folks, went on a smattering of dates, but it all confirmed that, while it works wonders for others, internet dating is NOT for me. I eventually identified it as a major stressor in my life, so I isolated and DESTROYED it (i.e. deleted my profile) and I am happier because of it. Dating still sounds like a chore to me right now, so I'm putting it off for a more appropriate time.

- The biggest event of my life this year (besides graduating and getting my Masters degree) was my accepting the game designer position at Insomniac and moving across the country to Burbank. Some people are all about following their dreams and all that, but if you'd have asked me even 5 years ago if I expected to be working in video game development and living in Los Angeles, you would have received the blankest of stares. People have frequently exclaimed at my good fortune that I am "living my dream," but while that seems to fit the perception of others, it's not really true for me in the sense that this was never really a childhood dream of mine. I just happened to stumble into it, and realize that I'd finally found the thing to make me happy! Regardless of the route, the destination was the same: I LOVE what I'm doing, and I'm grateful every day for the position I have found myself in. I hope to be making games for a long time to come!

- As I have done every few years, I have been watching through Fullmetal Alchemist again, this time with Josh. FMA is by far my favorite anime of all time, and I love to share it with people who have never seen it. I hear from Scott that Brotherhood is fantastic, and hope to pick it up after I finish my run through of the original. Hulu, you bring us such wonders!

- I closed off 2009, as I have in the past, with wonderful, restful times spent with family and friends. Ballermas in Louisville (which I consider to have spanned all the days of my visit) was full of delicious food and fun games and happy puppies and wonderful friends. My dearest Louisville friends, I always keep you close in my heart! It was so good to see all of you! Similarly, I rung in the New Year in Pittsburgh with the ETCers, and did a lot of crazy, cross-cultural New Years traditions, including running across the street and back with luggage in one hand and cash in the other. Let's hope it brings me prosperity and safe travels! I also spent a huge portion of time backseat gaming while Andy played Assassin's Creed II, but that is a post in and of itself.

Anyway, I hope that 2010 brings adventure and opportunity to everyone! Happy New Year!