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Catmull, Chapter 13

-> Go All In On The Initiative

Notes day was organized from within, incorporated feedback processes from the entire company and encouraged all employees to voluntarily participate.  The company committed to the project, scheduling out an entire day for everyone to focus entirely on the event.  Just as important is for the leaders to set the tone of honesty and openness to feedback and criticism. 

Catmull, Chapter 12

-> The Roadmap Will Restrict Your Thinking
Approach the future as a open opportunity to end up outside of your initial plans.  The goal isn't to land where you set out to, but to find out where you want to go as you move.  The pyramid that Catmull draws for the Head of HR, Ann Le Cam, shows that the problem space of a plan has to allow for zig-zagging and even landing outside of the triangle.


-> Independent and Capable
Keeping Disney Animation and Pixar separate and independent was essential to giving each studio the confidence to solve problems on their own.  Both studios asked to use the other's resources when they struggled with production problems.  But the insistence that help would not be coming not only forced them to innovate to a solution, but proved that they were capable of doing so.  Being responsible fostered a sense of personal ownership and pride amongst the teams.

-> Personal Connection
Support your team with personal gratitude for the team's contributions, for everyone at the studio made it possible.  Pixar believes that each film belongs to everyone, and that "ideas can come from anywhere".  People value the personal gesture and delivery of thanks.

Catmull, Chapter 11

-> "Creativity is more like a marathon than a sprint"
It takes time to discover and realize your vision.  Don't let the daunting task get to you.  Bring dedication and an eagerness to struggle through the work.

-> Be confident that you will conquer the uncertainty to create something new.
The uncertainty of the unmade future will always start out as a scary beast.  But you can find the confidence in yourself: believe that you will figure it out even though you may not know exactly what to do yet.

-> Move quickly, don't think, and get into the flow of Zen
The captain has to keep the ship moving at all times or it will sink.  Focus on doing, exploring, finding the wrong way early.  Connect with the creative work and listen to what it wants to be.

Lost in Sky

Life can sometimes feel like this.  You just want to fly but are out of energy and stuck in the ground.




Gnomon Level Design - A Core Statement

Last week I started the Level Design course at Gnomon with Zachary Adams. Our first assignment will involve redesigning the Veldin level in Ratchet and Clank. I'm starting with my core statement:

"magical guns on a war torn battlefield"

Numeric Treadmill

The numeric power up treadmill in games presents as a treadmill because the actions available to the player are essentially the same. Progression in difficulty becomes a counting game of managing your margin of error on perfect executions.

This system is the backbone of many game systems. The numbers go up, while the player's skill also goes up. This type of system is accounts for the wide, wide range of player ability. Players that execute poorly are given and increasingly wide margin of error to work with. While players that execute perfectly are pushed to continue to do so.

But the interesting extension of gameplay comes from the introduction of abilities and talents, which often have a multiplicative effect. They add to the number of options a player has. They change the way a player approaches a problem.

A Cat's Desire

My cat desires to go outside every morning. She meows and meows to wake me up and pats the door to ask me to let her out. Some days she gets to chase the birds away. Some days she has a visiting cat over. And some days when the sun is out, shining bright and warm she sits in the grass to in deep contemplation. I wish I knew the stories of whatever escapades she's been through, and the ideas that spring forth in her cat's mind.

A Rough Take on F2P Time Value

The time value of some popular virtual rewards is set to about 50 hours for $50, or a dollar an hour (at best). Usually, the price would start near 50 cents. When the cost is this low, it's certainly easy to calculate out the time savings and justify a purchase over spending the time in game earning points to redeem the rewards. At this price, players have access to $480 a month with a bit of sleep.

A Retreat from Multiplayer

When it comes to multiplayer games and multi-person experiences, there's a heavy dependence on other participants to create a good and enjoyable activity. When time is limited, this risk of ruined lobbies, disconnects, afks, and overall negative input from misbehaving players starts to gnaw away at the good parts of the game.

The Die is Cast!

Julius Caesar quoted: "iacta alea es" (the die is cast), upon crossing the Rubicon.  There is a point at which you must take forward action and bear the consequences.  The uncertainty falls away once you throw your choice of dice down onto the table and they begin to land.

Moon Cakes after Moon Cakes

The cake after the moon brings back the memories of the moon cake.

Growing Seeds

I like the metaphor of the growing seeds. To grow a plant you must bury it and consistently water it until it is able to seek light. When it is below the surface, there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether this plant is going to take root. It's hidden from view.


Creating a new project has been similar for me. It will take time to nurture the ideas into a growing tree, and I'm yet to know what shape it will take until it grows up.

Catmull, Chapter 10

There's so many ways to enable your team to think with the big picture.


Quoted from the book:

Broadening Our View

  1. Dailies, or Solving Problems Together
  2. Research Trips
  3. The Power of Limits
  4. Integrating Technology and Art
  5. Short Experiments
  6. Learning to See
  7. Postmortems
  8. Continuing to Learn

Catmull, Chapter 9

-> The Curse of Limited Perception
We are limited by our means of perception.  The curse is also on those who cannot see the truth and


-> Watch Out for The Hidden
Leaders will miss the problems they cannot see.  There is always an invisible problem.

-> Prepare for The Unknown Problem
Don't wait for the inevitable failures to come to pass.  Prepare your organization to deal with them.

Catmull, Chapter 8

->Stochastic Self-similarity
Problems of different size and magnitude have more similarities than first meets the eye.

-> Big and Small Problems
Create a response structure that matches the problem structure. Everyone should be free and motivated to solved whatever problem they face, no matter how big or how small.

-> Build A Framework for Potential
A company grows on the excellent people within it, who rise up with talent and excellence.

-> Look Forward, Not Back
Don't ask "What would Walt do?" This thinking inhibits creativity and only walls in your position to the work of the past.

Genshin Impact: Starter Roster

 



I have to say, I'm pretty happy with the characters I pulled with the early game rewards!  Xiangling is great, since I really like staff combat.  Fischl is an awesome support, even with the lackluster archery.  And Noelle is just a well rounded swordswoman with a very effective shielding ability.  Bennett is alright with a fun and fast weapon, but his explosion knocks everyone out of combat, including himself (am I using him incorrectly?).

The game has been pretty rewarding to play so far, and now that my roster has been filled out I'm excited to explore further.  The only downside for me so far is the level requirement for unlocking multiplayer, as I think that is where I'll enjoy the game the most.



Hades: Credits





Got to the credits! Challenged myself to high heat! I pushed up to about 40 hours in Hades, and had a blast fine tuning my builds and learning the intricacies of each weapon. Today I rushed to the battlefield again, but hit a snag and failed to clear the final boss multiple times in a row. In my last run, I turned on God Mode, to see what it's like, and perhaps make some runs towards completing the game. I bit off a bit more than I could handle, borrowed 300 from Charon, and quickly died.


Weird thing is that my infernal arms records got reset. The save data still works but the stats on the first page in the administrative chamber only show my god mode death.  The little perfectionist in me says that's enough Hades for now (especially after clearing the ending). I still love the progression and challenge and pressure to death, and have high hopes to continue running this game in the future!

Here's my records, which I'm super proud of!



Actions and Choices

Games are based on actions and choices.  Players get a designed set of actions that they may perform and the ability to choose between them, and to power to choose the contexts (where, when, why, how) in which they are performed.

How many actions and how many choices makes a great game?  It really depends on the type of game, and the amount of depth and engagement you want to ask of the player. It's not only important to allow the player to make their best actions but also important to give them the opportunity to refrain from taking actions where not needed.


2020 Harvest Moon

 Harvest Moon this year.  It's a warm orange hue that can't quite be captured by my old cameras.


60 Years

Sixty years is an impressive milestone!  I hope that my work can also celebrate a 60th birthday!



Antifragile

Antifragility came up in a couple of conversations this week.  Both in the context of design, learning, and societal issues.  As a concept it's a very strong tool to apply to any situation, to help us identify the factors that lead to growth.  The degree of stress that a particular person or situation can withstand is certainly variable, and we must be wary to strike a blow that is not too soft nor too hard.

Time Scale

We perceive the world on a time scale that is uniquely human. Yet infinitely many time scales are a possibility. The plant that patiently spends day and night germinating eventually stands tall.


The effect of change is a function of the time scale of operation. When nations are born they set out to foster prosperity for generations. The ebbing and flowing of ideas and exchange are set to a tune with low frequency and long wavelength, set to drive the effort forward for hundreds of years.

When abrupt disruptions and short-term thinking invade our outlook, we shrink into an tiny, ineffectual time scale that is at odds with the great deeds desired to be done.

Dice Games

In an action or rpg game, the player has to manage combat on top of the other meta game progression systems.  In a game of chance, the only thing we have to focus on are the dice and how they are cast.  The abilities we gain can improve our lot if we sequence it right.

UBER's Forced Mobile UX

I used UBER today to try out a promotion.  It was a challenging experience trying to use the service from my computer, and my patience was tested.  Here are the steps, in case your account doesn't have a mobile number associated (mine did not):

-> Can't login to UBER Eats because my account doesn't have a phone number associated, so I cannot verify via SMS

-> Login using the regular website using Google Authentication

-> Switch back to Eats to become logged in by association to the regular UBER site.

-> Place an order

-> Cannot place order because I don't have a phone number associated with the account

-> Cannot add a phone number via the website

-> Download the Eats app

-> Cannot log in to the Eats app, because again, I have no way of verifying via mobile number

-> Download the UBER app, login with Google (again), and add a phone number

-> Switch back to desktop to try and complete my order.  Error.

-> Login to Eats app and complete my order.

In the end, I really wasn't able to do anything from my computer.

The Magic of Discovery

It is upon all our known that the magic of discovery arises.

A few quotes from the Library of Lenia

Quotes from the Library of Lenia
"To see is to know, to know is to seek."
"The mind is a fragile vessel for the most valuable gems."

Hades

Great Gods! This game is good.

The rogue-like formula is presented wholistically in Hades, with all the tough decision-making, strategizing, and making tradeoffs between getting more powerful and staying healthy. It took me 17 runs to do my first clear, and I was immediately motivated to jump right back in to try winning with different weapons.


The world, characters, and visuals are my favourite part about this game. Greek mythology is presented very refreshingly, even though these are all characters that I have heard of and read about in the classics, it's another level when they come to life fully voice-acted in a family drama.


I ended up going with the longest range build possible, to avoid damage and kill from afar. My favorite powers were from Dionysius: inflicting stacks of 'hangover' would slowly whittle my enemy down with a poison-like effect. It felt a bit cheesy (doesn't mean executing it successfully was easy!), but the beauty of it is the decision about playstyle is entirely up to the player.

Here's my winning build! The spear's special let me keep a whole screens distance between the enemies and me. ^_^;;

Random Roguelikes

Games are really spiced up by randomness. Especially roguelikes, which put players on a ever-changing path to victory. Each step of the way, you can choose to go left or right and even try to take on harder challenges for more impressive rewards. Balancing risk and reward is an engrossing activity for the human mind. And so is pushing oneself to the limit and conquering difficult tasks.


A lot of rogue-like games that center around combat for it's obstacles. "Path of Adventure" is a text RPG where you have to fight monsters. "Hades" is an action game that has you battle the demons of hell. Dota 2's event "Aghanim's Labyrinth" repurposed it's action combat system with a rogue-like metagame.

I wonder what one would look like without combat? What sort of other skill check systems could merge well with with the rogue meta game? 

Play Has No Limits

 


Success!  It was a nearly smooth pre-order experience!  The only issues being... that the queue for the store led to a queue in the store (and the UI for each queue was exactly the same, leading me to think my queue timer reset).  In actuality there was so much demand that I had to wait an extra half hour after the first hour in line.  The other issue was a technical one... the purchase page for the consoles would not show up in certain browser conditions!  I got stuck on my browser until I figured out that it would not let me switch to a different one without clearing my cart.  Now I'm ready for my PS5 (a.k.a upgraded PS4) in November.  The first game I'll be playing on it is Monster Hunter: World.  Super excited for FFXV, too.  And planning to continue my progress in Bloodborne, God of War, The Last Guardian, and Persona 5.

Steam

Front page of my steam library. It's still growing over the years!  Given the massive backlog I should have the next 3 years of gaming covered.

My personal playlist on Steam for the rest of this year is:

-> Thronebreaker

-> Hades

-> Cyberpunk 2077

-> Outer Wilds

-> Risk of Rain 2


PlayStation

I got my first PlayStation (the PS3) in high school, after earning some teaching fees through tutoring. What a day when I received it at my doorstep! The first few games I picked up were Valkyria Chronicles and Flower. It also let me play the latest Street Fighter, Assassins Creed, and God of War games. I took it with me to university as my laptop was just not powerful enough to really game with. Funny enough, my first laptop actually died because I tried to run Deus Ex: Human Revolution on it!


Gaming with the PlayStation back-catalogue was great, and I even had the chance to try out some PS2 games, my favorite being Metal Gear Solid, and Ico. PlayStation really became my home for gaming from 2009 to 2015. The final few PS3 games that I played before packing it up were Metal Gear Solid 4 and Shadow of the Colossus.

For the PS4, I picked up the Pro on launch, and planned only to play a few select titles: Bloodborne, God of War, Death Stranding, Uncharted. The great bonus was that I subscribed to PS Plus and had a few new titles to try out every month. This introduced me to games like Infamous: First Light, Resogun, Wipeout, Nioh, and more. It was a great way to get fresh variety of games!

In the past decade, gaming has evolved so much on all fronts. I have a desktop PC that's capable of running the latest games reasonably well, and have grown a huge digital library. It seems less necessary to jump into the next generation ASAP, as my options for gaming are so much more vast than before. Sony and Square Enix are adopting a multiplatform strategy. And ultimately, my free time has become more limited and focused.

So looking forward to the PlayStation 5! I'm eager to play Demon Souls and the next God of War. And even catch up on some of the exclusives from the current gen. The PS Plus Collection is a golden trove the best titles on the platform. I have faith that the PlayStation gems will continue to grow and show us how games can really tap into our sense of wonder and emotions.

I'm playing on so many different platforms now, that I won't be able to call PlayStation my main place to game. But it will still be the console that brings endless unique and innovative experiences to my living room floor.


Fortune Teller in the Trials of Mana Demo

A little bit of direction goes a long way! Heroes need a bit of guidance and faith that they're heading towards their calling.


The bit of guided exploration quests in the opening town didn't really link together cohesively, but it was strangely fine as I knew where to go to make some progress.



Master Mode

I thought I'd take on a challenge and start a Master Mode run of Zelda.  My first playthrough on normal was super fun, but incomplete and I had gotten about a quarter of the map explored, ending on the stranded island quest.  Can't wait to swim there again!



The 2020 Home Setup

 It's quite a mess of equipment, but this is where I'm spending most of my time!  My posters are of One Piece, Nier, and FFXII.  Loving all of them but I have yet to finish the Final Fantasy.




Curiosity is the Font of Life

Exploring and discovering new concepts, seeing the surprises that we have not seen before, seems to me the source of life's direction. Curiosity that drives the mind towards finding the gem hidden behind the endless veils of time. The need to be there and experience discovery, is so strong that we would move worlds for a little bit of information. 

The Library's Call

Not the books, but the knowledge

Hidden between pages and within words

Voices of the Past speak and listen do they

The Wandering find a new light to brave.

In the face of insurmountable odds

In any context, the outlier, the strange, the unpredictable catches our attention. How is it that sometimes, things go in a way no one expects? In the sea of randomness, it's certain that something, or someone, will do the unthinkable. The hero steps away from home. The warrior fells a mountainous dragon. Those are the stories worth telling, for they are unlike any other.

Cat does not forget

Catalina does not forget

her favourite toy to pet.

A little mouse on string

A jump pounce and spring.


Surge


Achieved!  Mecha Paladin Surge was the final goal of the Brawl Stars season 2 Battle Pass.  So cool to finally have gotten him after trying out so many characters due the questing system.

I've been trying a Level 1 challenge to see how far I can get in rank with just a level 1 character, and this is the time to run surge a bunch to hit that record.

Found some data

I dug through my hard drives doing an update to my June 2020 backup. This week I converted all my old recordings of photoshop drawing (from my college days), and popped those onto the external along with some of my new work. In total, the full backup of my data was just a little over 3 terabytes.


That's with most of it dedicated to a huge backup of a few AVID projects.

With cloud storage being rather plentiful nowadays, my workflow has been to work from a cloud-synced folder. Most types of work (illustration, gamedev, writing) are fine in this situation, except for video for it's huge data sizes.

I did find some unsorted data lying around, and it drew a big comparison between the internet of old and the one of today. There's just so much stuff online now that can be consumed within the browser that downloading is pretty much unnecessary. In the past, I would fill up hard drives full of downloads and interesting media in case the servers disappeared or if I lost track of the source. Today that's hardly the case with the endlessness of the net that's just a search away.

In the unsorted data were some videos of a peacock from my family vacation. There's still data that's not on the internet that is slowly being forgotten and left to hide on old drives.

Fall Guys

Just looking at Fall Guys gameplay makes you want to jump in and try out the hilarity! It looks simple, colorful, and like something you could really do. Except it's actually a hidden challenge to get that coveted first place crown.

I got very close a few times! Only to be knocked away by a spinning hammer and run over by a huge ball.

The fundamentals are 3D platforming, and the design is based on the battle royales that let you show your dominance and always give you a chance to win. I found that a multiplayer platformer experience plays out much differently to a single player one. Where I really love Mario games and the sense of wonder that each new location in the games bring, there was only a brief sense of novelty to each party-like stage in Fall Guys. I think for platforming, the exploration challenge is more enticing to me than the multiplayer one here.

The game can definitely keep the pace of releasing new tracks and seasonal content, and will enamor many gamers to come with its easy to get into, guaranteed laughs design.



Spellbreak

 Spellbreak launched!  I've been playing since alpha, and though I'm not an expert at the game, I love the magic themed combat and spell-casting.  My favourite class is Toxicologist and my strategy is mostly spamming click and flying erratically.


It's worked alright... here's my best performance of the day!




Early on, Spellbreak had a lot of in-game customization, which allowed you to spec out your character as the match progressed.  In the current version, that is all relegated to a pre-game loadout.  My guess is that they found that having too many choices in the midst of combat was an overload to most players, and that there is more fun in finding rare loot.

My least liked part of the beta was the interact key, but I believe it's been brought in line with the Fortnite standard.  All's good!  As an MMO player it's still a bit weird to not have the on-screen cooldown HUD customizable, but that's just a minor complaint for now.

Looking at the long-term viability of the game, I do hope that Spellbreak is able to find its audience.  The combat is much more esoteric and a harder sell than the shooting that is found in other battle royales.  As a consequence, I think the game will definitely be rewarding to high-skilled players.  But that may not be a large enough audience to sustain in the current free-to-play market.

The team, Proletariat, have spoken about additional game-modes. I think a shorter, 3 to 4 minute format would do well with FPS players who enjoy getting in and out of action quickly. The combat system in Spellbreak is tuned to near perfection-- it feels great to fly around and combo spells. Really, extending this game could work in any direction the team takes it in, as it's core is fun and can support even a co-op campaign experience or more competitive modes.

A major benefit to Spellbreak's strategy is that it had a simultaneous launch on consoles as well! Compared to BR titles like Battlerite Royale (which was limited to a PC release), Spellbreak has a leg up in getting more magic-loving casters involved.

Catmull, Chapter 7

 -> Don't Feed The Beast - The Beast only wants to grow and grow and always hungers for more.  Don't feed it.  Focus on your team and it's mission to deliver quality.


-> Protect Your Ugly Babies - Every project starts out ugly.  The new ideas are so deformed and messy that they actually need protection before they can grow.

-> The Fallacy of Simplifying - Efficiency seems like improvement.  But doesn't prove it.  Cutting processes can worsen the output.

-> Balance is Dynamic - Conflict between teams is essential.  If one group 'wins' then there is no dynamic from which the best ideas will grow.  Find a balance in the push and pull of things.

A Month of Blogging

 August was my first attempt at one month of daily blogging. It's certainly the first time that I have consistently delivered on a resolution for a whole month!


What happened this time around?

I expanded the type posts that I make, allowing myself more freedom to create whatever I felt like for the day. I graduated from school, leaving behind my student self which was focused on learning. I set a new goal to share and connect with others. I updated my website!

The month-long blogging experience taught me a few things:
-> A new day, everyday. The wonderful thing about a daily activity is that you can wrap it up and get it done within the day. I try to focus on my new experiences and even though much of my day is spent at work, I'm able to find time for myself to read, play, and think.

-> A million distractions minus one. It's too easy to habitually look for news or excitement on social media. I still do it when the time permits, to my detriment. At the end of the day, its transient and immaterial unless you're valuably engaged in it. Having a small daily ritual helps me turn the phone off and focus on the task at hand.

-> A journey takes time. There's a ton of other projects on my mind that deserve attention, too. But it takes time and a lifetime's worth of work to navigate and figure out how to do it. What's worked best for me is looking ahead 20 years for some really long-term goals and building that path one step at a time.

Not every day is going to be a super amazing and productive one. But putting a bit of effort into blogging each day let me feel the nuances of the ups and downs, between which I hold a worthwhile balance and incessant self-examination.

Catmull, Chapter 6

-> Failure comes with baggage - Don't let your past experience with failure prevent you from doing what you need to do. Failure is painful, but not something to be ashamed of.

-> Fear is a barrier - "Uncouple fear and failure-- to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn't strike terror..."

-> The antidote of fear is trust - Be candid and show trust by sharing information. Show your employees that there is nothing to fear.

Catmull, Chapter 5

-> Honesty is an institutional goal - To enforce honesty, your organization must reinforce it as a tenet and strive to bring out the honesty in people.


-> Good notes challenge others to improve - Great feedback gets others excited and ready to rise to solve the problem.

-> Make your own solution group! - You can put together your very own Pixar-style 'Braintrust'. Find a group that can be honest, make you think smarter, and be quick to generate actionable solutions.

Catmull, Chapter 4

-> Quality is THE goal - Remind yourself and your team constantly about your ultimate goal. Because other needs like efficiency or speed will try to take the spotlight.

-> "Quality is the best business plan" - John Lasseter

-> Take personal responsibility in the process - The process doesn't operate without your input and continuous tending to it. There's always something to improve, repair, take care of, and your product will not succeed without a hand-on-approach to the process.

Catmull, Chapters 2-3

 -> Do not abandon your vision - Don't take deals that require you to compromise and abandon your vision. Pixar declined Steve's first offer to buy the company, because their goals were entirely different.

-> Trust your storytelling instincts - continuously making changes based on external input will land your story and characters far from where their core should be. Trust your instincts and the story that you want to tell.
-> Everyone should be treated as first-class citizens - Dig deep to find friction between team members and resolve that by making sure everyone is a peer and can contribute without fear or restraint.

Catmull: Chapter 1

Learnings from "Creativity, Inc." by Ed Catmull.


-> The long table trap. You won't notice the problems with your process while you are in it.  The long table at Pixar hindered communication and make the team develop bad habits like creating a hierarchy and name-cards.

-> The collaborative, supportive community. An inspiring group will add to the quality of everyone's work.

-> The lifelong goal. Catmull aspired to create computer animation at the age of 26, and then expanded his goal after finishing his PhD to: making the first computer animated film. This was an extremely long term vision, without a concrete plan. But it helped set the foundation for his life's work.

Pop up Covid Testing

 

Last week we visited this site on Tully. The sky was hazy from the nearby fires, and all the nearby attractions were closed.

Luckily, testing was simple and only required driving up and a swabbing of the nostrils.

Progression Ideas for Valorant BP

The pass is locked to the existing daily/weekly quest system for progression (This is the base system in the game for unlocking heroes.)  Expand options for pass progression:

  • Alternate sources of progress like Event Challenges (based on skilled execution or rare events) or Social Achievements could reinforce positive behavior and reward play.
  • Quest Diversity (involve specific heroes for diverse play, and habit forming activities to build retention).
  • Playstyle Rewards: a Battle Pass Exclusive bounty with Bonus Battle Pass EXP for winning with each hero, or with each role.
  • Story Driven Progression. The Valorant rollout is designed around an unfolding story around the Agents. Battle Passes were titled as Episodes and Acts, but only hint at a story through cosmetic rewards.  

BNA

Animals are cute! I blasted through this show over 3 days and it just kept ramping up. Pacing was exceptional and Trigger did a good job keeping emotional moments from becoming lulls in the action.

The best parts of the show was the character design, expressions, and voice acting. Every character is is just full of wacky faces and they aren't afraid to show it.

Story-wise, it kept me wondering if anything was a red herring, so I was definitely hooked on the mystery of Anima-City and the history of beastmen. Truth and misdirection was laid out in the open most of the time, instead of trying to force viewers into surprise moments.

The decision to make it a character led show turned out for the better. Even with its detective noir backbone, the show does not lean too heavily on that aspect. 



My Experience with 3 Riot Battle Passes

I've played through a battle pass each for Valorant, League of Legends, and Legends of Runeterra.  Back in Season 1 I grabbed Fortnite's pass to learn from their practices.  I completed some and left others unfinished.  Sometimes it was a roller coaster of emotion between the elation of achieving a reward versus the futile realization that I would not have enough time to grind it out.  Today, I'm also in the midst of active passes in Dota 2 and Brawl Stars. 

Here are my experiences with Riot's passes:

League of Legends - The must have content (Prestige Riven) drew me to playing and earning it.  I had to dedicate myself to the game, playing a few games a day to complete missions and getting the points to purchase the skin.  My goal was super clear from the onset and even though I don't play riven that much anymore, I felt I had to complete my collection.  I might play another one of these League events if another of my favorite characters gets a skin.

Valorant - I nearly finished this pass by grinding alone, but in the end I shelled out an extra 600 VP to reach the last tier.  Towards the middle of the pass timer, I was getting burnt out on Valorant having to play everyday to keep up.  The spike rush mode became more attractive over time and I stopped enjoying the game. 

This pass didn't have a wow factor to the skins, which made me set a goal of grinding to the end (a detrimental goal given the effort required).  I think this pass burned me out on the game instead of allowing me to enjoy it at a reasonable pace. 

Legends of Runeterra  - The first reward in the Runeterra Spirit Blossom event was a cute fox.  This was a great entry point into the pass, as I was able to quickly discern if I wanted that fox or not.  The highest tier reward was a prettier, dressed up variation of the fox.  Great thing there was that even though I did not get the ultimate fox at the end, I had the basic version of him.  I didn't end up getting to the end of the pass-- there was no option to purchase progression--but I completed all the event quests and got fairly far.  I missed out on 2 premium cosmetic rewards but don't feel bad about it.


Story Before Visual Polish

From Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull:

"For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn't matter if you are getting the story right."


As I improve my approach to creativity and creation, I am discovering that the most sticky ideas in my head--the ones that present themselves most clearly--are the ones with a story.  Even before a character's form and attire or an environmental structure comes to life, the journey that they take on captivate me.  They appear not as static fixtures but as dynamic forms that will change as the story unfolds.  Thus, they present in my mind at once as slices of a timeline of what could be (what will be).

My Shelf

Does the name inspire function or the use beget a name?


My bookshelf is not tall. 
It is wide. 

It is a TV shelf without a TV (a shelf).
It is a shelf with books (a bookshelf).

A TV shelf makes a good bookshelf, too.
The shelf is just a shelf until I imagine what might it carry.


Change

"All things change in a dynamic environment." - Ghost in the Shell


Change is always tough to bear when we are facing it. It brings adversity and discomfort. But to change is necessary and we have to take it head on and accept that the past will not be helpful in the future. Change doesn't have to happen all at once. Day by day, consistent, minor improvements will add up over time. Evolution does not happen overnight. But in the long run, we change by immersing ourselves in a dynamic environment and by adapting along with it.

Repairing a Room

Take care of the spaces that you spend your time in.  Your surroundings have a subtle impact on your mentality, and the better maintained, comfortable spaces will give you productive energy instead of sapping it.


I repaired the room in the house that I spend my down time in.  The floor is partially carpeted, a large bookshelf sits under the window, and I can relax there at the end of every long day.  Though it's not quite perfect (missing curtains and a new coat of paint), it still gives me a sense of personal comfort.

Jam City

Started today with the awesome Panda Pop team at Jam City!

 

My Bookshelf additions

I added the first set of new books to my bookshelf last week.  I'll be learning about Disney, Pixar, and Daoism!

 

The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger

Understanding that this account is from a personal lens, I found Robert's learnings and experiences on leadership to be forthright and exemplar.  In the former half of the book, he expounds on the great mentors of his career, challenges he faced in rising to management, and his most prideful projects at ABC.  In the latter half, he chooses to focus on the largest acquisitions that he personally led in the role of CEO of Disney.  The mundanalities and regimen of corporate leadership are set aside in favor of highlighting the importance of vision, relationships and ethics. 


Of all the stories I think the most memorable are that of his interactions with Roone Arledge and Steve Jobs.  From Roone he learned to innovate.  And from Steve he found deep friendship and the courage to be bold.  If there's one thing to take away from this book it is that the quality of your relationships have a huge impact on your ability to overcome challenges. 

Robert's willingness to take on responsibility of risk and failure put him in a position of trust and leadership.  Understanding others also enabled him to effectively manage and resolve conflicts. 


Iger, Leadership

Learnings from Chapters 6 & 7 of Ride of a Lifetime, by Robert Iger:


-> You can't let blows to your ego get to you
-> Focus on who you can be
-> Convey your 3 Priorities

Iger, 5

Learnings from Chapter 5 of Ride of a Lifetime, by Robert Iger:


-> Balance ambition with opportunity.  Tend to your responsibilities well before focusing your efforts on getting where you could eventually be.
-> Don't be a lame duck
-> Lean on the power of others

Super Time Force Ultra

What a blast!  Once you get a hang of the time rewinding, it's so fun to go ham on shooting.  There's a balance here between playing for time score, completion, and life efficiency.  Each run can be good in any one of these, so completing a level feels well deserved!

The biggest frustration for me (a personal one), is that I get very weary of repeated deaths that happen over and over.  Even though the game is lenient in giving me plenty of lives, I still feel terrible when my guy dies.

It's a fun take on time-travel, filled with jokes, and ultimately let me strategize with my past self and correct my own mistakes.  Though the tone is absurdly light, there's a meaningful message here of responsibility and self-forgiveness.

I'm not compelled to complete all the levels, and I had trouble performing clean runs (where all time force teammates are saved from death), but the core game loop of live die repeat was executed perfectly.  My go to strategy was spamming shields and rockets.  Halfway through the game I discovered that saving a teammate gave me assist powers when using a charged attack, so I doubled them up and spammed them even more. If I were to replay the game, there's a ton of things I could do to change the experience (using different characters, going for clean runs, discovering secrets).




Iger, 4

Learnings from Chapter 4

-> The relationship of the 2 at the top affect the whole team
-> Manage your time and respect others' time
-> Explain how it will work (Don't decide just based on hope)

Iger, 3

-> Faith gives Courage
-> Be Humble and take risks (Innovate or Die)
-> Leadership is Knowing who you are
-> Own your Mistakes

Iger, 2

Learnings from Chapter 2.

-> Build Trust and Camaraderie in your team
-> Ask for Help
-> Be Honest when you don't know
-> Accept New Challenges, Make Life an Adventure

Where Games Are Heading

Meow In Verse's first article: "Where Games Are Heading"

Publishing on Medium & WeChat, for a global launch!

https://medium.com/@shuandang/where-games-are-heading-the-next-decade-in-creativity-a12a981b589

https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AndrewDang/20200810/367875/Where_Games_Are_Heading_The_Next_Decade_in_Creativity.php

Iger

Learnings from the Prologue and Chapter 1 of "The Ride of a Lifetime" by Robert Iger.


-> Wake up Early and give yourself time to Think.
-> Strive for Perfection
-> Don't take No for an answer; Find another Way
-> Balance the Product and the People

Necrobarista

I love the art and the music presented here: The character designer Ngoc Vu created very memorable designs that eek personality in every way. The music kept the tension up and the catchy bits stayed in my ear for a while.

Playing through the game was a little slow paced for my taste. The story was intriguing at the outset, but took a long time to build up into the any sort of activity-filled scene. The game is more of a slice of the cafe's ongoings, with heavy emphasis on the development of character relationships.


The characters' internal struggles have a hard time surfacing. They become a bit lost on the audience with the sporadic switching between scenes. With every jump, time became more lost on me.
For a game about the scarcity of time, this made time extra difficult to digest. I acknowledge that the scenario--a Terminal where spirits pass, run by quasi-immortal beings-- lends itself to a feeling of timelessness. But at the story's core, the dead only have 24 hours to stay. I don't think I felt that as strongly. I felt lost with regards to feeling time progress.

The presentation as a 3D environment with stealthy camerawork was an attempt at cinematic drama, but without voice acting, it is more reminiscent of the old silent films. A bit difficult to digest.

Interestingly, the parts of the game that put me most at ease were the Memories (text-only excerpts of dialogue, story, and lore). These sections let the writing speak for itself, without the complication of messaging through the contemporary set and characters.



Superhot: Mind Control Delete

The sequel to SUPERHOT was really simple to pick up:  node level selection, wave based combat, and cryptic, unobtrusive story.  It really fit into the modern schedule:  short bursts of entertainment that doesn't try to overstay its welcome.  I was happy to play it, being given access for free as a I already had SUPERHOT in my library.

This ease of jumping into and out of the game let me play through in about 7, one-hour-long sessions over the last few weeks.  And I certainly enjoyed it.

SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete had very appropriate and creative theming (MORE, MORE, MORE).  It continued the fourth-wall-breaking computer simulation veil, with a bit of self-aware critique.  The narrative suggested that I was yearning for more, and feeding an addiction to the game.  While partially true (I did want to overcome its challenges to see what it had to offer next, I thought that it was better viewed as a commentary on media consumption in general.  The messaged goaded me on and kept my curiosity up: "Why would the game prod me about playing too much?". 

It was a sensory stimulating experience, very well integrated with its marketing strategy and ability to stand out as a unique game.  I think it was a great idea to distribute free copies to generate interest and dialogue about it.  If not for that I would not have picked the new game up, as the original superhot was a wholly complete experience that did not ask for MORE.

Check out the replay system!


My Android App Homescreens

I live on my phone so much these days that it's important to keep organized and eliminate inefficiencies. These are the latest homescreens that I use.

On the dock:
Evernote - I use this for my dream diary, daily writing and notes. Experimented with alternatives for a while, but Evernote has the most pure experience that gets me straight into writing.
Twitter - You can follow me @shuandang. Personally, I am still building my tweeting skills. This app is great for me to discover and keep up with creative people and their work.
Camera - I got the Pixel 3 because the camera could come close to replacing my point-and-shoot. Very important for capturing moments. I don't use it enough.
Podcasts - Last year I listened to a lot of audiobooks. This year, I discovered so much great podcast content out there I can't possibly listen to it all. This reminds me to play a few when I have the time.
Maps - Though I'm not going out a lot these days with the coronavirus pandemic raging on, Maps is core to my smartphone lifestyle. I'm using it to mark off places that I want to visit someday-- once we're able to travel again.

On the first page:
Mostly communications tools, productivity, photos, and music.

On the second page:
A bit of news, lifestyle, and arts.

On the third page:
Games that I'm playing. Some regularly, others sporadically.

After that (not shown):
A few random games that I'm trying out.





Sold Out Lamps

We went shopping for a lamp, a desk, a mat, and a shelf at IKEA yesterday. The store funneled us in to prevent crowds. It was uncomfortable to be near others even though everyone was wearing a mask.

From my shopping list, I had a vision for the bookshelf that I wanted (based on my previous visit). We really liked the design of the Besta shelves. In my mind I knew roughly that it would go underneath the window, and that the color would match the decor of the room. But in the store, the pieces didnt come together. From the options shown I had the choice of mounting a floating tv stand to the wall, or stacking a shelf and a short-shelf for the desired height.

I had no vision for a lamp, though I did like the tall cylindrical ones. My family requested a desk, but called to tell me they changed their mind.

We found a nice lamp, and after deciding to purchase it, found that it was out of stock.

We found a single soft floor mat in a heap of exterior door mats. It was out of place and we couldn't find where it had come from. I wanted to see if there were alternate colors, to no avail. We took the mat.

Towards the end of the trip, I walked into the as-is section to buy a set of Billy shelves. Again, the color matched, but it didn't feel like the right shelf. I passed, and circled around a few more times.

Serendipitously, perhaps by the hand of fate, I finally noticed the discontinued Besta standing tv- shelf. It was the right size and all.

There really was no choice for me that day in shopping.

Change Happens

We measure progress with tests and metrics. We measure performance with tests and metrics. These tests are simply measures that help us confirm that changes have happened, that improvement and progress has been made. They aren't a necessary condition, and shouldn't be the only way progress is achieved.

Change happens whether we measure it or not. Time flows without us constantly watching the clock.

Daily Habits

There are a plethora of books about how to build habits, but you must create it by acting it out. Ultimately, it will be a very personal journey that will allow you to build the life that you want. 

A natural requirement to being a human on Earth is that we have a daily routine: Waking up and falling asleep with each turn of the planet. Use the sun-rise and sun-fall as universal anchors and build your day.

Dedicate Time To Being You

Most hours the day, I am not myself.  In games, I take on the avatars of heroes and champions. In films I relive the tension and drama of others. In the virtual realms of social media, I become a reflection of the community. When am I me?

Worry not, Negotiate

We worry a lot about different potential futures.  Have I made the right choice?  Will I pass that interview?  Worrying does not solve the issue and only makes us more nervous.

The cornerstone lesson from Negotiations: "Everything is negotiable".

Worst case scenario?  You'll negotiate.   And negotiating isn't too bad. It will open up even more possibilities.

Creative Goalsetting

When being creative, set a goal that is outside of the norm.  Oftentimes, aspirations are derived from one's immediate perspective, and one's goals will be in the realm of a limited 'possibility space'.  Don't restrict yourself.  Place your goal further out and reach a bit.

The goal that everyone else sees is not necessarily yours. Establish for yourself a strange, personal, and unconventional goal.  Forge a new path with a novel approach and an inspired way of thinking.

Placeholder

A placeholder reserves room for new and wonderful things to come.  

The MBA Journey

Where one journey ends, another begins.  The past two years have been a mix of personal tests: challenges, curiosities, and choices.  I set out at the end of 2017 determined to forge myself in study.  This goal led me to the UC Davis MBA program, and I found myself surrounded by a supportive community of business leaders with an appetite for improving the world. 

It's interesting how a vague goal slowly manifests into many interesting happenings.  Over the course of the program, I discovered product management for games, participated in a venture capital case competition, started an educational app project, and much, much more.  I made new friends, adjusted my thinking with a few books, and honed my communication skills.  All these deserve stories of their own, which I'd love to divulge someday.

Today, I'm just taking a moment to celebrate the achievement.



When I moved my belongings home (most of it fit in this van!), a big question mark appeared in front of me.  What's the next journey going to be?  

This year started off with a lot of uncertainty.  It's one-half tumultuous and another-half chaotic, but new ground will be settled once balance is returned.  2020 also marks the near-ending of a decade for me.  So I'd like to make it a meaningful cycling of time.  Regardless of where I'm headed next, I'm certain to hold myself to these key values:

Creativity - to make reality from imagination
Connection - to share and communicate
Curiosity - to investigate and discover 

Continue on!