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Gnomon Level Design - Desert Project Mood Boards

Final Project for the Level Design course.  For this we're learning from the Seattle area in The Last of Us 2.  My stage is designed in a Persian fortress feel. 






PS5

 

This is me for the rest of the month.  Gaming it out to Final Fantasy XV and the rest of the PS Plus Collection.

Still In It

I thought 2020 would be the year that my play would get rusty, but I'm still IN IT!


This new league of legends rewards flow for the season is very clear and satisfying.

Being the Hero

Being the hero is so compelling that it's not enough to hear stories of great deeds, we desire to enact them. The mantle of the hero who brings order to the world is the cornerstone of storytelling. Within games players can become the hero in a simulated world, and live out that destiny.

A Cat's Curiosity

Lina has lived with me for 4 years but she's still always so interested in exploring the house, patrolling the yard, and sniffing around.  When she was younger she was mesmerized by the water faucet.  As the water dripped, Lina would jump to the countertop and try to catch the water.  She grew up and no longer does that.  I can't say exactly when but her curiosity has moved onto other things like the birds outside.

Genshin Impact - Party 2

I pulled Sucrose, Xingqiu, and Keqing today in Genshin Impact.  Was getting close to the 5-star pity, didn't want Klee, but felt a bit lucky so I went for it.  I've got some awesome additions to my team now.  Keqing is my first five star!





Losing Streaks and Winning Streaks

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut and perform poorly for a long while.  Last week my 8-game lose streak in league of legends was difficult to get through.

But situations like these come in waves.  Losing can put you in a poor mentality that is difficult to come back from.  

The momentum can go both ways!

Once you get over that hump and change your mentality, you can find the start of a winning streak.  That first win can give you the push for you to outperform your own expectations, and maintain it consistently afterwards.

Losing!


And then winning!



Gnomon Level Design - Control The Contrast

I got great feedback about my level design colors today.  Where it's easy to paint in a prototype game level with broad colors, it's also likely that you pick high contrasting colors while building it out.  This helps the designer see more clearly the differentiation between object types.

But when controlling the color for the player, the high contrast and high saturation areas should be reserved to attract the player's attention.  Less important areas of the game, such as much of the non interactable terrain, is better served with broad strokes of color that meld together and don't call for attention.

I tuned down the saturation across the board (for a second time), and tried to push back the reds in the rocks which were fighting with the greens in the trees.



Gnomon Level Design - Constructing in Unreal

 


Now that I've got the modular pieces done, the fun part is piecing it all together in the level!

Gnomon Level Design - Into Unreal


 The lighting and interactivity make it start to feel like a game!

Scheduling Breaks

Just as important to scheduling time to be productive is to schedule time to recharge.  I think thanksgiving and the week after will be that time this year, near the end of November, for me to circle back and reflect.  By then I'd have over a hundred posts in 2020, and a lot of things to just let my mind sit with.  Just planning a bit ahead here!

The Quiet Nights

The quiet nights are those

like tonight without power yet

with candlelight


In the dancing shadows hide

glimpses and glows of 

true sight


20GB a day

My home's current data network consumption rate is about 20GB per day.  This is about half the 1.2 TB cap that comcast has on the line.  It's a reasonable number, if we streamed more shows everyday, or produced lots of video content to upload or stream we'd probably get closer to the limit.

The 1080 recording setup that I have ends up using about 2GB of disk space per hour of recording.  So, in terms of producing new content I'd have the bandwidth to do about 100 hours?  That's including backing up the project files.  Not bad!

Mistake Vectors

Mistake Vectors are the ways that opportunities to make mistakes present themselves.  The more vectors, the more different ways a player can struggle.  It's important that these are clear, so that when a player fails, they can see where to improve and have a clear plan of attack for their next attempt.

Gnomon Level Design - Trees

 Marvel at my popsicle trees.  It's fascinating what a bit of shape suggestion and color can do to our imaginations!



Gnomon Level Design - Modular Rocks

 Made a mountain out of a rock split into 4 modular components.




First time in First place

 


For this season of TFT, I hit my first winning game here with a team of Ninjas and Duelists.  It's a game that rewards very sparingly but just getting that one in twenty(? maybe even rarer) win is memorable and a great moment.

21900

Sixty years translates into 21900 days.  A rather round number, but to fully count I'll have to include the 15 leap years and their extra days for 21915.

Cold Chamber - Rough Core Statement

I sat down to elaborate on the core statement of Cold Chamber.

A Tactical Terrain Based Shooter in the vein of Valkyria Chronicles with Magi-Temp weapons that consume local heat and generate frostbite.

Goodbye Oculus

Saying goodbye to my Rift today!  It's served me well with the VR, and I hope to upgrade my headset in the near future.  The highlight games I played on it were Half Life: Alyx, and Beat Saber.



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.