Happy 15th Birthday, Myst!

Fifteen years ago today, Myst was released. It’s been a wild ride since!

Myst Island

While there are a small assortment of titles I can point to, the largest influence in my career as a game developer and artist is Myst. Now that I am employed as a developer at Telltale Games, I wish Cyan Worlds a happy 15th anniversary of their landmark title. Thank you for all of your quality work through the years and inspiring me as an artist.

Mini History Lesson

While 7th Guest was released prior to Myst, 7th Guest was highly restricted due to adult content. I remember purchasing a Packard Bell which included 7th Guest, but wrapped in paper marked “ADULTS ONLY” before revealing what was inside. Myst on the other hand was all ages in the sense that any age can enjoy the title, not dumbed down for children nor exclusive to adults.

Myst really was the killer app for optical disks for data. While there were certainly CD-ROMs prior, they were mostly storing large amounts of data and the occasional postage stamp of video and audio.ยน Or (as the case of 7th Guest) restrictive in target audience. Myst was the first widely distributed entertainment product that fully utilized the space to make an enriched experience not emulated on other media.

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How do we honor our pioneers?

A few nights ago I had a rather morbid dream. In the dream, Shigeru Miyamoto had passed away.

Before I continue, I want to make extremely clear that I do not wish anything bad to Shigeru San. As you’ll read, this is a platform for me to talk about a larger context with a theoretical concept using him as a test case.

In the dream, I was an upper management of a video game history museum (a concept I covered before) which was prepared in the sense of being able to act quickly when a high-profile designer passes away. First there was a press conference, having timing it for after Nintendo of America made their statement. I was presenting the main statement by quickly reviewing the many accomplishments Miyamoto had done in his life time. While he is one of Japan’s greatest sons, he really is one of humanities’ greatest assets. This was followed by the museum having a memorial service and special visitations. A monument at the museum, already erected in his honor with a prior event, would become the focus point for visitors to pay their respects. The museum itself would be open, but in order to provide the context of Miyamoto’s work the admission would be waived for two days. In addition, three days there will be someone standing watch over the monument and public visitation at any time.

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Back from PAX

PAX was a very wonderful time! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves games of any sort. PAX is a very different tone of conference. Specifically for gamers; Not tacked on to a larger conference of other forms of media, nor a professionals only club. This is very significant in focus. I’ve been to a few comic book conferences that tack on TV and sometimes games, but putting interactive entertainment in the forefront puts a unique spin on things. I felt apart of the experience, not a step-child to the family. Moreover, the non-professional focus removes the edge of trying to impress. This is a celebration of the art form.

My background in the entertainment business is in performing art; Theatre. Creating art directly in front of a live audience give the instant feedback of an audience. With interactive entertainment, there are no opening nights. No red carpet screenings. A file is uploaded to a server, a variable switched, and eventually some people roll in with comments on forums. While I certainly welcome and value the feedback on any form and appreciate our world-wide release in an instant, I still long for the face to face interaction with the audience. These conventions are the few places where I can get that interaction.

Most of the setbacks about the conference are do to my lack of planning. This trip was very last moment for me and I will never do again. While I very much appreciated the hospitality I was given, I will only do PAX again while staying at a hotel within walking distance. I missed out on a lot of things as I carried my day’s worth of stuff and tied to the Seattle bus system. PAX runs till 2am, but the last bus is at 1am. Not to mention being able to drop stuff off at the hotel and change would have helped a lot. And while I had a few friends on site, they were not as available to enjoy the conference with. Rob from Orange Lounge Radio was working as a media contact, and Kate had her own things going most of the time. I did get to spend some time with them at the conference, and found others as the weekend progressed, but more would be more.

The big conference-only complaint I have was crowd management. I felt there were lines for something that shouldn’t be a line, and other high-profile events that should have been managed better. The biggest culprit was the line to get into the expo. Attendees are encouraged to wait in line for the 10am opening of the expo floor. Not an event such as a keynote or performance, just the expo floor. The reason? Armbands for the 8pm concert. Frankly, I can’t understand the logic of having people show up early to an all-day event. I’d rather they encourage people going for the expo floor to show up starting shortly before 10am. And the evening’s concert you want the armband? You can get in without them without problem, negating the need to line up for the expo. This is getting worked on, but it was a confusing decision in the first place.

I’ll be writing some specific things about the conference in the next few days. Right now I needed to get out the overview and acknowledge I attend and arrived home safely. You can also take a look at the photos I took while there. Here’s a sample:

Strong Sad and Artist
MC Frontalot @ PAX
PAX Pass Kit

Where have I Gone?

So.. it’s been a while since a real post. Quite a few reasons for that which I will quickly outline in order to pad this post.

1) I moved!

I went from living in the North Bay where I was close to work but very far away from civilization, to living in the East Bay. Here the commute to work is longer by 10 minutes, but it’s a trafic-less ride. My place is also much bigger and accommodating to guests, not to mention actually on public transportation.

2) Vacation!

Finally took a vacation after 15 months working. Traveled back to Boston and NYC to hang out with friends in both areas. While my lappy broke on vacation, I was still able to hit the reset button for myself and come back fresh.

3) My Lappy Broke

My PowerBook G4 Laptop bit the dust and is out of warranty. While I still have my two desktops, I’m not able to remotely write on the thing. For the interested, I’m getting the ‘bad RAM’ post error where the laptop beeps three short beeps when attempting to turn on.

I have been in the market for a new laptop as I need to get on the x86 Mac bandwagon, but was waiting for the next revisions of laptops to come out. Luckily the rumor mills seem to point to a laptop update in 3-5 weeks from now. When they do come out, I’ll be deciding between the newest hottness or a refurbished which will be much cheaper.

4) Releases!

On Monday, we will be releasing the first episode of Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People for both Windows and WiiWare. It’s totally awesome and will be a great relief to finally start the season.

Still getting a bit settled in the new place. Once I do I’ll be posting much more. Got a few topics I’ve been simmering about for a while and want to share sometime soon.

Publishing Public Interactive Media

Decided to bring up the ‘Corporation of Public Gaming’ concept I first introduced in February. This time I want to cover a little more directly what I feel such a concept would be. First, I’ve decided to try out a new name for the concept: The Corporation for Public Media (CPM). I don’t want to limit to video games alone with this organization as the Internet at large should be included with this endeavor.

Before I continue, here’s a little review of recent weeks of highly publicized public gaming projects and research grants.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced the first round of recipients in their Health Games Research Project. Over $2 million to various institutions focusing on using video games for public health research. Some of these projects are research-only projects while others are focused on games for public consumption. For you NPR listeners, you may have heard their sponsorship announced for the past few months.

At Games for Change conference in NYC, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her collaboration with Arizona State University with a game called Our Courts. It’s a piece that addresses the lack of knowledge of the American judicial system.

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WiiWare Launch & Reviews

Today, Nintendo launched the WiiWare service in North America. This is of particular interest to me as I am personally working on a WiiWare title.

I’m actually lucky to play though all of the WiiWare games today (except My Life as a King) today. Checking the competition, I realize that we don’t have competition. Not in the perspective of quality judgments, but for the fact that each of the titles released on WiiWare are very different from each other. There is something different for a lot of different people, which is about what one would hope from a service launch.

The Wired Game|Life Blog does a good job outlining all the launch titles, now with impressions of each title. But if you insist, here’s my quick review of the titles:

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Real Violence and Video Games

Wired Blogs: Games | Gaming, Real Violence Trends Tracked, Charted

It’s easy to claim that gaming violence has no correlation with real world violence, but those arguments are a bit hollow if you can’t provide data to corroborate; or even better, a fancy line graph.

The graph makes no direct claims towards a relationship between real world and gaming violence, though it’s interesting to see an inversely proportional trend of violent gaming releases and incidents of real crime.

For those doubting the graph’s figures, have a look at the data on which it was based: a relatively recent survey of national violent crime rates published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

We have to be very careful with how we state this information.

While it’s easy to jump to the conclusion, these facts can not prove that violent video games cause a REDUCTION of violent crimes. There are simply way to many factors at play to make this claim. This would be a separate set of studies to determine what the real factors are and even then may never be truly ‘solved’.

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The Life of Seg: April 2008 Edition

Checking in on the blog and going to use some lame excuses as to why I haven’t been contributing too much to ye old blog. So I’ll list my lame excuses in hopes the story behind them will produce meaningful content. Yea!

Sam & Max on the Wii

On April 3rd, Telltale Games announced that Sam & Max Season One will be a disc based Wii game, set for release sometime in the Fall. I was even featured on the blog post holding a Wii Remote:

Seg and Andrew Announcing Sam & Max Season One for Wii.

We spent quite of bit of time cleaning up that room, especially all of our retail consoles. We didn’t want people to think that just because we had a PS2 in our media room, that we would release for the PS2 (which we are not doing). As you can see from the photo though, we forgot the PS2 controller right next to the TV. :/

I mention this because it’s a interesting history between Sam & Max on the Wii and me. Back in Aug 2006, a few of the various staff at Telltale were mentioning how point & click games, including Sam & Max, would be great for the Wii. No plans to do so, just that the idea of going to the platform would be nifty. Obviously this lead people to think Telltale was actively developing for the Wii. This rumor propagated. Emily decided to make a post about it to curb the rumor and set facts straight and state while it’s a desire, they need Nintendo’s support to make it happen. A link to Nintendo’s contact page was made. When I saw this post, I wrote up a form letter for people to use. About 3 hours later, Emily updated the post saying Nintendo contacted Telltale and to stop sending e-mails.

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