Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Big Guys

I've been obsessed with computer games for as long as I can remember. Eventually, I progressed to MMOs, or Massive Multi Online games where players can meet others online and play together. These games became legends and I dreamed about one day making a game of my own.

I go to the websites of these big games and listen to what other players had to say about them. Many of them were negative. Many complained about the tiniest detail, and rarely did any of the complainers do it politely. I went to a BBQ for a game company called Cryptic Studios. I asked one of their main designers how he could stand to have kids constantly insulting him and his work. He said you just had to have thick skin and roll with it.

So I was going for a second BA degree--something more game related than Anthropology, when in October of last year, I decided to start looking for gaming projects. I found a lot on I figured out most of them were kids with huge dreams and little to no skills to be able to make it happen. But out of all of them, there was one that was a lot more organized. They weren't looking for a writer, but I replied to them anyways. I talked my way into the job. After all, I'm a good writer and was willing to work for free. How could they say no to that?

It seemed so promising, that I dropped out of my programming classes. Well, I already had a BA in something. I decided that I made no money going to college. So why not make no money working on a game instead? I want to be a game writer. So instead of spending 4 years in school to get a job that I didn't really want in the first place, I could spend that time working for free as a game writer getting experience. Made sense to me.

So, for almost a year now, I've been writing lore and creative fiction for the game. My Anthropology degree turned out to be really, really helpful in designing an alien eco system based on unique science fiction elements. Because I understand culture like I do, I'm able to make really weird alien civilizations that make sense without being Earth Culture rip offs.

A couple weeks ago, I designed a few monsters and how they fit in nicely with the eco system. One of the very talented artists on the team created concept art for it. It's going to be then modeled, rigged, animated, textured, and put into the game. It's really exciting to see something that came purely out of my brain and put into a game.

Speaking of the team, we have several people that have worked in professional studios in the past. And as we get closer and closer to getting funding, we're getting a lot more attention from talent wanting to jump on board. Now we don't have funding yet, but we passed a lesser, but still important milestone tonight. We got our first bit of press.

Joystiq wrote a very vague article on us. Joystiq is a very popular gaming website. As a result of this article, over a 12 hour period, the number of our Facebook fans have doubled. We'd been getting a thousand unique hits to our website a day, but that's greatly increased with this article.

Immediately after, several other gaming websites have been talking about our game on their forums. Much of what's being said about the incredibly vague and limited information that people have on the game to form their opinions have been really negative. One guy said that if the high number of typos on the site was any indication, the game probably sucks. Maybe others had negative things to say about the game mechanics.

But you know, all that made me really happy. I feel like we're being insulted by whiney little kids just like all the other big companies get insulted. It makes me feel like we've made it.

Next stop--funding so we can get paid and I can relocate to where ever we're relocating to.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August Frustration

So I'm 38 and still trying to figure out life in a civilized society. I've always been as much introspective as I have been an observer of human behavior. But sometimes my introspection has hampered my ability to understand people. Case in point, the idea of leadership.

I've always thought that leadership meant that one person establishes a frame work to keep everyone on the same page so that the team can grow and create. Essentially, this is what I need from a leader. I need to know what needs to be done and what are the ways I can and cannot use to achieve it. As I struggle in leadership positions, it becomes more and more obvious to me that this is not what a leader should do.

Most people are not like me. Most people do not have big dreams or seek out challenges. Most people are content to just be--work some crappy job with no creativity or purpose. Now, I realize that my life would probably be easier if I was like most people. And instead of trying to break into the highly competitive and low paying gaming industry, I would go out and get a conventional job, buy a house, and raise a family. Those are good goal too and ones I aspire to. But I'm determined to do something big with my life or fail trying even if that means I accomplish nothing with my life.

Anyways, my point is that in leadership positions, I always assume other people are like me--need to be told what the end goal is and to be left alone to do it. But that's not what most people want in a leader. Most people want to be told what to do at the base level and ordered around like sheep. Most people don't care why they need to do something a certain way, needing only a general understanding that their efforts accomplish... something important. Most people are stressed out with big concepts and become easily overwhelmed, needing to be hand held through every step or they get frustrated and don't even try. As a leader, I frustrate people that need this kind of attention.

As a teacher, which is another type of leader, I'm always saddened by music students that pay to learn from me, but don't actually want to learn. As musicians go, there's a lot of kids that want to be rock stars, but don't want to do the hard work.

It's strange how people strive to be leaders and bosses despite the frustration of it. Why do we do it? We do it because we know that if we set the rules, things will get done correctly. The frustrating part is when people with less experience than us argue with us or refuse to do what you tell them to, or worse, do it their way when you're not around and end up breaking something that you didn't foresee or plan a fix for. I want to be the kind of boss that respects people and values my team. That gets to be really hard when some people want to make that as difficult as possible, and you just want to start yelling at people. Then you become that asshole boss that no one likes. I'm starting to figure out that it's easier, maybe even desirable to be an asshole boss. People complain about assholes, but maybe this is exactly what they want. If your boss is a jerk, you have stability. You know exactly what to expect. You know you're be told to do certain tasks and chewed out when you don't do them the way they're supposed to be done. If your boss is nice, you don't always know what's important because they don't yell at you when things go wrong. It's left sort of ambiguous. The nice boss will explain the good and bad of different things, leaving on you to figure out what you need to do. From my experiences, people don't like nice bosses. People feel lost with nice bosses.

I dunno. I'm just really frustrated right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

There's no "i" in Teen

I'm really swamped with teaching the Stairway to Stardom program that I've been involved with since 1991. It's interesting to me on several levels. I connect with teenagers really well. Being a teenager is really difficult, and us adults miss the point of it, not despite the fact that we lived through it, but because we lived through it.

Essentially, it boils down to fear. To give an example, this was many years ago, but while driving down the twisty Highway 1 over the cliffs of the Pacific coastline with my girlfriend at the time, I thought it would be funny to drive a little faster than I should be going. The car skid on a turn, fish tailing right towards a cliff with the ocean directly below us. She screamed and I laughed. I've driven that car for years. I knew exactly how to make it fish tail, exactly how fast it could break, accelerate, and turn. *I* knew we were completely safe. Now, I wasn't actually trying to make it fish tail and scare her, but I did think it was funny that it did. It was immature that I was driving fast and that I laughed--not one of the high points in my life. But my point being, I wasn't scared because I was in control and I knew I was safe.

But teenagers don't know that. Teenagers have lots of pressure on them to be what their parents, friends, and society wants them to be. They have no idea if they actually want to be any of those things. As we get older, we figure out what of those things actually ended up being important. Pay more attention in class... that one turned out to be true. Follow clothing trends so you fit in... not important in the least. Kids don't have hindsight / live experiences to fall back on. They have to make decisions on what activities and pursuits to invest in or not. They know that they can seriously screw up their life if they choose badly. But they're making these decisions blindly which makes it a lot more stressful. I'm still amazed at kids that go to expensive trade schools right out of high school. What are you thinking? How the hell do you have any idea if you want to be doing that when you get out of school?

Parents often make this worse. We know that getting invited to Sarah's party is not going to have any real impact on our lives. We can tell teenagers not to stress out about those sorts of things. But they're surrounded by peers that do stress out. Clearly, parents taking it lightly demonstrating they don't understand--making it all the more ironic. A worse thing adults can do, tell a kid that working hard and taking responsibility is important, while not following their own advice, thus clearly demonstrating that working hard isn't important, and worse still, that the adults word and opinions are not entirely accurate or important--and worse still--that their word need not be accurate.

I find it interesting how efficiently culture replicates itself. Remember, the function of culture is to give us tools to know how to survive our environment. Hanging out with teenagers, I see how they shape each other to duplicate society around them. This is the concept of hegemony. Through hegemony, we learn which way we're supposed to face on an elevator, how we greet a new person, what political party we should align ourselves with, which God to worship or not worship, and how to grieve when we lose someone we care about. Our culture evolves over time, but it's always there to tell us how to act and behave.

I don't have a problem with it. And I know I'm not above it, even though I understand the forces shaping me to do otherwise arbitrary things such as brush my hair before I go out in public or dress a certain way.

In either case, instead of ignoring the concerns of teenagers when they worry about things that my life experiences tell me are irrelevant, I try and listen. If nothing else, it reminds me of when I was a teenager and worried about the things that stressed me out

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sports Team Politics

I took a speech class in college. The teacher was talking about a really classic speech--one I'd heard of before. It's a classic Pro Life argument in which abortion is compared to slavery. There were a few people in the classroom that instantly voiced their disagreement before the teacher explained the connection. On the surface, it sounds like an unrelated connection. But if you investigate, it's a really good argument. The point being that slaves had little rights and that we give even less rights to the unborn. It's not enough to sway me from being Pro Choice, but it's a good argument. Which is why I say, it's important to look passed the surface and understand what's on a deeper level.

I talk to a lot of people about politics. Most people that are serious about politics discuss it like they do sports. A guy in Team A cheats on his wife, and Team B fans open their mouths with, "That's just what Team A people do." A politician in Team B cheats on his taxes, and idiots from Team A slam his whole party.

It's important to take a step back from that and debate party politics rather than team politics. There's nothing about being a Democrat that compels people to post pictures of your junk to your Twitter followers. Nor to cheat on your taxes when you're the one who writes the tax codes or to award government scholarships to members of your family. Indeed, the Dems have certainly had a bad couple years now with ethics violations and scandals. But again, it's important to note that it's not party affiliation that shapes moral behavior. It certainly contributed to the historic Republican victories in 2010--something I'm pretty happy about. But it's unfortunate that it came about for the wrong reasons.

I say this because the current administration is a radical departure from what the Democrat party has been for the last several decades. My hope is that independents are saying, "Whoa, hold on. That's way too far left." Can you imagine John F. Kennedy saying, "No nation in the history of the world has ever taxed its way into prosperity," standing right next to Obama as Obama seeks to raise taxes instead of cutting spending? Obama who just committed the biggest economic failure as a president in the history of this nation--the Stimulus Bill, that not only didn't create a single job, but actually cost 1.9 million jobs due to the uncertainty and instability it caused, then stuck tax payers with a trillion dollar debt with no sign of an apology from Obama more than, "As it turns out, there's no such thing as shovel ready projects." Um, oops? If Obama was leading a corporation and did that, he'd be in jail. That's not an exaggeration.

What's happening on the right side is very different. And despite what nitwits like Janeane Garofalo might think about the Tea Party, the Tea Party is as much a response against Neocons as it is against Liberals.

Some Democrats today are eager to distance themselves from the history of their party. Democrats fought for slavery. The KKK was founded by Democrats and they killed Republicans and blacks alike. Remember that it was a Republican that freed the slaves, and since Abe Lincoln, most Blacks who registered to vote, registered as Republicans since then. So to Democrats, Blacks and Republicans were two faces of the same enemy.

It was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, that established anti child labor laws, ended sweat shops, and greatly improved the lives of workers. And in the 1960s, when LBJ wanted to pass the Civil Rights Acts of 66 and 68, he had to turn to the Republicans to get it done because his own party was apathetic.

Then things changed. LBJ was a Democrat and many Democrats didn't like the idea of the Civil Rights Acts, much less having it signed by their own guy. LBJ escalated the war in Vietnam which was unpopular with both parties. The combination of the two made LBJ one of the very few presidents that was too unpopular to be able to run for a second term. Then Nixon came along. Nixon saw a disillusioned south and saw an opening. Republicans had always controlled the northern states while the Dems had the south, but Nixon saw a way to persuade southerners to flip. It didn't happen over night or even entirely during his administration. But it started with him in something called the Southern Strategy.

Not long after Nixon, we got Jimmy Carter. Carter was an honest guy--exact opposite of Nixon. He really meant well. He just wasn't very good. It was a tough blow for Democrats trying to recover after seeing their party splitting in half. Then came Reagan. Reagan spoke about small government, the strengths of capitalism, and of compassionate conservatism.

As the economy started to recover from the mess Carter left contrasting sharply to the utter hell of life in Communist Russia, many Democrats no longer wanted to be associated with the failures of big government. They became the Neocons--new conservatives that brought their old fiscally liberal, socially restrictive ideas to a party that was the exact opposite.

Now when I tell people I'm a Republican, they think that means I'm a racist that hates gay people. Now Republican candidates have to appease the Neocon crowd that never should have been part of our party in the first place. That's why we get Big Government Neocon Presidents like George Bush who massively expanded government spending who was unfortunately followed by a Big Government Liberal who massively expanded government spending.

And thus, the rise of the Small Government Tea Party movement.

Speaking of that, I recently read an article in which the question was asked if this country needs Ayn Rand or Jesus more. It's an interesting question because it so divides the Republican party.

Ayn Rand was an Atheist who escaped the oppression of Communism and moved to the US to be free. She wrote fiction that showed the morality of Capitalism and small government. This makes her a hero among Conservatives, but she also points out that Christian Fundamentalism limits freedom, and thus should be avoided, which makes her not well liked among Neocons. Anyone who knows me, knows of the two figures, which I think this country needs more.

Anyway, my whole point here is that politics should not be thought of like sports, but rather as a series of strategies to govern. The individual players may influence what party labels mean, but we should look past the labels and individuals and understand the core concepts they represent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Greatest Desire

I took a lot of philosophy classes in college. But there was one line that's really stuck with me the most. It's from Aristotle. Now this is highly paraphrased and "in my own words," but the quote basically says that the greatest desire of the weak is to have power over others. I think about this concept because it springs up a lot. I'm sometimes guilty of it myself. But lets go through and look at this.

Gossip is a big example. We love to say mean, embarrassing, or hurtful things about others. But even if what we're saying is true, the fact that we engage in this shows weakness in our character. We do it because we want to knock others down. A person strong of character need not do this.

The Jerry Springer show is another. When I look at that show, I see a bunch of troubled individuals who need patience, understanding, and help. Instead, they are wound up and exploited for high drama and high ratings. But why do people watch it? Partly because it appeals to us on an emotional level. Humans are emotional beings, and part of us watches because we want to help. But another part of us watches for the, "Man, look at these idiots," and "and I thought my life was going bad. Thank god I'm not these people," factors.

Knowledge is another big divide. Want to start a nerd fight? Ask a bunch of nerds about what being a ninja *really* means. I've seen that question devolve into name calling and threats of physical violence. Why do we fight over this stuff? Why do we *have* to be right? It's our weakness. "Knowing" the answer to things that the "lesser" people don't know gives us power over others. There's a big difference between being educated in something and being opinionated in it. Too few people know the difference. And I'm dangerously close to sounding like a hypocrit here by saying I do. But I'm not perfect, nor am I always strong of character.

I think culture has to be the biggest divide of them all. It's the understanding of culture that makes me the most thankful for my education in Anthropology. I've learned many great things from my time spent in class. One of my favorite lessons is from the words of Franz Boas. He's a mixed bag--someone who famously fudged his lab results in his attempt to try and prove that living in the US would give you a larger brain. But aside from that nuttiness, Boas argued that culture is a series of strategies designed to solve problems unique to a people's environment. As such, one people's culture is just as valuable as another's.

I'll give you examples. I used to have a dim opinion of Ebonics. When a black person would "axe someone a question," I'd roll my eyes. Is it really that hard to say "ask"? How lazy are you? We live in America. You should learn to speak English like the rest of us.

But then I thought about it. The founders of this emerging country hated the British so much, that we intentionally changed the spelling of many words. Now, some people might not realize that "gray" is the American spelling and "grey" is the British. But I think most of us know we took the "u" out of British spelled words like "honour," and "colour." Those words even felt weird for me to type like that. Still, there are more modern examples of dialect. Having lived in California all my life, I didn't know that "hella" was a regional word. I hella say "hella" all the hella time when I talk. I don't normally type it though. People from the south say "y'all,' which I use too because it's so useful. Y'all should hella do the same. Some east coast people drop "r" sounds. Like people from Boston who might say, "Pawk the caw in Hawvawd Yawd." I heard that this started due to a movement of east coast people being influenced by Britain around the first World War.

So the question is, why are we fine with all that, but not fine when the African American community speaks with their own changes? Seems like a double standard. But speaking more about culture, if we understand that all culture is equal, then we understand that the "high culture" of ultra wealthy aristocrats is just as good as Redneck culture. So if someone says they're "more cultured" because they go to art galleries instead of monster truck pulls, they're wrong. The term "more cultured" is meaningless. Culture is just as valuable if you're wearing smokey eye make up, big hair, and animal prints, if you're wearing traditional Hopi clothing and singing to the corn, if you're going to the graveyards on Nov 2nd to leave food for loved ones that have passed, or if you're at the park and you've got a 40 in one hand and you're pounding on the table with the other because you just won a round of dominoes.

All people have value. All people can teach us something. No one is above us and no one is below.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Not the End of the World

So I didn't even know the world was supposed to end until the day of the supposed rapture. I've heard a few stories about the aftermath--Christian fundamentalists that blew their life savings and/or their children's college funds thinking the world would end on May 21st. One thing I can say about Christianity, their extremists make rash and unwise financial decisions. That's a hell of a lot better than what extremists from other religions do. How's that for a slogan? "Christianity: Our Nutjobs are a lot less dangerous!"

ok, topic switch. Let's talk about the Republican Primary race. On my last post, I didn't mention one guy that I'd sorta of heard of, but now really, really like. That's Herman Cain. He's one of the few people out there that can talk about America with such love and passion that it brings a tear to my eye. I don't wave flags or any of that. But I do have a profound love of my country. So patriotic themes can often do that to me, but some speakers just connect with me better.

Of course I'll be keeping an eye on things. It should be interesting.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's in a Codename?

So Osama was a huge news story with lots of spin offs. But one of them--the story about Native Americans being upset that "Geronimo" was used at the codename for Osama was one particular story I wanted to focus on. I'm sure I've mentioned this topic before on this blog, but I want to revisit it, because it's important. It's an issue that most people don't seem to understand.

I think the reaction most people have to this story is to call it political correctness gone to far. Or, worse, to remind people that the military uses lots of Native American names and imagery, such as Apache Helicopters in their lingo to bring respect to the fierceness and strength of Native Americans in battle. That sounds like a compliment, doesn't it?

I've even heard from the mouths of people I otherwise considered a friend, disgusting comments like, "The Native Americans lost. We won. They need to get over it."

Quite unfortunately, Hollywood has contributed to one of the greatest shames in the history of the United States: the myth that somehow American settlers and Native Americans engaged in great battles and that the "West was Won." This is not the case.

We have no accurate records on this issue, but of the millions of Native Americans that were killed by American settlers during the European Invasion, a tiny fraction of them were killed in battle. The vast majority of them were killed by small pox and other diseases, by starvation, by being gunned down and hunted, by being put into concentration death camps, and by good ol' round ups and firing squads. I'll go through these one at a time.

The rosie "First Thanksgiving," of the pilgrims and the Native Americans sharing a feast together--yeah, no. The first Thanksgiving went a lot differently from the myth. Squanto had seen his entire tribe killed by plagues brought by European contact. He was the only one still alive. He shared food from the harvest because there was no one else alive that he knew. His tribe, the Patuxet(yeah, I had to google it) along with many others, suffered a 100% mortality rate(minus Squanto), leaving much of the New England area blanketed by bodies of the dead. The Pilgrims didn't need to fire a shot to colonize America--only to share their small pox infested blankets in the first example of Americans using Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Most scholars put the death rate of Native Americans to European diseases at about 90%, meaning 90% of the indigenous population of North and South America being wiped out, not by war, but by disease. It's impossible to know the exact numbers of what the total population of the Americas was prior to the European Invasion, but we at least know that this event caused the greatest loss of life in the history of the world--far more than the Black Plague of Europe and the World Wars including the Holocaust.

So we all know that Americans killed buffalo in an effort to destroy the food source for the plains indians. But what people might not know is that Americans did that elsewhere, regularly going into Native American farmland(yes, many were peaceful farmers), and destroyed their crops. Keep in mind, California Indians spoke three thousand separate languages alone. There isn't a "Native American People" any more than there is a "European People." America was essentially hundreds of thousands of little countries: each tribe having their own language, culture, and religion(and neighboring enemies). If a unified force of American settlers wanted to run your dinky tribe off your land and salt your fields, there wasn't anything you could do about it.

A particularly despicable fact in American history, our government paid people to kill Native Americans $5 dollars per scalp. There's a name for this term. It's called State Sponsored Genocide. Men, women, babies... it didn't matter. Americans slaughtered Natives for a living, bringing their piles of scalps to the post office to be paid, what in the 1800s would have been a fortune.

Death Camps
It was with great sadness that many Americans watched an entire people fall to disease. These were controversial times. You had the idea of Manifest Destiny, the idea that God had given this land to Christians and all they had to do was exterminate the pesky Native from them. But you also had the Christians that were heart broken to watch peaceful Natives wither. This massive guilt did two things. It caused Christians to want to blame Natives for their own sickness and it compelled them to want to convert Natives to becoming Christians before they died.

Spanish Missionaries took in Native Americans in large numbers. They forced them to do labor in exchange for finding God. The California Missions became death camps where Native Americans died by the hundreds through starvation or disease. The Spanish, no doubt troubled by spending all that time to convert them, only to watch them die, must have been confused. They didn't understand what stress, malnourishment, and physical labor did to an already weak immune system in a disease ridden environment.

Firing Squads
Have you ever heard of the Battle of Wounded Knee? Here's some history, because this is what passes as a "battle." So hundreds of Lakota were rounded up, taken to a ravine, and shot. Men, women, babies... it didn't matter. The 7th Cavalry was in the process of taking all the weapons away from the Lakota when the execution started early, meaning the only American Army personnel killed in the "battle" died from friendly fire.

Ok, what about Custer's Last Stand--the only battle ever named after the loser. Think from the Native American perspective. The White Man is a filthy, diseased ridden, violent brute. Just being near them can kill you. They will attack you on sight, and bring lots of friends. Wouldn't you be terrified? Well, Native Americans were. In nearly all cases, Natives simply ran. Now picture Post Civil War. The Yankees Army had just defeated the Confederates. Now what? A battle hardened Army with nothing to do. President Ulysses Grant, a general in the Yankee Army was now determined, as President, to take it to Native Americans as if they were one people, with one army, to fight against in battle.

Custer, seeing Grant's rise from an officer all the way to President, wanted to make a name for himself as well. He knew that Native Americans all ran. As he was tasked with bringing up the rear, he was convinced that by the time his regiment got to the field, the Indians would have all fled, leaving no glory for him. So he disobeyed orders, and ordered a forced march so that his troops would arrive first. His men, having marched two days straight with no sleep would find out that not only did the Lakota choose not to run this time, but there was a heck of a lot more of them. How many, we don't know since none of Custer's men survived the fight. But what is clear, The Battle of the Little Bighorn, as it would be later renamed, spelled the end of the American Indian wars. Now angry at a humiliating loss, the 7th Cavalry took their revenge, forcing them from their land, rounding them up in the ravine at Wounded Knee and massacring them.

Ok, so what's my point? I remember in high school, this one girl told me she hated covering Native Americans in History class. I asked her why. She said it was because it was so depressing. Every day was more bad news, more terrible things that happened to them. The worst part of that, is we think that's all in the past. It's not.

The state of Native Americans in this country is the biggest proof why Liberalism does not work. Here you have an entire ethnicity of impoverished people, dependent on the government. No amount of money will change that. In fact, the more money given, the more demoralized, defeated, and dependent Native Americans feel. I have to say, I know what it feels like to be taken care of and feel helpless because of it. It's tough to break that cycle.

But back on topic, you might wonder, how could Americans commit such horrible acts against Native Americans? Didn't anyone care about babies being gunned down? Someone had to have a conscious. There had to be outrage somewhere.

But here's the deal. There was a need to paint Native Americans as warriors, as savages... even, as animals. I mean, after all, they were just going to kill each other anyways because they're so war like. Despite some tribes being so peaceful that they didn't even have a word for war, all Native Americans were painted by the same propaganda brush--much in the same way that some would suggest that Muslims all want to subject us to Sharia Law and we need to fight for our existence against them. No doubt, the same movement persisted in America at the time. So the public was lied to through hegemony. Not any one person spread this lie or misconception. It was a general movement--much in the same way that feeds Islamaphobia today. We're a much more enlightened people these days, so it's a weak comparison to how bad it must have been a century or two ago, but you get the point.

When you see a Native American sports mascot with a tomahawk, you are seeing a relic piece of war propaganda, justifying State Sponsored Genocide against Native Americans and an easement of our guilt for causing the greatest and deadliest plague epidemic in the history of the world.

Once you understand that, only then will you see why sports mascots, Apache helicopters, and Operation Geronimo are offensive and why calling the controversy following them as "political correctness gone too far" makes you ignorant.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love this country. I'm proud to be an American. We have dark spots in our history. Every country does. No reason to beat ourselves up about it today. But it's important to at least understand the dark spots and the damage they continue to do.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ding Dong

I don't have much to say that hasn't been said. I'm not excited about Osama's death. I can't imagine celebrating death. But I'm happy for my country and our fight against those that mean us harm.

I was really happy with President Obama's speech. It was a difficult one to make. There was a narrow path that needed to be taken. He walked it. I'm happy about the choices Obama makes about how to talk to Muslims around the world. We need to be seen as strong and willing to stand up for ourselves without fear. But we are also a tolerant nation. Anyway, I really liked the speech he gave and the dignity with which he delivered it.

As for what happens now, who knows? War is a funny thing. War may be the opposite of peace, but I think it's important to realize that peace can be just as bloody or worse. Hitler might have been at war with Europe, but he was at peace with the Jews. Saddam might have been at war with Iran, but he was at peace with the Kurds. My point is that peace always leads to suffering. Because if a person can force their will on others with impunity, someone will do so. Only war makes freedom possible.

Obama made politically unpopular decisions about escalating the war in Afghanistan to dismantle the Taliban and find Osama. Liberals wanted us out. The fact that Obama went against his own party on that, does say something.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


They often say that our own culture is invisible to us. Much in the same way that egocentric people say they don't have an accent. Of course we all have accents. And of course we all have culture. We just don't think of it that way. It wasn't until I got my degree in Anthropology that I really understood how strange American culture was.

Franz Boas' once argued that culture was a system of strategies designed to solve problems unique to a people's environment. All Anthropologists define the tricky word "culture" differently. But this is, I think, the best definition. I've explained it to people, but either they don't get it, or I bore the crap out of them with it. If you've ever watched the show The Big Band Theory, I often feel I can relate to Sheldon's character--not that I'm arrogant or think of myself above others, but that I find the world and human behavior fascinating while everyone else just shrugs about it and takes it for granted. Or I bore people with my enthusiasm for social sciences.

So anyways, maybe this will bore people, but it's not like anyone follows me anyways. So here goes. Let's look at the problems unique to the American environment. The New World was big. Spain had tobacco fields in the south, and was making a killing from them. No one had found gold yet, but it seemed like a matter of time. All the different countries of Europe were scrambling to grab as much of America as they could get their hands on. Our fledgling country had won our independence from Britain, but we still had to deal with the French and British trying to grab as much of "that area above us" that would later become Canada, and the Spanish were trying to grab as much of the land below us. The Native Americans were just trying to stay alive but, quite unfortunately, would be trampled with much of their beautiful culture snuffed out along with them.

I mention the economic principle know as The Tragedy of the Commons a lot. It's a fantastic principle that applies here as well. The New Americans needed to expand and settle as fast as they could to claim land before the French, Brits, and Spanish did. How did we accomplish this? We needed a culture of consumption. If culture is a system of strategies designed to solve problems and our problem was that we weren't expanding and/or building infrastructure fast enough, then it makes sense that mass consumption would be encouraged. It's still part of our culture. We don't take what we need. We take what we can. And our culture tells us we're important based on how expensive our cars are, thus pushing us to take more and more because that's supposed to make us happy.

We're also obsessed with guns. I've heard some that complain about the Second Amendment(because they don't understand it), saying that people don't need armor piercing bullets because deers don't wear bullet proof jackets. The Second Amendment doesn't have a damn thing to do with hunting. The Second Amendment guarantees us the right to bare arms in case our government shall rise against us. Yeah, Liberals don't seem to get that. Our founding fathers hated government so much, they wanted to ensure that we would always be well enough armed that we could rise up and violently over throw our leaders if they got too tyrannical. Like no where else in the world, the gun symbolizes to an American that our government should fear us, and thus, we will always be free from Totalitarianism. The gun is freedom.

American is the most religious industrialized nation in the world. But it's interesting to note that many of our founding fathers were not Christians. In fact, the Treaty of Tripoli from 1796 states the following:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Many of our founding fathers were Christian, but even they were careful to ensure that Christianity was never part of our government. Instead, we would adapt the idea of another very important part of American called "e pluribus unum," or "Out of many: one." Combine that with the idea of American Exceptionalism and you have another extremely important part of American culture. As a side note, Barack Obama inaccurately described the definition of American Exceptionalism(because he didn't know what it meant). It is the idea that Americans have special freedoms because we are guaranteed our freedoms and rights by God--not by politicians. Obama, when asked if he believed in the idea of American Exceptionalism answered, "Well, I'm sure people from other countries feel they're exceptional too." Yeah, sorry, but the fact he can say such horribly stupid things while "sounding smart," doesn't make them ok. He's still an idiot.

Anyways, put these two very American ideas together, and you have the idea that from all faiths, religions, and ethnicities, we Americans all have the same rights regardless of what politicians say or try and take from us. Our freedoms are more important than our government. We are a nation of the people and our government exists to serve us, not the other way around.

Consumption, guns, and God pretty much sums up American culture. I take very little. I hate guns. And I'm an Atheist. But I still very much love my country and am proud to be an American. I'm not a walking contradiction. I'm just more complicated than most people can handle.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trolls and Warlocks

Ok, last Charlie Sheen reference title. But this one may or may not apply. I wanted to rant about who we might see run for the Republican primary. I've ranted about Obama a lot, but there's not a lot of contenders on the GOP side to get excited about either. At this point, I would vote for my cat over Obama, but still, here's my take on the GOP stars.

Sarah Palin
She's not going to run. I think the only one propping her up is the left. She can't sneeze without a story about her. I read an article about her where the story was that she went a whole day without commenting on some event. What the hell is wrong with the media? The fact that the main stream media harasses her as much as they do, is a story in and of itself. One reporter, in a moment of honesty, admitted that they make up anything, put Palin's name in the story, and get more hits. She's been a money maker for the left ever since the election.

She's not stupid. As much as the main stream media needs her to be seen that way for ratings. I certainly don't agree with everything she says, and I think some of her positions are stupid, like her thinking that the Pro Life Movement empowers women--that's stupid. But she's not stupid. Anyway, Palin is likely not going to run. She's a mediocre politician who fights too much to be able to compromise and get things done. I like her, but she wouldn't be an effective President because of this.

Michele Bachmann
I don't think she comes across that well. She gives poorly thought out or stock phrase answers to questions. Although I agree with her positions, she comes across in interviews like she's had those positions programmed into her. I just don't see her as a charismatic leader.

Tim Pawlenty
Sad to say he might be the brightest star despite, or perhaps because, he's so little known. I know very little about him. I haven't seen any interviews by him or anything. No idea.

Hick Huckabee
He's charismatic. He's good at working with people. He's very polite and humble when talking with people, even people with radically different views. I like him and so does most the party base. We all know him, and he has a really solid shot of being our next President. However.

I'm really unhappy with his social conservative stances. I think it's very likely he could push for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, or at the least work against the gay civil rights movement. Those of us in the younger generation are much more tolerant of the gay community. Such actions would be a giant step back for the civil rights movement.

Newt Gingrich
I've always liked Newt since the days of the Contract with America and the swell of prosperity in the 1990s, when he led Congress as Speaker of the House together with a more fiscally moderate democrat in Bill Clinton as President. Now, you could point out that during this time, the community Reinvestment Act got altered and this ultimately lead to the collapse of the housing market, and thus the recession economist say we are no longer in. Aside from that, Newt is smart, charismatic, and he can do a hell of an interview. Interviews are important to me because it shows how a politician can sell their case and influence people--skills needed to get things done.

The big thing about Newt, he cheated on his wife while she was on her death bed. Not cool. Not at all cool. In fact, he's a serial adulterer and instead of taking responsibility for that, he blames it on not praying enough. This doesn't inspire confidence. Sure, Bill Clinton has the same issues and no one cared, but republicans can't go around claiming to be the party of family values and morals and then do stuff like that.

Donald Trump
This is an interesting one. He's a little quirky, but he's charismatic, very well known, certainly tough. He has tons of business experience and could do wonders to turn the economy around. However.

Like Newt, he hops around. He has a super model for a wife, and is generally too "Hollywood" for most conservatives' tastes. But worse is the recent birther influence. So in a recent interview, he talked about how Obama's grand mother testified that she witnessed Obama's birth as it took place in Kenya. This means Obama was not born in the US and cannot be President of the US as detailed in the Constitution. He also mentioned how Obama has spent millions of dollars in legal fees to keep his birth certificate from being released to the public.

Ok, let's sort through this. The birth certificate issue is puzzling. I don't know what to think about it. But I'm willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt and / or wait for more details on that. Obama certainly blows lots of money for stupid reasons, so his reasonings for secrecy could be less sinister.

During the 90's, an associate of Bill Clinton went into the library of Congress, confiscated documents, smuggled them down his pants, and destroyed them. He admitted to such in testimony and served jail time for obstruction by refusing to reveal the contents of the documents he destroyed. We know only that they where about White Water Gate, the real estate scandal that the Clintons were involved with before Bill became President. Remember that story? Vince Foster, who had information implicating the Clintons killed himself to avoid testifying. The scam was about creating dummy companies to get money or something like that. It was a long time ago, so I don't remember all the details. The Clintons invested a lot of money into it and lost it all, meaning they either got scammed too, or they weren't very good at it.

In either case, what I'm trying to get at is that the main stream media might be more harsh on Republicans, but they cover the bad stuff with Democrats too. If there really was anything to Obama hiding his birth certificate, I just think we would have heard more about it. The media loves Obama, but they love ratings more. They'd be covering this story like mad if there was something to it.

The story about the grandma, I just don't buy it. It sounds like an urban legend. Again, if he really had his own grandma swear she witnessed Obama born in Kenya, it would have been a huge story. I certainly wouldn't be hearing about it for the first time from Donald Trump in an interview. So in short, I'm really not that enthusiastic about voting for a guy that says radical conspiracy theories in an interview and tries to make them fly.

Mit Romney
I don't know that much about him other than he's a Mormon--which means he wears magic underwear(which is weird), and he proposed a health care system very similar to Obamacare. Although I don't know the difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, the fact that they are similar is going to really hurt him if it came down to him vs Obama. Obamacare is a disaster. Why should we trust Obama part II?

Ok, now for the "Not Running, but We Wish They Were" portion:

Chris Christie
Love this guy. Tons of charisma, very tough, very smart, and very popular in the base. He's said repeatedly he wants to stay governor of New Jersey.

Paul Ryan
He's very articulate. Brilliant guy. He's still pretty young, so we might see him make a go for it later down the road.

Condoleezza Rice
She's repeatedly said she has no interest in running for office. Bummer. She has two PhDs, but still has a kind, humble personality in interviews. I really like her.

After leaving the Bush Administration, she went back to teaching at Stanford. She recently put out a book about her life. Sometimes politicians do that--write a book as a weather balloon to test their popularity before running. Maybe that was part of her motivation. I don't know, but I hope so. I don't think she's all that tough. She might be too much on the nice side, but the media barely covered her at all. So maybe she is tough when she needs to be. Contrast that to all the coverage Hillary Clinton has doing the same job. Anyways, I still really like her and would love to see her run... for anything.

Allen West
He's a rising star in the GOP and the Tea Party Movement. It's premature for him to look for a white house run, but in his first couple months as a House freshman, he introduced a bill to cut spending for a program that saved $60 million dollars from the budget and it got unanimous support. In the interview I saw, he was getting praise, but he simply said that if the near 500 members of Congress did the same, they could fix the budget crisis.

I've been keeping an eye on him for a while though. He's spoken at Town Hall meetings and Tea Party rallies. He's definitely someone to keep watching.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I just wanted to say I agree with Obama when he said, as a candidate in 2007, the following:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch.

Clearly Bush is completely out of line starting a third illegal war by choosing to plunge the US in war against Libya without Congressional support. Is Bush not the worst President ever? I mean the guy really... oh, wait a minute, Bush isn't President any more. Obama is. But that can't be.

Obama campaigned against Bush saying his tax cuts exploded the debt and that we should not escalate the war in Iraq because the US should not get involved in civil wars. As President, blew through over a trillion dollars in a Stimulous bill he promised we desperately needed, then a year later admitted he now knows there's no such thing as a "Shovel Ready Project." That was a trillion dollar President-in-Training mistake that we didn't need right now. Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, saying it was "the good war," despite Bush having the good sense not to get us too mired there. Now we've lost far too many troops and resources there with little to show for it. He extended the Bush tax cuts, despite all his supporters and himself single handedly pointing at this one excuse for all our problems with debt... and then he carried on "the problem," himself. And now, he's started a third war without approval with Congress(even Bush waited for Congressional approval).

Why are we at war with Libya? Because Europe gets oil from there. So we're bombing people we don't know just so other countries can keep a steady supply of oil. For every 2 Cruise Missiles we shoot at Qaddafi's tanks, it costs us a million dollars. Our missiles are often more valuable than what we destroy with them.

Civil war, genocide, atrocities... these things happen in many African countries all the time. But Libya has oil and the others don't. Where are all the Obama supporters that chanting "No Blood For Oil!" when it was a Bush sending over troops? And as a side note, these same anti war protesters have no problem going to the grocery store and buying inexpensive produce that got there by way of big diesel trucks. I get pissed off at oblivious people that act like they're morally superior while they benefit against the very thing they protest. The same people that say, "Oh, but I drive an electric car because I care about the environment." No, you drive a coal powered car because that's where electricity comes from, you moron.

Anti war hippies piss me off in general. I say "hippies" instead of saying "Liberals," because the term "Liberal" includes a wide variety of people with very different view points. As much as it pisses me off when people make broad and inaccurate generalizations about all us Republicans, I shouldn't do it about Liberals. But anyways, back to hippies. It's not a strong military defense that causes wars, but the lack of one. Hitler didn't attack Poland because he wanted a challenge. Cut military spending, reduce the US's ability to police the world, and you'll see violence increase. The US needs to stop pretending to be the world police and accept we are the world police.

That said, I don't entirely disagree with Obama's decision. But I want to see the anti war, Obama supporters stop being hypocrites. Obama's approval rating is 45%. That's about 20% too high.

Oh, and I want to point out something else. Gas prices are now at $4 dollars a gallon. But don't you all feel a lot safer since Obama banned new well oil drilling in the gulf of Mexico? Of course, we don't own the gulf of Mexico. So Obama didn't stop drilling there. He stopped Americans from being able to drill there. That means instead of us getting more oil, many south American countries who hate us got to drill there instead. And that accomplished... what, exactly? Populist President, not doing the right thing, but doing the popular thing. We don't have a President. We have a celebrity.

And on to Health Care news, because this just keeps getting better. So over a thousand of the biggest corporations have gotten a special federal waiver allowing them to be exempt from Obama's crushing, anti business health care law. Guess who can't get the waivers? That's right, small businesses. That's the thing with federal regulations. The big companies have an army of lawyers, accountants, and analysts to get around any new regulation the government throws at them. But the smaller companies can't. So everytime some idiot politician wants to pass some regulation to "take it to the man and clean up Wall Street," what they're really doing is making it harder for small businesses on main street to compete with the big guys. This is the same reason why big business loves Liberal policies like the job killing regulation of minimum wage--it puts the hurt on small businesses struggling to compete.

Why are things not improving? Is it still Bush's fault for reasons we don't even remember any more? You could make taxes 0%, and it's still not going to make much difference. The problem is a lack of stability. People say of FDR that if something didn't work, he tried something else. That sounds like a good thing. It's not. If things are constantly shifting around you, what do you do? You play it safe, huddle in survival mode, and wait it out. No one knows what the hell Obama is doing because he doesn't know. What are we doing in Libya? What's our goal there? He doesn't know. What's our goal in Afghanistan? He doesn't know. Federal ban on gay marriage? He says his opinions on that are "evolving." Meaning, "I don't want to take responsibility for my beliefs." His inability to lead has caused massive instability and a gaping lack of confidence. He played the populist. He swayed the idiots. Now no one knows what he stands for other than he chases popularity instead of leading. Instead of creating financial stability, he destabilized the financial market with a chaotic and an unpredictable health care bill and a wasteful "stimulus" bill. He turned a simple Recession into The Great Recession, and it's just going to keep getting worse until we get a President who can bring some stability.

Monday, March 7, 2011

GDC is over.

My last day at GDC was fairly uneventful. I met a few more people. My contact asked us if we wanted to help volunteer for E3 which is in June. I told her I would, so that's set. E3 is less about business and more about new games coming out. Isn't not open to the public, so not everyone can attend.

Tonight was the last night to go out to clubs and network, but I was tired. So I just went home. Out of curiosity, I looked up craigslist in SF to see about people posting about GDC in terms of after party get togethers and what not. Oh my. I found 4 adds in the Personals section about it. All 4 were in the Men Seeking Men section. I didn't click on the posts. The titles alone frightened me. Well, it was San Francisco after all.

You know what? I looked up on the GDC website and it had listed all the companies that where hiring in the career pavilion. Well, if you click to expand, it gave the phone number and the email address of the HR person for each company so you could set up private interviews. Oh my God. What an idiot I am for missing that. I could have easily seen which of those companies were hiring writers, set up some interviews and talked directly to who I needed to. Man, I really blew it.

So as I continue the hunt, life gets a little more confusing. I had a Skype meeting with the Project Lead of the one game I'm writing for. They're still not paying us, but they want to reach an agreement with each of us to talk about what they'd be paying us if they were. Like I've said, I never thought I'd see any money out of this. But what if I did? What if this is actually my first big break into the biz? They quoted me a salary which is typical of experienced game designers, but astronomically large compared to what us lowly writers make selling novels along with pieces of our souls to publishers. By that, I mean, most published authors can't make enough money to support themselves. I mean, even authors that have books out, in stores, and on shelves, still struggle. So tonight, he quoted me a salary that was well above anything I could reasonably hope for as an author.

I know this will sound strange to any one reading this, but I felt uncomfortable being offered that much money. I'm a published author, but I've never published my fiction. And I don't have any industry experience. I'm a nobody, being offered more money that my dad made at the peak of his career at the start of mine. I don't know how to take that. Then a part of my realized this is all Monopoly money anyways until I actually have the check in my hands and it clears.

So I had assumed that if I got hired by a big company, I could keep telecommuting part time, like I'm doing, for this unfunded company. But what if the new company won't let me? I'm really kind of at a loss here. Do I stop looking for a job, hoping I start getting paid by the unfunded one, or do I keep looking for a paying job knowing that might cause me to bail on the first one? If I did leave this project, they'd have to rework a lot of stuff. It'd certainly set them back a bunch. And I don't want to do that to anyone.

I'm not in this for the money. I could care less about that. I don't bail on people. But I might never see any money out of this unfunded project. Is that worth turning down my dream(paying) job for? So yeah, it's pretty confusing knowing what to do. In either case, if this unfunded project ships, that will be a huge boost on my resume. I'd be able to claim over a year of game industry experience with one shipped title under my belt. That takes me from 1 of 200 candidates applying for the same job, down to 1 of 10. Much better odds of getting hired.

But what if this unfunded project does get funding, they pay us, and the game is ultimately successful? They were telling me tonight that this is just the beginning and that they want to keep making more games. And that they don't want to see me going anywhere.

As a side note. Networking with other writers at GDC might have been a waste of time in terms of getting hired. We're all competing with each other. But it did give me a better idea of who I'm competing against. I never met another writer that's obsessed with MMOs like I am. I know games in and out. I know players in and out. I know what players like, hate, and will tolerate. I know in-game culture. As an Anthropologist, I study behavior. As a writer, I study story and characters. As a game writer, I need to work some kinks out, but I'll be really, really good at it. Maybe I should be getting paid an astronomical salary. Time will tell.

Friday, March 4, 2011

GDC, Day 5

You know how I normally dress? Sweat pants and a Slayer tee shirt. I got in the elevator to go to the convention for the day and looked at my reflection. Of course I've look in the mirror every day this week before leaving my hotel. But this was the moment I thought about it. I was wearing khaki slacks and a dress shirt. I looked at my reflection and said, "This is who I am." Then I thought about last night, how I threw on some sweat pants and a metal band tee shirt just to go across the street to get a pizza. That's not who I was any more. I don't want to go back to that. I don't want to go back to Sacramento and be that teenager trapped in a man's body, wondering where my high school days went.

So I was hoping Thursday would be my big networking day. I still have a decent amount of business cards to hand out. People seemed a lot less approachable. They looked tired. And there was whole mess more people around. I ended up networking with the people that could help me the least--other writers. We saw each other at the same panels, the same social gatherings, and just seemed to gravitate towards each other in general. We can't really help each other since we're all competing for the same jobs.

I did better just sitting down at a table, waiting for people to sit down next to me and striking up conversations with them. I apparently met some really important Sony exec doing that. She explained what she did. It was something like a communications position, like she meets other companies trying to do stuff and she gets their games published through Sony. Could be an excellent contact if Sony would be interested in funding the MMO we're working on. Though, I hardly know how business gets done in the game biz other than what educated guessing could accomplish. But still, it might make sense for me to make a connection, then get our project manager in touch with her and let them talk it out.

I also met some guy that's a head chapter leader in the IGDA. He gave me some great advice about working the career pavilion. This is stuff I should have known, but it's been so long since I've had to apply for a conventional job, that I forgot this stuff. The HR people at the booths are the gate keepers. They are primarily checking to see if you're crazy or not. If you're a loon, they thank you for your application, tell you they'll pass it on to the right people, then throw it away when you're not looking.

At the end of GDC, the "non throw away pile" has some potentially good candidates mixed in with a lot of crap. It's impossible for them to accurately distinguish the difference. I understand this. I know I'm an untested, unknown quantity, applying for a high financial risk industry where my work could help make or break a huge investment in time, money, and resources. No company is going to want to gamble on people without experience. I get that. I hate that. But I get that. And really, if I didn't know me, I wouldn't hire me.

So anyway, this chapter guy(I'm not going to mention any names) told me that the whole objective of the booths, is to get passed the HR booth people and get on to the real people doing the hiring. As he was talking, I remember telling an HR booth guy about what I did. He told me the Content Designer guy was around, and if I wanted to come back in an hour and talk to him if I had any questions, I could do so. I didn't realize it, but what he was doing was telling me that he liked what I had to say, and he wanted to get someone in the company that knew more about the position I was applying for to better sniff me out. Like a dumb ass, I said, "I think I'm good, thanks," and passed on it.

Ah well, more stuff to know for next time. I got the impression that industry people wanted to help the talented wannabes learn the tricks and secret handshakes so they can make the industry better. Meanwhile, the untalented people should stay on their side of the fence. I'm slowly climbing the fence. I got a lot of really great advice. Really, I just have to keep at it.

One thing that really surprised me, when I talked about the project I was involved with, people seemed really interested. Like it was a big deal. I was like, "Did I mention it was unfunded. I did? Yeah well, that means we're not getting paid. Oh, you get that?" But people didn't care. They still took that as serious sounding. I guess it's not all that uncommon for people to work on serious, but unfunded projects. The Stargate MMO comes to mind. Those people worked for free for a long time. When they finally gave up, a lot of those people went to big studios. One of the Content Designers(a position I apply for), went to Cryptic Studios (a studio I've applied for multiple times over the last couple years). So, I'm thinking I need to take my current project a hell of a lot more serious. I mean, it really is a cool project. I just didn't think it meant anything since it was unfunded.

It's not that I blow it off. It's just that I found it mentioned on the Gamedev boards along with a lot of crap. It looked pretty cool. They said there might be money down the line, which I read as, "You will never see money from this ever." I just thought of it as a portfolio piece. Anyone that knows me, knows I don't care about money. I really don't. I need enough to eat, sleep, and take care of minor things here and there, but I don't care about material possessions. I need a good computer to do my thing, that's about it.

Anyway, other than free burritos from some tiny game companies giving away food to people with GDC badges, not much else happened. Another group of people gave out Korean tacos. It said, "pork" and I hope that's what it was. But yeah, I was pretty nervous. While you waited in line for your food, they had their games set up for you to demo. I didn't really think about all the people on the street handing out fliers and stuff. People were dressed up as wizards, pirates, and zombies just outside. Since I stayed inside from opening to close most the time, I didn't really notice them being there. As they gave out the free food, they asked people to blog about their company and check them out and stuff. But now I can't remember the names of their companies. But there, I blogged about them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

GDC, Day 4

Day 4 was yesterday, Wednesday. Today is the day I get my first chance to go to the career pavilion. A few people on the street have asked me what the "GDC" on my badge around my neck stands for. So people have struck up conversations with me about it. So these two garbage collector guys stopped me as I was walking from my hotel to the convention to ask me about it. I stopped and talked to them about how I was hoping to try and get a job. One of them said, "No, you're not going to try and get a job, you're going to get that job." I laughed, and they kept going. He said, "You're going to go in their and take someone's job because you're the best." It was just so funny and awesome. He said, "Let me tell you something. When I applied for this job, I told them I used to be a carpenter. The guy said, 'You see these ten pages I got here? These are a list of guys trying to get this job, and they're all carpenters. What makes you any different?' So I said, 'None of those guys are a bad ass. You want to start your company off with bad asses, right?' So that's what you gotta do. You gotta go in there and let them know you're a bad ass."

I shook their hands, patted them on the shoulders, thanked them immensely for their advice. Then I put my hands together and did a short bow. Why? I dunno. Cause it was an instinct and I really appreciated their encouragement. They did the same and bowed back, which was really funny. I'm a white guy, bowing to two black guys, which makes no sense, but it was fun and I smiled the whole way to the convention.

Aside from women asking me if I want dates and the 10-12 pan handlers I pass to or from the convention, I've got a general sense that the people in San Francisco just seem to be really nice.

So Wednesday - Friday is when Expo Pass people get to actually start doing stuff. And I had a lot to do. First off, they opened the Expo floor up at 10pm. It might have been a little bigger than the size of a soccer field. On the far left where closed booths for game companies. I didn't really get what was happening there. I think people made appointments to interview for jobs or they're doing some kind of business deals there. I don't know. In the middle was wear a lot of companies expo'd stuff. There was a dancer lady with motion capture sensors strapped to her. She was moving around and the 3d, CGI character on the screen was perfectly synced with her. I've seen that done before, only the 3d character was fully rendered--which I hadn't seen done before.

There were a bunch of other things like some guy lecturing about new features in 3d Studio Max and Maya. Since I'm not an artist, I just kept going. I got the the career pavilion. This is why I came to GDC in the first place. I didn't really get what I was supposed to do. Just walk up and say, "Hi, I'm awesome, please hire me"? So I just kind of pretended like I was looking at something else while I stood in hearing range to listen to what other people were saying. Ok, so I saw a lot of artists with their digital portfolios on IPads showing off their work. Blizzard wasn't taking applications. It seemed like their booth was set up to tell each person in line why they weren't going to be hired. They were pretty nice about it. It was more of a, "You need to do this and this, then come back next year," kind of thing. I mean, I'm trying to get a vibe about why employers are even here in the first place. They get plenty of people applying for them through their websites, so why even have a booth? It's not like the very people they want to attract aren't already aware of Blizzard. But I think what it is, is that employers want to help develop a better community of employees. So maybe a diamond in the rough gets some encouragement to keep going, thus better expanding the pool of talent worth hiring down the road.

So I hit the Blizzard booth first since I figured I might learn from that and won't get hired either way. He told me that I was too all over the place and needed to focus on one type of game writing and get experience doing that.

That makes sense, but does offer a problem. The term "writer" means a lot of things in the industry. There's design documents that need to be written. These will never be seen by the public. They're instructions for the programmers and artists to follow in creating mechanics and art assets. There's content design. This is quest information. There's dialogue. Writers that do dialogue come in near the end of the project. There's transfiction writing. This is creative writing that is really glorified fan fiction. Transfiction writers have no impact on shaping the game, but come in after to create more content in terms of novels, web comics, etc, to go along with the game. All of these forms of writing are done by different writers and here I am applying for all of it. If I can do a little bit of everything, it either makes me more viable to companies looking for one of the things I do, or less desirable to a company that wants someone that specializes in that area. It's hard to know which way to go. As I get more exposed to the industry, I'll be better at reconciling this problem.

Ok, so I hit the other booths. Blizzard had a long line, but many of the others didn't. Again, I was still trying to figure out what the objective of the people at these booths had. I hit some stumbling blocks. One guy, I mentioned that I'm a studio producer for musicians, and that would make it easy for me to transition to working in the studio with voice talent--an important thing since writers are often writing the dialogue. The guy said, "We don't make the kind of games with voice overs."

Tom Sloper gave advice on for people like me going to the GDC. He said the most important thing we can do is listen. He also said that employers don't care about us(I think he was exaggerating), but rather, care about our interest and enthusiasm.

I was thinking about as that guy told me that I made a false assumption about his company. I tried to cover by saying that if they chose to start using voice overs in later games, I could really help to make them more believable. But still, as I went booth to booth with the, "I don't know what kind of games you guys make, but please hire me" attitude(ok, so I tried to play that down the best I could), the bottom line was, they could see through that.

One guy told me they already had a writer. I said, "And he's almost as good as me." He laughed, but I later regretted saying that. I mean, just because he laughed, doesn't mean he didn't think I was an asshole for saying that. I mean, I want to be a "Bad ass," but not a jerk. What I should have said after that is that I was kidding, that I was sure they had a wonderful staff and I'd be honored to work with them--which is very much the truth. Instead, I think I just came across as another forgettable person standing in line with too much ego and not enough experience.

In line for Obsidian Entertainment--a game company that makes the hit games... ah, I have no idea... the guy said to the artist standing in front of me, "Every time I see your work, it keeps getting better and better." How many times do we need to keep coming to the GDC to get hired by someone?

I would cheat a little, pull out my IPhone, look up each company on the internet to see what kind of games they made, and try and give my pitch based on that. Tencent Games in Boston was actually hiring a Content Designer. The position said they were looking for someone to help the Creative Director and Lead Writer realize the full potential of their game lore. Um, crap, that's what I've been doing for the last 15 years in my writer critique groups. So I walked up to the booth and explained what I did and what I could offer. The other thing too, these people manning their companies booth--um, who were they? Think about it. So if you're a programmer, artist, writer, accountant, social media marketer, producer, what have you, these are radically different roles. And they just had one person there talking to you as if one person really knew the ins and outs of what you do. So as I'm explaining to the lady how awesome I am--I was being funny and down to earth about it--she said, "Content Designer? That's on our list. Does this match what you're talking about?" as she showed me the description, that I already read off their website before I talked to her. I mean, I just explained to her what I did, and now she was asking me if that fit the job description. It made me realize that she was listening to what I was saying, but only kinda sorta. Then it started to make me wonder what the booths were really for again.

I thought this was the grand daddy event for job seekers going to the GDC. Now I'm starting to wonder if there's much difference between going to the booths or just emailing your resume through their sites while sitting at home. I know there's got to be more to it. What ever is really going on, I'm on the outside looking in for now.

In either case, not all my booth experiences were negative. I'm kind of making it sound like I was actually like a dope, being an ass all full of myself. That's not really how I was. I was being pretty down to earth, pitching what I did with a nervous tinge in my voice I hoped wasn't noticable, why I thought my choice of majors and the skill sets I developed set me apart and made me unique, and what I could bring to the table. But I was charming about it. I made people laugh. The lady at the Warner Brothers booth was handing out WB deodorant. I asked her if it makes you smell like Bugs bunny. She thought that was funny, and we joked around about what WB must think of gamers if they're passing out deodorant to us. She told me about how their office in Seattle was looking for writers and asked if I'd be willing to move. I got that question a lot, actually. Hmm, it seems kind of silly to ask me that. If you're applying for a game company, you pretty much have to accept that you're going to be moving to do it. I've decided that I don't like telecommuting. I don't like being alone at home, feeling in the dark about what's going on. I'm a visual person. I need to figure out the vibe of things, the body language of people talking to me, and get a sense that way about things.

Other than the two big companies there--Blizzard and Bethesda, all the other companies took resumes. Some of them wrote notes on them. One guy wrote, "Writer" on the top even though I had that near the top. Another put a box around, "Content Designer" which I had as my resume title after my contact info. One wrote, "Willing to move," on the back. A couple I didn't leave my resume with. One company said they only hired local people... and they had no offices in California. Um, why were they there then? Another only had offices in Taiwan, which, at this point, I'd move to Taiwan for a job. I don't care. He told me, "If we decide to start having a western touch to our games, we'll consider you." That just seemed odd that they would come to a convention in the west, but not have west themed games.

I don't know. Like a lot of what was going on, I didn't really get it. I think it will make more and more sense as time goes on. I think something killing me is that I didn't know which companies made which games. I know maybe the top 20 game companies, but there's hundreds that I should know. And only a few of the ones I do know, I know fairly well.

How much farther would I have gotten had I walked in like, "You know how much I love playing your game such and such and how great the story line is with the thing and the thing?" How much further would I have gotten had I contacted these companies ahead of time and asked to set up meetings to get a private interview with someone that actually knew what questions to ask a writer? I'm on some mailing lists that had game companies posting that they were available to schedule private meetings with people at the GDC. They were all companies that didn't make the type of games that need writers, so I didn't go through with that, but what mailing lists am I not on to hear about the companies that do make the games that could use me?

Ah well. There's always next year, right? Next year, I'll be a lot better prepared.

So I got to go to a couple panels today. The first one was on the importance of testing games early. The guy presented worked on Halo a lot and talked about things they did in that game. I've never played Halo, so I didn't really get a lot of what he said. But he said something like at the beginning, they make you run around without a gun. They want you to get used to the controls first, without having to worry about defending yourself. So some players would get pretty frustrated at playing a shooter and going the first three minutes without having a gun to shoot. So finally, you talk to this really important guy, and there's this big deal about how he gives you his gun like he's passed the mantle on to you, and it's all epic. And they found that players would take the gun and immediately shoot the guy just because they were so mad at going so long and not being able to shoot anything. Some people weren't mad, but just wanted to test the gun out, shot the guy, and it screwed up their game. So they had to change the game so that you didn't get ammo until after you left the room. Now, this is a problem that game testers won't encounter. Why? Because they're game testers. Game testers do a poor job at simulating what the typical player is like. Most players don't play 50 games a year like us hardcore players do. So they do silly, none nonsensical things like shoot important people they're not supposed to shoot.

I went to another panel after that, that was a game writer's round table. They mostly talked about the frustration writers have in that most "writers" get hired because they know people, not because they're good writers. And because of that, games often have bad writing--which they do--and that writers need to band together to try and promote good writing in games. It's sort of a weird thing here. Some players don't care about writing, but the ones that do and can spot good writing, find it important. The problem is that most game makers can't spot good writing and don't care about it and don't see it as that important. How do we, as writers, impress upon the greater game development community the importance of hiring actual writers for writing positions?

I don't know. But after, I worked at the IGDA booth for a few hours, felt tired and hungry and for my motel. I had been living off a case of Slimfast, some blueberry bagels, and a bag of tangerines that I bought before coming out here. I stocked up on anything that didn't need refrigeration, but didn't think about nutrition. I was badly craving anything with protein in it. Getting a pizza might not have been the best filler for that, but I decided to see if Domino's lived up to the "we don't suck any more" claims on their commercials. I thought it was pretty good. I ate almost an entire medium pizza by myself, crawled into bed and slept. Ok, so it's now thursday morning. Hmm, I don't really know what to do today. I have to work something today and there's some awards show--that sounds like a big waste of time. I've heard that Will Wright sometimes comes in and gives speeches, but he has to do it under a pseudonym or the room gets crazy packed and unwieldy. For anyone not obsessed with games, Will Wright created Sim City, the Sims, and all the other early Maxis games making him the most successful computer game designer in the history of the world. Anyway, we'll see how it goes.

GDC, Day 3

So Day 3 would have been Tuesday. I'm getting behind on keeping up since it's Thursday morning as I type this. Ok, so Tuesday, I didn't have much to do in the morning. So I'm still trying to figure out the vibe, the hiddenness of things. You know when you don't know enough about something to ask questions about it? Well, there was so much going on that I knew I wasn't prepared to take it all in, but I knew from the beginning that this trip was about learning how to get in to the industry rather than getting into the industry.

I accidentally dropped my folder. It's a really old folder, one that's lasted me from my junior college days--so almost 10 years. The front binding tore, so it was hanging on by little more than a thread. I couldn't just throw it away, but I didn't want to show up to interviews with something clearly old and damaged. I bought a new folder at the Walgreen's nearby. It was a symbolic thing. I was saying good bye to my college days and accepting that I was forging a new path.

So tons of stuff to do, but not for meager Expo pass holders like me. I heard a guy say, "They've got balls to charge us thousands of dollars for content that they're just going to show on youtube for free." But i occurred to me as I thought about all the GDC seminars I've watched on youtube. All this stuff I'm missing out on has nothing to do with the content itself. It has to do with being a high level industry people being able to be surrounded by other high level industry people without the wannabes like me pestering them. At this point, I'm riffraff, and the people that shell out the money(or who work for companies that did), have a really high chance of walking up to someone, starting a conversation, and having it be a contact worth making.

That's ok. I understand things have to be that way. It doesn't bother me because I know one day I'll be a high level person. And two, I shouldn't expect some big exec to give me a job tomorrow and whisk me away into some huge company making epic games. I need to start with the little guys and start small and pay my dues. I'm fine with that.

So I go to do my first day of volunteering. There was some meet and greet for IGDA members. Basically people wanted to go and I checked to see if they were on the list. If they were, they got a wrist band to the party. If not, no go. I thought it was a little amusing being the list Nazi when I'm not a member of the IGDA. The fact that I'm not a member, yet I'm volunteering for them, is another really weird thing, but that's another story. It's only like $25 - $50 bucks a year depending on what kind of member you are. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I'll probably join soon. I'm really thrifty, and all this money I've been blowing through has got me a little nervous, so even $40 bucks has me a little nervous. Once I'm employed, I won't be as nervous.

So the wristbands got sent out, we closed down the IGDA booth and headed out to the mixer. It was at a dance club and it was really loud. I went with some other IGDA volunteers and we walked around and talked to people. I met some artists that seemed interested in the gaming project I'm working on. I gave out my business card and hopefully something will come out of that. I asked my project lead if there was anyone he wanted me to try and recruit and he said character modelers and animation artists.

We closed out the night by hopping to a few other clubs. It's amazing how many clubs are in downtown San Francisco. But at night, any club you go to near the GDC convention will have tons of gamers there networking. More and more, I'm thinking the whole conference is just a gimmick to get people to hang out.

It was close to midnight and I was pretty tired. The blisters on my feet were starting to get blisters, so, instead of going to the next club, I just went home to catch up on sleep.

I'll type up Day 4(yesterday) right after this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

GDC, Day 2

So yesterday(monday) was a pretty short day for me. I didn't really understand that volunteering earned me an Expo Pass, not the full access one. So none of the cool conferences and summits were open to me. The Expo pass generally means for Mon and Tuesday, you get to wait in the lobby.

So I checked in and everything and got my badge to wear around my neck. Walking San Fran, I can see lots of other GDC'ers wearing their huge badge around their necks. That's kinda cool, I think. Anyway, so two hours after I took care of getting my badge and pass and worked out what my work schedule would be for volunteering, I got an email from GDC saying I won an Expo Pass. They announced they were giving some away a couple weeks ago, and I filled out a form to win one. But yeah... little late in the announcement, guys. I wrote them back and told them I already had a pass, so please give mine to the next person on the list.

Ok, so why am I working for a badge when I could have accepted the free one? One, I really don't care about moving boxes around and setting up stuff, or whatever work needs done. And two, it gives me the chance to network with people.

Anyway, here it was monday, and it's setting in that I have nothing to do(nothing I have access to, I mean). So I asked my volunteer coordinator if I wasn't on the schedule for Monday, could I just do whatever. Basically, I was trying to nicely say, "Can I go home?" She said that Mon and Tues of GDC is when all the high level industry people come to do all the conferences and summits. And since there's not many other people around yet, this is the perfect time to talk to them and make contacts. I nodded and said that was a really good idea. Then I walked to my hotel room and went home.

Yeah, yeah, I know. But my stupid hotel room didn't have internet. They had WiFi, but I don't have a wireless modem on my desktop, and my laptop won't run Rift. I had to get home, log in, and see how my Rift guild was doing. Kinda crappy, the game comes out, I start a guild, recruit like mad--we're the biggest guild on my server, then I leave for a week. Lame of me, I know. But I changed the ranks so they could do all the stuff they need to do without me. So they should be ok. They're doing well.

Alright, so sorry for anyone interested in GDC finding these posts through googling GDC and hearing about my Rift addiction. Today should be a little more interesting. I'm working some party for IGDA--and I barely even know who they are or what they do... and I'm volunteering for them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

GDC, Day 1

Well, let's start with the basics. GDC stands for Game Development Conference. It happens once a year for various regions of the world. The one in San Francisco is a big deal. Thousands of people go each year. A week pass to the event costs about $4k dollars, so it's not for the light of heart either. But if you want to make contacts, this is the place for that.

How the heck did my broke ass get in? Well, I offered to volunteer a month ago. I didn't think much would come of it and I eventually forgot about it. Then I got told the day before, there was one spot left if I wanted it. Not being an IGDA (International Game Development Association) member, I got last priority. So I jumped at the chance for the last spot.

After crunching numbers on gas vs bus vs BART vs train and every combination of those, I just decided to bite the bullet and get a hotel in the middle of down town San Francisco within walking distance. So I packed as fast as I could, and got in my car.

Tonight was just the orientation meeting. Or it would have been, had I not missed it. So first off, I settled in at my hotel room, set up my computer, etc. Hey, how do you think I'm typing this? Then I figured 15 mins would be plenty of time to walk there. My first problem, aside from forgetting the printed out map of the area at home, was that my sense of direction was all off. I knew I needed to go South East of the hotel, but I didn't know what direction that was. I walked out of my hotel, made it almost half a block before getting solicited by a prostitute. Yeah, I was in SF alright. A few more blocks, and I saw a woman that looked like her body was sculpted in a lab. She had a skin tight, sequin dress that barely covered her thighs. She was really tall, so instantly, I considered the possibility it could be a man. I dunno. It was weird. S/He just looked like someone you only see in movies.

The more I walked, the more I took in the diversity. It's 8 o'clock at night on a sunday and there's old people walking down the street, young / student looking people, people walking their dog, homeless / crazy people yelling at invisible people, and a lot of women that looked like prostitutes. I also noticed how many people looked like they just walked off the set of an 80's hair metal band video shoot. I don't just mean their had spikes hair or a leather jacket with chains. I mean the whole freaking package down to every detail.

So I finally had to break down and ask for directions. I asked the lady sitting behind the counter at the hotel I was staying at. Yes, because I walked in a circle.

So I followed her directions and found the Mascone building. Cool. Um, only, the Mascone building is MASSIVE. Like, you could a big rock festival there, in each of the several floors. So I wondered around in there for a long time before finally having to ask the only two people in the whole building I saw. They said, "This is Mascone West. I think you want Mascone North. It's the next building over. God damn it! I HATE being late.

So I go across the street... um, I still don't see it. There's a bowling ally / arcade / hockey rink building and on the other corner, a massive theater complex. I couldn't believe the streets of SF. You could see a pizza shop, laundry mat, sex shop, and high classy bar, all right in a row. And everything was packed with 30-80 people in view at anyone time walking the streets... even at 9pm at night. Damn, it was 9pm already. Ok, now I'm starting to narrate this like my character Elaeria from my novel.

Blah, anyways. So I'm really frustrated. I have NO idea where to go or what to do. I think about packing up and just driving home. I'm never going to find it. So finally I ask this woman on the street. She pointed which was to go and said I couldn't miss it. I told her my powers of missing things knows no bounds. She either thought that was funny or felt sorry for me. She offered to show me. So she walked with me for a block and showed me. Um, that's NOT where Google Maps said it was supposed to be. It was passed the movie theater and bowling alley thing. As in Marcone West and Marcone South and Marcone North had other buildings in between them. They weren't *right* next to each other. How confusing! I thanked her for her time, and went inside to look for them.

Anyway, so I showed up right as they were wrapping up. They asked me to join in a group photo, so maybe I was just in time. The coordinator was really nice. She gave me the condensed speedy version of her speech and a three sheet long print out of everything she said anyways. So, maybe it was no big deal I missed orientation.

Well, everyone seems nice so far. This is all about networking, so everyone's trying to make friends and be friendly. It's an interesting vibe. I need sleep. Tomorrow's going to be a very long day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I must be really tired. That title makes me laugh. Why am I tired? I haven't gotten much sleep because I've been playing in the Rift beta nearly non stop. Ok, so if you're into MMORPGs and you've somehow missed the hype, Rift is a big game coming out later this week.

Rift is an open map quest based game just like all the others. It's a fantasy MMO with a dark, far future fantasy twist. Not a lot unique, but still cool. Let's start with lore. So there's this Nexus dimension that connects all the elemental plains - Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Life, and Death. The Gods sealed it off, protecting the plains from invading each other. In the center of this Nexus plain, lived humans, dwarves, elves, and what have you.

Now, I haven't seen this mentioned, but I got kind of a Garden of Eden vibe here. Some of the people worshiped the Gods. Others wanted to bite from the Tree of Knowledge. So one group, called The Defiant developed advanced technology. Through their technology, they accidentally broke the seals, protecting the world from the armies of the Elemental Plains. So the faithful and the scientific are fighting each other, and the armies from the elemental plains are breaking through, coming through Rifts in the seal. And lots of people die. So the Gods resurrect the most powerful of the faithful so they can battle the armies from the Elemental Plains. These champions, or Ascended are The Guardians. Ascended have the power of three souls in the same body, allowing them far more power than a regular mortal. This is the time line in which the game starts. We know, future wise, that the Guardians will not be successful and that they will eventually lose and the world will be destroyed.

The Guardians blame the Defiants for creating the Rifts. The Defiants blame the Guardians for destroying their machines, crippling the Defiants from being able to clean up their own mess.

In the future, the Defiants will develop the technology to create their own champions, or Ascended, merging three souls of the dead into one body, and resurrecting that body in an Ascended. This is where the game starts for the player that chooses to play a Defiant. The world is nearly destroyed. There's little to no hope, but one. The Defiants have also built a time machine and at the end of the tutorial level(levels 1-6) they transport you to the past--while the Rifts are opening, but there's still time to save the world.

So whether Guardian or Defiant, you're on equal footing. With twice the number of Ascended, the players are able to stop the Rifts, repel invaders, and seal the Rifts as they come. But old rivalries die hard and Guardian and Defiant Ascended clash in civil war.

That's the basic lore. So what makes things so different? Game play differences are that the game is chaotic and ever changing. There are very few places you can go AFK at. A Rift could open up right on top of you. If no one repels the invaders and seals the Rift--I've seen 20 of them open in one small zone at once, the invaders start to build footholds. Once they build footholds, they can start summoning more of them and invade small camps or even major cities. Even if there are no Rifts around you, you could still see small armies of Elites running past you. Some of these elites are open world raid bosses, requiring dozens of players or more to take down. What's nice about this is that the raid bosses are level appropriate for the zone. So if you're only level 12 or something, that's fine. Two other nice things about zone events, other than they're constant, is you get decent XP--even if you just heal and don't attack anything. You just have to be in a dangerous area and be doing something. And two, you don't have to ask for an invite to the raid. A button pops up asking if you want to join. Click it, and you're in. It's constant, spontaneous raiding... even at low level. There's no rolling for loot. Everyone gets something.

I mostly stuck to the lower levels as I tried out all the different characters. But I noticed in the higher level zones, the rifts were different. A Death Rift in Stone Fields summoned a ghostly library with displaced townspeople wondering around and a Librarian boss that read books from different shelves while you fought him. Weird stuff. I imagine more variety the higher level you get with different tactics needed.

Ok, the other cool thing, the class structures are really complicated. I hated it at first, but yet, couldn't dismiss it. There are 4 classes. Seems simple. But each character can pick 3 of the 8 souls associated with each class. A Mage can be a Life Mage(Chloromancer), and Necromancer, and a Fire Mage(Pyromancer) all at the same time. A Warrior can be a Paladin and a Blood Death Knight(Reaver) at the same time. A Cleric can be a shadow Priest (Cabal) and a Purifier... basically, stuff that makes no sense together, you can do it if that floats your boat. And it makes sense from an RP perspective. I mean, you have the souls of different people in you, and access to their power.

Let's break this down.

Warrior Souls:
Champion - offensive, 2 handed weapon wielder
Paladin - defensive, shield block heavy tank
Reaver - defensive, death magic dot heavy, aggro tank
Warlord - defensive, buff / debuff heavy tank
Paragon - offensive, dual 1 handed weapon wielder
Riftblade - offensive, elemental style, ranged / melee hybrid
Void Knight - defensive, anti magic / mage's nightmare tank
Beastmaster - offensive, pet class

Some interesting combinations here. The Beastmaster's pet can tank and the Riftblade can throw spears of fire, stone, and lightning from a distance making this a plate wearing hunter that can engage hand to hand if needed.

I wouldn't combine Paragon with Champion since one needs two weapons, the other, one big one. But aside from that, any other combination of offensive souls would make a good damage dealer.

as for a Tank, the Reaver has tons of disease dots that they can spread around that generate tons of threat so I used this soul for aggro. The Paladin has great shield block abilities and great single target, threat building build up attacks. For the third soul, I didn't experiment much with the Void Knight, though I've heard lots of people liked it. I picked up Warlord instead and used the Warlords powerful finishing moves to debuff my target or buff my teammates. All four of the defensive, tank trees have talents that boost your armor, health, and other mitigation and / or threat generation. And they all stack.

Believe it or not, but the warriors are the only class that can't be healers. Nope, not even Paladins. Paladins can self heal and rez others, but that's it.

Inquisitor - offensive, single target, ranged damage dealer. Can self heal
Purifier - healer / debuffer, lots of direct heals
Sentinel - healer, direct and AoE heals
Justicar - defensive, self healing, tough as nails tank
Shaman - offensive, melee heavy damage dealer
Druid - offensive, melee heavy, pet class
Warden - healer, HoTs and buffs
Cabalist - offensive, AoE damage dealer

I didn't experiment much with the Clerics. I've heard that Cleric Justicar tanks are some of the best in the game for mitigation. Combined with Druid and Shaman souls and they never run out of mana. They're very good at self healing and can AoE heal pretty well--something I did running around Rift to Rift in raids. I didn't get high enough level with my Druid to get the pet that tanks for you, but I've heard the Satyr is a good tanking pet. I know that Clerics can make fantasic damage dealers. This makes them one of the classes that are great healers, tanks, or DPSers.

Elementalist - offensive, pet tanking class
Warlock - offensive, dots, life drain, and mana regen
Pyromancer - offensive, AoE damage
Stormcaller - offensive
Archon - offensive, damage and party buffs
Necromancer - offensive, pet class
Dominator - crowd control, damage and debuffs, cc, and snares
Chloromancer - healer, perhaps the best healing soul in the game

I didn't mess with these guys much either. The Chloromancer is interesting. At low levels, they can debuff a target so people hitting it get healed. They can also dps to heal others. As strange as it sounds to pair this life mage with a Warlock, or shadow mage, since the Chloromancer has mana issues, being able to get mana back from Warlock spells makes this a strong combination.

Mages are the only class in the game that cannot tank.

Assassin - offensive, stealth heavy, burst, melee damage
Nightblade - offensive, melee with some ranged
Ranger - offensive, ranged damage with a tanking pet
Marksmen - offensive, ranged
Saboteur - offensive, bombs and traps, currently a PvP beast
Bard - healer, single and AoE healer with tons of party buffs
Blade Dancer - offensive, melee damage with some damage mitigation
Riftstalker - defensive, tank

Ok, so I played the hell out of my rogue and was surprised I liked this class the best. The main combination I used was Ranger for the tanking pet and Marksman for more ranged attacks. Ranger is good enough on its own, but the Marksman gives you another shot that buffs you. I messed around with a third soul for a while. The Saboteur, though powerful, seemed like too much bomb management work. According to the forums, people are begging for Sabo nerfs, so I'm guessing the bombs are really good for PvP. I used a Bard soul for a while. That was neat because it gave me another way to heal my pet. They do decent dps, though not great. I didn't want a melee soul because my pet keeps stuff off me, so it would just be a waste unless my pet died, which happened sometimes. Then I figured out that the Assassin's many, many poisons worked at range. Yay, poisoned arrows!

I didn't try and main heal any instances as a Bard, though I imagine that would be challenging. They don't have mana, and rogue energy regens ridiculously fast, so maybe they could be main healers. If a rogue is a dpser in a party, I can imagine the healer would be bored.

Ok, so I did try the Rogue tanking spec, the Rift Stalker. My souls were Riftstalker, Blade Dancer, and Bard. I picked Bard for the +10% to health and the slight mitigation they have. Blade Dancer has a lot of +dodge, so that was a natural choice. Let's talk about the Riftstalker. Having rift powers, they can shield themselves. They can also teleport around a lot. Think of Shadow Step from the Subtle Rogue tree in WoW. Now imagine each time you port, it gives you a shield. Casters over in the corner shooting at the healer? I teleport to them, stab them a couple times, then port back to the rest of the melee mobs. The teleports port you to the mob you have selected. So I was constantly porting around the battle field rather than gathering mobs up. I had a blast doing that.

I'm a little torn about whether I like this or hate this, but the racial stat bonuses that each race gets is pretty significant. Each race gets +10 in something. At level 25, my rogue never got a piece of gear that had as much as +10 in anything. Some of the level 50 epic stuff had +15 in something. So +10 to a stat is a big deal at low levels and at least a slight factor at high levels. But that didn't stop people from making strange combinations like Kelari Mages or High Elf Warriors. I made a High Elf Paladin because they look so awesome. Speaking of awesome, Rift is the first MMO in the history of the world that has dwarven female characters that actually look like females. I made a Dwarven female Champion Warrior. Her two handed sword was twice her size, which was pretty entertaining as is. But she looked like a 6 year old girl running around with a colossal sword. I mean, I was pretty set on playing the Defiant side, but the Dwarves are just so awesome looking in this game that I've been tempted to at least try Guardian side. I loved my Dark Elf(Kelari) rogue so much, I'm going to start there. The Kelari look really fragile and petite looking. I had a Bahmi warrior too. She looks like an amazon. Looked. She got wiped in the holocaust known as the Beta wipe. But I'll remake her once the game goes live in a couple days.

Ok, lastly, I'll talk about the first 5 man instance. It's called Iron Tombs. The first boss is tank and spank. The second encounter is three mini bosses. A mage, a healer, and a warrior. Kill the healer first, blah, blah. The last boss is almost Tank and Spank other than he does an AoE that would kill everyone, but a ghost guy pops up saying, "Heroes, come quick. I'll protect you from his magic." He makes a circle of protection. Run into the circle and you can survive the AoE.

But the part of the instance that struck me the most was the part where you are surrounded by little shadow demons. There are these orbs in the darkness. And it's really dark down there. The Shadow Demons keep on coming. But if you jump on an orb or bump into it hard, it lights up, and the light will kill the shadow demons. It just reminded me of some horror movie where you're hiding in the light, and you can't see all the monsters wanting to kill you outside your small circle of protection.

The first time I ran it, we didn't know you could activate the orbs. And it was a pain killing off all the shadow guys that kept repopping.

So, will Rift kill WoW? The one thing WoW has going for it is nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Everyone that plays MMOs knows WoW, has tried it on some capacity, or at least has friends that play it that they could join. WoW has tons and tons of content. It's an aging game engine that's be revamped with Cataclysm, but still has low polygon characters and models. It's cartoony and highly stylized. Is that good or not? It depends. Too much photorealistic art in games can make things hard to spot. One of the problems I had tanking in Age of Conan was the mobs blended in with the back ground, and I couldn't always see mobs loose and attacking my healer. I was too busy doing all those funky Dance! Dance! Revolution! combo buttons to get my attacks off as is.

Rift has fantastic graphics, with amazing particle effects, great animation, and higher polygon models. They made it so WoW users wouldn't miss anything. Even the macro programming language is the same or similar. It's missing a random dungeon finder system, but they say they're adding one.

I've been through a lot of MMO launches. I've never, ever seen a game this well polished at launch. So I'm hopeful that things will go well. I can't wait to get started with my new rogue.