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2:57 PM on 04.14.2015

What It's REALLY Like Making Indie Games

So I'm working on two indie games at once. And I would say that overall it's pretty typical of indie game development. Small team trying to do it all. Refactoring lots of code as we learn about better ways to create. Lots of coordinating to nail down new ideas, and then once you implement it, we realize something more interesting is worth exploring. It's fraught with lots of uncertainty that's for sure! This video captures a lot of what I do for a living.

So here's the reality of making games:

  • It's a lot less sexy than you think it is! If you got a team size bigger than 3, which we do, and if the team mostly works remotely, which we do, you will spend a lot of time in meetings and specing stuff out.
  • And the funny thing is, even though we are all gamers, and speak the same language, because of the differences in our professional backgrounds, we still don't quite speak the same language. Coders think and express their ideas quite differently than artists do. And finding ways to bridge that gap is a lot of what game development is about. It's amazing how often we had to change the way our terrain looked because we all had a slightly different visual of how it looked in our head, and how to build it.
  • Sometimes I work at night. Sometime I work when sunlight is out and I wished I could be enjoying it more. Then I realize I work day and night I never see the outdoors to begin with.
  • I do lots of play testing, which means fixing tons of bugs and tweaking game balance. Constantly. And no matter how much game devs fix stuff, someone will find a problem that we still couldn't catch.
  • Sometimes we create concept art, change it several times, and then go back to what we started with. And that's perfectly fine. You sometimes have to go full circle to realize what you had was really already working just fine.
  • And I spend a lot of time doing marketing and business development. You hear how often indie game devs didn't realize how much work goes into promoting your game. I realized this... and still it's more than I anticipated! In this day and age, it's easier to reach fans directly, but that also means you gotta keep up constant communication with them.

So there you go. Game development is a lot of EVERYTHING. It's complex, and few people realize how it consumes you. But truth be told: I still rather be doing this than anything else.

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1:30 PM on 03.21.2015

I Would Never Get My Own Cooking Show

So I was pleasantly surprised at you all actually enjoyed my recent blog post about making fried rice. After all, Dtoid is a gaming focused website, and that instantly conjures up images of people who rather eat cheetos and delivery pizza. So this opened my eyes on two fronts. First, the community here does have interests outside of games, and that we aren't all cut from the same stereotypical mold. And second, that food is universal, and we spend a lot of time eating it, making it, appreciating it, and talking about it.

So over on my YouTube I started to make more vids about food over the last few months. Which again, was initially a bit odd because much of what I like talking about is about how my life is centered around games. But I find cooking to be absolutely liberating, exciting, and just darn fun. And it's a lot like making games, but I'll get into that next time!

This particular batch of vids covers a pretty nifty online service called Green Chef. Basically, if you don't got time to prep and cook, but still like the idea of a homecooked meal, then this thing is a godsend. Each week they mail you a batch of meals in the form of raw ingredients, and they give you a recipe to mash it all together into something that looks like a real meal. 

There are a bunch of services out there like this now ie. Blue Apron and Plated, but I gave Green Chef a shot because my friend Steve invested in it and he wanted some honest feedback about the service. And second, everything Green Chef sends you is much fresher, and mostly organic. I never really gave much thought to the whole organic movement until I was in Hawaii recently and started to change my diet. Man, the food really does taste better when the ingredients are better. Who freakin knew.

Anyways, while I love cooking, it's pretty evident that I would never get my own cooking show because following recipe instructions is just not something I do. And second, when half the meal is already prepared for you like Green Chef... that's sorta like... cheating.

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2:27 PM on 03.18.2015

Never Revealed Game Concepts

While cleaning out my pile of artwork and paperwork, I found some old game concepts that brought back memories.

Some of this stuff dates back 20 years, so it's amusing to look back and see what was going through my head. What's cool was one concept I had codenamed Cat Burglar, where you play as a thief that steals rare treasures in museums. Had similar mechanics to Tomb Raider. Ironically enough, I went to work on Tomb Raider shortly after this. Though after reading through my notes, it's clear my ideas was too ambitious. One of puzzles I created would have been a nightmare to implement! I'll chalk it up to a newbie game designer!

I do LOVE the general idea I had for a Mega Man style platformer but with wacky superheroes, which I'm surprised no one has done. The characters designed were based on old friends in high school, though looking back, I have to admit while it was all in jest, I can see how some of it seems like it was poking fun at people... kids... My best friend (who is a 10x better artist than I ever was) and I ended drawing comics of these characters and selling them to friends in school, and we had a scene that made fun of the teachers as being unlucky collateral damage in a superhero vs supervillain battle. They weren't too happy about that either and somewhere along the lines we were banned from selling more comics on school grounds. 

Anyways, been thinking that this Mega Man + superhero concept could be a fun one to work on after Spark Rising :)

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2:24 AM on 03.13.2015

Tossing My Art Salad

When you have a pile of artwork stacked up all over the the place, it starts to look like an art salad. Except it's made from trees, so maybe mulch is a better comparison. It's heavy as hell when you gotta lug boxes of it around as it piles up. So I decide to get rid of it. 

One of the main reasons I ended up designing games for a living was because I love the idea of turning something as simple as a sketch into some sort of interactive form. And it's what fueled much of my early career in gaming. I use to draw all sorts of things, as this video highlights. Mechs, comics, still lifes, angels, sexy ladies, etc. 

Tragically, I haven't been seriously drawing in years. MANY years at this point. Every now and then I'll whip out a pen and sketch something, and I'll draw stuff out to create new game characters, or environment layouts, but nothing that is noteworthy anymore. It's kinda sad, yet at the same time, I'm doing so many things that having the ability to block out hour at a time to diligently work on a piece is just outside of my capabilities right now. The reality is, art is often times just the beginning of where game design starts. But the process of creating a game, from designing, to coding, to animating, to testing, to marketing, ends up taking up much of my waking hours. And I'm OK with that. I enjoy piecing it all together. Truth be told, I always end up working with artists on game projects that quite frankly are leagues above my skill level anyways. So I tend to think of my art as good enough to convey my ideas, but not good enough to make all the ladies love me.

While going through all these old boxes of sketches, I did find a bunch of old game ideas as well, which was fun. I'll make another vid about that sometime!

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6:41 PM on 03.10.2015

How To Make Wicked Fried Rice

Not to lump all you gamers out there into one big wad, but it seems to be the unfortunate reality that many of you are much better at Cooking Mama than real life cooking. After all, in a day and age where it's so easy to just call for pizza delivery, or microwave a Hot Pocket, why even bother mastering the art of cooking?

Simple: Because it'll save you a crap ton of money, it's healthier for you and it'll taste better. OK, that last part... ONLY if you are good at it!

So I made this vid showing you all how to make fried rice. It's ultra easy, and works wonders when you gotta work your way through left overs you find scattered around your fridge. But there is an ancient chinese secret to it... which I don't know... so I'll just teach you the Master Lee way instead, which is to wing it!

I learned how to cook back at my first job when I worked at Eidos. I barely made minimum wage, was living in San Francisco, living in a studio while sleeping on a floor because I couldn't afford furniture. I wanted to level up from hotdogs and ramen which was my diet in college. I found that you can take baby steps to mastering the art of cooking, so I been vlogging about my experiments, hopefully to inspire more of you to give it a shot too!

Eventually inspired enough to take a few cooking clases, and then went to teach a cooking class. What I learned was that cooking was merely mixing stuff together in particular ways and there are really only a few techniques that you know, you can apply to many recipes. 

If you got your recipes that you think are yummy and easy to make, please do share. I love trying new things!

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2:15 PM on 03.01.2015

Classic clip from Bethesda Softworks' XCar

I use to work on this PC game called XCar: Experimental Racing at Bethesda Softworks about 20 years ago. You can't find much info about the game online because it's before the internet got popular. But I managed to dig up this old news reel I had sitting around on a VHS tape at home. This stuff is classic!

Year: 1997. It's from WJLA TV7 5pm News, which is a local channel in the Washington DC area.

It's amusing to see how the reporter raves about how realistic the game was (he was starting to sweat while playing.) By today's graphical standards in gaming, it's ironic this clip feels so... vintage.

BTW - That Asian dude in the news clip... Yeah, that's me, 20 years younger and sexier.

Some notable things about the vid:

  • The game box was really unique, and a nightmare to assemble. It had a clear plastic shell, and the box within it was shaped like an X. It didn't hold together very well, so extra tape had to be used. I remember this because I helped out down in the shipping facilities when we were in the middle of getting the product out the door.
  • For promo purposes we partnered with a maker of a hydraulic racing chair which you see in the video. And yes, the chair itself cost about a ridiculous amount of money as the reporter indicated. And no, it really wasn't very realistic, since it was so jerky your eyeballs could have been shaken out of your sockets.
  • Yes, there really was all that sort of telemetry data you can play around with. But to be honest, it was utterly confusing what each thing did, even if you were a diehard car fanatic! If only the net had game wikis back then.
  • The game was created by a satellite team at Bethesda Softworks that worked out of a little known west coast studio. They went on to make NHRA Drag Racing.
  • I was in my early twenties and was a mere peon working at Bethesda Softworks. This was my first time on TV so it was a real hoot!
  • And yes, Courtney Cox did use to work at Bethesda Softworks... but that was right before I got there.

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12:23 PM on 02.19.2015

How Much Is Your Junk Worth?

The great purge continues! Since it's Chinese New Years, this is a fitting post. During this time of the year, you are suppose to get rid of old stuff, and clean things up. Start the new year off fresh. I'm just getting rid of all my junk.

So I made this vid as a way to showcase some of the more interesting gamer and geek stuff I sold. And I was blown away how much people were willing to pay for them. Guess how much a copy of The Elder Scrolls Daggerfall goes for? Or how about a brand new Gizmondo handheld system? 

It's amazing how much stuff you collect over the years. And how much of it you really don't need anymore. Sports equipment for sports I haven't played in years. Games that sit on a shelf for showcase, but no one really cares. Kitchen appliances you got for a gift and used once because it seemed novel but you never touched again.

So why get rid of all this stuff? This was partly fueled by our plans to move (which have been pushed back.) But then evolved into a desire to live life minimally for 2015. Perhaps it would encourage us to explore more rather than "nest." Perhaps it's the realization that all this stuff really hasn't added much value or joy to our lives. I'm all for capitalism, and materialism sure does feel like a sweet drug high initially, but then you realize how you own enough clothes to wear something new for months, and most of the world has a wardrobe that lasts a week. 

And I'll tell you what. Since getting our whole life down to a few boxes, it feels WICKED AWESOME. I never expected it to be so liberating! So before you throw away your crap, try selling and see how much you can get for it!

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9:07 PM on 01.28.2015

Win My Sweet Gaming Swag

So Ludette and I agreed to get rid of much of what we own and live 2015 ultra minimalistic. Why? That's another story. For now, all you need to know is that I'm giving away a box of my gaming swag! It's part of the Great Purge of 2015! My crap can be your loot!

So what's in this swag box? A t-shirt for this game, key chain for that game, and inflatable sword for this game, etc. Pac-Man this, Mass Effect that, Guitar Hero this. Basically, watch the vid to see it all. If you want to win it, you gotta subscribe to my YouTube channel and leave a comment. It's just my life as a game developer.

And for an extra bonus for all you Dtoiders out there, here are a few keys for my game Spark Rising which is now on Steam early access!

 

And on a side note: We been pretty successful getting rid of everything. Our living room is empty, and we got everything we own down to several boxes. You'd be surprised how liberating it can be to own so little! 

NOTE: If you take a code, please indicate which one you took! Thx!

38QY6-X9V5V-AF3E8
FE6H0-YJJZD-D02VA
JE6N6-ZBQ3X-B3VGZ
W2TM2-YKN9Z-PAHJ3
TW35T-34L2N-QMT3B
DYQDA-T2R40-EYK8H
CP45W-D0M8C-QE4JI
L68YG-XAAW4-T3575
F7HFI-YD9PR-T2A8G
I7F6X-9NR5E-L5ZQG
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1:51 AM on 01.22.2015

Oh Hai. Here's What I Been Up To

Let's see, so what have I been up to in 2014. 

Totally scrapped and rebuilt Spark Rising, a FPS sandbox game.

Started up a new venture FitGoFun using games to inspire people to get fit.

Lived in Hawaii most of the year, making games, beach bumming, and chillin'.

Began purging all my worldly posessions to go ultra minimalistic for 2015.

Started making YouTube vids, initially as a way to stay in touch with the wifey who was 2500 miles away, and now because it's stupid fun!

 

Overall, a pretty unconventional year for me. First, going indie meant having to give up a lifestyle that I got accustomed to. But when I quit my job, and sold my home in 2013, there was no turning back. So what's teed up for 2015? My 3 resolutions: Get wicked. Get fit. Make more vids!

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4:30 AM on 09.16.2014

What would YOU do with $2.5 BILLION?

You heard by now. Minecraft was acquired for $2.5 billion. 

And it seems trolls and haters are already out in full force. Let's put this into perspective. Who wouldn't sell for that much money?

What would you do with $2.5 bil? Srly, cash on this scale is beyond comprehension. Riot + Bioware + Bungie + Rare was acquired for less... COMBINED.


Hell, I decided to make a video about it, trying to find other comparables because my mind is so boggled! You could buy the LA Clippers + a Hawaiian island, and then move the team out ot Hawaii and call them the Hula Clippers. And still have cash left over.


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12:58 PM on 10.29.2013

48 Hour Live Steam For Spark Rising!

It's on! We're in our final 30 some hours left for the Spark Rising Kickstarter, and we already hit our $17K goal. Swuuuuuueeet!

http://www.twitch.tv/wickedloot

But the last minute hoorah continues at a fun pace! We got a 48 hour marathon going on with a live stream on Twitch.tv. We're gonna showcase new game features, gameplay, concept art, some people will cry, other's will just pass out. But we're going go through with it!

So stop by our Twitch.tv channel and enjoy the fun!

Thanks for everyone who helped us get this far. It's been an amazing Kickstarter journey. And we've only just begun. Real development is about to commence!

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6:44 PM on 09.28.2013

Why I became a Dtoid HUGE member

I was going to hawk my Kickstarter (OK, small plug here), but instead, I was inspired to share why I became a HUGE member. To me, no one else fights so ferociously to entertain gamers above all other objectives. The industry needs Dtoid.



I've known the guys at Dtoid for years ever since they were scrappy lads. OK, they still are scrappy, but now at least they now got street cred. And I got the chance to know Niero well and we became good friends. And I really grown to admire what he and the crew put together at Dtoid. Yeah, it's easy to see this as just a bunch of grown kids mucking it up, but it's some of the best online entertainment there is when it comes to games. I enjoy stopping by each day.

THE WORLD IS CHANGING
This past year has been a real big challenge for Dtoid. The whole blogging scene has dramatically changed. The way people want to be entertained has changed. A lot of people now block ads when surfing the net, and when a website is dependent on those ads to survive, a dramatic call to action is needed (And the answer isn't to get sneak with ads!) It's easy to just bitch about these issues, but these guys decided to experiment with something new, and place it all on the line. And that's how HUGE came about.

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
And that's why I admire these guys and their ferocious fight to remain independent. And that's why I support HUGE. Whether it's the perfect solution or not is really up to all of us and what we want from it, and how we provide feedback on making it better. But at least you know these guys are proactively trying to come up with good solutions to growing a business while keeping the gamer in mind first.

DTOID BELIEVES IN ENTERTAINING THE GAMER
And so here's what I'll lay on the line: If you believe that these guys truly provide something unique to the industry, and if you think that something would be truly missing if they weren't around, then you want to support them with HUGE. Because I can tell you from my experiences with the whole crew at Dtoid, there is no one else in the industry that fights so ferociously to entertain gamers, and how that trumps all other objectives including selling out. No one else launches april fools jokes by doing a whole redesign of the site in handwriting for one day, or makes t-shirts that parodies how game publishers strong arm editorial sites, or creates a silly panic button so you can surf the site at work, or gives so much to their community. And for those of you already in the Dtoid army, you know how each of these guys feel like true friends. It's because work at Dtoid is life as a gamer. The industry needs them!   read


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