A post about the post that never was

This week, I had intended to write about “Why School is Boring and How Games Can Fix it”. I had intended to link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED-talks about our out-dated school paradigms, how school was built for an industrial world while we today live in an increasingly computerized, creative world with loads for distractions. I had intended to suggest something along the lines of what Robinson suggests, perhaps more detailed (his suggestion is really broad but vague). I also wanted to make the arguement why we need more of the creative fields (painting, sculpturing, game design) as well as rethorics, private economy and programming from day 1. Then put some more arguments why programming would be a super-good idea as a school subject.

Alas, I got cold feet. Politics tends to be controversial (there’s no better way to have disagreements than to discuss politics and religion), and could distract the reader from what currently needs to be the core topic (Video Games). I’ll probably return to this in the future, one way or another. But rather than be quiet, and have one of those long, creepy pauses again, I decided to at least write what I wanted to write about and why I did not. Hopefully I’ll find something video game related during this week! :)

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(Another) blog revision

After the last update, I suddenly felt like starting this again. So, after going through the layout, the blog name (it was really cheesy), fixing a good category system that should include most of the stuff I want to write about and categorizing all archived post, I’m ready for another run. And I so want to begin with Why Politics is Game Design.

Before I do that, I’ll just reflect on two things: First, I’ve already said this very same thing on this very same blog at least three times the last four years. It usually hasn’t worked. Will it now? I don’t know! I guess it’ll keep up as long as I find this fun (rather than something “I should do”, get bad conscience about, and then avoid). Secondly, this blog name has been used before. Despite it being called “a flood of thoughts”, that flood has often dried out before I’ve even opened the mind dam. It probably connects to the “feeling bad about not updating”-thing. So I won’t promise I will actually keep that title’s trueness this time.

Revision to the blog

This is kind of embarrassing.

I started this blog back in… 2007, I think, in an attempt to post once every week and show the world how much I knew in time to have been running for a bit when I would need to find a job.

It didn’t really turn out that way.

The last post is from early 2011 – in other words, I haven’t written anything for a whole year! So I’m not even near one post per week. However, I have no wish to try – I’ve been doing a lot of useful things since then. I made myself a job, as CEO (and producer and designer) at the start-up Coilworks. For a 2011 summary, you could just as well read the Coilworks 2011 retrospective. There are some episodes I’m not adding there, which I may or may not wish to write about in the future.

However, leaving this blog behind wouldn’t be that smart of me. Now I’ve got several brands to build (my own, my company’s and the company’s game’s), so that mean I should use this more rather than less. It also mean I should have what I use cause some effect.

For starters, I’ve recently made my facebook feed public for followers. I usually post links to all manner of things that interests me (games, tech, science, politics, thinkers), and although some private stuff can go through, I’ll try to minimize it. My twitter and youtube activity can also be seen through that feed.

This also means I my regular days could be interesting to people. What does a CEO/producer/designer of a small but ambitious start-up do for a day? My 2007 self would probably love to know, so I’m thinking of doing something by-weekly about it. That way, we can focus on the more exiting things and ignore the dull (shuffling papers and such).

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep writing reflections, but those will take more time (something that’s been kind of scarce, and sure will be). I’d like to write a documentary about playing Mass Effect from the first scene of the trilogy to the last in “one life allowed”-mode and without the “easy-way-out”-choices (“charm” and “intimidate”). I’d like to write an analysis of dialogue system design and their implications by comparing several modern conversation-RPG:s. I’d like to write a lot more, all stored in a digital post-it on my desktop, so I hope I’ll get time for it.

To round up, let’s just say that the maxim “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know” applies – My 2007 self might’ve thought he knew a lot, but my 2012 self know there’s still loads to still learn (although that 2007-self had a few nice views).

// Johannes (of 2012)

Looking back at 2009

Initially just a “I’m still alive”-post, I got a bit mad and wanted to do a short re-cap of my 2009. The blog hasn’t been active, and as such can’t really reflect what I’ve done this year (the fact that I want it detached from my life just strengthens it), but some – if not most – of it is related to games, game design and “hey, employers, look at this blog – ain’t I awesome?”.

The year of 2009 began with January, snow and a dawning game developing project. My first with a team, actually, and a first where a complete team intending to finishing a game within a time-limit. Only been doing stuff like writing down ideas, try to build maps (only to give up half-way through because there was neither plan nor vision behind it) and throwing together some not-so-good WoW GUI:s, it was an exciting period – at times. Obviously, game development is not all fun and games all the time. It can actually be rather dull, tiresome and draining at times. Such as when you enter the “office” in time and, when your meeting time passes by, needs to call everyone who’s late, only to raise annoyance on both parts. Or such as hearing good ideas thrown about, only to meet them with “can’t be done in time”, or such as coming with a suggestion which is must-have (in my case, written documentation and play-testing) only to have them met with “not necessary, can do without”, or needing to convince a unmotivated member because the game wasn’t fun, even though it was a play-test you then had to defend for “wasting play-testers”. Then there are moments when it was just wonderful, such as the first days the programmers and graphics guys sit down and start doing something like a game you’ve so far only seen on paper (note: we did prototype it, but that doesn’t give the same feeling of accomplishment). When the programmers after weeks of planning and learning the tools (causing you to worry about if this will ever get anywhere) finally gets something visible and interactive on the screen. When playing the game with the “real” graphics the first time or with the sound and music finally implemented. Or seeing spring arrive as you sit down late on the dead-line day burning the disc with the final build to give away, when everyone else are done with their work and the only thing left to do is up to you, and only you.

Developing the game, Alcheringa (it’s up on the Blog, I believe – dunno if it’s a working version, though), had some personally charged moments, as you can hear, and turned out both disastrous and amazingly well, depending on perspective. Within the university, the game quickly became forgotten, rarely played and the few who did disliked it (because, honestly, it started out arty, and stayed art-like even if toned down – and it wasn’t very fun) and got heavily criticised during the presentations. But, on the other hand, it got recognised by the jury of the Swedish Game Awards and we all went down there, put our game with games all which was cooler than ours (if you ask me, and I believe most of the team would agree), doing interviews and talking to people who thought it was somewhere between brilliant to a master-stroke. A completely surreal feeling, and – like a sudden flash – you understood all the successful people who thanked luck or thought themselves surprised. Even more surprisingly, I later ran into a guy a year above me who noted the game to be “one of the few of your year I’ve heard about” (not exact quote) – suddenly that success had spilled over back “home”.

Now, I’ve assembled a team for another game development project outside school. It started out in late may with me gathering people I considered talented with an insane idea (I still believe it can be build, but demands a far bigger scale then the handful of people and year I imagined). After a summer passing with no progress and fall with meetings with no work being done, we are building. Some say the project got saved, but I won’t say that until the game is done (on time).

But games-projects haven’t been all this year. Although seemingly the most related subject, I’ve done other things I’ve perhaps learned even more useful things through. Last december, I took a chance and volunteered to the board of a branch of the Student Union called “SkHum” (Skövde Humanitarian – true to student culture it is a play of words, its pronounced the same way as a Swedish word for “shady” or “weird”). But, as a cascade consequence of Swedish student politics, said branch was merged with two others to form a new branch. In the first two or three months, we not only had to get to know each other (9 strangers from very different educations), but also form a brand with colour-palette, name, logo/mascot, slogans, culture for more students but with fewer means (for instance, our right to do student-social, or “fun”, events and sell artefacts to build the culture, were stripped from us). I personally did a lot of the logo-building (designing said logo so all kinds of interests were happy), but also had a finger in a variety of stuff such as the introduction-blanket given to all new students after summer, organising the “buddies” (think older-student “mentors” for the new ones) when needed be and defending our choices from angry nostalgic students (although others did a lot more defending then I did). For the introduction-week, it was work from 10 in the morning to 6 or 8 in the evening with no breaks (I can’t recall any breaks, only calmer periods) for an 8-day period. And a myriad of other stuff so small I can’t remember them right now.

And, of course, stupid as I am, I’ve taken courses not in the real program, studying sketching parallel to the first game project (stupid idea), programming during the summer and studying some AI programming the following fall. I can’t say I’ve become good at any, but I’ve gained an understanding for it and have a better, and especially broader, knowledge base then many of my student peers (dare I even say that?). Sure, it’s specialist knowledge the industry is said to want, but I believe a broad base is needed if that specialist path is to arrive naturally. Next year will be used to trying out a bunch of different game-design related tasks and see where I really want to go (as well as much more studies). GUI-building, level-design and project management are high up on the list, as well as mechanics.

So 2009 have been an interesting, if hectic, year and I believe 2010 will be just the same.

Today… nothing

I haven’t really updated this as often as I would like me to since I resurrected the blog. I think I just haven’t gotten into the flow of posting stuff yet. And that’s why I haven’t spread the word about it yet, either – there’s not much to show yet.

But as soon as I put the time and effort this will need into it, this will be more alive. :)

Revival

The blog has been down a long time, and a lot has happened since then. I’ve entered the University of Skövdes program for game development with focus on game design, and as the saying goes – the more I learn the more I know how little I do know. The know-it-all from earlier posts is, if not gone, at least less vocal then before (I’m sure I still think I know more then I do).

Why I’m reviving this is to give it a new purpose. I’m intending to do a lot of small things to upload as well as link to good stuff to read (oh, how much I read!) and perhaps a few game links. And I’m going to be less picky about my spelling – I have a feeling my old super-high self-expectation sort of strangled my interest in going on, with not that much in the way of lingustic quality.

Why the Blog Died

It’s been two months, almost three, since my last comment, and there’s probably no need in saying the Blog has died awhile. I’ll use this last post to explain the reasoning behind not writing anymore, and give the blog an ending for that future writer I’ve always been referring to.

The primary reason I stopped writing was that I pretty much relized I wrote like some know-it-all, something I am clearly not. And perhaps the second most important reason was that I lost interest in writing the blog – I ran out of interesting topics, and – feeling like I thought I knew about something I did not – stopped enjoying the topics I wrote about, especially “reviews”. That’s perhaps a bit brief, but it very much sums up my reasons.

So, let’s end the blog. I won’t shut it down or deactivate it (as I don’t know how to do either), but will leave it for future reference. Perhaps by that future reader I started it for, perhaps for myself when I want to look back to my opinions in 2008. I just hope that reader will see the good sides and not the not-as-good ones.

// Johannes Smidelöv

Blog-note: May’s over!

Ok, there’s actually one day left, but what’s over is all the hectic studies and multiple things to do. Which means I can start writing here again!

Over the time I haven’t written anything, I have gotten a few things to write about, so perhaps I can be fairly active with this thing a few weeks. But, for now, it will have to do with this notification.

Blog-note: I hate May

The weather’s great outside, summer is coming, school is about to end, everything should be great. But. That last point also means a flood of tests, exams, projects to finish and work to do. And we still only have 24 hours every day! In other words, barely any spare-time to find.

Thankfully, there are games you can play just a few minutes and get into. Or the ones you can play scarcely and still feel you get somewhere each time. It’s in times like these I understand the idea of casual-gaming – you simply don’t have time to be as hard-core when there’s so many other more important things that has to be done.

Blog note: Activity!

I’ve just updated the “about”-section with explanation about the different categories. They’re not masterpieces of any kind, but they make the “about”-stuff more interesting then a “about”-section tends to be. Post coming in soon, too – I’ve got stuff to write now!