Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chasin' Waterfalls

On Friday I attended my cousin's wedding where I got to visit the gardens up at Thanksgiving Point. I had never been up there and was impressed by the beauty of the gardens and landscaping. But my favorite part was watching the waterfalls.

I don't know what it is about flowing water, but sometimes I feel like I could watch it all day. I love to sit by the side of a river and watch it flow by. Hear the sound of the rushing water. See the water foam as it breaks on the rocks. See where the water is crystal clear. And waterfalls are particularly mesmerizing. I especially love it when you can feel the mist on a breeze.

Some day I intend to have a rather large yard. I will landscape it myself, and one of the most important features to include will be a little stream.

I remember when I was a kid my best friend and I would make rivers in the sandbox at his house on hot summer days. We'd get the hose, attach it to the slide of the swing-set, and dig channels for the water to flow.

I think that sometimes life is like a rushing river. There is so much going on and time flies by. But sometimes we need to take a step back, sit on the banks, and enjoy the subtle beauty of it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Taking on freelance jobs can be awesome. It gives you a chance to do some work separate from your regular job. For me it is usually simple stuff like making web pages or the like. And you make some extra money. If you are smart about it (and skilled in your trade, of course) you can make a tidy little bundle for a project.

But freelance jobs also suck. They take up all my valuable free time! I get home from work and already have too much to do to keep up the house, do laundry, unwind from the day's work, and eventually get some sleep. I already know that I need to organize my time better and discipline myself, but adding this extra work can be a pain.

This leads me to think about how valuable my free time really is. I know I waste a lot of it. But on the other hand, if I don't have a break from work I get burned out. There never seems to be enough time to do the things I want to do, and yet when I find myself having a lot of free time I don't know what to do with it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Play Me a Song, Piano Man

I think that the piano just may be my favorite instrument. It can be loud or soft; fast or slow; gentle or pounding. It can cover so many moods. It has quite a range. It is awesome by itself or as accompaniment.

Personally, I find the piano able to produce the most peaceful music I know. I think my favorite piece of piano music is Ashitaka and San by Joe Hisaishi in the Mononoke Hime soundtrack. Other good ones include Enya's Watermark or the piece entitled Passage Terminated written for Deep Space 9. And it would be practically a sin not to mention the many, many beautiful hymns played on said instrument.

The piano can also be really upbeat and exciting! I love the piano part in the 3rd Bleach closer. Or Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police. I love the tempo of Coldplay's Clocks.

I am, of course, a fan of many other instruments as well. The guitar (acoustic and electric), drums, trumpets, and others. The violin is another favorite of mine. I love how it is used in some of the tracks in Independence Day — the violinists played on the other side of the bridge to get that creepy squeaky sound.

But to me, the piano is the best. I realized this the other day when I was listening to a particularly well-played hymn at church. It makes me wish that I knew how to play it properly. Perhaps someday I will spend the time needed to really learn it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

What Games Are All About

I just read two of Gabe's posts for today on the Penny Arcade site talking about Pokemon. I think sometimes I take games far too seriously.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


See this movie. I think that pretty much sums it up. Pixar once again shows how a simple, well-written story can be a fabulous movie. Personally, I believe Brad Bird to be directly responsible!

From the time I saw the first previews until the time the movie started, I honestly didn't really feel very compelled to see it. It just didn't seem like the kind of movie I would enjoy... and yet I knew that it was a Pixar film, so it must be good. But it was better than good. It exceeded all of my expectations.

See Ratatouille!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Seeing In Color

I took this picture one day when I was just wandering about my neighborhood. The color of the sky caught my attention. I really like the mix of blue and yellow.

It is amazing how much color can be seen in the world. My phone camera wasn't really able to capture the nuance of color that I saw in the sky that day. And that leads me into something that I've been thinking about for a while: how I evaluate the world around me.

Like the sky of that day, or even the picture I took, our everyday experiences have a wealth of color. But it is all to easy to sum them up as a whole into likes and dislikes. Sometimes we gloss over things making a sort of grayscale out of it. Judgments of black and white are made. The world is tinted by the color of glasses we wear.

As an example of what I mean, let's take movies. I have thought quite a bit in the last few months how I judge movies. Everyone is biased in their evaluations of movies. There are lots of factors that can influence how we feel about a movie. I think we can safely say that everyone wears their colored glasses. But sometimes I wonder if mine are shaded too darkly.

It is not uncommon for discussions of movies to come up at my work. And it is also not uncommon for two of my co-workers to bring up a certain movie that they like: Fantastic Four. When this happens I fear my contacts will get displaced somewhere up in my head because I roll my eyes so far back. I very much dislike that movie. The story (I won't be as generous as to say it has a plot) is about as complex as what you'd find in a coloring book. And there are some scenes that are so ridiculous, pointless, and bizarre (read: the bridge scene) that it makes me wonder if the people writing and producing the movie had any cognitive functions at all.

But I wonder how I came to this very colored opinion. There are many things that have influenced it, so lets start at the beginning. I've seen that movie only once, and that was on a date. I remember being asked by my date as we walked out of the theater whether I liked it, and I said it was "okay." I was definitely couching my answer because I didn't know what she was going to say. My opinion was already being influenced! She said she liked it. I wanted her to like me, so I was again influenced! I managed to find some things to say about it that I thought she would agree with. And later on in the school semester when I realized that she and I were not going to have a relationship, I was influenced again!

This movie was also painted heavily by the buckets of colored paint dumped on it by my friends. One of my good friends described his experience of watching this movie by saying that it "made [his] eyes bleed." I think I got some red on my opinion of the movie. Yes, from the eye blood.

Although I have also been influenced somewhat by the opinions of my co-workers, I've stood firm in disliking that movie. I have staunchly disagreed with the idea they presented to me that if I would just watch it more I would like it better. Actually, I think they might be right. But somehow I don't think that assaulting my brain with more IQ-dropping video would be prudent.

Of late I have used some the following criteria to judge my movies (this list is not quite comprehensive; just the main points are presented):

  • Plot - Does the story make sense? What sort of holes are there, and how big are they?
  • Character Development - Do the characters have depth, or are they very two-dimensional? Can you relate to them?
  • Writing - How good is the writing of this movie? Does the dialog suck me into the movie, or does it prevent my suspension of disbelief?
  • Acting - Do I see a guy acting, or has that character become "real" to me?

Other factors such as special effects, attractive women, or famous actors hold precious little sway with me in my overall movie judgement. I think that's why I like so many older movies so much. They may not have a couple million dollars worth of explosions or fancy CGI, yet they are not lacking in quality. But one factor that I find myself considering more and more these days is that of general entertainment. Did I have a good time watching the show? Even if it was stupid?

A good example of this is the new Transformers movie. When I was watching it in the theater I really did enjoy myself. And yet I agreed with pretty much every point that my friends have brought up in argument against it. There were plot holes one could drive a semi through (heh heh). I can only imagine how awesome it could have been if the makers didn't decide to regurgitate all over the second half of it. And yet... I enjoyed it. Overall I liked it.

There are many aspects of movies that I really cannot detect when watching them. But these things affect other people's perception of movies. A lot of technical aspects fall into this category for me. Lighting, framing a shot, what lens was used, and other such elements are usually hard for me to see if I'm not actively looking for them.

So how darkly shaded or lightly tinted are my glasses? I'm not sure if there is really a way to know for certain. In recent months I've tried to not be too snobbish about movies while not giving in to peer-pressure about ones I dislike either.

Movies are, of course, only one example of how my life is colored. I've also given this subject thought in context of relationships, games, books, food, and other things. I just hope that I'm not missing out on some of the most vibrant and amazing colors that are out there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Multi-player Games

Today I read an interesting article linked from the Penny-Arcade site. It basically says that single-player games are an anomaly which will go away over time. The article is full of logical holes and the authors own bias, but the stance he took is still intriguing.

My first instinct was to disagree with the author. After all, there are some really great single-player games. Most RPGs fall into that category, and they are still coming strong with upcoming games like Mass Effect. But it begs the question, "Would these games be better if they were multi-player, or at least had multi-player aspects?"

As we consider this idea, it is useful to throw out certain counter-arguments which are either beside the point or will become defunct over time. So let us run with the following assumptions:

  • Technology will improve to better accommodate (or even effectively eliminate) issues such as frame-rates, network connectivity / latency, memory, etc.
  • Just because we are adding multi-player to these games, that doesn't mean we are getting rid of single-player entirely. I seriously doubt that single-player games will ever disappear entirely.

So with that said, the first big problem I see is how to make a good multi-player RPG. And by this I mean a game like Final Fantasy. Let's take a look at some examples of RPGs that have multi-player aspects. In some games like Secret of Mana, additional players can take control of party members not in control by the primary player. This can be fun, but really the other players have little control. The party is always stuck together and typically the primary player makes all the important story decisions.

Another example would be World of WarCraft. Every player gets to control their own character. They can login, logout, and play independently. But in this case story is sacrificed. Yes, there are a lot of story elements that you can read and even some to participate in, but the player is rarely ever the main participant. The world is not changed by your actions. You may have killed the evil overlord... but he'll be back next week when the servers reset. The player must actively seek out most of the role-playing story elements in this game.

So how do you make a multi-player RPG? Something that has a gripping (or I'd settle for decent!) story and can be accessed by at least two players independently (even if they must play at the same time) without having to repeat content? I imagine the complexity of such a game would be a developer's nightmare. Even in a traditional pencil-and-paper game of Dungeons and Dragons this would be difficult. In that case you have a human GM to weave a story together and handle the unexpected choices of players. But even then, a good GM will typically restrict characters in various ways to keep them together and on track.

Someone will make a big pile of money if they can figure out how to make a game like that.

Putting aside the problem of RPGs, what of other games? What if we added multi-player to a game like Ninja Gaiden? The first obvious idea is to add a head-to-head mode where player ninjas fight each other. That's fine and all, but that's really not the same game as the single-player. Many games turn out this way, like Ghost Recon (G.R.A.W.) or Halo. Not to say the multi-player in games like these is bad... it's just different. So you basically have two separate games, and thus you arguably haven't really added multi-player at all!

So how about co-op? Going back to Ninja Gaiden for the example, how do you modify the game to add a cooperative mode? When this is done in most games the multi-player follows the same path as the single-player. For some games, like Gears of War this works very well. (In fact, I think the campaign mode of that game was tailored for co-op rather than single play.) But does this make the game better? Personally, I think it does. You can always play single-player if that suits your fancy, and the option is there to play with someone else.

I've barely scratched the surface of my question, but my rambling thoughts seem to be heading into a few main directions:

1) Many games could benefit from adding some sort of multi-player mode.
2) There are lots of games where multi-player cannot be added without fundamentally changing the game.
3) Adding multi-player to some games (especially RPGs) would be almost too complex to handle.

This topic will obviously require more thought, but I'll leave it at this for now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wind: A Haiku

A cool, gentle breeze
bends blades of grass, leaves of trees.
Whispers in the dark.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why You Shouldn't Comment Here

For many years I've had a desire floating around in my brain urging me to make a website. The problem is that I've never had anything that I really cared about enough to warrant the creation of web pages. Not to mention the time commitment. Being a computer programmer is a gift and a curse. Which is to say that I would get lost in lines of PHP, HTML, and CSS code until that spark of desire to post on the Internet would be drown out.

Then yesterday I visited my good friend Expavesco. After seeing his blog and later reading his brother's, I knew that I had to play too. And that's when I realized what to do. I will fill these virtual pages with random things that I feel to write about. An outlet for my creativity in word-smithing. A place where my friends and family can read my writings. And perhaps random people will, through means unknown, find this place in the ether and enjoy their read.

So that brings me to the title of this post. Although I would like some feedback about my posts (especially concerning spelling, grammar, and the like -- oh how the Internet is slowly killing the English language!), I cringe at the thought of constantly returning to my comments screens just to see what people felt compelled to write in reply to my posts. I'm wanting an outlet, not another place to get involved with other citizens of the Internet. This is not meant to be a forum for anyone but myself.

So for the time being just sit back and relax. Perhaps someday I'll change my mind about comments on my blog. But until then, I'm sure you'll be able to find some other place to express your opinions if you really can't keep them to yourself.