Friday, November 30, 2007

Everybody wants to find Graffit Bridge...

...and I did! Check it!

Standing in line at Ralph's grocery store and I see this DVD sitting in a pile to my left. How freaking random is that? I mean, Spiderman 3 being sold at a grocery store, I get. Die Hard 4? I get it. Hell, even kid flicks like MY PRETTY PONY: HAVE A MINTY CHRISTMAS, I get. But this obscure flop of a flick from Darling Nicky's true love?!? What a surprise...and it got me thinking two things:

#1- This was a pretty cool movie for its time...looked cool and the soundtrack was really fun. NPG, bitches!

#2- Man, movies can travel thru time and space with ease. I wish the same could be said for games. Graffitti Bridge came out before it even entered my mind to design games. Since then I've had like 7-9 games released and with the exception of a handful, it's hard for folks to play them even if they COULD actually still find them in the store. That kinda sucks...

Ok, it's pouring rain here in San Diego (Nice! Love the rain from time to time) and pretty soon I gotta run get ready for a b'day party tonite...friend of my wife is doing a dinner and 80's dancing party! I can not dance to save my life but I LOVE 80's music, so I'm excited to hear the band! Gotta run and try to play thru Twisted Metal in hard mode before I shut it down for the week! Have a great weekend ya'll!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnnndddddd Scene!

Welp, that's it for me and Ratchet.

Best game I've played all far.

But did I finish it? Hell no. Not even close.

A quick check at gamefaqs tells me I have 9-10 more worlds to go to/return to before I reach the end.

But sorry, Ratchet, old pal. Your game is back in the blu-ray case and I doubt it will ever see the insides of my PS3 again...unless it's for research.

Again- I loved this game. LOVED IT! I could not stop playing it for a while there. Need to dive into Mario Galaxy next but I've played MGalaxy for about 2 hours and my initial impressions are really good, but I like Ratchet way more so far. So I'm not dogging this game at all.

But man, they did the two things that kill most games for me (assuming I even like the game enough to play for more than 30 minutes...and hell I liked/loved this one enough to play for like 3 nights!):

a- they overstayed their welcome. 9 more levels?!? Come on! I played for like 5-6 hours so far (stopped playing on the dino lava planet...which looks AMAZING, by the way!)...but yeah, so after 5-6 hours I feel like I've pretty much gotten the point of the game, done most of the mechanics, gotten the gist of the thing's spirit....and now I want to be done within the next 30 min to 2 hours. Maybe it's just me but I want to be able to finish a damn story based game in 1-4 sittings tops...where a sitting= 1-3 hours max, not 6-8 hours at a time. Once I realized how much more there was to play, it only took the slightest thing to get me to walk away. Turns out the slightest thing was a huge thing...and that is:

b- STOP MAKING IT OBVIOUS THAT GAMES ARE GETTING HARDER AS YOU PROGRESS!!! Ok, there are probably several schools of thought on this, but here's mine...and I think it should be the standard line of thought for all story based games (hey, it's my blog, so I can be a game design bully if I want to :) here it is:

FROM START TO FINISH, with NO deviation from this, games need to be hard enough to be engaging but easy enough so they don't get frustrating. This to me equals PLAYER ENGAGEMENT. And the goal should be for the player to feel ENGAGED 100% of the time. NOT CHALLENGED! NEVER CHALLENGED! Who the fuck wants to feel challenged?!? I mean, who is that fun for?!?! Unless it's a hard core skill game and it's clear that is the goal for the title (like Ghosts N' Goblins or something) a game should engage you from start to finish...and that is it!

And Ratchet did this beautifully until I got to the space ship boss battle (with it's crazy 'aim with one stick and move the ship with the other' set up). But I could live with that hiccup. But then right after they toss me into a robotron level of 'we're going to milk 30 minutes out of play time while we keep you in this one area and throw more and more bad guys at you' this point I was getting kind of tied of the thing but really wanted to finish it....but THEN right after, I'm on the dino planet where the giant dino enemies- who are not even bosses- take alot of hit points to kill and do you alot of damage....and that for me, was the killer, the nail in the coffin. I had 4 sections in a row where instead of 'semi-coasting thru the adventure/semi focusing on the adventure in order to move forward', the game took me out of the fast lane, out of the zen-like trance that a great game creates and suddenly I was WORKING.

Well fuck it, I already got a job. I don't want to work to play your game. So I'm not going to. I'm done.

And yeah, I know some folks think the game was ultra easy. Difficulty is subjective and good work is being done in some games today to adjust difficulty for players on the fly. But for me, the game got too hard. NOTso hard that I could not finish it if I really tried. Sure I COULD finish it with 3-5 deaths of Ratchet for each challenging area...but again, I'm not here to take a fucking test...I'm here to play. And after dino planet, I was no longer playing. I was dying-learning-dying-learning a bit more-dying-learning a bit more....ugh, fucking shit!

Much as I loved this game...and again, it's a GOTY contender for me...I just can't keep struggling with the thing.

I mean...if I may....ahem:


Again, I get that games should get harder as they go. But they should do it in order to keep the player in the engaged sweet spot and to compensate and adjust for the player's increasing the player, the increase in difficulty should go the player, the difficulty should be the SAME feeling as it is in the final level as it was in the first level. But somewhere along the line, designers forgot the REASON games were supposed to get harder. Hell, maybe it was never defined like I am defining it...maybe alot of designers are just doing the 'games get harder as they go' thing from the old arcade days (where they had to in order to kick you slacker ass off the machine) and never really thought about the theory behind it....and just applied it to today's games when they really should not be doing so.

And before someone comments that by 6-8 hours in, I should have learned the skills needed so that the dino planet would not have resulted in a shelf moment and that this is what the makers of Ratchet were hoping for, let me say this...and this comes from 14 years of experience watching people respond- good and bad- to the games I've worked on: gamers are not developers. They WILL NOT use ANY mechanic they do not need to use. They will take the path of least resistance to get from A TO B. So just because the developer OFFERS a way to dodge bullets skillfully, and just because a game allows the player to slow down time and reverse it when things get tough (for example), the player- unless he has HAD to use those skills alot earlier in the game- will probably not call upon them 6-8 hours in when the developer presents the player with a situation that will be hard- and take him out of the engagement zone- unless he DOES use those mechanics.

And I know, I know...I've done it to players as well. Hades in GOW was a pain in the ass...not by design, just by not getting around to focus testing that level. Twisted Metal:Black was so hard we probably cut our audience for that game by at least 50%. And that game is a perfect example of us- as developers- assuming players would use mechanics we had given them without even forcing the player to make those mechanics second nature (75% of Twisted :Black players didn't even KNOW there were d-pad combo moves that let you fire ice, rear fire, drop mines, and activate a shield)...but we tuned the game assuming everyone would know those mechanics were there and- as importantly- have them ingrained as much into their play styles as us, the game makers. So yeah, I've fucked it up before as well....hell of alot worse than the new Ratchet in fact.

And maybe it's because- as a designer- I've been guilty of these sins myself that I know it when I see it and I HATE IT when I see it. Cause a) it pisses me off as a player and b) it reminds me of my past failures as a designer.

Man...if Ratchet would have just ended 2 planets past the lava/dino planet...and it would have stayed at the same level of engagement from start to finish, it would have been one of my top 5 games of all is, now it sits between my unopened copy of STRANGLEHOLD for PS3 and my Atari 2600 copy of Custard's Revenge, gathering dust.

And yeah I know this post is angry. I know I'm coming down crazy hard on a stellar game like Ratchet versus some lame ass B grade game....Sorry about that...but I am so disappointed because I loved the newest Ratchet SO MUCH! It looks so amazing and controls like butter and just feels SOOOOOO right. And I was having SOOOOO much damn fun. And dammit, they took that away from me. So I guess I am pissed now...sorry...sure I will feel better in daylight :) to bed!

Hope ya'll had a great holiday!

Angry/Sad/Annoyed David

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Have a great one ya'll! I think we're gonna start pumping out videos and images from our new game next week, so check back...and heck, I may update over the break as well. Gonna be doing lots of Guitar Hero 3 battles with my brother as well as trying to check out some movies (Enchanted, Wonder Emporium, This Christmas, No Country For Old Men)...AND trying to finish Ratchet and Zelda. Oh, and spending time with the family too. Yeah, I'll get all that done :)

Anyway, thanks for stopping by over this last year...I'm always so surprised and so appreciative so many people read this thing. I enjoy doing it and am happy so many of you guys keep stopping by and posting comments.

As for my virtual Thanksgiving gift for you, here's a pic I found on the net...I love this...great message:

Ain't that great?

Ok, gotta get some work done today so I'm off! Be safe ya'll and have fun!


Monday, November 19, 2007


The difficulty level on taking a piss in my house just went from Medium to Hard.

My youngest daughter is now officially interested in learning to use the toilet (versus using her diaper)...and thank God for that since these days her poops have been so bad that my wife has taken to saying her diapers look like the bottom of the Mississippi.

Good as that is, the little 'trainer toilets' we have atop the actual toilets in the house are turning taking a standing pee into a hell of a challenge. It's kind of like trying to fly Superman thru those damn rings in the first level of Superman 64.

Maybe the toilet will have mercy in an Onimusha style sense and if I miss too many times, it will give me a chance to drop it from HARD down to EASY mode :)


ps. Thanksgiving is coming! Sweet! I wonder if I'll even make a dent in my 'to play' pile...check it out:

I doubt I'll get to any of these since all my gaming time has been going to Ratchet PS3 (so so so so good! Best one in the series to me!) and Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (loving it but I have not gotten bored with the sailing yet, so we will see...but I'm hopeful it sustains my interest so I can finish it...have not finished a Zelda since the second one back on NES...almost finished LINK TO THE PAST but then got busy and never went back to it).

But man, I love seeing new games all stacked up like that. I know how lucky I am to have such access to such great entertainment. I guess that's one of the reasons I wish games were like 2-3 hours so I could actually tear thru 1-3 of these in a day and be done with it! But I know that's a rare view considering most folks don't get to play near as many games as I do. Have to be careful of that and always remind myself that my perspective of gaming in that sense is no longer the mainstream view of how they view games.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Just got back from the greatest movie ever made...if I was a 14 year old kid and the soundtrack for the flick was by Queen or Led Zepplin. Beowulf really is the ultimate junior high school geek movie and I expect it to be this generation of 11-15 year old's HEAVY METAL.

As for my opinion as a 36 year old (and yes, those are the still-dorky-but-not-as-dorky-as-they-used-to-be 3D glasses in the pick above!)...

-the 3D was really well done but it was either used in gimmick shots so as to pull you out of the story (i.e. oooh, look at that spear aimed right at our faces!) or it was just there and after 5 minutes you got lost in the movie like any other story and forgot the thing was even in 3D. I really don't see this generation of 3D as the savor of Hollywood, as I've heard lots of folks saying.

-Someone working on this movie plays lots of video games. Including Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, and Lair. Ok, maybe not but man, some shots and ideas in this movie seemed straight out of those games. Not that I'm complaining. As my brother said when we walked out of the flick: Beowulf was the first real action hero. So if he wants to steal from us, who have been stealing from him for so long, go for it! :) And again, I doubt Bobby Zemeckis (sp?) plays's just stuff I picked up on as a gamer.

- The story was yawn inducing. The action was pretty amzing and imaginative...but it was very find monster/kill monster/find monster/kill monster...over and over with very little else to get involved with story wise.

Anyway, a fun nite at the movies, glad I went. The 14 year old in me is jumping for joy. The rest of me is just tired and wants to go to bed. Driving home to San Diego early in the am (promised my kids I'd be home early enough to wake up with them and make french toast) it's bed for me.

See ya'll!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 GIRLS 1 CUP...

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back to the Salt Mines...

Thought we were done editing the Twisted Metal documentary that comes with the port of Twisted Metal:Head On.

Turns out i was wrong :)

We want the game to have a T rating given that we feel the game will appeal to both TM fans as well as younger players who are just getting a PS2 (either handed down as an older brother/sister has moved onto next gen, or getting a first game console as the price for PS2 keeps getting lower and lower). Because of our desire for a T, some of the content in the doc needed to be...pruned a bit? get the idea.

Here's the list we were working from. The stuff in red is content we KNEW would send us into the M territory. Yellow was danger zone and white was bad language that we needed to bleep. Guess who was the biggest offender in that category. :)

Here are some shots of us in the editing bay at Sony San Diego Studios.

And here's me about 45 min ago, heading home after stopping at Best Buy to pick up Mario's latest! I'm so excited! I played for about 15 minutes cause I just couldn't wait for the end of the day and so far...I dig it! I always like my jaw to drop RIGHT when I first pop a game in and so far, not so much. But for the opening 15 minutes of a game (I am just now getting to the sling stars) it's pretty darn cool...and it's real nice to have Mario back in my life...I imagine most gamers feel like me whenever a new Mario game comes out; like a dear old friend has come for a visit. Dorky? Yep. But true.

So even if the adventure ends up being simply solid (and most reviews say it's waaaaaayyyyyy better than solid), I'll still be happy!

Ok, back to work! Talk to ya'll soon!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Are games JUST THAT GOOD?!?!

There’s something about game reviews that has bugged me for a long while. It’s something that until recently I’ve not been able to label or even understand. It’s just been this little splinter lodged in the back of my brain, this little itch that would act up whenever I watched the most hyped games- usually-end up with the most impressive scores (including games I’ve directed…so I’ve benefited from this phenomenon as well, to be sure).

But why are game review scores for games in general, and hyped games specifically, always so damn high?

And does it actually make any sense?

I mean, you don’t see this phenomenon in other media. Yes, every now and then a crazy hyped movie or album or book will meet with unanimously positive reviews. But more often than not, this is not the case. Usually really hyped media tends to be a let down and it’s the out of the blue stuff (ex: Matrix vs. Star Wars Episode I) that gets the accolades. Sure, certainly it’s sometimes the case for one (and MAYBE two) movies/books/albums to live up to the hype. But it’s NEVER the case that over 90% of the hyped up movies/books/albums end up with 90%+ review scores from 90% of the critics.

And IF by the grace of God it does happen, it happens once every 20 years or so…like a perfect storm of movies or books. But it certainly doesn’t happen every year.

But with games? Happens all the time. ALL the fucking time. And I want to know why.

For some comparisons, check out the reviews of the top 12 flix on Rotten Tomatoes:

The highest movie ranks 90%....the pretty hyped up Michael Clayton.

The NEXT highest flick is American Gangster coming in at 79%. Now this is fucking Ridley Scott and Denzel and Russel in a bad ass story/setting/genre. Can you IMAGINE if the game equivalents of Ridley,Denzel, and Russel got together and made a game in a hot genre? It’d be GOTY! posts and review scores from here to timbuckfuckingtoo! But in movies, not even close.

Why is it the movie reviews and book and record reviews seem like they are a little more…reserved? Honest? Broken? Who knows…

But now check out the rankings that are starting to spring up for the season’s biggest games from some of the biggest reviewers! Check out the scores so far for Assassin’s Creed (9.5/10, 10/10), COD4 (95% from metacritic), Mario Galaxy (9.5, 10), Mass Effect, Orange Box, Metroid, Ratchet, Uncharted, Guitar Hero III.

It’s like EVERY fucking game- score wise- is a masterpiece!

Are games just that good, or is something odd going on? And it’s not a one time event…this happens EVERY year.

Some theories? Sure! Here ya go:

1- Games, while being technically challenging to create, are easy to make from a standpoint of if you just spend enough time on it and hire good enough people (not geniuses but GOOD ENOUGH people), you’ll end up with a great game. Not a classic, but a great game. Maybe this is not the case with other media? And why not? Are other media harder to create because the end product has the potential to be so much deeper and richer and games are pretty much one note? Or is it something else?
2- Game reviewers- by and large- are not as experienced/mature/discerning as reviewers from other media? Lots of accusations that game media buy into the hype and review accordingly. BUT this can be countered by the argument that game reviewers are more like reviewers for consumer goods and if all of the boxes are ticked on the consumer product, then it gets a great review. It could also be argued that game reviewers are more passionate and less jaded than reviewers of other mediums and this is why the scores are so high so often…because they love the medium more than other media critics and are passionate about it. Not sure if this is a good excuse as to why the scores are always so high, but it’s hard to knock passion…so there you go.
3- Games are just better than the other mediums?

Shoot, I don’t know…I don’t have an answer. Do you?

And is it just me or do you guys/gals also feel this is an odd discrepancy?


Thursday, November 08, 2007


...or something like that.

Finished the game pitch with Phil Harrison up here in Foster City and now I'm sitting around SFO waiting for my plane to board (about 2 hours from now). It's not so bad really, nice break from the last few days of rush, rush, rush. It's very quiet right now...a whole heard of people just got on a plane at the gate next to I'm just sitting here on the floor, cup of coffee in one hand, surfing the net with the other....check it:

Ahhh, Kotaku! My sweet, sweet Kotaku. Never lets me down with the goods...

MMmmmm, Burger King! Well...not really. I used to LOVE the BK fries and then they changed them about 12 years ago or so and they just suck so much now. BK sucks... that's SFO airport at about 1:55pm on Thursday Nov 8th. Or at least a little corner of it. My little corner....I feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal...:)

So as for the pitch: I got the sense the powers that be dug what we were pitching, enough to let us keep moving ahead and exploring the vision. So that's always good. Plus, pitching is always fun for me and since I loved what I was pitching, it was even more fun! It's odd...the pitch was a big meeting room with Phil and then a bunch of Sony folks (all of whom I know, like alot, and have worked with for years)...but this time I was on the other side of the table, this time when we were done pitching, instead of getting to stay in the room and hear about the other games Sony internal was making, we (me and Scott) were asked to leave because we're not allowed to know about the unannounced titles from Sony 1st party anymore... For a moment it was a little strange because for 13 years I'd been privy to those sorts of meetings, to that kind of yeah, for a second I didn't like that feeling. And then it passed.

And then I was like: OH MY GOD! I REALLY AM AN INDY DEVELOPER NOW!!! And you know what? I fucking LOVE it! LOVE IT! I LOVED 95% of my years at Sony, no doubt. No regrets...nothin' but love for you baby/Sony....but now, now THIS feels right...I am so greatful for this opportunity...and I love I still get to be doing it with Sony. So win/win, bitches! :)

So all and all...a good day! Now I'm just really fried, ready to get home. Taking the day off tomorrow to go to LA with my wife. We get to get Indian food from GATE OF INDIA!!! Man, that food's like gold if gold were food...and if you could eat gold it's like gold food meaning it tastes so great and we love it....fuck off! I am tired!!!

Ok ya'll...that's all she wrote for soon!


ps. just got an email from Drew, one of the producers on the TM:HEAD ON port. He's at a focus group for the new, TM BLACK levels down in LA. He says we're getting 8's, 9's, and 10 out of 10 ratings for FUN FACTOR (the only rating I ever care about)!!! Man, that is sweet! I have no clue how many people buy ports and who is still buying PS2 games (I hope alot!) but man I think we've all done great work on this title. Head On looks great, the Lost Levels- if I may say so- are really fun, and I love all the bonus content. I hope people give us a chance! But either way, I'm feeling really really proud of the game the team has made right now. Great news from focus groups are always a nice way to cap off a day :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I've been travelling alot these last few weeks. I'm in a hotel room in Utah as we speak. Been working with the team to final tweak the TWISTED METAL: HEAD ON port (and the new Lost levels) the last few days...tomorrow I fly up to Foster City (San Fran) to pitch a new game to Phil Harrison (head of SCE Production). Then- finally- back home.

A few weeks before I was in Los Angeles, then Vegas, then back to Utah.

So yeah, lots of trips the last month or so. And the one thing that keeps cropping up is...well, how to explain.

You know those WALK/DON'T WALK guys? The ones you see on street corner signs? Here, these?

So these ICONIC guys right?

Well it never occured to me how odd they would look drawn in different positions, especially positions meant to convey fear and terror. Especially fear and terror of the 'run for your life!' variety.

Well now I know.

And now that I am aware how stupid the Walk/Don't Walk guy looks in any other pose besides well, err, WALKING, I just keep seeing these 'so awful it's hillarious to me' examples all over the place. Here, check these out....these are from the elevators from hotels I've stayed in during the last month.

Now this first one is kind of basic, sort of what you'd EXPECT the WDW dude to look like when he's running. So I don't know why it strikes me as funny, but it does. Maybe it's because he's just so focused and poised about the whole thing. No drama to it, just getting the job done.

Now this one looksvery Lon Chaney or one of those other Universal Monster Movie creatures slowly creeping down the steps in a dramatic pose, more interested in the Nora Desmond like drama of decending the staircase than in the fire that is inches away from consuming them.

This one is like some Victorian Era Dandy slowly and clamly cascading down the staircse, looking around to take in the scene, interested in all things, including the fire that is about to destory him. He just seems to calm and collected and UNINTERESTED in the FUCKING FIRE THAT IS RIGHT BEHIND HIM!!!

And this one, I'm sorry is's so the propostions of the guy are all out of whack, like the WDW guy got stretched out on the rack...and he's just kinda plodding down the steps all enthusiastic and the like...

I dunno...I dunno if these strike you as funny as well...I think they rock...maybe I'm just really tired of being away from home and am starting to go a little nuts :)


ps. Yeah, I knew about Cory leaving a few weeks ago. It's not my place to give any real details...that's up to Cory. But I'll say these two things (cause I've been asked alot about it since the news broke):

a- the GOW team is one of the best in the game making biz. Losing key members of a team- from any department- is always a struggle. But I have no doubt the team- being as amazing as they are- will shake it off and get back to work on what promises to be the best game in the series (assuming they follow the creative and tech ideas I've heard about so far).

b- Cory's moving on to some sweet ass stuff, from what I hear. I'm sure in due time he'll spill some beans. And when he does I'm sure you guys/gals will be as happy for him as I am...some neat things could be going down for our Mr. Barlog in the coming months/ stay tuned!

Ok, I'm done. Gotta get to bed early for the flight to SF so not even gonna reread this for typos and obvious spelling mistakes...hope it makes sense! See ya!