My 3DS Streetpasses it’s first convention

So this weekend is wondercon, the San Francisco branch of Comic Con. The one thing I was more excited about than anything else (even hot girls in spandex outfits!) was the chance to really put my 3DS’s StreetPass through its paces. I suspected there would be a healthy dose of 3DS owners there, and I was right!

I have to say, Nintendo really improved on the whole peer to peer encounter thing that they first tried with the original DS. I really liked it on the old system, but it was fairly impractical. You had to have the game you wanted to enable it on loaded up, at a specific screen, and then put to sleep in that mode. A lot of finagling had to take place to get things ready and you can only enact it with one game at a time. With the 3DS the biggest improvement, to me at least, was that you can enable streetpass for multiple games simultaneously even if the game isn’t even in your unit at the time. It’s always on all the time, whether your system is sleeping or actively gaming.

I threw my 3DS in my messenger bag on sleep mode with both SSFIV and the normal Mii StreetPass enabled, and headed down to the event. I learned a few things from this little experiment. Firstly, if you are out at an event where you expect a LOT of activity, like Wondercon or PAX or E3, check your system often. Each type of StreetPass (Mii, SSFIV, etc) seems to have a 10-encounter limit per title. Once you max out, it stops accepting any new encounters until you clear our your queue. If you don’t load it up and clean it out, you might miss out on a lot of activity. Secondly, you can only use Miis you have encountered for the mini RPG or the Puzzle game if no one new has arrived yet to “push them off” the list. In my case, I acknowledged the 10 new visitors, and then closed the unit and went about my business, completely missing out on the puzzle pieces they had and the fights they could have done for me. Both of these issues I am sure have perfectly logical technical design reasons/limitations behind their implementation, and I am ok with them now that I understand them, just wish I had known it sooner. (Then again I never bothered to thumb through that massive King James Bible sized manual so the fault is my own really.) Finally, in the case of Super Street Fighter IV, those mini figure battles have to be processed in the Log in order to accumulate the points earned. Sadly there is no way to speed through it, and sitting down and watching through all those battles is fairly time consuming and annoying. Fortunately though you can let up to 20 of them sit in your log before it fills up and you need to clear some out.

All in all, this weekend totally made owning a 3DS right out the gate all the more enjoyable. I was thinking all week how awesome StreetPass would be come E3 or PAX, not at all thinking about Wondercon. I’m glad I got to experience this now, as to get a better idea for how I plan to approach those other events this year once I have a fair amount of various games loaded up for StreetPassing, so as not to miss out on anything awesome. Most importantly, I want to point out that at the end of the day, after logging 30 or so SSFIV matches (and watching them all) and about 50 Mii exchanges (and clearing that queue 4 or 5 times) I ended the day with about 50% battery life. Considering how fast this thing drains, and how comparatively crappy its over all battery life is, thats fairly reassuring.

Corsets and Katanas and Guns, Oh My!

So I just saw Sucker Punch a few minutes ago….

wow

No, seriously… wow. Let me put it out right up front, if you are looking for a deep and insightful story that will crawl into the dark corners of your mind and toy around in there for days after, you will be disappointed. On the other hand, if you want a Damn Good Time™ that is just pure Audio/Visual/Cinema-graphic Porn that gives you a sensory orgasm and makes you feel like a 12 year old fantasizing about an action movie, you will be in for a treat.

1 Part Moulin Rouge, 1 part Anime flavored action, 2 parts Michael Bay, with a dash of Inception; this movie was the best 2 hour investment I have made in my life in several months. Don’t get me wrong, there IS a story there, and it’s not that weak. Its not story of the year stuff, but it is a solid bit of glue to help bind together all of the off the wall action sequences that are pure joy to watch unfold. I mean really, who here doesn’t want to watch a Samurai Schoolgirl take on a trio of 30 foot tall Ronin, one of which is wielding a Gatling gun?

That reminds me, something I want to thank the creators on; while the movie is over the top action packed, they do an artful job of avoiding any blood or gore without making it seem like they are obviously censoring the movie. Not that I have some strong aversion to that, it’s just that it has been such a strong point on so many over the top action movies of late, it was a refreshing change.

So moral of the story, spend the cash and go see it. I genuinely think everyone will enjoy it, so long as you approach it as a good, enjoyable action flick with a decent story and dont try to place any undue expectations on it. Take it for what it was meant to be: geek cinema porn.

Game Development Sepearation Depression

I’ve encountered an unusual phenomenon. The last year and a half at EA I’ve been on a team that is considered a “shared resource”. We are basically utilized by just about every single development studio at EARS as well as a few remote ones. When you need our support, you get a project lead (myself) and a decent sized team of people under me. We tend to drop in around Alpha, and bounce just as soon as the title gets approved by First Party for release. Generally speaking, we jump into a project for the last 4-6 months of development, and then move on to the next. Also, us leads are generally on multiple projects at once, the bulk of our interaction with the team is email and weekly meetings as we do all of this from our own work space where we all sit together. This has led to a very “clinical” approach to the teams I have worked with on my part.

With Dead Space 2 though it has been an entirely different situation. Due to the scope and focus of this title no expense was spared, that meant that the team put forward by my group was dedicated to DS2 and nothing else. This also meant we tried a new experimental plan where I packed up everything in the building I was in and moved into the Visceral studio for 9 months. I sat with, crunched, ate lunch, stayed late, and partied with the Dead Space 2 team. My entire focus was this game and little else. I was treated like part of the group and given a lot of the perks of it as well. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, but more importantly it allowed me to really get involved with the project more than usual and help make it the rock star success that it is. I went from an abstract paper pusher and project manager to an involved and valued member of the Dev Team.

Now I find myself with a conundrum however. The title has shipped, the team is moving on to their next project, and they are without need of my services for quite a long time. Today I pack up my things from my cube in their studio and move back over the building where my primary team is. I need to reintegrate myself to the style of working on a project where I’m not embedded with the team, and back to a life where I am just some guy who makes the dev team’s life harder than usual with most of my emails and no one really knows or cares to know me since I’m not “one of them”. I’ve come to realize it’s possible I was a bit spoiled, but at the same time thats how my job SHOULD be in a way. Now, I’m not so sure how much I like my job anymore if I have to go back to the way things were on future projects. The Visceral guys were really great to work with, they gave every single member of their team equal respect in ways most other groups apparently don’t. Above all though, they were simply awesome guys who were so much fun to be around. No matter how rough things got, or how crazy a day was, I went home happy and came in to work excited. It’s amazing what you will gladly put up with if the environment is right. The future now is not nearly as exciting it seems….