Category Archives: Personal Stuff

World, meet Keiko

Partial explanation for my recent blog downtime: Eve and I rescued “Keiko,” a lovely half-fox terrier, half-Italian greyhound pup! If you’ve ever had a puppy, you know how incredibly engaging they can be. :-)

We suspect Keiko’s first few months of life were hard; he was picked up off the streets and is scared of strangers, especially large men. For the first few days we had him in our home, when I approached him at a normal pace he would either run away or drop to his belly and crawl piteously towards me. I had to drop to my knees to make him feel safe enough to approach. He still does the “don’t hurt me!” belly crawl on a regular basis, but at least he doesn’t run away from me anymore. Better still, he loves to snuggle once I’ve comforted him for a few seconds.

Keiko also likes to lick your face (if you’ll let him), bounce around like a kangaroo (he’s got an impressive vertical!) and tussle with our other dog, Pooka, who outweighs him by almost 200%. Fortunately, she’s gracious enough to frequently let him feel like he’s winning the battle. And as of today, she has started allowing him to nap next to her on the same bed.

Keiko also enjoys pooping in the house. That part is a bit less endearing, I’ll admit. But we’ll break him of the habit soon, I hope. Either way, it’s a good thing we were planning on replacing the carpets soon. :P

My Develop Keynote PPT

As promised to attendees of my lecture, here’s my PPT — it includes links or citations for all the figures I mentioned (you need to click “notes on slide” which appears below the presentation itself to actually see the links/citations.)

Unfortunately, my presentation style is light on text and very heavy on chatter, so if you didn’t attend the lecture I’m afraid this PPT won’t be very useful for you. That said, if a video of the lecture is made public I’ll link to it here for the rest of you!

Where Business Meets Game Design

I’m finally done with all the formalities of setting up my new consulting business. I’d love to tell you that I picked the name “Fuzbi” for some profound and/or touching reason, but no. I picked Fuzbi because it was a five-letter, pronounceable, available .com that (to my knowledge) does not mean anything in any common language. I’ve always liked the idea of picking a name that you can invest with your own meaning, like “Google.” And Fuzbi sounds fun to me, which is good enough for my purposes.

I owe a big hug to Danc for creating the Fuzbi logo. I wasted a good five or six hours making an absolute idiot of myself with Photoshop before Danc rescued me from myself. :-)

So there you go — I’m official. And I’m already working on a few interesting projects for clients both inside and outside the US, so I’m feeling sassy to boot! If you might be interested in learning more about my consulting services, or if you’d just like to hang out and help me celebrate my new business, I’ll be at E3 on the 2nd and 3rd of June. Just drop me a line!

Getting to Know Others

Being social has always come natural to me. I enjoy meeting random people and hearing their stories — be they potential business partners, friends of friends, or my taxi driver of the moment for that matter. My parents like to tease me for striking up long conversations with the waiters at restaurants, which has, on more than one occasion, resulted in the swapping of contact information. :-)

One of the more pleasant consequences of my extroversion is a fairly robust professional network — this was true even before I joined Microsoft, and is certainly more true today. Some people have noticed this and asked me what my “secret” is. I’m always tempted to say something snarky, but rather than be unkind let me attempt to take the question seriously for a moment. I’ve never really had a “method”, but after thinking about it for a little while I came up with the following self observations that might be useful to the network-challenged among you:

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MIT Business in Gaming (BIG) Conference

I’m happy to share the following announcement, brought to you by the current generation of MIT Game Tycoons. :-)

Digital distribution, marketing, and in-game advertising are the themes of MIT Sloan School of Management’s inaugural Business in Gaming Conference being held on Friday, May 8, 2009 on the business school’s campus. Ken Levine, president of 2K Boston and creator of BioShock, will serve as the conference’s closing keynote. Other speakers include: Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment’s president and CEO, John Rizzo, CEO of Zeebo, and Curt Schilling, three-time World Series champion and founder of 38 Studios.

Ethan and I will be on a panel together in the afternoon. Sadly, I won’t be around for the rest of the conference (coincidentally, there’s another event at MIT that I must attend that day) so if you’re attending BIG, please say hello during the brief window that I’m present!

Memories of World War II

My grandmother turns 90 this week, so I’m in Houston celebrating this wonderful milestone with her. Each time we get together (which isn’t often enough), we spend a little time talking about her experiences during World War II. These conversations almost never last very long; she inevitably breaks into tears and I’ve never had the heart to push things further once that happens. So I end up hearing very brief snippets of what life was like in Romania during the war, which I’ve tried to piece together into a coherent story over the past many years. It’s like so many stories you’ve likely heard before; long periods of suffering punctuated by brief moments of hope, of kindness and of horror.

This morning, my grandmother told me another story. It takes place shortly after the Russian army (which had been occupying her town) retreated from the territory. The Romanian army re-entered the area and began to round up all individuals who had supposedly “collaborated” with the Russians — including my grandmother’s family. (She believes that most of the people accused of collaboration were Jews, but she is 90 and her memory isn’t perfect, so it’s hard for me to say for certain if that is accurate.) The Russian army had already stolen most of her family’s material wealth, so there was nothing left for the Romanian army to seize except for her land and home.

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Potty Humor

Today was interesting. I was scheduled to fly to Amsterdam via Detroit at 12:45pm. I woke myself at 4am in hopes that doing so might enable me to fall asleep on the plane at the equivalent of bedtime in Amsterdam. (That plus Ambien, anyway.) I arrived at Seatac only to discover that my flight to Detroit was delayed. I spent the next 45 minutes frantically trying to convince Northwest/KLM personnel to put me on a direct flight that happens to be leaving at the same time, and get seated on the flight at the last possible moment (and only because some poor family got kicked off the plane for lacking the proper documentation.) Exhaustion plus a heavy dose of Ambien failed to have the desired effect and I slept for two hours at most.

After a very brief respite at the airport in Amsterdam, I boarded a train for Brussels. On the train I found myself seated next to two very nice gentlemen who ordered quite a lot of wine and absolutely refused *not* to share it. So I arrived in Brussels horribly jetlagged and tipsy to boot (please bear this in mind for the remainder of the story.) In addition, I needed to pee like a racehorse. Thus began the following scenario:

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My GDC ’09 Lecture

My GDC lecture, MBA Lessons, Applied, has been scheduled for Thursday, March 26 from 9:00am till 10. This lecture will be nearly identical to the one I gave at the IGDA Leadership Forum, so if you attended that talk, it is safe to skip this one. Otherwise, please come! The IGDA talk received high marks so I’m feeling extra-confident this year. :-)

Session Description: This lecture will summarize, and make relevant for the game industry, the key lessons that I learned when getting my MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. This includes takeaways from classes on marketing, strategy, finance, and organizational processes. This session will not be a thinly-veiled attempt to glorify business school. There won’t be any spreadsheets or equations — just frameworks for thinking about very real challenges. For example: how you should think about potential game development projects; are they worth starting or continuing? What is the best way to motivate employees and customers? Etc.

Takeaways: MBA marketing and strategy lessons, applied to the game industry (for example, how anchoring and the compromise effect can be used to drive higher price points for games and virtual items.) MBA finance lessons, applied to the game industry (for example: examining the concept of sunk cost, and how failure to understand it can cause companies to over-invest in dying projects, or mistakenly kill good projects.) MBA organizational processes lessons, applied to the game industry (for example: what are the best ways to compensate employees in creative, white collar industries? To motivate and hold them accountable?)

Jury Duty

This is a long and somewhat personal post about my experience with jury duty. You’ve been warned.

Like many people, I have generally not appreciated being summoned for jury duty. My distaste for the process has been compounded by the fact that the selection computers seem to like me — while most of my friends have not been called more than once in their lifetimes, I have been called three times in less than ten years. In each case, I have not been chosen to serve on an actual jury; in two cases, I wasn’t even questioned by the attorneys before being sent home. This was, I had felt at the time, the best possible outcome.

My most recent summons was for service this week. (King County has a rather onerous system — you are automatically assigned a four-day term of duty, and even if you are not selected to be on a jury your first day, they can keep calling you back each of the next three days until you are finally selected. Oftentimes, you might be excused for one or even two of the four days, but you might never be excused. This time, I was excused twice, and required to show up twice.)

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Merry Chrismukkah and Happy New Year

Merry Chrismukkah and happy new year to all of you. :-)

This is the time of year to celebrate the good in everything — even in one’s competitors. So, in that spirit, I’d like to call out two games (one from Wiiware, and one from PSN) that I have particularly enjoyed. If you have a Wii or PS3, I’d highly recommend giving these a try!

World of Goo (Wiiware)

World of Goo has everything going for it. It is one of those rare games that makes perfect use of the Wiimote and, thus far in my experience, has suffered from none of the weaknesses of that device. World of Goo offers a unique and compelling graphical style, innovative gameplay, thoughtful level design, and a quirky ambience that is hard to beat. Even the hints for each level are expressed in an endearing fashion, via cute signs left behind by a “mysterious sign painter.” Bottom line: who knew that building towers of goo could be so much fun? This is absolutely one of my top five favorite downloadable games of the year.

If you’d like to know more, you can find World of Goo’s IGN review here.

The Last Guy (PSN)

The Last Guy is one of those rare games, like N+ on XBLA, that proves that even on high-end, next-gen consoles, there’s still a place for creative, low-budget games that ooze fun and style. And in this case, some real weirdness! The Last Guy is an innovative take on the zombie game; it turns real satellite maps into clever levels for you to run around in as you attempt to rescue survivors of a zombie invasion. The game progressively adds enough new gameplay elements to keep things from becoming tedious. And, for those consumers who prefer to spend their cash on something highly replayable, there’s always the incentive to go back and beat your previous score by rescuing a few more people. It may not feel as slick as Echochrome or Pixeljunk Eden, but there’s a decent chance you’ll enjoy The Last Guy more than either of those games.

If you’d like to know more, you can find The Last Guy’s IGN review here.