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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Carrie's Top 10 Games of 2008

With my caveat being threefold:

1. I didn't play every game that came out this year (obviously), so you can pretty much rule out sports games and lots and lots of those hyped highbrow 300 hour JRPGs. I also did a crappy job of playing games that came out before the launch of Warhammer, though many of those I don't even believe were contenders.

2. I still don't like some games that everyone else loves, so as much as I wanted to like it, or as badass as the soundtrack was, GTAIV is not on this list. (Other noteworthy absences: Fallout 3 = Oblivion, Fable II = Would have been #11)

3. I'm not going to factor any game I'm involved in (Warhammer) or any direct competitor (Conan, WotLK, Mines of Moria).

And with that out of the way. I shall commence listing.

10. Mirror's Edge - I know I'm in the minority when it comes to Mirror's Edge. And I understand the flaws, I really do. But to me, as an experience, Mirror's Edge is sublime. Visual and visceral, it had some of the most thrilling gameplay I experienced all year. And I believe that any game that moves gameplay and game discussion forward deserves to be elevated above some of its faults.

9. Left 4 Dead - I was late to the L4D bandwagon, which is probably the only explanation on why it's so far down the list. As far as unique experiences go, Left 4 Dead fires on all cylinders. But considering you'll want to play with your friends and probably not random Xbox Live dewds, it places a slightly higher barrier to entry than I would like. Still those moments, when your team has huddled together to make the last stand against the zombie horde, those moments are pure exhilaration.

8. Professor Layton and the Curious Village - At first I thought Professor Layton was a kid's game, until I spotted the review over at GameSpot. Though it contains a number of classic riddles and puzzles (those with a penchant for moving matchsticks will recognize more than a few) it has more than enough to make up for any you might be familiar with. It's the perfect DS game, easy bite-sized pieces, and it goes out of its way to give you plenty of outs if you're stuck.

7. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts - Umm where did this come from? I almost didn't pick up Nuts and Bolts because it seems like every platformer these days churns out a racing game just to make a buck. But this is not just a racing game, and in fact, the racing is the least interesting part. Part cart-building and all-collection, Banjo Kazooie infuses the charm of the first two games into another version that is as every bit a classic, and not even nearly as tedious.

6. World of Goo - Physics games are awesome, but World of Goo isn't just about physics. The puzzles themselves are great, but it's the OCD mode that really takes it to the next level. While each puzzle is beatable with some leeway, OCD often requires that you bend your mind a different way. And the Tower of Goo mode with the floating clouds of other people's heights is pure competition genius.

5. Dead Space - One hour in, I wasn't sure what to make of Dead Space. It was atmospheric, yes. It felt really good, yes. The UI was awesome (and I'm not just saying that because it's Dino). The sound was out of this world...literally. But it took me a couple hours to truly love it. It was nuanced, it was scary, I even liked that it got a little predictable. (Oh something is definitely jumping out of there). But above all, it was fun. Really really fun, the entire time I was playing it. And that's all that matters, yes?

4. Braid - Not sure that Braid needs any more love at this point, so I'm going to forgo talking about how awesome it is and talk about the one thing that I thought was dumb. The ending. No, not the ending, but the part after with all the exposition. Ruined the whole thing for me. I wished they had stopped at the "in reverse" sequence. Everything else was tops.

3. Little Big Planet - If LBP hadn't blown the first week it was out, it might have changed the way people play games. For that matter, if more people owned PS3s, it might change the way people play games. Either way, it's adorable, lovable, endearing, and I want to take a little sackboy around with me everywhere I go, because I love to see him smile. And OMG do I HATE to see him sad.

2. MGS4 - It may come as a surprise that MGS4 isn't my number 1, but it isn't because my number 1 had more diversity. MGS4 is the finest, most beautiful, most storyriffic game that has come out in a long time. It is epic, it is emotional, and above all, it's a big fat pile of Carrie-fan service, that I've been waiting for since the original Metal Gear Solid. So thanks for that Hideo Kojima. Way to go out with a bang.

1. Gears of War 2 - Gears of War 2 is the best example of a sequel that I can think of. More. And more of the stuff you want. More levels with awesome Gears of War content. More co-op levels. More cogtags to collect. More CHAINSAW. But where it excels the most, and honestly the reason I think of it as my favorite game of this year, is Horde mode. I've played it a lot, and it is awesome in every way. And they didn't even have to do it, it's just delicious icing on the top.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Serious Elevator Action

Thanks to the lolling knight!

It began harmlessly enough. I was leaving my office on the 2nd floor (I have relocated to the 2nd floor since we launched, so that I can get my secret special projects on in peace) and about to take the elevator to the 8th floor, when I noticed a repairman standing at an open elevator shaft.

"Hey if I press this button, is that going to mess anything up for you?" I asked him.

"Yeah it will electrocute me" he said in a friendly way, not a snide way.

I chuckled and pressed the button, but while I waited, I found myself drawn to the open shaft. I find elevators to be extraordinarily fascinating. They're so simple, yet we don't understand them. They're everywhere, yet many people are afraid of them. They're an easy target for myth and hyperbole, and I've never even bothered to find out what's true.

"Hey have you ever stood on top of an elevator?" I asked him as I stood just outside the door. The elevator guy nimbly jumped on top of the elevator roof and grinned at me.

And then began my education. He told me of all the stories that are told about elevators and why they should be debunked. A single elevator cord can hold the entire weight of the elevator plus 25%, so there's no snapping and plummeting. There's no plummeting anyway because elevators have brakes and the counterweight weighs more than the elevator itself. You can't crawl out the top, they're entry points for elevator operators only. You can't pry open the doors, they're physically locked even if they feel otherwise.

The other elevators came and went, and people laughed at me standing in that open blackness. But my elevator friend was awesome. He told me, most interestingly, that in order to figure out what's wrong with an elevator that people are claiming is broken, that he will sit on top of it and ride it while it makes its routes.

"You hear a lot of really interesting conversations that way".

I can't possibly recreate for you that experience, but I can share with you my follow-up, as I was trying to fact check to see how much of what he said was really true. This is an amazing article (it's a very long read, and you should do it, but this video also sums up the main story), and truly might tell you more than you'd ever want to know about elevators, but for me, I feel like I've found a new obsession.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hmmph!

There's no excuse for my accidental erasing of the Elevator blog (previously) except that I appear to fail at the internet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pies!

There's been a mild internet hoopla over Paul's video that he staged with WAR Technical Director Colin Shannon, mockingly chastising him for *a* code bug that made its way into the live version of Warhammer. It resolved in the best way possible, which is Paul taking pie-after-pie in the face. (I heartily approve.)

If you're one of those Paul haters, feel free to watch the video without volume. You get the two most important bits: 1. pie! 2. Sorry Colin!

It's funny to think that people following Warhammer might not know this, but Colin is one of those guys, without whom, either this game wouldn't have been made properly, or a lot of people who worked on it would have gone crazy, myself at the top of that list. I think he deserves nothing less than being on the giving end of a Paul-pie-face-sandwich. In fact, if Colin Shannon wants to throw pies at me too, I will happily oblige. He's. that. good. of a Technical Director.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Understanding the Internet

Not much from me in the past few weeks, arguably if ever. I've had a hard time writing a blog, as I have a hard time understanding its audience. It is, inexorably, myself, but clearly posting it to a public forum comes with the knowing (and in fact the very reason) of sharing with other people. Otherwise I would keep a journal, which I'm terrible at.

Then of course the small audience consists of mostly my friends (too far away and who I talk to too seldomly), some of the GameSpot devoted (love you guys) and Warhammer fans (love you guys too, but then again you're probably done with me now that the game is out... still love you).

Then of course, there's far too many ways to reach out these days: AIM, MSN, ICQ (barely that anymore), IRC (not really since my CS days), Facebook, Myspace, Friendster (for the two friends who won't get on Facebook), Blogger, GameSpot profile, Giant Bomb profile, YouTube (I think I'm finally too old for something), text messages, email, phone calls. I knew something was wrong when my niece balked at the thought of me sending her MAIL.

Anyway this is all an excuse to say that in my desire to understand communication better these days, I'm attempting to try out some new methods of it, the first and foremost being "Twitter", which I now have added to this blog, and which may sound very frivolous. Forgive me, I'm trying to adapt and grow and learn.

Which leads me to the question of what I'm doing these days. Since shortly after Warhammer's launch I've been working on some other stuff. Fun secret stuff. I hope you all are enjoying yourselves and have a happy holiday or two.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

:D

I am not patriotic.

But one day, every four years, I get really excited about my rights. I stand in line to vote, I wear red white and blue, and I get passionate about politics. Also, I happen to deeply love West Wing, so that helps.

For the first time in my life, the president that I have voted for, has won the election. It makes me proud to be American. Tonight Virginia went Democratic for the first time in 44 years.

Hell to the f'n yeah.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Joy!

Some things that have brought me joy today:

-The beautiful flowers sent to me from one of my dearest friends. <3

-The final lunch of the original pre-launch UI team, and the respect, admiration, and love that this team has for each other.

-Playing my game, my obsession, my other self with people who really seem to enjoy it. (and this post at the Waaagh Blog!)

and last but not least...

-Little Big Planet (the beta courtesy of another dear friend), a game which had a team of nine people sitting in a room, crying with joy and laughter. This game is going to change things, big time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy Launch Day!

Though September 18th marks our official launch, today, September 14th marked the official opening of Warhammer Online for the Collector's Edition head start.

For the most part, the first day of launch was peaceful in the office, so I took the opportunity to decorate my team's entire section with streamers and balloons. It does really feel like we have a lot to celebrate.

There's a lot more to come, and still a lot more we need to stay on top of, but there has been quite a catharsis for me seeing the game go out the door. I think we'll have another day or two of celebratory joy (and hopefully maybe even more playing), and then we'll be back into the grind.

I hope everyone, whether you're CE, SE, or joining us on the 18th has an equally pleasant and enjoyable launch.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No more keeping quiet.

For three weeks I've been in the process of writing a post about the game launch, but I kept stopping myself because I think that the people who read this site (whoever you are) will eventually get sick of how much I talk about Warhammer.

So I've been waiting for something else to happen to me, which it hasn't because I'm working 80+ hours a week and completely obsessing about the game. To recap what has happened in the past three weeks:

*Five-part-zomg-this-girl-talks-a-lot interview at Ten Ton Hammer

*We announced our launch day: SEPTEMBER 18TH MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR MY SANITY

*We lifted our NDA today, and the internet appears to have exploded.

*Incredibly edited, amazingly humorous, horrifically embarrassing video interview between Jeff "I <3 Circuit Breakers" Gerstmann and Paul "I EMBARRASS CARRIE FOR A LIVING" Barnett

...and then it happened. Something finally happened to me that didn't involve Warhammer. But it does involve games. This story is just...too...awesome.

Toy maker Hasbro Inc. has updated its classic Clue game for today's tabloid culture to include younger characters, more weapons, and new rooms, including a spa and guest house.

The six characters' last names remain the same, but their first names and bios have been updated. For example, Miss Scarlet is now Kasandra Scarlet, a famous actress often featured in tabloids. And Mr. Green is now Jacob Green, an African-American "with all the ins."

Colonel Mustard is now Jack Mustard, a former football player. The professor? Now Victor Plum, a billionaire video game designer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bring it on!

I've missed doing the HotSpot, as I think podcasts are really enjoyable. So when Syp from the Waaagh Blog wrote me and asked if I would subject myself to a podcast all about the Tome, I jumped at the chance. I was interviewed by three very funny fellows, and they've posted it on all their sites (so I feel I must link all three): Snafzg from The Greenskin, Keen from Keen and Graev, and Syp from the Waaagh! blog. I appreciate them allowing me to be a part of their show, and I must say I had a lot of fun.

The interview took place before Mark Jacob's announcement last week, which I really have nothing to say about that he hasn't said better.

I will say though that when Penny Arcade did a comic about the news today, it really surprised me. I really have felt like for such a long time we've been doing our thing and making this little game that we're going to then share with our little community. And when the internets seemed to explode last week, it struck me that there's nothing little about what we're doing. Alright then, bring it on :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Players don't do what they're told...

I've been doing a lot of thinking about "game design theories" and about how most of them are pretty easy to put into clever little parables and presentations, but can seem totally useless when you actually need to develop them. (Paul is responsible for this. He gave me this huge document he wrote and then went out of town so we couldn't talk about it.)

I think about things like this because I'm a producer and not a designer anymore, and because we're in severe crunch time right now and I'm at work the majority of every day and night.

But I also think about things like this because it seems like, with any game where you give players flexibility and freedom (which is great!), you lose control over what they're actually going to do/like in your game (which is also great! but sometimes feels like poopoo).

This is how I feel about the Tome of Knowledge, where we're trying to make this open ended experience, and I know two weeks into it that players are going to find some crazy new thing to do with it that I didn't think of, which is exciting but also makes the control freak in me a little sad.

This also makes me wonder how Will Wright feels about the Spore Penis Phenomenon. Give em an inch, right Will? (Pun intended...)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

35 minutes

Approximate amount of time it took until Snake uttered... "Metal Gear?" in MGS4.

Clearly, that makes me happy.


(Going through old On the Spot episodes looking for the one where I wore my patent pending METAL GEAR? shirt also makes me happy...if not also a little bit sad.)

Edit: How could I have forgotten that the Metal GEAR? sweatshirt is referenced in this classic GS video blog. Thanks to smpb for reminding me!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ninja Gaiden II

I am always looking for an excuse to remind people that I beat the Ninja Gaiden Hurricane pack.

Hey Ninja Gaiden II is rad! Did I mention I beat the Ninja Gaiden Hurricane pack?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Meet the Press

There's a lot I could say about being interviewed, having been a member of the press, I find it particularly fascinating now that I have to turn around and talk about my game.

And I think talking about the press/developer relationship before a game launches (which is really the only time there should be a relationship), naturally leads to a discussion about the point of previews.

Previews are generally positive and have always been generally positive (or neutral). There was buzz some time back surrounding an interview between EGM's Shoe and Peter Moore, where he had been particularly aggressive about the 360's problems, and for a brief period of time it seemed like everyone had latched onto the idea that the developer vs. press knockdown dragout fight should begin before games even come out.

I didn't agree then, and I certainly don't now, because I think it's unfair to judge a game before the developers are ready to say it's final. I think you can tell as a game progresses, whether it's moving in the right direction or not. And I think it's fair to mention when a game has very little in it that you find enjoyable, but how do you know what's being worked on and when? Or what changes might suddenly push everything over the edge? I certainly wouldn't ever want reporters to feel like they have to lie about a game, but I also think that it's hard for people unfamiliar with game development to cast any kind of projection on what the game will be when it comes out, and ultimately that's all that matters for the fans.

Previews of WAR have been largely positive. And more than that, previews of the developers, as well as the game, have been positive as well. We recently had to do our self-evaluations and I referenced an MMO Gamer interview in my own review:

The next time Carrie Gouskos is up for a promotion, "lack of passion" will most decidedly not be an issue at her review.


I know that might not matter to any of the fans, but it makes me feel really happy to have that come across. I do love working on games, and this game, and I am really passionate about the work that I do. Sometimes it's exhausting to give interviews, when an interview or demo comes up on the calendar (and there are periods where we're giving several a week), sometimes I feel like I'm not going to be capable of talking about the game the way I want to talk about. Because I do care, but being enthusiastic is exhausting, even for someone as extroverted as I am.

I have to say this week I gave probably my favorite interview ever to Mike from Massively. Instead of asking me to rehash the features in the Tome (he had done his homework), he wanted me to talk about passion and emotion in game development. He wanted me to talk about Xbox 360 achievement points. I think his concept for that article serves the fans in a lot more ways than simply a bullet point of feature items we're working on and whether or not *I* think they're going to be cool. To me, it feels like that's the kind of conversation you should be having at preview time, what are the developers working on and what are their objectives? Who are they trying to attract and how have they accomplished it? Even using in-game examples to show off how they're achieving those goals. Leave the excessive use of adjectives and the KILLING MY SOUL for the reviews.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones (for skeptics)

I was dreading seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because of my emotional connection to the Indiana Jones movies, in particular Raiders of the Lost Ark because of Marion Ravenwood. However when a movie "that everyone wants to see" comes out, work rents out a movie theatre. So yesterday I trudged along with my coworkers to see it.

At the end of the movie, I was a beaming smiling face amongst a sea of frowns. Everyone seemed disgusted, but I was utterly happy with it. Why?

1. They hit the right notes. The pacing, the cinematography, the dialogue, of course the music... it was Indiana Jones alright. It took me a few minutes to get swept up in it, but once I was there, I was sold.

2. Despite the utterly stupid central plot theme and its lacking some of the *realism* that made the other movies seem less fantasy and more plausible, all the steps along the way were the same. Ruins--check! Puzzles--check! Villains--check! Sympathetic hero--check!

3. Iconic references and tributes that triggered the little kid in me. And not simply the obvious ones. Any movie that can get me to mutter "the breath of God" is aces in my book. Also, how does your heart not melt when Harrison Ford shakes a fist full of papers and says "It's a puzzle!" He looked about 20 years old in that moment.

4. They did their best to ruin the character of Marion with a terrible story arc and some uncharacteristic behavior, but Karen Allen can not be dimmed! The chemistry she had with Indy, the look in her eye, she too seemed not to have aged all these years.

There were definitely moments where I rolled my eyes, and there were definitely some over-the-top references, but I was glad to have seen it. And like probably everyone else that has seen the movie, I went directly home and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. It didn't ruin my childhood, it just made me sentimental for it.

"I always knew someday you'd come walking back through my door."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

Only in the game industry do you have conversations like this:
"No I think it can have exposed bones as long as there's skin on it..."

Most people, by now, I believe are familiar with the fact that blood is removed from German versions of games (most just turn the blood green), however lesser well-known is this... some Asian countries, for cultural reasons, do not want skulls in their games. The word on the street from artists who I know that have had to deal with it, say that it's okay as long as there is some flesh attached.

If you're familiar with the Warhammer franchise, you can see why this may pose us some localization issues.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Imagine: Fashion Designer!

A few months back, when the press release for Ubisoft's "Imagine" series came out, a girl who worked for me sent me the link, and the two of us had a good scoff over it for awhile. It was definitely worded as distingustingly as possible, the worst possible hybrid of PR spin and gender stereotypes. And of course, to top it all of, I went around reading what other websites had to say, like Kotaku, until I had decided we had just sent the women-in-videogames cause back about fifty years.


So last week in Best Buy I decided I would combat my natural urges, and I bought Imagine: Fashion Designer for an experiment. Working on games, pretty much every game out there has some sort of appeal. I'm starting to mutate from a person who can sit down and enjoy a game into this creature that can only either appreciate what's wrong with a game, or try to dissect how something went right.

The first night I played Imagine: Fashion Designer for about four hours. I can definitely see why someone interested in modeling and fashion (and if the reality trend is any indication, there are probably more than a few of them), but I thought it had limited clothing options and there were some bizarre racial stereotypes in it. In one challenge I was asked to design clothes for a person on a set of a movie called "Love in Africa". You have to pick a hairstyle, an outfit, and color it "appropriately", and though I went straight where they wanted me to (picking a large green, yellow, and red knit hat), I think it's a strange message to send to little girls.

The following days, I discovered that there were actually quite a few clothing choices to unlock, and as I unlocked more and more patterns and shoe options, I felt like they had potentially made a really interesting and appealing game.

And then I got stuck. I mean really stuck... I literally have no idea what to do. And since the game challenges are linear, if you're stuck on one, then there's not much else you can do. I asked a couple people at work if I could borrow their little girls for a few minutes, I was certain than eight-year old would be able to figure it out.

Thankfully it looks like all the little girls are stuck too.

So my take away is this: A little girl or boy interested in fashion would probably love this game. Don't design a game like this that hinges on one level for you to keep playing, if someone gets stuck and puts it down, you'll never get them back. And... when in doubt... check GameFAQS.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iron Man (for people who haven't seen it yet).

Things to bear in mind when going to see Iron Man.

1. Stay through the entire credits.
2. Try not to have high expectations for the dialogue.
3. The acting is actually pretty good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All about my mother.

I've written about my mother's relationship with games a few times before, I can't quite seem to stop myself since I find her relationship with technology, and in particular video games, so fascinating.

My mother lives in Mexico, and when she comes to visit me (typically twice a year), she comes for an entire month and stays in my house. At these times, I have to go underground with my game habits, since I feel like I must convince her that I am more than a working-video-game-playing-machine (which I'm really not). It's been hard this time, since I'm in a T5 raiding guild in "the game that shall not be named", and I enjoy getting my progression on at least several nights a week.

However, it seems as of late that her relationship has vastly matured. She has had her own DS for about six months now, and when she first arrived back in the United States, one of her first acts was to purchase THREE games for her hand-me-down system. Okay granted, the games she bought were My Spanish Coach, Brain Age 2, and some poker game, but I consider that progress.

And for the past three weeks, she has been obsessing about purchasing a Wii. So today when we finally found one in stock, she's in the middle of the store jumping up and down screaming "I've got a Wii". It was really entertaining. And of course, right on cue, she had to announce to half of the employees there that I work at Electronic Arts and own a million video games.

I talked about that a little bit in my recent Warhammer Developer bio and I have to admit it has been one of the more interesting aspects of watching my mother evolve with video games. She always supported me playing them (in moderation), after all this is the woman responsible for the Odyssey 2 that I acquired at the tender age of 4, but she has more recently embraced them and the industry so completely, that I guess I don't really have to hide what I do from her anymore.

So I showed her one of my raids on my undead priest and how I was grouped with 24 other real people, and how we're trying to take down this big boss, and how we communicate on Ventrilo to coordinate our attacks. And she turns to me and says, "So...how are you both evil and holy, isn't that an oxymoron?". And I tell you, she got me there, folks. I'm sure there's background story to explain it, but it was that I hadn't even thought about it, and that she could help me look at games in a different way. Well I suppose that has been the most interesting thing of all.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A poll for MMO players...

Just a question, call it an informal poll. Would you, personally, like it if other people could see how many hours/days you'd spent playing the game?

My inclination is no, but I can see it being both a badge of honor and (maybe) even a mark of shame.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passage

Paul Barnett, since he's the creative director and all, and I have gotten into many discussions about video games, video game trends, video game designers, philosophies, etc. And they all usually end with me in tears, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes not.

Today we opt for not. Paul, while simultaneously ribbing me about my new game purchases, showed me Passage.

Now, in order to even remotely simulate the experience that I had today, I want you to stop reading, download that game, and play it. It only lasts five minutes long. I don't want you to look it up or read any further until you've played one five minute game of Passage. If you don't, then you will ruin the experience.

Go now.




Read this when you come back.
**************************************************
When I started playing Passage, I began moving around with my character. I was attempting to find the bounding boxes of the playspace, I went all the way up, all the way down, and I began heading right. It seemed that right was the best way to go since there was so many different things ahead (even though they were fuzzy).

Once I discovered the boxes with the stars in them, I became obsessed with the stars. I looked for every box I could find, sometimes even going backwards, searching every nook in cranny. I wasn't quite paying attention to anything but the star hunt and my point total, which climbed up to 1300-some points until I finally became a gravestone. It felt so unfinished.

Then Paul assumed control of the computer and said he'll play it for me and narrarate.

And he began...

"When you start life, you can't see very much behind you. There is a lot ahead of you, but it is fuzzy."

He walked right and instantly bumped into a little girl sprite.

"You may meet someone and fall in love."

I had missed her! At this point the female sprite attached herself to his character permanently, making him, effectively, two people wide.

"Your companion will stick by your side, but her being with you closes off some routes to you."

He attempts to go down into a single-person wide passage and the female blocks his movement. So he kept plugging along.

"And so you go and progress through life. As you go on, some things may become more clear. Your past will seem very clear, but the future is still fuzzy. And so you continue along."

He began picking up the boxes and deducing which ones had stars and which one had nothing but dust. At this point I realized that the character was beginning to age. And he continued to narrarate, pointing out the metaphors of life, the clarity of perspective, the pros and cons of having a constant companion, life goals and objectives, and then his female companion died.

"And when she dies, you are crippled, nothing but a shell, and you move slowly toward the end."

By the time he turned into a gravestone himself, I was in tears. I hadn't even found my companion, I had just obsessed over exploration and point totals. It was scary, it was heartbreaking, and it was poignant.

And he turned to me and said "and that's why I have no time for Gears of War. I want to make games that matter."

And so do I.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ah inseparabile

This afternoon, I went to the Kennedy Center with family to see the Washington National Opera's performance of Rigoletto. If you didn't know this about me already (or didn't piece it together with that whole totally emotional, flair for the dramatic, thing) I'm absolutely crazy about opera.

If you aren't crazy about opera, perhaps then you'll just appreciate that Rigoletto is the opera that plays on the jukebox in cs_italy. You know, in case it ever comes up in some game nerd trivia contest.

Anyway, it's just another example of why knowing all kinds of different genres and subjects can be extremely useful in game development. I don't think the sound of rescuing hostages would have gone quite as well with Don Giovanni.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Vindication

A producer from another EA studio was in house this week, spending time with (Creative Director) Paul (Barnett) and taking a look at some of the processes we have and how the game is coming along.

I hadn't spoken to him until today when Paul took me out of my office and walked me over to where he was demoing the game. On the way, Paul begins to tell me that during their talks, he had expressed to Paul that he didn't see why we were making a big deal out of the Tome of Knowledge, and that he just wasn't sure why we talk about it like it's one of the majors features in the game. As the person responsible for overseeing the Tome, I'm beginning to flush, and I'm wondering why Paul is bringing me within striking range of this guy.

We enter the room and Paul says "Tell her what you think about the Tome now." And he tells me that after an hour of play he's utterly sold on it, that it's wonderful, that it generates within him an emotional response (and not simply an intellectual one).

I have been ten feet off the ground since.

The process of making games is tough for lots of reasons, but none tougher than this one: self-doubt. I am convinced the Tome is a great idea. I am convinced I work with a great batch of people. I am convinced that the press have enjoyed the snippets of the Tome that we have showed them. I am convinced that the Warhammer fans are going to enjoy the lore and the things inside the book. But when somebody, with no motive, comes at the work that I do with skepticism, and walks away satisfied, then I feel like I've accomplished what I set out to do. The rest of my days are filled with all the panic and fear and doubt that I can possibly muster. And I feel deeply all the responsibility that is on me to make sure we deliver something great.

So a break in that feels like heaven.

...and now back to work.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Paris: Part Trois

Thursday

The final day of work in Paris was filled with interviews. Adam Gershowitz, who is in charge of the Combat and Careers team, and I were paired up to do about 11-12 interviews over the course of the whole day. Each one lasted anywhere from 20-45 minutes. During that time we met with individuals of the press who we had given presentations to the day before, and were able to answer any direct questions that they had in order to help fill out their coverage.

The day was certainly interesting and there were different approaches from each news outlet. We did videos for online TV shows (Buffed TV in Germany has a weekly video show ala On the Spot), took turns answering general questions, and gave additional insight into our areas of specialty. This part of press coverage is my favorite of all, being able to speak about the game with individuals, and was a welcome change from the presentations the day before.

I should point out though, as a former member of the press, and now on the other side, that questions regarding numbers, dates, and other specifics like that will typically net a canned response (or more often or not, a deflection to the marketing department). If you want to get interesting and unique answers, it's best to ask questions that involve examples or anecdotes. One of the best questions I got all day was "What is the weirdest tome unlock?"

After it was all over, we went out for a fantastic dinner at a restaurant called Georges in the Centre Pompidou, which is basically a human-sized hamster cage. The food was some of the best we had all trip. Of course all of my expert French translations were of little use, when the dishes were called things like "The Crying Tiger" (it was delicious). Because of the mass amount of crepes and fingerfood we had consumed in the past few days, pretty much everyone ordered steak and chocolate cake. Yum.

Friday

Friday was the first day that we were off the clock. Most everybody was heading home, but both Adam and I decided to stay on for the weekend. Since we hadn't had much time to explore the city, and since The Louvre is randomly closed on Tuesdays (which was our only free day earlier this week), we decided to head over to the Louvre for the day.

We, literally, spent the entire day in the Louvre.

We saw works from all four of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a number of fabulous iconic Greek sculptures, including, of course the Venus de Milo and The Winged Victory of Samothrace. The Mona Lisa certainly was an attraction, though I found the crowd around it more impressive than the painting. It is quite a bit smaller than you'd expect, and it was behind glass and roped off. Though I wouldn't put down the Mona Lisa strictly because of its popularity, it is kind of disappointing that there are signs throughout the entire Louvre pointing you to it, and then there's really no ability for you to get a connection with it in any way.

I spent the entire time snapping pictures, and was fixating on getting tourist-free shots. I also took quite a few shots from outside the Louvre windows. The museum is several stories high, and in the shape of a U. From nearly every window, you can get a beautiful shot of the inside of the Louvre, the outside of the Louvre, or the city of Paris.

I also caught this great picture of a room that had been closed off for rennovation, and it looked like one of the statues was looking to get out.

After a few hours in the museum, we started to get tired, but it was pouring rain outside at that point (we could see it through I.M. Pei's awesome glass pyramids) and there were a couple Vermeers I wanted to see (talk about small paintings). Amidst the galleries dedicated to the Flemish, Dutch, and German painters, there was an exhibit of contemporary art. Call me a fuddy duddy, but I thought it was a little bit tacky to have a sequined urinal in front of Vermeer's "The Astronomer".

When we finally decided to head out, we had to move from the Hotel du Louvre to a more affordable location. Which, incidentally, was very close to the Eiffel Tower. The Hotel Derby Eiffel had tiny rooms, but it was very tourist-friendly, convenient, and affordable, so completely recommendable to anyone who wants to visit Paris.

After a quick nap and checking of email, we headed back downtown to meet up with former GameSpot editor Avery Score (and his girlfriend Gwenola) at his hip apartment on the Seine. After some partaking of French delicacies: wine, hookah, and foie gras (it wasn't that bad), Avery took us to a party where we hung out with a bunch of international 20-somethings, who all spoke at least three more languages than either Adam or I do. They were very friendly and accepting of us, and we had a great time, though we ended up being out until nearly 4AM.

Saturday

On Saturday, we hooked back up with Avery for some shopping. We bought quite a lot of of cheese and chocolate for gifts. Avery also took us to some local french comic and video game shops, and we got to see the Warhammer preorder box up on the shelves. I have to admit that sometimes while making a game, it is hard to fathom that people will be out there one day, playing it. However, seeing it in the stores with boxes for preorder and price tags on it really felt quite exciting.

After all the shopping, we met up with a high school friend of mine, Francois, and went out for food and drinks with him. Adam headed back to the hotel for an early night since he was flying back early in the morning, and I stayed up quite late (again!) hanging out and catching up.

Sunday

In the vein of the European dedication to drinking, I began Sunday by meeting up with Avery, Gwen, and Francois for a (free!) wine tasting festival. I had only been to one other wine tasting in San Francisco, and I have to say it was virtually identical, except there were probably ten times as many vendors.

At the wine vendors, they used my being American as an excuse to get more tasting, and so naturally, every time I found a bottle I really liked, I ended up buying it. A few hours later, I realized I had five bottles of wine, and absolutely couldn't carry all of it back, so we decided to head back to Francois' house. On the way out of the venue, there was a breathalizer test. I blew a whopping 0.15 and the guy informed me that I was perfectly capable of driving. If there's not some kind of crazy metric conversion to the breathalizer, then they allow people in Europe to drive when they have three times as much alcohol as the legal limit in the US.

We returned to Francois' house to meet up with his 8 months, 3 weeks, and a couple days pregnant girlfriend Barbara, who was kind enough not to have their baby before we got to see them. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, eating tons and tons of different kinds of foie gras (again, not that bad... but I'm done for awhile) and finishing off all the wine I bought.

Overall

Paris was incredible. I'm now, a week later, only just getting over my jetlag and my late Paris nights (and all the cheese and wine). As a perk of the job, you can't get much better than a trip to Paris, and I love the opportunity to speak with the European press as well as the US press. If I could recommend a visit there to anybody, (even for a couple days) I certainly would.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Paris: Part Deux

I will pick up my tale of Paris with Parisian evenings. First, I shall point out that when we weren't eating crepes, we were eating finger food. I don't think that's because that's particularly what they eat in Paris, but because the event organizers (our European partner, GOA) thought that would be the easiest thing for large amounts of people to consume.

I don't know if it accomplished their goal, but it certainly did mean that all the drinking we did was magnified ten fold. We were using Parisian wine both as nourishment and as a means of passing our time.

Anyway, inevitably at some point in the evening, I would get this hankering to walk somewhere. I mentioned in "Part Un" that the Europeans sure do seem to walk a lot, which counterbalances their consumption of cheese and chocolate and allows them all to stay terribly skinny. But this walking was insane. The first night, I went with Games Workshop license representative, Erik Mogensen, to the Eiffel Tower.

It started, innocuously enough, with a trip to the Louvre, which was around the corner from our hotel, and which he had professed in his late arrival, he had not seen yet.

Then we got there and it didn't seem like enough, and the Eiffel Tower was visible (although according to Google Maps, it is 3 miles away), and so off we went. It was one of the few nights that it wasn't raining, so it was a pleasant and interesting walk. And I guess I should not have been surprised to find vendors selling glow-in-the-dark Eiffel Tower keychains when we got there. I do blame that visit for my false comprehension of the tourism at the Eiffel Tower. Aside from the vendors and a couple cops, we were the only people there. When I visited a couple days later with aspirations to go up it, there were thousands of tourists. I felt indignant that so many people had deigned to come to MY tower.

The second night, Erik and I convinced Swedish journalist Mats Nylund to accompany us on a trip down the Champs Elyssee to the Arc de Triomphe (Several other, much wiser journalists went to sleep). This time we got about half way there (about 1 mile in) and it started to pour rain.

Then of course, there's the matter of the Arc de Triomphe being in the middle of a circle with five lanes of traffic going around it... with no visible stoplights. And then of course, it's also closed at night, which is a bizarre concept for an open air monument.

Still we had managed to make our way just up to the arch itself when several female police officers began to bark at us to go away. We stepped outside of the Arc (me into the street in order to take the pictures), and then had turned around to head back to our hotel, when the female police officer called Erik over again. I thought perhaps she had changed her mind, or was going to allow us to find a victor to the bet "Does the Arc de Triomphe protect you from the rain?", but in actuality she had just called us back to yell at us to go away again.

My favorite thing about this picture in particular is that it looks like both Mats and Erik are WAAAGHing. Very Warhammer indeed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Paris: Part Un

Two days ago I returned from La France, after spending a whopping seven days completely indulgent in cheese and wine and espresso.

I thought I would round up my experience there, both from a work and tourism perspective, so that should you ever decide to work on a major MMO and then go on a European press tour that you would be a little more prepared than I was.

Monday

We arrived at the posh Hotel du Louvre at 5:30AM on Monday, and as the name suggests, it was literally adjacent to the Louvre museum. Since we couldn't actually check in until 3PM (egads!), we decided to grab something to eat and then roam around Paris, where I began my first phase of eating too many crepes and taking way too many pictures of the city streets.

Lesson Learned #1: American butts are bigger than European butts. Six of us, attempting to sit at a sidewalk cafe, fit on approximately ten chairs.

After we got our hotel rooms sorted, we went for another walk through the rainy streets (it rained 2/3 of the time that I was there). This time we ended up at a small crepe stand next to St. Germain that Warhammer Online Senior Producer Jeff Hickman and his wife were quite fond of the last time they came to Paris. I was sensing a pattern.

That night we went to a Parisian restaurant where I ate scallops and salmon wrapped in some kind of potato pancake, and though I'm not a scallop person, they were the most delicious things I had ever eaten. It was also my first experience with Muscat, a French sweet dessert wine, and it was incredible.

Tuesday

On Tuesday we began the day by walking around and eating more crepes. We spent some time going in and around the Notre Dame cathedral (during Mass, no less!)

We also went all around the river Seine, and ate inside another sidewalk cafe, where we had our fourth meal in two days that consisted primarily of ham, cheese, and bread.

Lesson Learned #2: Learn your conversions! One Euro != One Dollar; 2000 ml = Hell of a lot of beer.

Later that day we head over to the space where Wednesday's Warhammer presentation was going to be to do a dry runthrough. Of special note: We were escorted to the location in the awesome bus with a poker table in the back. The place where we were presenting was a converted ex-Egyptian museum with all kinds of crazy statues everywhere. It was up a lot of stairs. They had purchased amazing life-size statues and huge posters that smelled like turpentine. Nothing worked the day before (at the risk of spoiling the story, everything worked fine the following day).

We rounded out the evening with more cheese, more wine, and more total abuse of the dollar to Euro conversion.

Wednesday

Wednesday was the big day. We got up bright and early and headed over to the Egyptian museum to begin an eight hour long Tour de Warhammer with over 100 European press. In the morning Jeff and Josh gave a presentation overview of the whole game with videos and jokes and references to Normandy.

In the afternoon there were four panels, which we rotated around to four press groups (so we had to give them four times in all). My panel was, of course, on the Tome of Knowledge.

I'm not sure if I can convey the difficulty of trying to talk about what you do to the attentive press. Sure they want you to make a good game, and they want to enjoy playing it. But there's a layer, and I know this being former press myself, of cynicism. Of "What are you doing that WoW isn't?" Of "Why do you keep delaying?" Of them now knowing which bits you're working on, which bits you aren't. What you intend to improve, or why you can't. And so getting up there and really needing to convince them, and not only spit out marketing one liners, but to be truly honest, without saying anything scandalous... well that can all be rather hard.


I go through this period after every press event (and I've been to quite a few) of obsessing over the coverage. This one has been a little more difficult because a lot of the sites aren't in English, but still I read every word, hoping and praying that what I feel about the game that I'm making came across.

And just in case, we took all the press out on a river cruise that evening along the Seine and got them wasted.

Lesson #3: Hungry boys, American or European, do not like finger food.

Monday, March 24, 2008

J'adore

In my naive youth, I think I might have neglected to name "ability to travel" as one of the most important job qualities for me. I think that I never expected to find a career that embodied everything I wanted, and certainly if I was going to be able to travel, I'd have to be doing something more serious or important-like.

And yet here I am, and without question, one of the most rewarding aspects of working in the game industry has been my ability to travel all over the world. It varies, of course, depending on the position, and being in development has almost forced me to stop traveling more as we get closer to launch, but I was fortunate to get invited to a trip to Paris, where I have had the opportunity to talk about Warhammer for three days with press from all over Europe and eaten THE MOST CHEESE EVER.

The press tour ended a few minutes ago and I'm exhausted and malnourished from the cheese, bread, wine, coffee foodgroups here in Paris, but the next three days I'm going to stay and take in the sites with some other people from Mythic and two of my friends living here, including former GameSpot mobile editor, Avery Score.

Over the next few days, press outlets will begin posting about the news here (including the hot topic of our delay until fall and the Collector's Edition announcement and subsequent preorder explosion). This period of time is always a bit nervewracking for me while I await anything I might have possibly said out of step or that got interpreted poorly. If only when I was press I knew how easy it was to drive developers crazy, I probably wouldn't have asked them such intrusive questions.

So I'm for Le Nap, just after I locate Justin Calvert and tell him that all his UK journalist friends think he has an American accent. Hilarity!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The King of Kong or: How I Learned to Stop Loving and Hate Billy Mitchell

As far as I can remember, I have had a fake-real obsession with Billy "I wear American Flag Ties" Mitchell. I will take this opportunity to mostly blame Jeff Gerstmann, who was pivotal in the exaggeration of my personae, because he would antagonize me about certain things, and so then I would play those things up.

During my tenure at GameSpot, I wrote reviews of several different Pac-Man games, and features which referenced Pac-Man. I took the opportunity in most of them to make a comment about Billy Mitchell, or his American flag tie, or a comment about how I'm always commenting about Billy Mitchell.

While I may have a soft spot for guys that have such spectacular mustaches (dating back to a very early crush on Tom Seleck), I will confess that my love and appreciation for Billy Mitchell has more to do with his incredible proficiency at arcade games, and less to do with his appearance or attitude.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
is a "documentary" about the events surrounding Billy Mitchell's, and challenger Steve Wiebe's, Donkey Kong world records. Though Billy is very much made out to be the villain in that movie (and whether he is or isn't), it's an extremely fascinating documentary about a subject that I hold dearly (absolute obsession with video games). And the quality of the storytelling in that movie is topnotch, whether you care about the subject or not.

And it has given me a new subject to crush on, that Double Dragon world record, which is not entirely out of reach.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Who is Carrie? Urban Trendsetter

I must say the template that Best Buy uses in their internal documentation is a bit eerie. I will not be summarized in a Power Point slide, Best Buy!

Sean, from my job, keeps me in the know, since I've all but stopped reading video game websites anymore. (Except Giant Bomb of course!)

Blogging from the Beginning

My first blog, which was also a playground for me to learn and play with HTML, was a website I started with my then boyfriend as a way for us to connect across long-distance, and then utterly obsess about ourselves once we started living together. When we broke up, the blog was too painful to maintain.

And at that point, I had begun working on my second blog, at GameSpot.com, where I was soon to be a full-time employee. I kept that up, even after I left GameSpot, as a place where I would go to talk about video games... and mostly only video games.

But then there was a mass exodus from GameSpot, and in a way it feels like we've broken up too. Most of my friends have gone off to other places, started their own blogs, and I needed a change. I decided to start my third blog elsewhere, here, in the hopes that I would be able to talk about anything I wanted, and most importantly to me, be able to document the things that are happening to me, as they are happening.

So here's to new beginnings and new bloggings. It should be an interesting ride.