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  • An Audio Guy’s Perspective of Casual Connect Seattle 2009

29th July 2009

An Audio Guy’s Perspective of Casual Connect Seattle 2009

After 4 days of seminars and networking events, I was beat. But, boy was it worth it.

Day 1

The first day was devoted almost entirely to the Casual Connect Leadership Conference organized and supported by Women In Games International (WIGI) and Women In Games Vancouver (WIGeh). Numerous speakers presented a variety of topics, each with a particular interest in the role that women play in games, games play in the lives of women, and the portrayal of women in games.

As a person interested in the breakdown of stereotypes, thus allowing everyone’s true potential to shine, I was very engaged in the presentations of the day, which in the end left me feeling very hopeful and empowered about the potential of gaming.

Not long after, a set of roundtable discussions were set up with a variety of topics ranging from working as a contract vs employed worker, owning a small business, and moving up in the games industry.

A networking event followed with the inclusion of other folks from a more general Casual Connect audience, and it was a great night!

Highlight of my day: Megan Gaiser of Her Interactive’s presentation on “The Importance of Leadership”

Day 2 (Day 1 of Casual Connect officially)

Audio day! The entire day had an option to hear speakers who are professionals in the audio for casual games environment. Great ideas were shared including a glimpse into how other professionals create their sound design assets. It was entertaining, welcoming, and I learned a great deal. Speakers covered a wide range of aspects including the creation of stings, sfx, composition, recording, and producing. I would recommend this to any person interested in the audio for casual games arena. A very cohesive day in the audio stream.

Highlight of my day: Barry Dowsett of Sound Rangers on “The Birth and Life of a Sound Effect”
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21st July 2009

Weirdos In The Workplace The New Normal

Weirdos In The Workplace: The New Normal – Thriving in the Age of the Individual
Author: John Putzier
FT Press August 2004
Paperback: 224 pages

Finally a book for the weirdos out there who find it hard to fit into a regular working environment and for those of you who work with us. I definitely fall into the “doesn’t do well in a set environment” category, so there is a lot of material in this book I could relate to. The content in this book is also directly related to the next book review I will be sharing with you later this week. Personally I think that if a company doesn’t have at least one or two weirdos in the mix, they aren’t doing things right. Creativity and individuality is what it takes to make the innovation wheel go around, something which many corporations are learning the hard way. Who would’ve thought that weird would be cool in the 21st century.

Throughout this well-researched work, Mr. Putzier lets us know that it’s okay to be an individual in the 21st century. He successfully identifies many personality types and gives tips on how to work with those personalities, thereby helping them to achieve career satisfaction. While I was reading the book, it was very easy to identify myself – and many industry friends – with each turning page.

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18th July 2009


PrototypeDeveloper: Radical EntertainmentRadical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Official Site

Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and PC
Release Date: June 2009

It was a long wait for me to play Radical Entertainment’s newest title – from the day I first heard about the game at the 2007 Game Design Expo. The Activision – Blizzard merger didn’t help the matter by delaying the game’s release, and my envy grew as there were reports back from various conferences and expos where people were getting hands-on playtime. So, was it worth the wait? Oh yes – although this has been a difficult review to pen, simply because PROTOTYPE is so full of things to do and accomplish.

One bit of caution, though – PROTOTYPE is rated M by the ESRB for a very valid reason. The game is violent and involves massive amounts of blood and gore, which I do mention in further detail throughout this review. If you do not want your kids playing games like PROTOTYPE, the ratings are there for a reason, please don’t blame the industry if you allow your kids access to a game outside of their age rating. Okay, end of brief soapbox stance on that topic. On to the review.

First, a quick plot rundown for those who may still be in the dark as to what the game is all about.

Alex Mercer Concept Art

Alex Mercer Concept Art

PROTOTYPE takes place in New York City, more specifically on Manhattan Island – but in actuality the story began decades earlier in a small town called Hope, Idaho. It appears that the US military was engaged in a partnership to develop a deadly virus – one which affects not only humans but the environment as well, and along the way Alex, who apparently worked for Gen-Tek, the private contractor developing the virus strains, became some type of host, turning him into a part human-part super weapon entity. Or maybe he is a viral PROTOTYPE, released on the American public for in-the-field testing. Even with watching the Web of Intrigue vignettes a few times, I’m still not 100% sure – and to be honest, I kind of like it that way. A little mystery is good – and it makes for good fodder among the conspiracists out there on the web.

PROTOTYPE is a single player game, with the gamer taking on the persona of main character Alex Mercer. Whether Alex is good or bad is unclear at the beginning of the game, but either way it does appear that he has a conscience, which is revealed in mysterious cinematic vignettes between each task – but like all other parts of this game’s story, Alex’s motives remain infected (pun intended) with intrigue.
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17th July 2009

Village Gamer Gets An iPhone

iphone_3gsSo, on a whim (well, not so much, as I had been eyeing them up since the first generation was released), Tami and I headed into Abbotsford to visit James Kavin at the Rogers store (at Sevenoaks Mall, great service) and see about getting the new iPhone 3Gs.  After much discussion with the service representative about various methods to have the phone added to my account, we figured out a way to make it work well for both myself and Mike (who will soon be inheriting a new-ish HTC Touch Diamond).

Opening the box and turning it on for the first time, I was somewhat surprised by the speed.  Mind you, I have not had an older-gen iPhone to compare it to, but having come from a Motorola RAZR3, then to a Blackberry Pearl 8100, then to an HTC Touch Diamond, the 3GS was (to borrow from Rogers motto) Rocket fast.  Thus far, on initial testing the only problems I have encountered have been (and I will try to go into some detail as to why they are problems to me): Read the rest of this entry »

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17th July 2009

The Power of Impossible Thinking

The Power of Impossible Thinking
Authors: Jerry Wind, Colin Crook and Robert Gunther
Hardcover: 336 pages
Wharton School Publishing July 2004
Paperback: 352 pages
Wharton School Publishing February 2006

If ever there was a knockout book about changing your life in a positive, measurable way, The Power of Impossible Thinking is it – or at least at the top of the heap of self-help tomes. This book is filled with examples of society’s collective thought patterns and expectations, and ways to change them in your own life. If you are a businessperson trying to find original ways to grow your business, you’ll know that almost everything’s already been tried at least once. If you want to circle around the herd and forge your own path, read this book. Don’t just look at all the angles, look for the angles that don’t show. If you want to change the way your life is going, this book is for you-because it’s all in the way you think; afterall, the way you think about your reality is your reality, and only you can change it-with a little help from Mr. Wind and Mr. Crook.

The first page of this book lists a few simple questions followed by a simple statement that maybe changing the way you think will give you the answers to the preceding questions. This is followed by a promise from the authors that this book will show you how, and true to their word-they do. The authors delve into the world of neuroscience in a detailed manner, but they do it without causing you to reach for the nearest dictionary or making you fall asleep. Their approach is quite the contrary-they make you want to keep reading; simply because what they are saying makes so much sense. Read the rest of this entry »

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17th July 2009

Facebook Games – Farmville

FarmVille logo
Ever had dreams of quiting your job and moving out to a farm to try your hand at growing crops or animals?

Well now you don’t have to thanks to Zynga’s new game for the Facebook platform called FarmVille, which was released to the general public this year.

FarmVille puts you directly on the farm with a nice piece of land to call your own. You start the game by customizing your farmer’s look from suspenders to glasses. As soon as you get your virtual farmer looking snazzy you’re taken to your farm where your job is to plow some land and plant some seeds. Zynga must have spent some time thinking of this concept because it’s really quite unique.I know comparisons can be made to the other farm games on Facebook or other systems, but we’re here to look at FarmVille itself.

This game is identical to farming and because it’s played in real time and mimics the pains/pleasures of farming. Once you have farmed some plots of land you’re asked what kind of plants/trees or animals you would like to grow and are only limited by the amount of coins in your virtual account. Each type of plant/animal has a certain amount of grow and harvest time. Strawberries grow in 4 hours so you’ll find that if you plant these, you will have to come back to your farm so you can cash in your crop. If you don’t, they will wither and die. This is a unique mechanic because it makes you think how farming fits in your schedule like a real farm. You can’t just plant and walk away, this game requires a little attention each day since each crop of produce is different. With this mechanic Zynga has been able to increase their ADU (Average daily users), but at the same time it is strangely satisfying when you are harvesting and thinking what to grow next.
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13th July 2009

The Next Global Stage Book Review

The Next Global Stage-Challenges and Opportunities in Our Borderless World
Author: Kenichi Ohmae
Publisher: Wharton School Publishing March 2005
Hardcover: 312 pages

In some ways, I was a little disappointed with this publication, yet in many others I was pleased to see Wharton School Publishing live up to the expectations I have of them in regards to the quality of their books. What I found disappointing in The Next Global Stage is that it is often repetitive. While certainly, there are points which may need reinforcing, I feel there were better ways the author could have approached the topic, and spent more time discussing global business for smaller enterprises instead of the large corporations.

The author did find a good balance of positive and negative factors to consider in regards to taking businesses out on the global market, but I found that the book focused too much on what governments were doing to enhance their share of the global strategy, and didn’t focus enough on individual businesses and what smaller companies could do to increase their global market share. We are not interested in outsourcing, which is covered extensively in this book. We keep our technical support in-house; primarily because we are global, and can offer support to those seeking our services in many languages, and usually from within their own country. The Next Global Stage, while doing a very good job of explaining how the global market is helping the economies of the countries this book focused on, it did not, in my opinion, adequately discuss the downfalls of outsourcing areas such as technical support services, and the public’s perception of this practice.
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10th July 2009

Design of Things To Come-How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Products

Editor’s Note: I’ve read and reviewed many, many books in the past few years. Over the next week or so, I will be sharing reviews with our readers of the books which, while they may be older, in my opinion, the information their pages contain is still relevant to today’s world – and in some cases may have been predictive of current times.

Design of Things To Come-How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Products
Authors: Craig M. Vogel, Jonathan Cagan, Peter Boatwright
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Wharton School Publishing June 18 2005

Design of Things To Come is a must-read for anyone involved in business. This book not only goes through the innovative process, it covers other important information such as the wide variety of trademarks, from logos to trade dress. The authors have put this book together, and shared their knowledge in such a way that the principles they discuss can be used by practically any business to grow its market share.

This is the type of quality book I have come to expect from Wharton School Publishing, and one that I will make use of for many years to come. As a business owner, I was pleased to see many of the processes I have been doing correctly, as well as seeing many areas where we could improve – and the many ways in which they could be improved. The book is in no way overly-repetitive, and is written so well that it does not need an ample supply of diagrams to illustrate what the authors are trying to say.

Every page of Design of Things To Come contains useful information, and outlines innovative practices which can be easily adapted to the business at hand. The authors, in my opinion, have produced a goldmine for those of us who want to push our companies forward to the next level and beyond. Their advice on team building, motivation and rewards is invaluable. This is especially important for companies such as mine, which are globally situated and depend heavily on team work. This book also served to remind me of marketing and research practices I had learned way back in school, but had pushed into the background. Design of Things To Come has enabled me to get a lot of my primary focus back and work towards realigning, restating, and in some cases redeveloping areas of my business which were falling through the cracks. Read the rest of this entry »

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5th July 2009

72 Hours In Aion A Closed Beta Review

AionVancouver – No, that’s not 72 hours of straight playing. The long-awaited North American closed beta of NCSoft’s Aion began this past Thursday at noon Pacific time, and that’s when our resident PC game player, A.K.A. Cavechild, logged into the game – if he hadn’t been in need of sleep and food, he probably would have logged a straight 72 hours.

The Aion build used for this testing is version 1.0, the most up-to-date version available. Players are limited to level 20 and certain map regions – but with so much to do and explore even within in this limited area, players can remain very occupied for this test period.

When I interrupted Cavechild’s play to ask him about Aion, the first question I put to him was to name one thing he did not like about the game. There are only two things thus far that he doesn’t like in the game: the fact that this is not the full release, and thAione apparent inability to turn off announcements from player stores – the well-known WTB and WTS scenarios.  (For those unfamiliar with these acronyms – WTB is Want To Buy and WTS is Want To Sell).

According to the Lore of Aion, the shell world of Atreia was once connected by the Tower of Eternity but a great cataclysm caused by the Balaur shattered the tower, separating the two worlds of Atreia. One side of Atreia is now inhabited by the Asmodian faction while the other is populated by the Elyos. Players will be able to explore these worlds as well as regions made up of voids and floating islands. As with many worlds, the two factions have an intense hatred of each other, and there is constant warring in The Abyss, the area between the two shattered regions. While the races battle each other, they must also contend with the greatest evil of all, the Balaur, previously only known to the factions through their Lore. It would seem that the factions may have to work together against the Balaur in order for what’s left of their world to survive.
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3rd July 2009

Sky Babes vs Fly Boys – Review

Sky Babes vs Fly Boys Title: Sky Babes vs Fly Boys
Developer: A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games
Release Date: March 2009
Platform: iPhone and iTouch
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Price: $ 0.99 USD

Sky Babes vs Fly Boys is a game of speed and strategy – you play as a freight pilot, and you need to outlast your competition by not going bankrupt. This is no small feat, as the AI in Sky Babes vs Fly Boys is rather intelligent – and fast. With the price of fuel constantly rising as play progresses, it becomes pertinent to make the best routing decisions and getting to the pick up locations before the other pilots.Character Selection

Starting off in North America, players choose from four characters with distinctly different personalities – Baroness von Kargohaulin, Cassie Nova, Ace Boomer or The Duke. As delivery orders come available, cities pop up on the map, a white dotted line showing the cargo destination. It is very important to pay attention to each city that pops up, as you can earn more money and use less fuel by combining cargo deliveries. To select a cargo pick up location, all you need to do is tap the city’s icon followed by the drop-off point. To re-route your plane for a secondary cargo pick up, simply tap the second city’s icon. Cargo values are indicated by the number icon. For example, a cargo marker labeled “1” is worth $100.00 while a marker of “5” is worth $500.00. Diamond-shaped icons under your character’s name indicates how many cargo shipments you can carry on your plane, and if those spots are empty or filled. Read the rest of this entry »

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