Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thoughts on Failure

There are two excellent blog posts out there regarding the failed MMO 'Tabula Rasa'. The posts, by a designer on another project at the same studio, and a programmer pretty high up in another internal studio in Europe.

Frankly, both blogs - after reading them both, and reading them again - are pretty scary. You see, much of what they talk about, in terms of management and morale on the Tabula Rasa team I have experienced first hand.

Now, I know that the last project I worked on is (more than likely), going to ship. It is oddly comforting and disturbing that other studios suffer the same sort of internal issues I experienced.

I'm going to take some time and digest it before I post more. I really suggest that you read those posts if you are a developer, are curious about game development, and more to the point, have been on the business end of some bad project and project development

I Love My Job

I didn't think that this would be the case, but I'm enjoying working at a much smaller company than I did at the larger companies I've worked at so far.

I'm enjoying it for one reason: everyone in management, top to bottom, has been around long enough and have worked at enough other studios that they know what works and what doesn't work.

They are open and expect collaboration. Sitting in silence is frowned upon. When your idea is used, you are praised. When you idea isn't used, you're praised for at least suggesting something. Everyone understands that morale is more than free goodies, it is about open communication and ensuring everyone is working toward a common goal without regret.

I'm sure that this has something to do with the fact that the team is so much smaller than any other team I've worked on, and certainly much more professional.

In the end, they are all great people, and not a day goes by that I don't count myself lucky that my last job's door closed when it did, because I wouldn't have been so open to this opportunity had I still been gainfully employed.

I promise, my next entry will be something a little more relevant in terms of game design and development.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Man Is Just a Number

The creative mind and lead actor behind one of the most subversive, brilliant and layered bit of television died today. Patrick McGoohan was the first to really push the boundaries of Television as an artistic medium, and not merely as an entertainment artifice.

His seminal series, to which twisted, layered episodic TV such as Lost and Battlestar Galactica owes much to, was called The Prisoner. The series, ostensibly about a secret agent who is kidnapped because of his mysterious resignation, is one of the most complex stories ever written for television. The symbolism present, the subtle anti-conformist, anti-establisment and anti-government themes, and the fact that it is all timeless in its presentation is where the brilliance of the series really shines through.

The hero of the series, Number 6, was one of England's top spies. Out of the blue, he storms into his superiors office and in a thundering display, resigns his position and leaves the spy business forever. Followed as he returns home, he is gassed and falls unconscious, waking up in an anonymous little town called 'The Village'. Over the next 17 episodes, Number 6 defiantly stands up against his nemesis, Number 2, as he or she attempts to find out why Number 6 resigned.

The Prisoner is ultimately one man's fight for identity, principal and individuality in a society that seeks conformity to social norms, that a loner is dangerous, and that principals are a myth.

AMC is showing the entire series online right now, for free, and I highly recommend you check it out, it will change your life - it did mine.

You see, my father introduced me to The Prisoner. The irony in that is that my father is about as hardcore right wing conservative as they come, and here he is, introducing me to a TV Series that is absolutely brilliant, and is also absolutely some of the most libertarian and anarchistic
entertainment that has ever been aired on any major broadcast network.

It was this sinister yet sweet world of "The Village", with its terrifying (at least, to an 8 year old) Rover, and its defiantly independent hero who will go to great lengths to ensure that the principles that he so lustily defended are never compromised, that he is never broken, and that the individual is paramount in a world of sameness and conformity, that really began to shape my identity and political philosophy.

More importantly, it has become a guidepost for me in terms of writing and enjoying fiction. Some talk about how the includion of Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy into Bioshock was such a ground breaking piece of entertainment, but The Prisoner adheres so incredibly close to Objectivism that it took over 30 years for another work of art to even come close.

For those gamers that loved Bioshock, watch The Prisoner.
For those science fiction fans that love Lost, watch The Prisoner.

Enjoy and, be seeing you.