Two sheets to the wind! Literally.

Work is getting better, and a little more manageable. But I don’t want to talk about work anymore because as cool as it is to work in video games, it’s still a job, it’s stressful, and it doesn’t pay very well. Many of my friends in the Bay Area are probably earning significantly more than I am: they’ve got houses, nice cars, the latest gadgets, and they seem to go on vacation every other month!

But I don’t care because I can say I make video games! But let’s not talk about work.

Let’s talk about SAILING! So I’ve taken a couple lesson already, and they really just let you do this on your own. The first day, we did a lot of learning on land, like knots and wind clocks, transferring the boats from land to water, rigging our boats, and then went straight into tacking and docking, which is basically turning the boat with the tiller (steer), avoiding the boom that holds the main sail from knocking into you as it switches sides, and righting the boat back in the forward direction. The first day was definitely the fun day. The water was calm, wind was light, and the sky was clear, and the weather was warm. Also, I learned that sailing takes a lot more energy than I thought! Getting the boat into the water and rigging them is a lot of work, for one, and then trying to figure out whether to pull the main sheet in to speed up and letting out to slow down while you’re tacking… I went with just coffee on the first day, and ended up feeling woozy by the end of the class.

The first day was calm and sunny, so the boats were easy to control. The next day, not so much! The water was much more choppier, and this time, we had an extra sail, the jib, which meant we’d be going faster, and there was another sail to control. The S.O. and I almost tipped over unintentionally twice as we weren’t used to such a strong wind while tacking, and having to remember which rope did what to which sail. Of course, the second day was also the day we had to learn capsize recovery, right in the middle of the bay. I really had to face some fears here, given that I hate vastness of the ocean, not knowing how deep it goes, and that there could be creatures, like a huge whale, or the sea lions that we saw that morning, swimming right below my feet. Having a sea lion brush by sounds cool and all, but these guys are mean, and they BITE (PROOF!)!

Anyway, capsize recovery requires one having to climb on the top side of a capsized boat while the other keeps the boat balanced by hanging on to the centerboard on the bottomside. Climber gets themselves on the hull, then gets on the centerboard and pulls on the jib sheet (rope) until the boat rights itself, while the other person gets scooped into the boat as this happens. This is all very easy when you’re watching someone do it near land, or in a video of a demo done in a lake, but again, the bay water was choppy!! It was quite tiring. And gross because bay water is nastay.

They say that if you can sail in the San Francisco Bay, you can sail anywhere in the world!

Food

The best part about having the stomach flu is when you’re well enough to dream about all the great food you’ll be able to eat when you get better. The worst part, after the fevers and the nausea and the vomiting and the diarrhea, is the time period when you have to stick to the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples, toast) in order to help your stomach transition back to normal again so that you can actually enjoy those foods you were dreaming about rather than develop an aversion to it because it upset it.

Unfortunately, I’m at that stage right now.

Which is probably why I’ve been obsessively watching food videos, like the stuff on Chow.com and Mark Bittman on NYTimes.com. I also watched a marathon of Top Chef: DC episodes when I wasn’t feeling too dizzy when I was resting. It’s almost like porn in that I can’t just satisfy myself with just photos on food blogs anymore, I need motion and audio to go along with it.

I’ve been trying to do the BRAT diet, but the best part of it, the bananas, is my SOs number one offender. She will absolutely not buy bananas for me, nor would she tolerate bananas in the house. Very sad because I love bananas. Anyway, I’m sick of rice porridge, don’t care so much for apple sauce, so I resorted to toast. For a couple days, I had a fried egg over toast, and also honeyed toast. But what I really want is a grilled cheese sandwich. However, cheese is a dairy, which can easily upset the stomach. I’m not lactose intolerant, but I can see how cheese could affect my stomach in its weakened state, and there will be no end to my whining.

Here are the things I really want to eat once I get 100% back to normal:
Salmon sashimi, or just sushi in general
Grilled cheese sandwich
Prime rib steak
Baby back ribs
Pizza
Fried chicken

High fat content. Mmm… Seriously, I also want a really nice, refreshing salad with a light sesame dressing. But no raw veggies either. Argh!

Summertime

My summer officially started July 4th weekend. I got my project to its Gold Master milestone before my 4 day weekend (with a couple last minute emergencies, of course!), then flew out to Chicago to attend my first ever non-Chinese banquet wedding in Rockford for my coworker.

Things that came to mind:
* Open bar at a wedding is a GREAT idea!
* MIT guys love to air guitar (the groom was in a frat at MIT)
* Drinking games should definitely be started when best man speeches repetitively use certain words or catchphrases. In this case, “Indeed” was the magic word.
* The Electric Slide is an American cultural tradition that I missed out on.
* Choosing couples out of a hat to kiss so that the bride and groom can do the same is not a deterrent to clinking glasses, especially when everyone is inebriated.
* West Coast people miss out on experiencing lightning bugs/fireflies
* Japanese tea gardens in the middle of nowhere U.S.A. can be just as pretty as the real thing.
* Being a member of the UC Botanical Garden gets you free admission to even podunk botanical gardens.

Chicago has a great vibe, and I wish I didn’t have to leave so soon to go to Oregon. But huge extended family awaits!

I only had about 24 hours in Oregon, but got to sample a bit of Portland’s street food offerings such asWaffle Window and Potato Champion. I wish I wasn’t fighting off a cold at the time because my nose was not helping my taste buds. I was also sleep deprived because I’d been up for 23 hours since I had to get up early in Chicago and got 3 hours back coming back to the West Coast. For a vacation, it was a pretty crazy weekend.

I ended up working from home the next day because I wasn’t feeling well, and caught up on Season One of Bones. Now that my hours at work are more sane, I do try to watch an episode or two every night because it really is an interesting show because it’s super intelligent and super gross.

3.5 more seasons to go!

Closing the gap a bit

I’m a terrible blogger. I haven’t written an entry in months! But I have reasons for that.

Number 1: I’m taking Japanese classes again. I’m shooting to take 日本語能力試験2級 at the end of the year. But then I heard that 3級is now more like 3.5 and makes the gap between 3 and 2 much smaller than before. Maybe I should take it again instead of 2 so that my odds of passing is better which will encourage me to take 2! Actually, I think I should be more diligent and give myself an hour every day to study. From now until December, that should be enough study time for 2. I hope.

Number 2: Work is ramping up towards the end. The title that my team and I are working on has a Beta deadline in 2 weeks, and I’ve been working my ass off trying to tie up loose ends and making sure my team prioritizes their tasks appropriately. It’s only 2 weeks after Beta until Gold Master, so we don’t have much time left! In any case, they deserve pie!

I’m happy to say that our title will be exhibiting at E3 this year with Nintendo! It’s definitely exciting, and I hope it will be well received. Too bad I won’t be there because I’ll be busy hitting a deadline! 😛

So with classes, and late nights at work, there isn’t much time to study either, or socialize! Glee is probably the only excuse I have for socializing, and even then, it’s a weekday, everyone has to be sent home soon after it ends, and then it’s sleepy-time for a semi-early start.

I recently just got the Saboteur. Hopefully, I will get more time to play it more, but I’m really not motivated to. The controls are too sensitive, so movement can sometimes be jerky, and imprecise. Plus I’m at the flashback intro, so there’s not much to do right now.

Tomorrow, Yakuza 3, Bayonetta, and WET are coming in the mail. Yakuza 3 and Bayonetta were $20 off their release date price, and WET was less than $20. I really wanted to get Ace Attorney Investigations for the DS, but it wasn’t on sale… I’m cheap.

Speaking of DS, I was asked what shwag I was planning to get my team. It made me think what the coolest shwag I ever got from a project, and that was a DS Lite. It was after making one of the last titles that was for GBA/DS, and I still use it today. So how about a DSi XL with a customized scratch resistant skin? And if you’re asking, “What about the 3DS?!”, unless it gets released within 2 months, it’s out of the project’s budget. Too bad…

Making Chocolates

My sister has a yearly subscription to shockwave.com, about $30, which lets you play any downloadable flash game for as long as you want, without having to buy it. This is a great model for the casual gamer who just wants to play games to its completion, and then throw it away. Honestly, these games aren’t worth playing again, with all the sequels and iterations that they go through. I wish they had this type of purchasing model for Mac.

On one of my visits home, she introduced me to this strategy simulation game called Chocolatier. It’s a great concept for anyone who loves chocolate, and allows a high level, albeit romantic and fantasy, look at the chocolate industry. The setting is in the first half of the 20th century, where they still use trains and ships for travel. You play as an apprentice to young family member of a chocolate empire family who wants to rock the boat. The gameplay features in this game includes a wide variety:

1. Quick response organization: To make chocolates, you have to “set up” your factory to make a certain amount of inventory. Depending on your recipe, you recreate a template of ingredients into trays. The trays move around and you shoot whatever the next ingredient is into the appropriate tray. The recipe can range from 3 to 6 ingredients, so you have to make sure each tray gets the right number of ingredients, otherwise, it may get thrown away. To add another layer onto this, each ingredient is color coded, so if you make a tray with all blue, red, or yellow ingredients, you get bonus inventory.

This gameplay is pretty addicting, especially if you know you could do better and make more chocolates by achieving bonuses, so you’re given the chance to organize your ingredients as many times as you want

2. Collect them all: The player is given a recipe book to make chocolate square, sauces, pralines, truffles, and exotics, each with 12 different recipes. Many are locked, and you’re expected to unlock new recipes by testing ingredients that you’ve found in a tasting lab, or by encountering people with secret recipes that you chat up with in pubs and landmarks in the locations you can visit. The more you mix up the chocolates you make, the more money you can sell them for. It’s like introducing a new product to the market and getting big bucks for it.

The hook here is discovering what new recipes are available and what new ingredient you’ll have to hunt for next.

3. Shopping: There is definitely an element of shopping in this game. Every location has a market: locations near the equator sell cacao, almost every location sells sugar, and almost every ingredient has 2 locations where you can pick them up. Special ingredients sell only at certain places, like Cognac is only available in France, and every location that sells regular cacao also sells their own local version of cacao. Prices go up and down a couple ways: Items can be seasonal, or random events can happen, such as failed exports/imports or unexpected surplus (which is only messaged to the player through simple text).

For a flash game, Chocolatier is fairly robust in its story and gameplay, and the art is simple, though sometimes inconsistent, especially with the character art. It definitely kept my interest, and is easy to play when I have 15-30 minutes to kill. Saving is automatic, so you can pick up where you left off.

Probably the most important lesson anyone will ever learn is this game (if they haven’t already) is networking. Networking gets you places, it gets you sources, it gets you support. Money becomes no object when you’re making good use of your connections.

Where have all the seiyuu gone?

When I used to watch anime religiously, figuring out which series to watch next meant knowing which one had my favorite seiyuu. Since Sailor Moon was my #1, I kept an eye out for Hisakawa Aya, Mitsuishi Kotono, Tomizawa Michie, Ogata Megumi. Other greats included Inoue Kikuno, Hayashibara Megumi (The queen!), Midorikawa Hikaru, Takehito Koyasu…

I’m just going to take a moment to share some of these people’s awesome resumes: Hisakawa Aya was the straight-laced Ami, Sailor Mercury. She was also the voice for sexy Devil Hunter Yohko, and tough girl Iria, who hunted Zeiram. Mitsuishi Kotono, who was Usagi, Sailor Moon, also voiced the complicated Kusaragi Misato, guardian of the Evangelion pilots, and the shamelessly ecchi, but loyal hamster Ebi-chu. Tomizawa Michie, who was Rei, Sailor Mars, was Ebi-chu’s object of affection and abusive mistress. Consider the parallels of Rei and Usagi’s relationship compared to that of Ebi-chu and her mistress! Those two definitely had a lot of fun performing, I’m sure! The illustrious Ogata Megumi, Tenou Haruka, Sailor Uranus, played a huge range, from the brave and delicate Princess Emeraude of Rayearth, to the cowardly and begrudging Evangelion pilot, Ikari Shinji. Now consider the contrast between the relationship between Usagi and Haruka and that of Misato and Shinji. The roles have switched!

The impressive thing is that not only do these artists have such a wide range of characters, but they have opportunity to work together in different roles and create a new relationship dynamic that I’m always eager to watch unfold in their performances. Pulling it off successfully is what makes them so amazing.

Where have they all gone? I find myself having to get used to this new generation of seiyuu because there’s a ton of anime out there, many that are crap, and it’s hard to find quality voice actors who are not typecasted. But I’m keeping my eye out for Romi Park. She’s done a ton of characters, including Ed (Full Metal Alchemist) and Nana Ozaki (Nana), top-notch popular characters.

Surprisingly, she is the first Japanese seiyuu I’ve discovered to be of Korean descent.

And for the video game tie-in, Romi Paku is the Japanese voice for Amanda Valenciano Libre from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

Madison’s opening scene in Heavy Rain (SPOILERS)

I gotta say, that opening scene in Heavy Rain (when you finally get to play Madison) is like a girl’s worst nightmare. Seriously, you’re alone in your spacious abode, and all that surrounds you is silence and ambient sound. As you get used to the silence, you get this weird feeling behind you, as if someone’s watching. And then out of nowhere, you get attacked by something strong, and they drag you down too quickly for you to respond. I couldn’t get it out of my head that Madison was going to be violated unless I got those button motions right. After missing a couple, I was sure I was going to get a bad scene, but somehow Madison managed to get by and lock herself in the bathroom… Only to have her throat sliced.

I have friends who take self-defense classes, they’re tough and serious about it. But when it comes down to it, if they’re against a big guy, there’s no way they can match his strength. It’s nice to be able to play a video game where your skills only lie in how fast your reaction and hand-eye coordination is, and being able to kick butt, but in reality, a woman can only do so much to help herself. Assholes, jerkwads, and male scum of the earth ought to control themselves or be shot.

I should play that scene again and see if there is a better outcome.

Adventure games

After watching this clip, it got me wondering. Did anyone count the female gamers who play single player games? I’m definitely one of them. Guys wonder why they don’t see more women playing games, but are they really wondering why they don’t see more women playing games online?

Let me tell you some of my favorite games: the Police Quest series, the Leisure Suit Larry series, the Monkey Island series, Day of the Tentacle, the Gabriel Knight series, the Onimusha series, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Indigo Prophecy, the Yakuza series, the Metal Gear Solid series,

That’s a lot of series. And a lot of adventure games. I know a lot of girls who like adventure games, too. Are adventure games not gamer enough?

Full immersion!

My pre-ordered copy of Heavy Rain arrives tomorrow, thanks to my Amazon Prime free trial! I’m looking forward to finally play this game after it’s been hyped for more than a year! I played the demo last week and it was fairly intuitive, and I like the reactive gameplay design they threw in there. The Crime Scene sequence, however, felt pretty tedious…

The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is probably the selling point of the game, as it was for its predecessor, Indigo Prophecy. Its realism and dip into the uncanny valley encourages more emotional investment on the player’s part than any other game out there. I’m actually interested in watching other people play it and see where their moral ground is, and whether they’ll get rewarded or punished for how ethical they play the game.

There’s been quite a number of great PS3-exclusives and more are coming. I’ve been most excited to play Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted 2, Heavy Rain, and Yakuza 3. Friends have chimed in and said, “Final Fantasy XIII!” While FFXIII certainly looks amazing, I didn’t accidentally leave it out of my wishlist. I’m not particularly fond of strategy games.

A friend of mine noticed that his girlfriend felt the same way about realistic cinematic games vs. cinematic fantasy RPGs. My own SO is in the same boat. She just likes being immersed in the game, or challenged by a simple objective. And I can understand that. Who has time to think about how to kill a fire-resistant boss enemy with just confuse and restore magic? There are more important things to do than leveling up and grinding, like actually advancing to the next part of the story!

I’m a passive gamer. I’m not really invested in building up my characters or playing strategically, I’m just more interested in what I can do with them, what’s going to happen to them, and ways they can die (because there’s only one way they can win, and that’s no fun).

Tales of Monkey Island for Mac

Telltale Games just recently announced that Tales of Monkey Island is now available for Mac. Gah! I wish they did this earlier because I bought Chapter 1 for Wii and it was terrible. The graphics were not crisp, grainy, and there were definitely some visual performance issues because the overall experience did not feel smooth at all.

The controls were bad at first, but I got over it and found my comfort zone at some point.

The worst part of this whole download was the audio. There are these constant weird pops when a new dialogue is about to play or possibly when the song loops. The audio quality wasn’t clear and very grating

To sum it up, the game felt slow, horrible on the eyes, and annoying to listen to. The story itself was interesting and clever, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy the next episode on Wii. It’s also not worth it for the price point it was at. The 5 episode series is $35 on PC/Mac, and, and $50 on Wii. It’s too bad that Nintendo did not give TellTale an exception in its pricing policies. I will probably get the entire series for Mac at some point, since there is such a dearth of games on Mac, but I’m hoping for a sale to make buying the whole season including Chapter 1 worth it for me.

In any case, I hope that Sam & Max is the next series to be ported to Mac. I bought the series for PC a while back, but I rarely ever use my PC anymore, so I never finished the season. Hopefully they will extend the same Mac deal for those who bought it for PC!