Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Daddy Love

It has been quite some time since I last posted. Needless to say, I've been rather busy and I rarely have enough time to just sit down and spend an hour or so writing. I've got a part-time job, I'm going to school, and I've got a social life to maintain. Not that it's very active since half of that alloted time I give away to gaming.

Beginning of September, my boyfriend and I purchased an Xbox 360 in anticipation of Halo 3. Take note: we are equal owners in this. My boyfriend probably won't admit it, but I think I'm the one who got him into serious gaming...although, he is now better than me at most fps'. Sometimes he just blows me away.

Halo 3. What can I say? Most people have already made up their minds about this latest and final instalment in the Halo series. Although I had to get up at 6 the following morning, we attended EB Games' midnight launch "party". Yeah, no. Not a launch "party" but a launch lineup. Sweet. We had a spectacular time standing in line, in the cold and drizzling rain, listening to a bunch of over-excited pubescents comparing cock-size with their Xbox Live prowess. More than half the consumers in the lineup were underage and were accompanied by a parent. Awkward? Uh, yeah.

When we finally arrived at the counter, I was exhausted, it was 1:15 AM and I was trembling. From anticipation? From being over-tired? Perhaps a combination of the two, but as a rather feeble joke, I told the kid behind the counter that we were here to pick up our pre-ordered copy of Viva Piñata. They guffawed appreciatively. We got our free poster, tshirt, and magnet, and drove home.

Didn't actually open it until the following evening after we'd gotten off work. Still, I can say I owned Halo 3 before most of my friends and before most of you n00bs.

We beat the co-op campaign on "Normal" in about 10 hours. Not our best performance since we both hadn't played in a while. "Normal" mode is the "Easy" mode from Halo 2 and it really wasn't very hard. It was just difficult finding the time to dedicate to it. I'm now into solo campaign mode on Legendary and it's taking me considerably more
time. Yes, I'm not afraid to admit it, I'm having a hard time with Legendary. I had a hard time with it in Halo 2, but hell, I did it on my own and co-op mode (which is harder, imho, because every death by either player was a re-spawn from the last checkpoint and you couldn't save in the middle of levels).

We bought Perfect Dark Zero. HUGE disappointment. What the fuck was RARE thinking? I went to GameDeals in New West and picked up the Perfect Dark for N64. I must say, if the N64 version beats the 360 version in gameplay, you need to hire some new designers. Perfect Dark was the first game I had played were I could dual-wield. I used to play multi-player for myself. Ah, the beauty of those bots with personalities.

Forza 2 is pretty rad. It came with the 360. I personally loved Forza and Forza 2 is just more of a good thing. Great graphics, better cars, overall, good racing game. I like my racing games realistic where I could race a VW Golf if I wanted to. Don't get me wrong, Burnout is pretty darn exciting, but I really enjoy the finesse of Forza. I don't get to play it much since the 360 is at my boyfriend's place for the next 6 months (it's our rule).

Rented Bioshock. Uh. Google it. Read the reviews. It is deservedly getting those great reviews and is pretty much Game of the Year. My problem is, I don't do well with the whole "fear" thing and can only really handle playing for about and hour until an ulcer develops from all the stress...I'm going to wrap you in a sheet. Hot damn, I love those Big Daddies. Splicers are the scary shit, Big Daddies rock my socks.

I really like Viva Piñata and I'm thinking of picking it up used. Could be a fun "sim" game to go back to from time to time. Plus, has anyone watched the cartoon? Holy shit, it's freaking hilarious.

Most anticipated games for me right now: Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect. Since I don't have the most money to spare, I'm going to rent them before deciding on purchasing them. I'm fairly sure Assassin's Creed will be a staple for any 360 owner, but one can never be too sure.

All right. Signing out for now since my eyes are all crusty from staying up too late...still playing Halo 2 on XBC. Still pwning. Damn, if you ever meet me on Foundation during Swat, run the other way my friend, run the other way. ;)

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Upgrade to Gaming Blog?

I'm contemplating revamping this blog and making it more game-related and with far better grammar than before.

If I want to be a writer, I had bloody well start practising! I'm going to test that out, by making this post completely videogame related.

First, "video game" should be a compound word. Spellcheck refuses to recognize it and I'm getting a lot of those hideous little red lines beneath it every time I type. Why isn't it a compound word? It simply makes more sense to write "videogame" as opposed to "video game". Videogames have become far more of their own identity than board games ever could, must we really designate the game as being video? Can't it just be 1 word? My thumb doesn't like tapping the space bar more than it needs to.

I collected my "old" PS1 from my brother's apartment last weekend. Apparently, he's lost the AV cable for it and he can't seem to locate FF7, the single greatest RPG of all time. I'd just watched Final Fantasty 7: Advent Children the other day and I have a great urge to play it. I usually combo Cloud with Cid and Vincent but I'm really in the mood to change it up. Maybe Cloud with Cait Sith and Barret. I hardly ever play with Barret as he annoys the hell out of me. That dude shouts too much.

Here's the list of Playstation games I have recovered:

  • Numerous Official U.S. Playstation Magazine demo discs from between October 1998 - November 1999.
  • Final Fantasy VIII
  • Wild Arms
  • Syphon Filter
  • Driver 2
  • The Legend of Dragoon
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • NHL 99
I know that I am missing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Final Fantasy VII, and many many demo discs from PSM. Where they could have gone? I can only wonder. Perhaps the abyss that was my brother's room? This makes me incredibly sad as these are precious memories from my childhood that I had hoped to recreate.

I remember playing the Spyro the Dragon demo for hours on end. The first one, before anything else came out. Nothing makes you feel old like knowing that Sony is on the 12th re-incarnation of that game.

Or playing the demo for Silent Hill, back when Resident Evil 2 was rather new and thinking,
"This is a tad more frightening than RE...Holy crap, weird ass naked babies with knives!? No thank you!"

The consoles I have owned/still own. This is a list that will hopefully allow me to recognize how seriously behind I am:
  • NES
  • SNES
  • Playstation and PS1
  • N64
  • Gameboy Advance
  • Xbox
Yes, I have not owned anything recent since the Xbox. I was extremely disappointed in Sony for doing the whole "the Playstation isn't good enough, you (the consumer), MUST UPGRADE." Screw you, I will not.

Alas, now I wish I had. So many amazing games have been released for PS2 and PS3. I refuse to believe, however, that the Gamecube and Dreamcast are anything but the Sega Genesis of their time.

All right. So above, was my attempt at creating a gaming blog-type post.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007


Enjoying a wonderful homemade cooler of pink lemonade, Fresca, and vodka!

Oh how I missed you, Liquor!

Doing stuff. Don't have a lot of drive to actually post here. Erm. I'm hella good at Halo 2? I play online far too much and now, rock the casbah.

Chau mis amigos que son muy preciosos!

Friday, March 23, 2007


Bet you can't guess what I saw tonight! All right, you caught me, it was Royal Winnipeg Ballet's production of Dracula at the Queen E. Wow. It was amazing. I adored it.

I danced as a child and have truly regretted giving it up. I never regretted it more than tonight.

First, the costumes were phenomenal. Lucy's nightdress (pictured above) was my personal favourite. It was made of such floaty material that positively floated around the dancer's body. It was sensational! (Sidenote, I want my wedding dress made out of that stuff!!).

Second, the music was so dramatic but romantic. I believe it was all Gustav Mahler selections. It didn't overshadow the dancing but it didn't fade into the background either. I was very pleased. (Note to self, buy some Mahler!)

And of course, the dancing itself was a pleasure to watch. If I had to choose, Lucy and Dracula were my favourites. Although, Quincy Morris is a close second. Lucy had the entire first act devoted to her and I was not bored once. She moved so fluidly and the nightdress, as I said before, was such a wonderful compliment to her movements. At one point I thought as though everything began in slow-motion, but it was just this one perfect sequence that she pulled off really well. (Gah, I miss ballet so much!)

I think I was born in the wrong era to tell you the truth. There are so many things that I value that coincide with the late 19th century. Sometimes I think I'd be more comfortable then than now. But alas, a girl can only dream.

There are so many things I regret not doing when I was younger. Quitting ballet was one, but also walking away from Ringette, one of the only sports I was genuinely very good at. It just seems to me to be so tragic and sad. I'm the only person I can blame for not continuing. I only wish I could have seen like I do now.

Back on topic, overall, tonight has been very entertaining. Is it too late to rejoin a dance studio? I'm only 20...and overweight. Does that mean I can't? Is it too late? *tragic hands*

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Infamous EA Spouse Blog

For Business 100 I get to do a very thorough business report on a company of my choosing. Trying to think of a company, I naturally begin playing The Sims 2. Voila! EA Games "Challenge Everything!" flashed onto the screen almost ethereally. So my group is doing Electronic Arts Inc for our project. At first it was fascinating, but this quickly turned to horror as I realized how many EA Games I actually own and how much I'm feeding this callous giant that swallows small video game developers like french fries! I'm redistributing the EA Spouse article because a) I can and b) I think more people should understand how corporations should act and shouldn't act. It is NOT OK. (I could go on about how this sounds eerily like Stream, but I will refrain).


EA: The Human Story
My significant other works for Electronic Arts, and I'm what you might call a disgruntled spouse.

EA's bright and shiny new corporate trademark is "Challenge Everything." Where this applies is not exactly clear. Churning out one licensed football game after another doesn't sound like challenging much of anything to me; it sounds like a money farm. To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?

I am retaining some anonymity here because I have no illusions about what the consequences would be for my family if I was explicit. However, I also feel no impetus to shy away from sharing our story, because I know that it is too common to stick out among those of the thousands of engineers, artists, and designers that EA employs.

Our adventures with Electronic Arts began less than a year ago. The small game studio that my partner worked for collapsed as a result of foul play on the part of a big publisher -- another common story. Electronic Arts offered a job, the salary was right and the benefits were good, so my SO took it. I remember that they asked him in one of the interviews: "how do you feel about working long hours?" It's just a part of the game industry -- few studios can avoid a crunch as deadlines loom, so we thought nothing of it. When asked for specifics about what "working long hours" meant, the interviewers coughed and glossed on to the next question; now we know why.

Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad. Months remained until any real crunch would start, and the team was told that this "pre-crunch" was to prevent a big crunch toward the end; at this point any other need for a crunch seemed unlikely, as the project was dead on schedule. I don't know how many of the developers bought EA's explanation for the extended hours; we were new and naive so we did. The producers even set a deadline; they gave a specific date for the end of the crunch, which was still months away from the title's shipping date, so it seemed safe. That date came and went. And went, and went. When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm.

Weeks passed. Again the producers had given a termination date on this crunch that again they failed. Throughout this period the project remained on schedule. The long hours started to take its toll on the team; people grew irritable and some started to get ill. People dropped out in droves for a couple of days at a time, but then the team seemed to reach equilibrium again and they plowed ahead. The managers stopped even talking about a day when the hours would go back to normal.

Now, it seems, is the "real" crunch, the one that the producers of this title so wisely prepared their team for by running them into the ground ahead of time. The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week -- with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm). This averages out to an eighty-five hour work week. Complaints that these once more extended hours combined with the team's existing fatigue would result in a greater number of mistakes made and an even greater amount of wasted energy were ignored.

The stress is taking its toll. After a certain number of hours spent working the eyes start to lose focus; after a certain number of weeks with only one day off fatigue starts to accrue and accumulate exponentially. There is a reason why there are two days in a weekend -- bad things happen to one's physical, emotional, and mental health if these days are cut short. The team is rapidly beginning to introduce as many flaws as they are removing.

And the kicker: for the honor of this treatment EA salaried employees receive a) no overtime; b) no compensation time! ('comp' time is the equalization of time off for overtime -- any hours spent during a crunch accrue into days off after the product has shipped); c) no additional sick or vacation leave. The time just goes away. Additionally, EA recently announced that, although in the past they have offered essentially a type of comp time in the form of a few weeks off at the end of a project, they no longer wish to do this, and employees shouldn't expect it. Further, since the production of various games is scattered, there was a concern on the part of the employees that developers would leave one crunch only to join another. EA's response was that they would attempt to minimize this, but would make no guarantees. This is unthinkable; they are pushing the team to individual physical health limits, and literally giving them nothing for it. Comp time is a staple in this industry, but EA as a corporation wishes to "minimize" this reprieve. One would think that the proper way to minimize comp time is to avoid crunch, but this brutal crunch has been on for months, and nary a whisper about any compensation leave, nor indeed of any end of this treatment.

This crunch also differs from crunch time in a smaller studio in that it was not an emergency effort to save a project from failure. Every step of the way, the project remained on schedule. Crunching neither accelerated this nor slowed it down; its effect on the actual product was not measurable. The extended hours were deliberate and planned; the management knew what they were doing as they did it. The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach, and my happy supportive smile is running out.

No one works in the game industry unless they love what they do. No one on that team is interested in producing an inferior product. My heart bleeds for this team precisely BECAUSE they are brilliant, talented individuals out to create something great. They are and were more than willing to work hard for the success of the title. But that good will has only been met with abuse. Amazingly, Electronic Arts was listed #91 on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2003.

EA's attitude toward this -- which is actually a part of company policy, it now appears -- has been (in an anonymous quotation that I've heard repeated by multiple managers), "If they don't like it, they can work someplace else." Put up or shut up and leave: this is the core of EA's Human Resources policy. The concept of ethics or compassion or even intelligence with regard to getting the most out of one's workforce never enters the equation: if they don't want to sacrifice their lives and their health and their talent so that a multibillion dollar corporation can continue its Godzilla-stomp through the game industry, they can work someplace else.

But can they?

The EA Mambo, paired with other giants such as Vivendi, Sony, and Microsoft, is rapidly either crushing or absorbing the vast majority of the business in game development. A few standalone studios that made their fortunes in previous eras -- Blizzard, Bioware, and Id come to mind -- manage to still survive, but 2004 saw the collapse of dozens of small game studios, no longer able to acquire contracts in the face of rapid and massive consolidation of game publishing companies. This is an epidemic hardly unfamiliar to anyone working in the industry. Though, of course, it is always the option of talent to go outside the industry, perhaps venturing into the booming commercial software development arena. (Read my tired attempt at sarcasm.)

To put some of this in perspective, I myself consider some figures. If EA truly believes that it needs to push its employees this hard -- I actually believe that they don't, and that it is a skewed operations perspective alone that results in the severity of their crunching, coupled with a certain expected amount of the inefficiency involved in running an enterprise as large as theirs -- the solution therefore should be to hire more engineers, or artists, or designers, as the case may be. Never should it be an option to punish one's workforce with ninety hour weeks; in any other industry the company in question would find itself sued out of business so fast its stock wouldn't even have time to tank. In its first weekend, Madden 2005 grossed $65 million. EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable.

The interesting thing about this is an assumption that most of the employees seem to be operating under. Whenever the subject of hours come up, inevitably, it seems, someone mentions 'exemption'. They refer to a California law that supposedly exempts businesses from having to pay overtime to certain 'specialty' employees, including software programmers. This is Senate Bill 88. However, Senate Bill 88 specifically does not apply to the entertainment industry -- television, motion picture, and theater industries are specifically mentioned. Further, even in software, there is a pay minimum on the exemption: those exempt must be paid at least $90,000 annually. I can assure you that the majority of EA employees are in fact not in this pay bracket; ergo, these practices are not only unethical, they are illegal.

I look at our situation and I ask 'us': why do you stay? And the answer is that in all likelihood we won't; and in all likelihood if we had known that this would be the result of working for EA, we would have stayed far away in the first place. But all along the way there were deceptions, there were promises, there were assurances -- there was a big fancy office building with an expensive fish tank -- all of which in the end look like an elaborate scheme to keep a crop of employees on the project just long enough to get it shipped. And then if they need to, they hire in a new batch, fresh and ready to hear more promises that will not be kept; EA's turnover rate in engineering is approximately 50%. This is how EA works. So now we know, now we can move on, right? That seems to be what happens to everyone else. But it's not enough. Because in the end, regardless of what happens with our particular situation, this kind of "business" isn't right, and people need to know about it, which is why I write this today.

If I could get EA CEO Larry Probst on the phone, there are a few things I would ask him. "What's your salary?" would be merely a point of curiosity. The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?


-Anonymous, The EA Spouse

This article is offered under the Creative Commons deed. Please feel free to redistribute/link.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

P to the Athetic

Trying to decide what to do with school. UCFV is pathetically unchallenging. I read through my old English Lit notes and was more challenged and intrigued by them than anything I've done in college.

What is up with that?! Everyone keeps saying that college is hard and in school they terrified us with tales of hideous papers and horrible profs.

I was looking forward to that.

But no. I am disappointed.

Anyway, I've been trolling the internet for universities with Creative Writing programs. It's been disappointing as well.

Bwah. *moooooooody*

PHOTO: Flowers in Parque Urawa. I did not take this with my camera.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am.

Haven't posted properly in a bit, so I figured I'd allow myself a nice little update on what is happening in my life! It's fascinating, isn't it?

I dropped COMP 150 because Javascript is freaking unbelievably difficult. Anyone that tells you different is...a jerk.

I have a research report due in BUS 100 that must be written in standard business report format...and I have no idea how to do that. That's due Tuesday. I also must go through and edit/critique four short stories for my creative writing class. Spanish, I have to type up 5 pages of questions and answers before Wednesday and attempt to complete one unit in my online testing. Finally, I must read and do an online quiz for Chapter 6 in my Business textbook.

Oh man! Being a student ROCKS! :)

I've been dying to go out and take some piccies, but I have no funds to do so. Yes, I am finally broke. To add to my stress of homework, driving Ryan around, and being a good daughter by keeping the house clean, I have to deal with the wonderful guilt of being unemployed. I hope to find a job in summer when I've left school. I'm actually hoping that the one I left last summer will be available to me. 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, I think I'll make good money...however...I will NEVER see Ryan during the week. So it's money or Ryan...:'(

Happier subjects...well...I'm reading jPod by Douglas Coupland and have been severely bitten by the travel bug. So I'm reading a lot of travel books. I desperately want to go traveling and in the "backpacking" sense rather than the "resort" sense.

Fortunately, a carrot that my mom and I have dangled in front of ourselves is a trip somewhere important to do something important the summer after this coming one. I'd rather not say where or what we'll be doing because telling too many people really takes away how very special it is. And if we don't go through with it, I could possibly come off as a failure, and I really don't want that. So the less people that know right now, the better it is. Needless to say, it's pretty darn awesome and will satisfy that travel bug for at least 6 weeks or so.

Also, to tie in my subject line and make this post slightly coherent, I finally burned Kutless' worship cd Strong Tower. Take Me In is the most amazing song.

PHOTO1: a morning glory on the path around Mill Lake. It's pretty. I took this in autumn around the time I got my new lens and before I got the huge smear that is now on it and I have no money to buy lens cleaner for.

PHOTO2: the same morning and trip around Mill Lake I found some shrubbery that was just covered in cobwebs! It was so odd, I had to take a picture. Unfortunately, artistically it's not the best.