I gave a talk at XOXO 2013. I’m not very fond of public speaking. I also try to avoid being too personal or too heavy which leaves mostly jokes and new snack foods. But I knew I had a lot on my mind — I jog right past the YU (where XOXO is held) each day and that got me thinking about all of this stuff and talking and it all kind of swirled together. Andy very graciously gave me a speaking slot, and even though I destroyed a dress shirt I made it through and everyone was so kind.
Seven years, my friends. Seven years of hopping in the car late at night, driving up I-5 to Vancouver, Washington, running The Gauntlet™ (45.1 MB), and visiting Blackjack Fireworks to check out the colorful, poetic, lost-in-translation, Corel-driven beauty of the latest fireworks packaging.
This is a story about one of the best days of my life. I’ll put it up there with the arrival of Joby, my wedding, the Panic trip to Hawaii, and playing Super Mario 64.
We worked with the gang at Pacific Helm on a rare and interesting side project, and as weird payment for their time, we took them (and our collective friends) on a trip to Disneyland, one of my favorite places on the planet.
Thanks to the one-of-a-kind Louie Mantia and a mysterious benefactor, our crew wound up at Club 33.
Club 33, if you don’t know, is the “secret” restaurant at Disneyland, discreetly tucked away in New Orleans Square, requiring paid membership (and long waiting list) to enter, and offering very fancy and delicious food (as well as the only booze in the park). It has a beautiful balcony that overlooks New Orleans square. It was wonderful and relaxing, a total oasis in a whirlwind of a place.
Then we spotted the harpsichord.
You have to understand that I hate playing music in front of people. I’m still traumatized by a moment in Japan, where there was a piano and a room full of business associates chanting my name to play something. I froze in terror. I couldn’t do it. It’s one of those memories that spark an involuntary lemon-sucking face when it springs into my mind.
But 2013 is all about change, if you hadn’t heard. And Disney music is a huge part of my life, especially the theme park music. And the guys came back with some news: “We asked. You can play the harpsichord.”
I’d always wanted to go to Club 33.
I’d always wanted to play a harpsichord.
I’d always wanted to play Disney music in Disneyland.
So yeah I had to make this happen.
My playing isn’t great, and I’m obviously insanely nervous, and I tried to avoid looking up to see if anyone was paying attention, but with the support of nice people, I did it:
It felt like my whole life had led to this wonky ragtime rendition of Grim Grinning Ghosts. I could literally not have been happier.
A harpsichord which was rumored to have been an antique was in fact custom-built for Lillian Disney specifically for use in Club 33. The underside of the lid features a Renaissance-style art piece that was hand-painted by Disney artists. Elton John and Paul McCartney have each played this harpsichord.
That’s it. Close up shop. We’re done here. Life, you can be pretty great.
One of the things we wanted to make truly excellent in our brand-new Status Board iPad app was the setup process. Setup assistants are never fun, always annoying, and kill that “new app” buzz faster than anything. The only thing worse is that giant overlay some apps do that draws arrows all over your screen pointing to all the buttons and things like some demented football coach.
When we landed on the idea of doing a “user manual” — as if you had just purchased a real Status Board and were browsing the instructions — I think Neven said, “And you should hear elevator music!”
And so I wrote elevator music. Here’s the un-tinny-speakerized version. Enjoy?
At the center of my digital storage universe is the house Mac mini, hooked up to a big ol’ external drive that holds all of the e-things: our music, our photos, old work, emulation collections, etc.
(As a side note, this drive is manually backed up monthly onto another drive — a 4TB Seagate Thunderbolt — which I take into the office and place in my drawer for extra-safe fire-keeping. Backup your backup, mang!)
I decided to try the new Thunderbolt-based Drobo 5D as my vault. Did I keep it?
Drobo’s best feature — that you can swap out drives at any time to semi-infinitely expand your capacity — works, and works well. It’s always mentally nice not having to worry about ever running out of room and having to clone over large volumes all the time.
And it’s fast. Much faster than my previous Drobo.
That older model, a Firewire 800 Drobo, got a sadness-inducing 20.1 MB/s write and 22.2 MB/s read. By comparison, a LaCie Thunderbolt 2big in a software mirror got 111.2 MB/s write and 114.1 MB/s read.
Here’s the Drobo 5D, connected via Thunderbolt:
That’s around 193 MB/s write and 184 MB/s read. So, it’s almost ten times faster than the Firewire 800 Drobo it replaced.
You can dim the many front lights, which is nice for media cabinets.
The metal enclosure is substantial and feels valuable.
It’s surprisingly quiet.
The Drobo 5D will not mount until you install the Drobo software. (See here.) The Drobo software includes, among other kernel extensions, DroboTBT.kext, Drobo’s “SCSI Thunderbolt Controller”.
It’s almost a dealbreaker. Every external hard drive I’ve ever used will mount easily without special software. Requiring software not only makes it a pain to hook the drive up to someone else’s computer, but the drive will only keep working in the long-term if the specialized software is well-maintained. (It’s one thing to trust Apple to update their software, which I do, but another thing to expect this maintenance from third parties.)
What will happen when Mac OS X 10.9 comes out and the Drobo .kext inevitably breaks? I’ll have to wait for Drobo to ready an update? How soon will that be ready? You can understand my concern.
But in conclusion, here’s the only review score metric that really matters:
Did I Keep It?
I kept it. Still using it. For now. It’s fast, holds all my stuff, and feels solid. But we’ll see what happens when 10.9 comes out.
We all know it’s not cool to litter. If our hands are burdened with the weighty responsibility of an unwanted and snot-spent tissue, or an empty aluminum can that once held some Dr. Skipper, or even a gentle gum wrapper, the worst thing — the worstpossiblething — would be to throw it on the ground.
Yes, throwing garbage on the ground is literally littering. But beyond that? Well… that’s where things get a little dicey.
Trashcan? The only limit is your trashmagination!
I first noticed the “litterplugs” (if I may) phenomenon in Japan, ten years ago. This is the photo that started it all, a slightly bowing construction wall by Shinjuku station that immediately became a garbage can:
Since then, it was everywhere. Now, I can understand how generalized holes — containers, street light bases, flower pots — become makeshift trashcans. Even if they’re obviously in no way trashcans, and likely will never be emptied or cleaned by any human being on earth, and in most cases there’s a real trashcan mere feet away, they at least share a vague similarity to the raw concept of a trashcan.
But the best litterplugs take it to a new level.
They raise not-literring littering to an art.
Wedge your peach chunks garbage into a brick wall? Sure!
Make PBR stand for “Perfect Bark Receptacle”? Yes, yes!
Pop your can in a drywall hole briefly opened up by construction workers?
Look around desperately until you spot an exterior outlet? Go go go!
Somehow calculate the exact horizontal space required for your juice box? Woo!
Put your wrapper in the hole left by the missing handle… in a garbage can? Award winning!
Remember: you’re not littering if it ain’t touchin’ the ground!
Litterplugs, I salute you and your particularly weird blend of doing the right thing.
If you find any particularly inventive litterplugs, tweet me!
It’s 20 or 30 years ago. You’re working on a videogame. You don’t get any credit for your work, blogs don’t exist, there’s no internet and no fanboys. It’s just you, a crusty old terminal, and got a few spare bytes left in the ROM. What now?
> Type Secret Message
OK. You’ve hidden a secret message in the ROM, to be uncovered many, many years later, and posted on the incredible website, The Cutting Room Floor.
Here are some of my favorites. Click any game’s title to read more.
DIVINE PROTECTION BY =THE MIGHTY GOD= WRITE TO ME: email@example.com FINALLY YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO A REAL COMPUTER ===== GOD! =====
Stefan Boberg is now the technical director at EA DICE, working on the Frostbite engine, so I think he fully qualifies as a godgineer.
Stefan catches us up: “LOL, 18 year old me… I was trying on bullying, didn’t honestly think it was unbreakable. Although my first version was uncopyable — as in, uncopyable by the duplication plant!” Ah, the dangers of aggressive disk protection tricks. He didn’t remember anyone e-mailing him: ”I didn’t expect more than one or two people to read it to be honest, and it’s written accordingly. It’s a message from a parallel universe or something. Things are so different today!” Of course, I know this parallel universe well — one where we would meet up at pizza parlors, bring our big old computers and monitors, set them up, and copy games, like Alien Breed, between stale bites of pepperoni — so Stefan’s message makes perfect sense, and feels like another lifetime entirely, all at once.
I’ll warn you now that this game has a LOT of protection, so it will be a few late nights for you lot. It’s a mugs game anyway, you should be writing games and making loads of money like me (you too could afford a 16V Astra GTE). [...] In the meantime I’ll be thinking of you when I’m in Florida, spending some of my dosh.
Developers often resorted to psychologically shaming crackers, often using the “I have money and you don’t!” angle. I think probably it missed the point of a cracker’s motivation and likely only made the crack more fulfilling.
For the record, a 16V Astra GTE cost £9499 on launch, and looked so awesome:
And Dave Jones did OK: he went on to make Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.
Next, Tatsuya Ōhashi. Yes, you, you bastard. Don’t give me your flippant sh*t — coming in late on the day we ship the ROM like nothing’s amiss. You can give me all the porn you want; I’m not forgetting that one. All that f***ing weight you put on. No wonder you paid out 18,000 yen and still got nothing but a kiss out of it.
AS FOR GETTING RICH, IT JUST AINT TRUE IN MY CASE. (GOING BROKE MAY BE MORE LIKE IT!) OF THE PRODUCTS I’VE DONE IN THE PAST (M.U.L.E., SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD, HEART OF AFRICA AND ROBOT RASCALS) ONLY SEVEN CITIES MADE ANY MONEY AND HEART OF AFRICA JUST BARELY BROKE EVEN. WHAT THIS SAYS TO MY PUBLISHER IS THE MARKET DOESN’T WANT MULTI-PLAYER STRATEGY GAMES! BUT I DON’T BELIEVE IT.
Danielle Bunten was a prolific developer and M.U.L.E. is largely considered one of the most influential strategy games ever written. I’m very surprised to see it revealed in this message that it didn’t make any money. I want to know more, but quite sadly, Danielle died in 1998 due to lung cancer.
Thank you very much for purchasing this game.
Did you enjoy it?
But who are you, to be able to read this message?
If you don’t mind, please give me a call.
NCS 03-486-6588 (Ask for Suzuki)
Or, I also use a computer connection, so you can contact me there, too.
NCS NET 03-499-5996 7:00pm to 8:00am
I just like that you could’ve either phoned Suzuki-san, or called his BBS, which has classic “Mom, don’t pick up the phone!” house hours.
You RETARDS say one thing, then something else later all the time. You’re a sound company; quit ignoring pachinko sounds and trying to put these weird sounds in instead! Do you WANT it to be this hard to hear the balls?! I’ve left the PREVIOUS sounds, so edit this if you want to hear it. Set hex address AFFC to 1FAF and AFC4 to E0EE to get decent sounds.
Wow. So management decided to tinker with the sounds in the game, forcing the programmer to play an annoying high-pitched wavering tone almost constantly during gameplay. The programmer didn’t like this and, in protest, provides instructions to ROM hackers on how to revert the sound.
So I busted out my HEX editor. Here’s management’s version:
And here’s the programmers version:
The alarm-like sound is lower and more Pac-Man like, but, well, still pretty annoying.
July 19, 1988
Welcome To The
Fun And Games!
Way To Go, Linda!
Pixar movies, by tradition, have a section of credits for “Production Babies” — babies born during the making of a film. This got me wondering: what’s the earliest “Production Baby” credit in a video game? Is this it?
I asked Jessica about this message. She wrote back:
“I found out about this probably after I started college. Up until then I didn’t know what my exact time of birth was since my mom couldn’t remember and I was too lazy to find my birth certificate I guess. I at least know my birth was noted to the galaxy in some small way!”
And then, some words from Steve himself!
“Yes, I put messages to my kids (and wife) in all of my Intellivision games. This one was obviously from the birth of my daughter – her two older brothers are featured in hidden messages in each of the games that preceded her birth.
I put messages into each of these games: Hover Force (1986), Slam Dunk (1987), Chip Shot (1987), Body Slam (1988), Spiker! (1989), Deep Pockets (1989). My typical ‘cheat code’ was to hold down 23 on the left [Intellivision] controller while simultaneously holding down 26 on the right controller and then pressing reset while holding them down. Admittedly a bit of a contortion act, and not easily replicated on an emulator as it turns out.
I kept the source code for many years for all of these (and more) games, but sadly with a hard drive crash and a neglected back-up I lost them, so I can’t retrieve the code and have to try to remember how to trigger these messages from memory…”
Hey, ROM hackers: sounds like Steve could use your help! Exciting to know there are more hidden personal messages yet to be discovered…
This game sucks. The music is great but the game itself is not how we wanted it unfortunately. I mean, it is a good game, but some things could be polished, as well as sped up. Could use another month to finish this thing off AFTER all the bugs are fixed. oh well, woh is me.
David Pridie died in 2001. According to a memorial site, due to his now-infamous Tetris Rant, “he got himself and H2O in quite a bit of hot water with Nintendo. He figured it was his small piece of immortality and that no one would find it for years, if at all. It took the hardcore gamers about 3 days to find it and post it on the internet.”
See if you can retrieve them from this ROM. If you do, you win the prize. Please.. call (609) 466-2092 (in New Jersey, USA) if you have been able to view the two .GIF pictures, located in the rest of the upper 6 Megs of this ROM. We will have a nice reward..
for you…….Good Luck!….Roger W. Amidon..
I love reading graphic novels, so I’m interested in manga, but it’s hard for me to find the good stuff. I’m not so interested in infinite battles (“We defeated the thing! Oh hey, there’s another thing”), awkward teenage romances (“I’ve… I’ve never…”), and crazy sci-fi-paranormal flizzle-flazzle (“Sir! The bioflavanoids are at record levels! We haven’t much time!”)
Fortunately, the genre is deep. Beneath the shonen surface, there are interesting volumes that make it over here. The strange. The beautiful. Classic stuff. Food stuff. Funny stuff.
Often switching between specific education on Japanese food and drink (I learned so much about sake it was eye-opening!) and blog-like rants on creativity, perfection, and inspiration, Oishinbo is really good. If you’re not a foodie, you will be. (There’s some bonus peripheral/goofy soap-opera drama, too!)
A historical drama about a family falling apart post-WW II, with interlocking story lines and a dark narrative. Everyone is pretty terrible, which makes for good reading. It’s from Osamu Tezuka, the unbelievably prolific “godfather” of manga. This is a great example of his serious side.
“Straddling the line between her years as a student and the rest of her life, Meiko struggles with the feeling that she’s just not cut out to be a part of the real world.” Asano’s art is unbelievable, totally unique and unconventional. And it’s a funny book. The early-20′s feelings it brought back were so familiar it was almost uncomfortable.
This is a book literally about the invention and creation of the Nissin Cup Noodle. Like a Wikipedia article come to life! This hard-to-find Project X series might be my favorite manga yet, and I’m probably the only buyer. It’s something only the Japanese would do: business manga! I wish there were a hundred volumes for every product.
Once again, this is literally what it says it is: a manga about how Seven Eleven came to Japan, the challenges they faced, and how they pulled it off. Did you know the Japanese actually invented the walk-in cooler concept that revolutionized the convenience store industry? Have I mentioned how much I love the concept of Business Manga?
This is the dramatic story of the creation of the most successful sports car in the world, told through manga. The last business one, I promise. ”This manga demonstrates the virtues necessary for businesspeople to succeed”, says the top Amazon comment. Yes, it’s good.
A former kitten model (!) who ran away from home finds a new life as the owner of a ramen shop. (He doesn’t really seem to understand he’s a cat.) His best friend is a loyal customer who suffers through the many troubles related to, well, a cat owning a ramen shop. It’s not deep, but it’s funny. You’ll breeze through this on the toilet and laugh so much you’ll be glad you’re on said toilet.
Good For: clififhanging early manga pulp adventure.
A movie-like, page-turning adventure about a pianist, a criminal, an avalanche, a train, an abandoned ranger station… you’ll see. This manga was written over 50 years ago — it’s one of the first ever published works of gekiga (adult, serious, dramatic) manga. It’s short. It’s simple. But I loved it. If you’re not familiar with manga “classics”, why not start here.
Tatsumi, the author of Black Blizzard (above), as the father of “gekiga”, tells his own story. This 840-page epic covers the early days of the manga publishing industry, post-war Japanese history, his personal life and influences, and more. It’s really good. And his art style is fascinating: comically simple faces, hugely intricate and complex backgrounds.
Conversely, here’s the story of Azuma, a fringe Japanese comic artist who, through alcoholism and presumably mental illness, essentially becomes a homeless drifter. This stuff really happened. Written in a weirdly light and comic style — I don’t think he wanted to dwell on the darkness — it’s amazing to read this and see how easily life can go off the rails.
A stunning, fictional, supernatural folktale about the non-fictional Robert Johnson, blues musician, who sells his soul the devil in exchange for musical talent. And lots more. The art is utterly fantastic, the story is gripping and crazy, and the setting of the American South in 1930s is really interesting / challenging for a Japanese manga. Somehow it all works.
A rogue, unlicensed surgeon! Short, self-contained stories with strong moral lessons. Gross and cool black-and-white illustrations of sci-fi surgery. Cool, pulpy, 70′s locations and settings. Sure, Black Jack feels a little dated, but I bought all 17 volumes. (And a warning: if the story centers on an animal, you’ll cry.)
“A long, realistically drawn narrative about a young couple coping with the discovery that their infant son is autistic.” The josei manga (“ladies’ comic”) genre can get a bit syrupy, but I include this in my list mostly as a great example of how manga can touch on topics that traditional graphic novels don’t typically touch. I think it’s educational and fascinating.
“As events progress, the lives of three Adolfs, each from distinct origins, intertwine and become more and more tangled as Sohei Toge searches for his brother’s murderer.” Another intense and solid Tezuka drama that I just finished. I can’t wait to pick up the second volume next year.
(I linked ‘em all to Amazon — buy something and I get an amusing kickback!)
I hope you enjoy some of these. If you do — or don’t — let me know!
BONUS! Christmas Contest!
Ten lucky people who post a comment recommending their own favorite graphic novels (of any genre) will get a free copy of Project X: 7-11 or Project X: 240ZX. Seriously, I’ll just mail you one. I don’t know why. Business manga! Good luck!