Saturday, December 08, 2012


I recently played the remake of Karateka (1982). It is a great arcade style game, a wonderful remake full of visual, combat and musical beauty. The game is quite short but very enjoyable and although it can be finished rather easily, finishing it the proper way is very hard.

Jordan Mechner has done a great job for the remake.

I don't remember whether I played the original game on an Apple II or a 286 PC. Either way, I still remember the fluidity and smoothness of the pixel art animations and the great feeling from the combat.

The introductory game trailer is quite nice and funny:

Sunday, December 02, 2012


The verdict is here, before I turn 37, I am going to select the best music album of my entire life! Something I never thought would be possible but for some strange reason is quite obvious now. Drums rolling .... "Bad Motor Finger" by Soundgarden (1991) is at the all time number one position! Decision is made based on the music, vocals and lyrics and the magical fact that all of the tracks in this album are exceptional. The mysterious note is that every track you hear from this album feels better than the previous one, once you reach the end, listening to the first track one more time feels even better than the last. This is the concept of a strange loop, exactly like an Escher painting, an ever growing loop, like everything else in life.

Another major point is that for some reason I am absolutely certain that there will not ever be any album better than "Bad Motor Finger" in the future! Thank you Soundgarden for this miracle!


Bad Motor Finger
Strange Loop
Honorable Mentions: 10 by Pearl Jam, Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains, Far Beyond Driven by Pantera, Undertow by Tool, Black Album by Metallica, Use Your Illusion by Guns 'n Roses

Free Style R&D

It has been a few weeks that we have revived our weekly game design R&D sessions at the office. These sessions include a presentation about a topic by a developer followed by open discussion about the topic. They have always been quite useful and fun. Talking to colleagues about different topics and passing ideas is probably one of the most important activities that can be done.

Recent presentations have been about multi-player level design, combat system techniques and designing for horror in games.

I was at bat this week and since I've been investigating the idea of emergence in games recently, I read a book with the same title, Emergence in Games. The ideas in this book are quite generic and it really does not add any valuable insight for the idea of emergence in games and it covers a lot of unrelated material. This is why we chose to discuss a different topic, Minimalist Games. I reflected upon an excellent paper called, Towards Minimalist Game Design from Rutgers University. There are a lot of interesting notes about game development in general in minimalist games and the way they abstract everything out to focus on the most significant aspects of the game for the player is something that we can learn a lot from. The ubiquity of games on mobile devices has resurrected these types of games.

One of the key notes in the paper is about the differences between perceived complexity and systemic complexity in games. It is always good to have low perceived complexity in a product, so do minimalist games but their systemic complexity is not necessarily low. This means they do not have to be very simple casual games. This idea has been tried out in different fields by expert designers, a lot of apple products such as the iPhone have benefited from such a view to product design.

There are references in the article to a great presentation by Jonathan Blow, "Conflicts in Game Design" which is quite fabulous. This talk discusses why games have not been able to have similar effects on their audience as novels or movies regarding emotional experiences. The conflicts mentioned here are mostly conflicts between gameplay and narrative. A highly recommended talk.

Other references are to articles by Ian Bogost. Puzzling the Sublime is one of the most interesting of these articles which investigates about the meaning of puzzle games. Sublime, being a word with roots in philosophy has been discussed by numerous philosophers including Kant. Sublime talks about a kind of aesthetics which can be found in unbounded phenomena and infinity. Hegel believed that the aesthetics of the excessive use of details in eastern and Islamic art are examples of the sublime. There is quite a lot to inspire from in these areas.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Enemies ... oh .. so wise!

For some reason the enemies of Batman have a lot of philosophical quotes! Joker had lots and this is my favorite one from Bane: "Victory has defeated you!"  ...aah ... how Victory can defeat people indeed... indeed ....

By the way, I feel that the recent Batman series are going down a kind of uncanny valley, once you get too deep in the meanings and become serious, then the guy wearing the strange custom and jumping around kind of feels out of place! Maybe super hero movies should find a different direction?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November Status

It has been a while since my last post, well, since the post before the last post. I should write more in general,  the main reason is that these writings are a chance for me to reflect on myself and assess my current status, these help me get out of the usual mold and see life from a different angle. Well, here it goes then.. what should I write about? hmmm.. lets see... I am just going to start from .. right .. here.. Infected Mushroom is playing now, the name of the song is "Nation of Wusses", how ironic... I'm going to start off with my son, my son is 4.5 years old now, he has changed quite a lot, in fact he changes every two weeks, it is all a quite an experience, the way he changes, the way he talks, the way he sees me and expects things from me, it all makes me want to try more to be a good role model for him, a real big challenge but really interesting. The wonderful thing is that we can now enjoy playing video games together, both on PS3 and the iPad, I remember what a wonderful joy it was for me when my father played a bit of Family Computer with me and my brother back in the 80s and the same memories enhance the joy I get from playing video games with my son.

Testament is playing now, Dragon Attack, just pure awesomeness. We spent yesterday and today working on Kuro mostly, two packed days of focused work on our side game project for the iOS devices. MLD has been exceptional and these days were a blast, looking forward to a productive day tomorrow, thanks to the very long weekend here. It is magical how much work can be done when there is an intense focus, not to forget about the wonderful accompanying music. The whole Garshasp project had a few of such events which defined its structure and were major leaps for the product in terms of quality and team morale.

Team morale, its all about the team, its all about the players, we've been always lucky to have great players around us, we've lost many, we've gained many, its all about great guys wanting to do great work. Its all about the process that matters. The process which runs on the foundation of great developers. "A" class people.

Pearl Jam is playing now and I couldn't be more happy. The latest Soundgarden album is great, not as magical as the old albums but still quite good for these days. Alice in Chains was around these days, fabulous, I don't know what really happened in the 90's in Seattle, but whatever it was, the result was the best musics of the world, period.

I am looking forward to Lakers this year, saw Kobe and Howard perform the Showtime! Kobe is just great, not quite Micheal Jordan but still good. They're gonna win it this year.

What am I writing about really? Nothing major, just reflecting.

There are quite a few areas that I researched about with enthusiasm recently. One was related to creativity. I had to talk about it a bit for the class that I had, read about it in un-related books and I attended one of the distant learning courses of Stanford about the subject. This is a very significant topic for life in general. The beauty of it is that it stems from the right hemisphere of the brain where it is all about magic and intuition. The part of the brain which reminds us to not be so analytic about everything. The scalability of creativity is what makes it super valuable with great lessons to learn from for small teams that can not compete with the big players in terms of money or experience. MNO introduced me to a wonderful presentation by Ken Stanley entitled: "Discovery without Objectives" which is quite related to the idea of the value of creativity and novelty. The presentation and the related papers about "Novelty Search" are exceptional. There is so much wisdom hidden underneath the concepts that can be used for diverse fields such as AI, Sociology, Science, Math and Psychology.

On the technical side of things, we've been pursuing an exciting new path to develop a brand new game engine with yzt for quite a while now, we hold regular code jam sessions and the progress of the core of the engine has been really well so far, I learn extensively from guru yzt in each session and this is a priceless experience. The code base is heavily based on C++11. The component system and basic features including the networking layer have been implemented so far, quite exciting. One big question mark is the rendering system. OGRE has been quite nice to use previously, but our extreme care towards performance might lead us to other solutions. We'll have to see. In one alternative universe stemming from a few days from now, yzt can develop a super efficient and capable graphics engine to act as the front end of the developing engine.

Wolfmother, oh so great! "Indukti... And who's the God Now?!" Words can't explain ....

This is going to be a bit shorter than I thought and will have to stop here.

Fundamentals of Game Development

I recently taught a course about the Fundamental of Game Development. It was an interesting experience for me, first of all because I was back in a class after about four years and secondly because it was the first time that I had a class about game development, a topic which is quite interesting for me these days and I've been involved with during the past 6 years. The great thing about teaching in a class is getting exposed to fresh new minds, trying to help them achieve their goals and also finding a time to reflect on yourself and your own status. Too much teaching is not something that would be good for me but a little is what I would need.

Here is a link to the course material I had prepared for this class:

Students ranged from people who were aiming to pursue their studies in different categories related to game development, some technical, some art and some related to game design. Quite diverse and the topics needed to be quite diverse also.Alas, this is the real beauty of game development!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Why do you make games?

Edge magazine had an article where they had asked 18 respected game creators "why they make games!". There are a few interesting answers but I found what Ken Levine had said super awesome and could not resist sharing it here.

"I make video games because it's difficult. We're still figuring out how they work. What other job in the world combines the coolest parts of the creative (art, script writing, etcetera) with an engineering challenge that is evolving every day? I work with a team of superheroes. It's the most beautiful thing in the world to watch them solve problems. The most challenging creative tasks imaginable get thrown at videogame developers, and they figure it out. How much have movies evolved in the last 20 years? TV? Theatre? Now think how much videogames have evolved. I make videogames to be able to work with the people who made that happen."

Ken Levine, Creative Director and Co-founder, Irrational Games

Friday, August 17, 2012

Video Game Optimization

Here is a link to the slides for the recent workshop I held on video game optimization:

Optimization presentation slides

Monday, August 06, 2012


Watching Carmack's keynote in QuakeCon2012 is really interesting in many ways:

1 - A case study of how you can maintain your energy in a 3.5 hour talk.
2 - Passion of a man.
3 - Respect for the audience.
4 - How context affects the relevance of phenomena.
5 - Lots of informative tidbits from a matured code guru.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Biz 101

I read recently that the Steam digital distribution portal is valued around 3 billion dollars. This is amazing and definitely a huge figure, although something that can be expected considering the un-imaginable success of the platform which has truly changed the PC games scene. The portal has been up for several years now and it has only improved every month.

I read another news recently that : "The Pentagon said Wednesday it planned to sell 60 Patriot missiles to Kuwait in a deal worth an estimated $4.2 billion, as the emirate tries to bolster its defenses against the threat from Iran." source

Now it seems that making some efforts to continue and turn a "Boogieman" out of a country and pull money out of arabs is a much much more beneficial business than years of hard work in one of the best studios of the world, Valve Software. I am certain there is even more serious technology behind Steam than the missiles.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Free Jungle

There is so much hype and news about the Free to Play model for games these days. Like anything else, it has its pros and cons but I'm afraid there is a serious issue with this model when you observe it from a grand scale.

Yes it is good to provide a free test for players so that they can see if they like the game or not, which is something that was always possible with free demos. It can fight piracy and make the players pay for things in the game by risking strange game design decisions sometimes, shoving different monetization methods into the players face. (I can not think how a game like god of war can use the new monetization methods).

The thing which is not usually talked about is the consumers time. Every potential target purchaser (spender might be a better term in the F2P model) has a limited time every day in the week. If this time is filled with useless noise, then thats it, no more time left. Browsing the infinite catalogs of free to play games, downloading them, checking them out for 30 minutes just to find out that you do or do not like them is the noise, you have already spent the time you had. The next day, lots of other new free to plays, you check them out, times up! The tendency to pay for a game is highly reduced for such a consumer while there is hope for a good free to play to show up one of these days and while there is a significant time consuming hunt in the free game world everyday.

In the traditional model, the consumer would browse game information, maybe watch a few videos and then decide about a game to purchase but in the new F2P model, the same consumer would try out the free game, try out the other one, try out the one after and then continue on the next day. Wandering in the free jungle.

I'm curious to see how things end up in a few years.

Friday, April 13, 2012

To Deal with the Devil

"I will empower you in return of your soul", this is a cultural motif which has been repeated in may told stories, books and more modern media. People with exceptional abilities who have sold their souls to the devil.

Even if there aren't any demons around to offer us the special powers and abilities for the price of our souls, still, the above statement works today and has probably carried a lot of meaning throughout different times. In order to see how, we need to look at the process from the opposite angle.

A person with a special talent or ability. Such a person has gained this talent, say a great musician or an exceptional sword fighter, through extensive practice and focus. Innate skills help but are usually not enough and some proper amount of time needs to be spent on mastering the ability (10,000 hours according to many people including the outliers book by Malcolm Gladwell). The only way for someone to find the discipline to follow such focused practice and hard work is only through love. Love for the specific craft or skill. A love which will lead the person into the psychological state of "flow" that will make him forget about the passing of time, his needs, social or physiological.

Events related to this person's goal, which is to return to the state of flow, by practicing the craft or art (music or swordsmanship) will matter and will pull the attention of this person, all else can be ignored and seem redundant.

Great feeling for this person, but how does the society view such a specialist? "Anti-social" is a polite word for describing this person, weird or selfish are what follows and it can go on until this person can be regarded as "Not a Person" or also known as a person with out a soul. How best to describe a person with no soul but to say that he has sold his soul to the devil. This way the society can feel relieved about the reasons for the exceptional talent too. In return of his soul, the devil has offered him such skills. Oh ... how dangerous this soul less creature should be! Lets define a mighty devil and be afraid of it in order to justify our own laziness. We were not able to achieve anything in this world but we should not worry since we have a soul that will live like a king in another world just because we deserve so but this man is really happy and able and different from us so he must have sold his soul and there is no eternal happiness for him. We are fine, we can sleep well, it is ok to be lazy and afraid.

Nietzsche's Uberman has been described as a free and powerful man which is frightened by normal people. Frightened? Sure, why not, this is a person following his own will, a will to follow the inner love, to focus on the inner desire and achieve special abilities that can be only achieved by listening to your heart only. Listening to your heart is usually in contrast with the structures and rules imposed by the society so you will resemble an outlaw, you will not follow the pre-specified routes designed for you in order to achieve what you feel needs to be achieved. To them, you seem different, anyone different from them should not be a human, or at best a human with no soul, someone to be afraid of, someone who has dealt with the devil. Keep away, keep away.

If you're serious about doing something and do not want to be regarded as the guy who has a diabolic contract hidden in a chest somewhere, you better learn how to be a good actor!

Friday, March 16, 2012