This War of Mine

December 11th, 2014

This War of Mine is to games what Schindler’s List is to movies – a depressingly beautiful experience that makes you think hard for a long time and possibly changes your life.


The game is a simulation of what regular civilians, like you and me, went through during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 90’s. It’s very dark and realistic in it’s depiction of the brutalities of war, and I actually cried once while playing. The art style is phenomenal, most everything is black & white, they did a great job with the animations.

The gameplay is a rogue-like sidescroller that involves a lot of crafting, inventory management, and stealth/combat mechanics, and it’s really fun. Everything you do is a difficult decision and since the game autosaves, and you only get one save file, you either finish the game accepting the consequences of your actions or start over from the beginning. I’m still shocked at how much empathy this game can generate from me regarding the characters. Over the last couple of weeks, I have become thankful for every meal and luxury (heat/running water/wine/etc) I have had. STRONGLY recommend trying this out. This is a game I will point to in the future when I have to explain to someone why games are a form of art.

Game is available on Steam:

P.S. You will most likely lose your first couple of games.

Really Cool Game About Diversity

December 8th, 2014

Most of the time, games for learning do a terrible job of being fun and fall flat on their face. But every now and then a gem appears that really teaches you something powerful, and it does it in a way that would otherwise not be possible without the interactivity of a game system. A co-worker of mine just shot out this really cool link for a game that teaches us some very powerful lessons on diversity:

Parable of the Polygons (

Here’s a brief summary of what it teaches: Small individual biases can lead to a large collective bias, and it takes effort rather than simply tolerating the status quo to be able to make real change happen. The simulation is based off of the work Thomas Schelling did to demonstrate racial segregation patterns, though it can be applied to any kind of diversity. If that interests you, take 10 min and play with the simulations on the page.

Hope you enjoy it and learn as much as I did! :)

1000 hours of Civ 5 and I still love it!

May 5th, 2014

Last night I hit a milestone. I spent my 1000th hour playing Civilization 5. This game has owned me hard, almost as hard as Super Smash Bros Melee did a dozen or so years ago. I spent some time reflecting on why I love the game so much, and things that I would love to see improved. Dirty secret — I have beaten Immortal a few times, but I’ve never beaten Deity! :(

I love the fact that you can play peacefully and have a full game. It is very difficult to create a fulfilling peace-based experience in a tactical turn-based strategy game with such a robust and important combat system. Admittedly, the late game suffers from the “just click Next Turn again” problem sometimes, but I feel that on the higher difficulties I really get down to the wire even when doing a diplomatic or science victory and I have to pay careful attention to managing my empire to prevent AIs from sneaking in. Cultural victory is my favorite type, and it seems to be the hardest to achieve. One of the things I dislike is that there are only a set number of things you can do to increase your Tourism modifier with other civs, and Open Borders requires both parties to agree (which will never happen in a multiplayer game). I think if Open Borders gave a different awesome benefit, such as increasing (maybe doubling?) amount of gold and science income from trade routes to that player, then it would become attractive even in multiplayer games with only humans and make culture victory more viable. Right now it’s just too easy to deny a few of the key wonders and culture spam.

The UI is really clean and does a great job of introducing the game to new players. There’s only one thing you need to remember – the button at the bottom right of your screen tells you everything you must do before your turn ends. All other actions, such as managing your citizens /specialists, are optional, albeit important for succeeding at higher difficulties. I am currently using the Enhanced UI DLC and I LOVE the way it shows you what tiles a city is working and what it will grow into just by hovering over the city name. I’m not crazy about how smooshed the condensed UI at the top looks, but it does some cool things like telling you how many turns for your next Great Person and which kind it will be.

I do wish that the espionage and diplomacy systems were expanded a bit more. I have a good bit of options in the diplomacy screen, but it would be great to have some more nuanced options like allowing Open Borders only for certain types of units (military, civilian, etc) or multiple levels of declaration of friendship that give varying benefits (trade partners, science buddies, culture sharing, etc). Also I’d love to specify the amount of time something will last instead of it being a fixed 30 turns all the time. I also think the game would benefit from not allowing flat gold trading for per-turn things (like luxuries), as that is the most optimal thing to do pretty much at all times if possible when playing vs AI. As for espionage, I want more things to do in an enemy city. Let me blow buildings up or sow discontent. Let me assassinate specialists or sabotage great people production. These kinds of things would make Constabularies and Police Stations so much more important and viable for everyone. And these kinds of activities, when discovered, would carry much harsher diplomacy penalties potentially even world-wide.

Social Policies are a huge win for me. I see nothing bad about them, and it’s fun to customize your empire. Sure, there are some balance issues (I’m looking at you, Tradition!!) but unless you are playing at the highest difficulties you can try any strategy. I also really love how the Ideology choice around the Industrial/Modern era turns the world into a 3-way world war. It’s really exciting!

So in conclusion, after 1000+ hours of playing Civ 5 I am still hooked. It is my favorite turn-based strategy game of all time, even replacing the previous reigning champion Master of Orion II which was my favorite for 17 years (since 1996!). Kudos to you Firaxis, your game is awesome! :)

I am super excited for GaymerX2!!!

March 20th, 2014

So last year I had the chance to go to GaymerX and it was truly the most awesome conference I’ve ever been to. I enjoy GDC, PAX, PAX East, SIEGE Con, etc … but I have always felt maybe just a little out of place in all of those just because I’m gay. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never experienced homophobia at any of them, but I also wouldn’t have felt 100% comfortable going up to a guy I find attractive and saying “Hey man, wanna grab a coffee and talk about which boss is best to fight first in Mega Man 2?”

GaymerX changed that for me. I didn’t even know it was missing in my life. I knew I always felt a little out of place as a gay guy at gamer cons, and I knew I always felt a little out of place as a gamer at gay events (don’t get me started on West Hollywood bars…). But I didn’t realize the sheer magnitude of just how out of place I felt in both of these worlds until I went to GaymerX. It was like a whole new world opened up for me. There has literally never been a time and place where I felt more comfortable being me – a total geek gaymer!!

Needless to say, I am super stoked about GaymerX2 ( and I can’t wait for July! I had so much fun at the last one, and I have full confidence that this next one will be just as incredible! Here’s to gayming!! *lifts glass of red wine*

Riot Games is an amazing company!

January 7th, 2011

Hello everyone! So in a previous post I said I would talk more about getting hired by Riot Games.

It all started way back with the League of Legends beta release. I got in and played the hell out of the game. I was obsessed, just like I used to be with DotA. So when I went to volunteer at GDC last year, I decided to run a League of Legends tournament for all of the CAs. I contacted Jeff Jew at Riot Games to see if any of the Riot guys would be willing to visit and if they had any schwag I could use as prizes.

Well, not only did Jeff Jew show up, but ELEVEN OTHER RIOT GUYS CAME! Holy crap! It was like a dream come true for so many people. We had laptops set up everywhere and there were at least 40 people playing LoL at any given time. We had a huge 5v5 Riot VS CAs match. All in all the event was a blast, and as thanks for preparing it they invited me to their recruitment party.

While there, I met many Riot employees and they discovered that I did Flash programming. I had no idea that Flash coders could even get a job in anything but the casual/kids section of the game industry, but apparently almost all of the triple-AAA studios use a 3rd party solution called ScaleformGFX for their user interface solution. The way Scaleform works is that you can code the entire UI in Flash using the IDE as well as Actionscript code, and then the Scaleform player runs during your game simulating the way a Flash player behaves in a browser. The unfortunate part is that Scaleform currently only supports Actionscript 2.0, which is a horrible language for most developers. But, to make a long story a little shorter, that is the reason I now work for Riot Games. They needed a Flash developer to take over the UI coding, and I was at the right place at the right time and proved my passion for the game by spending my spare time running a huge tournament to show my support.

This just goes to show that networking is the absolute 100% most vital aspect to getting a job in the game industry. I had met Jeff Jew and played in-game with him once, and he remembered me because while I was in school another Riot employee, Steve Snow, used to come speak at our school and I mentioned that fact. As a result, when I decided to run the tournament, I was able to use my previous networking and send Jeff an email and that resulted in the entire chain of events that eventually led to my employment.

And I have to say, this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Riot Games is the most incredible company I’ve ever worked for. If you add up how happy and fulfilled I was at every job I’ve ever had in the past, it would be a fraction of how happy and fulfilled I am at Riot after just 6 months on the job. Despite tackling immensely difficult problems the likes of which I’ve never seen before, I don’t feel like I’ve “worked” a single day here. I look forward to going in and seeing my awesome and amazingly talented co-workers, and I face satisfying challenges every day! I am the kind of person whereby, in a job, if I don’t get copious amounts of extremely difficult to solve problems and challenges on a daily basis, I get bored very easily. Keep the hard work piling in on me and I’m happy as a kid in a playground. The best part is that the design department is extremely open about including non-design department employees as participants in their discussions. I love game design, but I was hired as a programmer, so that’s my first responsibility. But everyone is encouraged to submit champion ideas (of which I’ve submitted 4 already), provide feedback on any aspect of the game including balance, and play in the play tests that we run every single day to do a massive crowd-sourced QA and design/balance sweep of the game. Since we’re running the game as a service that updates every 2 weeks, the latter is the most important part of the puzzle.

Anyway, this post is turning into a novel. To conclude, I will say to anyone who is interested in working at Riot Games, we have quite possibly the best company the game industry has ever seen. We only hire strong, talented, alpha personality people who check their egos at the door, and I’ve never worked with a more cohesive and impressive group of individuals. The company is very demanding of time and effort, but they are also very generous and recognize those efforts on a regular basis. The leadership is also extremely transparent – you know exactly where you stand at all times, and I have yet to experience any sort of politics. Everyone in the company is treated as an equal, from the QA interns to the programmers to the CEO & President.

I love Riot Games! :)

GDC 2011

January 5th, 2011

YES! I just got my acceptance letter to attend GDC 2011 as a Conference Associate! For those of you who don’t know, Conference Associates (or CAs for short) are the volunteers that help run GDC. It’s a fantastic program that I’ve talked about before on my blog here and here. Needless to say, I am very excited about volunteering again this year! I miss all the CAs a lot. We’re kind of like a big family, and I love seeing them all every year!

I strongly encourage any of you out there who are trying to get your foot in the door of the game industry to apply for a volunteer position next year. It’s too late for GDC 2011, but applications open up around November of the year previous to each conference. They make their final selections in early January, which gives you a good chance to get a great deal on a plane ticket. The application form is always on the Volunteer Page on the main GDC website. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

This is going to be an especially fun year for me in particular as well, since I’m turning 30 at the GDC! I have the feeling I’m going to be partying quite late that night, most likely with a bunch of CAs and my new co-workers at Riot! I think this year I’ll try to take some pictures and post them with my GDC 2011 Final Thoughts post. If you’re going to be attending, see you there!

Steam Christmas Game Sale

January 1st, 2011

So League of Legends has obsessed my life since I got hired by Riot Games back in May 2010. I’ve been pretty remiss in my game playing lately, pretty much exclusively playing LoL and not really exploring any other games or even paying that much attention to what games have been coming out. In my defense, League of Legends is a really addictive game and I’m also on a high right now from having started to work at Riot. But what better way to bring in the new year than with a ton of new games to play? So, I made it my new year’s resolution to play a bunch of other games in addition to League of Legends.

Starting December 20th and ending tomorrow, January 2nd, Steam has had a crapload of games on sale. Pretty much their entire collection is slashed anywhere from 25-90% off. This was a little bit of a wake up call to me as I saw a whole bunch of games I’ve been meaning to play at some point but put off due to League of Legends. I strongly recommend to all of you to peruse what’s available as they have something for everyone. The Indie packs were particularly cool – you can get 5 indie games for $5. Not a bad deal! Here’s the list of games I purchased:

That’s 23 (EDIT: Now 25) games that I bought, everything from triple-A studio titles to indie horror games to casual puzzle games you can beat in 2 hours. How much did I pay? Grand total just under $84 (EDIT: Now $99). Yes that’s right, $84, or for you math majors, less than $4 per game on average. Holy bargain bin, Batman!!!

Anyway, go hit it up while you can. The sale ends tomorrow!!!

I’ll be posting reviews of these games as I finish them. Until then… Happy new year!!!

EDIT: I bought Team Fortress 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2 Platinum as well, bringing the total to just under $100. Still an amazing deal, as I have some huge titles on there as well as a ton of indie/casual/smaller titles.

Some More C++ Resources

December 27th, 2010

Hello all!

It’s been a while since I posted last. I’ve had a fantastic move to California to join Riot Games (will discuss more in future post) so I’ve been kind of busy. :)

Over the Christmas holiday, I decided it was time I finally teach myself C++ for real, in particular how to use DirectX. I had a class on it in college, but it was very introductory so I don’t think that will suit my purpose (plus I forgot a lot of it).

Here are two websites I just recently discovered. I’ve been going through the tutorials for the past couple days and they are quite good so far. I’ll do a more thorough analysis later.

Learn C++ (
DirectX Tutorial ( – Note that the DirectX 10 & 11 tutorials won’t apply to Windows XP, and DirectX 9 is just fine for just about everything you’d want to do probably, so stick with the DirectX 9 one.

Making A Game Company – Part 2: Getting Your EIN

February 12th, 2010

Whenever you work for someone as an employee or as a contractor working under your own name, you have to use your social security number for tax purposes. In some cases it is unavoidable, but whenever you can avoid it you should. This is one such case. Hopefully, your new game company will be hired to do some work and you’ll make some money. When this happens, you’ll have to pay taxes, and as a result you’ll need to use a form of identification with the IRS. This is called an Employer ID Number, or EIN for short. I’ve listed the steps below, but please be sure to read every page as you go along in the process instead of just blindly following them. You’re here to learn too, and plus my instructions below do not qualify as legal or business advice. :)

STEP 1: Go to

STEP 2: Click “Begin Application >>”.

STEP 3: Since you are applying for an EIN with your LLC, select the “Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)” option and press “Continue >>”.

STEP 4: Read the next page and press “Continue >>”.

STEP 5: Enter the number of members in the LLC (this will be 1 if it’s just you) and choose the state you are in (this will probably be Georgia if you are following my tutorial, but pick whatever state you filed your corporation in). Then press “Continue >>”.

STEP 6: Read the next page, then press “Continue >>”.

STEP 7: Select the “Started a new business” option from the next page, then press “Continue >>”.

STEP 8: You should now be on the AUTHENTICATE portion of the process (there is a dark blue bar labeled “Your Progress” above the page content at all parts) and you should see a check mark next to IDENTIFY. Select “Individual” as the responsible party of the LLC, and press “Continue”.

STEP 9: Type in your name and SS# in the next page, then choose the option below that section labeled “I am one of the owners, members, or the managing member of this LLC.” Then press “Continue >>”.

STEP 10: You should now be in the ADDRESSES portion of the process. Type your address and phone number into the next page, then press “Continue >>”.

STEP 11: You should now be in the DETAILS portion of the process. Type in the exact name of your LLC, including the word “LLC” at the end of it. I typed “Fruitstrike Games LLC”. The county should have been automatically filled in for you, but in case it wasn’t, type it in all caps. Enter your state into both of the state sections (I put Georgia here obviously). Finally, enter the month and year that your LLC was created. I put December 2009. Then press “Continue >>”.

STEP 12: The next page has a bunch of questions about your business, but if you are making a game company you should be answering “No” to all of them. Unless maybe you are making a game about gambling/wagering, then you should probably stop following my tutorial and seek legal counsel. :) … But if you feel confident that gambling/wagering is not part of your project, like I do, then you can say “No” to all of them and press “Continue >>”. I also had to read about Form 720 just in case, but after going through that huge list I saw nothing that remotely applied to my game business.

STEP 13: It asks you to select what category your business belongs in on the next page, but none of them really applied to a game company, or even software in general. So select “Other” at the bottom and press “Continue >>”.

STEP 14: Since you are making games, you are doing either Consulting or Service. The key is that the next page asks you to select the one that BEST describes your business activity. Since I am making games under my company’s name, I am providing a Service. If I were recommending people or giving advice or guidance, which may very well be the case if you are doing game design for someone with no tangible product, I would be Consulting. You can feel free to choose either, but I am guessing 98% of the time since you are building your own business you are probably going to be building games and selling them, so you should be selecting Service. That applies to me too, so I selected “Service” from the options, and then hit “Continue >>”.

STEP 15: The next page asks you to input into the text field what primary service you are providing. I entered “Game Software” (which should also be applicable to you) and pressed “Continue >>”.

STEP 16: You should be on the final portion of your progress now, EIN CONFIRMATION. You can obviously choose either option at this point, but since I live in my computer I selected to receive my letter online. Whichever you choose, press “Continue >>”.

STEP 17: Read the final page, then press “Submit”. Voila! You’re done!

See? That wasn’t so hard. Now you have an EIN for your business and you’ll be able to do the next step in the process – getting a bank account for your business. You have to have a bank account in order to receive money as the business, and to get one you need the EIN.

One last special note, your EIN isn’t effective with the IRS for up to 2 weeks after you apply. It’s official as soon as you receive your confirmation letter, but it might not be in their electronic systems immediately. You can get a bank account, but you can’t file taxes online, etc, using it just yet. Therefore, if you plan on filing taxes online with your EIN for your business, make sure you do it at least a month in advance of tax month.

Dear Dragon Age, Can I Have My Life Back?

December 26th, 2009

Yes, I admit it. I am one of the multitude of people who have been completely enraptured by the brilliance that is Dragon Age: Origins. Or maybe I should say enslaved? I beat it over a month ago, yet I am still playing it in most of my spare time. The game is so chock full of content that even when you win for the first time you have only experienced half of everything possible!

On the surface, the game just seems like a mildly beefed up version of Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate. Better graphics, more cutscenes, a new set of non-D&D classes, etc. But once you peel back that layer of first impressions and start to experience the guts of the game, you will be sucked into an epic, movie-quality story where your emotions are on a roller-coaster ride and you feel a very real vested interest in the outcome. I CRIED at the end of the game. As in, real tears streaming down my face! The full waterworks! ME!!! I’m usually just a gaming drone, trying to analyze the game system to get in the developers brain and then consequently min/max and find the most efficient way of defeating the game to earn my achievements or complete my goals. But not this game! Oh no, I lost myself in the tale that was woven around every decision I made. It helped that I made a character similar to myself, and that I made all the in-game decisions that I would make in real life. By the end, I was so deeply entrenched in this fantasy world in which I had forged myself into a legend through my actions that I cared more about what happened in the story more than whether or not I would get an extra +1 spellpower by equipping this staff or those robes.

And the story is just one of the many wonderful features this game possesses. Every one of the major companion characters (and there are 9 of them that can travel with you for a majority of the game) is incredibly complex. Just like the game itself, each of them seems like a blatant fantasy game stereotype when you are first introduced. But after just a small amount of time with them, they each begin to unfold into something you didn’t quite expect. The nuances of their personalities shine through in their dialogue with you and each other as well as their approval and disapproval of the choices you make. Just like most people I know in real life, these companions are strange compilations of traits that often contradict themselves and offer a deep richness not usually found in games. I grew to care about them even though I knew that their personalities were made of nothing but 0’s and 1’s, and when they disapproved of my decisions I felt genuinely bad!

The game is very dark and very mature, but it’s not all death and serious topics. There are some very humorous parts, things I would chuckle about for days. In particular, Shale the golem (part of the downloadable content called The Stone Prisoner) is an absolute hoot! I can’t tell you how many times I cracked up from some snarky comment spoken in that ridiculous golem voice with a british accent. Shale takes pride in being a cold-hearted killer of “squishier” beings like humans. My favorite line?

Leliana: You aren’t all stone, Shale. There is a person inside of you.
Shale: If so, it is because I ate him.

I still laugh about that one. If you take Shale with you through your adventures (which I highly recommend) you will be treated to all sorts of hilarious dialogues and one-liners.

Bioware also deserves some serious kudos for being brave and including GLBT content in the game. The fact that 2 of the 4 romanceable companions are bisexual and willing to engage in same-sex relationships speaks highly of Bioware‘s maturity and the progressive attitudes of the content creators. While I think the love-making cutscenes are generally cheesy and I couldn’t help but laugh at every single one of them, I am proud that they decided to include the possibility of gay romances without forcing it on the player. Like The Sims, it is up to the player to decide whether he or she wishes to engage in that kind of content.

I could probably write an entire book dissecting all the aspects of this game that I want to talk about–the equipment system, the achievements, the codex entries, the side quests, the talents & spells, the modding tools, etc. But then how would I have time to go experience the rest of the content I haven’t finished? :) This is a game that you do NOT want to miss out on. If you haven’t already purchased it, go out and buy it right now, or download it from Direct2Drive or some other online service. Be sure to get the PC version, as the game is best played with a mouse. I’ve tried it on the Xbox 360 and the controls feel completely clunky in comparison.

Hats off to you Bioware. You have stolen my life yet again. I would classify this as the best storyline I have ever experienced in a game. Ever. I’ll be playing this for quite some time to come. Oh well… off to kill more darkspawn!