THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN

Look, it’s as surprising to me as it might be to you but I got front row tickets to Letterman today. I attended tonight’s show with Joel. Ellen Degeneres was one of the guests.

Joel and I were both on camera when Alan Kalter aka “Big Red” did his dancing up the aisles. That happened within the first 15 minutes of the show. Look for me tonight!

US OPEN DAY ONE

So I attended my very first professional tennis tournament today. After watching the US Open on TV for well over two decades, I was able to go to the venue in person.

In the daytime, Joel and I saw both Roger Federer and Justine Henin play. Each number one seed dispatched their first-round opponents in short order. It was kinda surreal seeing them play with my own eyes. They’re actually real people!

At night, we were there to see a special ceremony honouring Althea Gibson, the first African-American woman to win the Open. As part of the ceremonies, Aretha Franklin performed live!

The night matches featured both of the Williams sisters. Venus defeated her opponent easily while Sarena had a bit more trouble with hers but came through in the end.

I have movies and pics from the day but I’ll have to wait until I get back home to post those.

FIND ME A POOF

Look, I think it’s bad form to blog while drunk, so it’s a good thing I’m completely sober right now… no seriously, I am. Joel showed me a good time tonight. At 2:30am in the morning we went to a 24 hour drug store, part of the Duane Reid chain. Upon entering the store, he commanded me to:

“Find me a poof!”

Joel wanted a shower poof because it lathers so well. I found one but it was purple, he didn’t like that so I had to get a blue one for him. He said the purple one was too feminine.

That is all.

MUSEUM MILE

I didn’t do too much in my first full day in Manhattan. Joel and I both woke up late. By the time we went out for breakfast, it turned out to be almost noon.

Joel had some work to do at the home office, so I was going to spend the afternoon by myself. After “breakfast”, we came back to Joel’s place so I could get my stuff. I briefly lied down to read my guidebook and promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours. I knew I was exhausted.

Anyways, I got up in time to head over on to the “Museum Mile” or Fifth Avenue, where a lot of museums are located. First up was the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which appealed to my engineering background. Several of their exhibits were closed, however, which was unfortunate.

Next up was the iconic Guggenheim Museum, except it didn’t look too iconic to me since the outside was covered in scaffolding. Nevertheless, it was several floors of interesting, thought-provoking, and beautiful art. I rather enjoyed the Richard Pousette-Dart collection.

Tonight, Joel is promising to take me to Times Square, which should be fun. I hope we go to Red Lobster!

I MADE IT

So I’m blogging from Joel Manor tonight. I made it safely to Manhattan after a less than ideal flight. People might complain that flying with babies is bad but I think sitting next to two kids, about four and two is worse. While babies can be loud, they can’t spill drinks on you, like this little girl did. She also had no clue about personal space and loved to kick my leg. Luckily, she slept for half the flight.

Let’s hope that’s the worst part of the vacation.

OFF TO MANHATTAN

Well, I’m flying to New York City today. It’s day two of my “imposed” vacation. At the end of almost every EA project, managers will strongly suggest you take some paid time off. Most people don’t argue. I’ll be in Manhattan for one week. I’ll staying at Joel’s place, just blocks away from Central Park. Joel is of course, everyone’s favourite lawyer in the Big Apple.

Given how exhausted I am, I’m considerably less energized about this trip compared to my initial adventure in NYC back in 1997. Nonetheless, it will be nice to see Joel and to catch a few matches at the US Open tennis tournament. If you add in a few nights of restful sleep in there, I’d consider it a successful trip. It’ll be a bit different compared to my last trip where I tried to cram in every touristy NYC thing you could experience. I might go see Rupert Gee one more time at the Hello Deli.

It will also be the first time I’ve been on a plane since 2003 when I went to New Orleans. Man, I travel a lot less as an adult now compared to when I was a teenager or in my early 20s. Despite the fact I’m stuck in economy for the outboud leg of my journey, I’m looking forward to these new fangled personal video displays they have on planes now. I’ve already picked out my first movie to watch… Blades of Glory, starring funnyman Will Ferrell. On my way home to Vancouver, my mom managed to snag me a business class seat. Check out the crazy configurations Cathay has in their business class section. I get an ottoman to put my feet up on.

Anyways, I still have some stuff to pack. Blog posts will be infrequent over the next seven days. I am sure I’ll check in every couple of days. Stay tuned!

SATISFACTION

So before I went to sleep last night, I setup my Xbox 360 to do an automatic download of the skate. demo. When I awoke, my powered down 360 indicated the download had finished. I wasted no time in launching the demo straight out of bed, leaving myself in my Spider-Man pyjamas.

Now I had played the demo several times over at work, so I wasn’t really sure what was driving me to play so eagerly at home. Perhaps it was because I simpy could play at home that did it. Anyways, it was a bit surreal, as I had expected, to see the game on my home system. It was work mixing with home life, worlds colliding as George Costanza once said. When I got to the parts of the demo I helped write, I realized that was indeed my code being executed by my 360 at those moments. Weird.

I didn’t have time to finish the demo as I had to get my butt to the studio to see if there were any emergencies. When I rolled in, there were a lot of empty desks. A large part of the team had been at work until the wee hours of morning. Some people were overseeing the demo launch, while others were applying critical fixes to the final game.

I wasn’t needed for anything so, like most of the team, I began forum and web site surfing to find out what people were saying about the demo. My first stop was a site called Planet Tony Hawk. For a web site that caters to the Tony Hawk series of games, I wasn’t expecting a even-handed analysis. I was wrong. In a short article about the demo, here were some interesting bits:

“The SKATE demo did amaze and impress me.”

“I think SKATE does skateboarding simulation very well. The best so far without a doubt.”

“Could [THPG] be the game to challenge SKATE when it lands? We can only hope so because as of this moment…Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground does have a lot to prove.”

Reading that made me feel good about what we were offering gamers. I also checked the official skate. forums on the EA servers. There was a lot of praise there, almost universal. There were a few complaints about the camera but not a lot of negatives. Several times, I read that we exceeded their expectations.

I decided I wanted to read what was being written on a more neutral site, so I headed on over to the skate. forums on Gamespot. Here, there was again lots of positive comments but more people bitching compared to the EA forums. The biggest complaint was that they didn’t like the controls because they couldn’t master them in the first five minutes of gameplay. Of course, posters with those complaints got immediately flamed by others with the general message being “the controls aren’t bad or broken, you just suck at the game.”

Finally, just for fun, I took a look at the Tony Hawk Proving Ground forums on Gamespot to see what Hawk fans thought of our demo. It was there that I encountered an outlandishly fanboy style post. The poster decided right then and there that he would purchase Proving Ground sight unseen because he didn’t like the skate. demo. He didn’t like how you can’t get off the board in skate. and he was absolutely convinced you would get stuck in lots of places in the world because he was the first guy to realize this. He also didn’t like how there’s the possibility you might not do every trick perfectly the first time you attempt it. The game is just too complex for him. He also didn’t like the music (which you can turn off or play your own).

I expect stuff like this but I’m also not blinded to the fact there are a hell of a lot of skate. fanboys too who rag on Proving Ground any chance they get.

Overall, it was a great day for the skate. dev team. People were excited and they really enjoyed the demo. The awesome thing is, we only gave them a small slice of what’s in the full game. There’s so much more they don’t even know about. I don’t want to count my Jennas before they get anorexic but I think we’re gonna do ok. We just need to get the final game out the door smoothly and we’ll be ok.

skate. DEMO ON XBOX LIVE MARKETPLACE TODAY

In approximately two hours, the demo for skate. will be available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for download. It will be a small taste of what I’ve been working on for over for a year. I’m quite pleased with what we are offering the public in this demo. It gives them a good feel of what the game is all about. There’s enough depth to keep people interested and entertained but when it’s over, they’ll want more… all signs of a good game demo.

There are some hardcore people waiting for this demo. If you read the message boards, you’ll find some dudes who have had very little sleep in the last two days. They’re all waiting for 2am PST to drop. One guy said he’s gonna to take some Nyquil so that he can sleep the remaining time away. Didn’t I see a similar strategy in a South Park episode? Anyways, it’s exciting for me to read all of that. People actually care about the stuff I’m working on and that’s kinda cool.

So the interesting question is, will I download the demo for my own Xbox 360? Keep in mind, I have access to the full game at work and have played it for many, many months. The answer interestingly enough, is yes, I will download the demo. The reason is because it will be absolutely surreal seeing and hearing that tutorial skater on my home LCD. It’ll be just completely odd but at the same time awesome that I’ll be busting out 360 flips at home.

I may not start my download at the stroke of 2am but I’ll probably start it before I go to work on Tuesday morning. If you own an Xbox 360, I invite you to download the skate. demo. It’s the best game I’ve worked on by far. You don’t have to like it but at least give it a try!

EASIN' BACK

I can tell the game is almost done because I actually had time to go to the movies tonight. Nearly two months after everyone else saw it, I finally viewed The Transformers. While everyone else takes for granted movie-going as a simple and easy way to be entertained, I was genuinely delighted just to be in a movie theatre.

I technically did no work on the weekend either. Though I did stop in at the studio on both days of the weekend, it was just to check up on things and to see if I was need to put in a fix for something. I wasn’t needed either day, so on Saturday, it was off to Nigel’s b-day dinner and on Sunday, it was off to do some shopping downtown.

A couple more days and skate. will be done.