Bridging the Divide

Flew to Dallas this week to attend a talk by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) about improving the workplace environment for LGBTQ Workers. According the the HRC’s research only 46% of LGBTQ employees feel safe to be out at work. From personal experience it’s so much more enjoyable when you can bring your authentic self to work. No need to play “the pronoun game” when someone asks you what you did this weekend. You don’t have to remember who you’re out to and who you’re not out to. This is a distraction and sometimes isolating because you avoid the conversations. It can be exhausting and has an effect on productivity and engagement. Hope to turn this information into a presentation for other managers at work so that we can promote a safe work environment for our LGBTQ employees.

Yet Another Steve Jobs Blog Post

There’s been a lot of reflection this week on the Internet about Steve Job’s passing. It’s funny, I’ve never been a big Apple fan until recently and yet I see the influence that Steve had on my life.

It all started in 1983 when a friend of mine received an Apple II computer and also bought Ultima III. That was my first big exposure to computer video games. We had all played the Atari 2600 back then, but Ultima was different. It was more complex. It was more interesting than the twitch experience you got with the Atari. This was the spark that lead me down the video game path that eventually I made my career.


Recently, Steve’s ability to have a vision and have his team or company execute on that vision is what I paid attention to more. His carisma. His presentation style. His presence.

One of my favorite stories about Steve was told on the Triumph of the Nerds documentary. One of the engineers on the original Macintosh team said that Steve came to the team demanding that the Macintosh boot five seconds faster. “Do you know how many people are going to buy this computer? Millions. If you can get it to boot five seconds faster times a million people. That’s 50 lives. If you can get it booting five seconds faster that’s like saving 50 lives.” It was something that stuck with me over the years and I ended up using it several times on the load times for our games. I would always attribute it back to Steve Jobs and the original Macintosh, but it was always a great story to tell.

Steve Jobs was an amazing visionary. I was amazed how much his death affected me this week. Maybe it was that his passing reminds us all that our time on this Earth is limited and we need to live each day to our fullest.

At the Controls on TWiT

On July 15th, I appeared on TWiT’s new video game podcast “At the Controls”. It was one of their “alpha” test run episodes, so it wasn’t actually put out as a podcast, but is available on YouTube (see below).

This was a personal accomplishment for me. I have been a fan of Leo Laporte and the TWiT network since the very first podcast. Not to mention a daily viewer of The Screen Savers back in the day. Another thing that made it special was it was one of the last shows to appear in the old TWiT Cottage before they moved to their new studio, the TWiT Brick House.

Hardware Upgrade through Unlock Code

Intel has made an interesting move lately by allowing a user to “upgrade” their computer by purchasing a product key which you enter into the BIOS and it will unlock hardware which is turned off by default. What that means is that the computer that the user bought is capable for more speed, but they’ve downgraded it.

I don’t know how to react to this. My initial reaction is outrage. How could they sell you something that is capable of more and force you to pay more to unlock it. Then I started to think more about it. It allows the customer to initially get into the new hardware at a lower cost and then the ease of upgrade is much easier. At least they aren’t doing something where the “upgrade” is only for a year and then it turns itself off.

This led me to gaming consoles. What would happen if Microsoft took this approach with the Xbox 360? In a way they do this already. While the Xbox 360 is network capable, you can’t play online unless you subscribe to Xbox LIVE. In a way, this is an upgrade, and it’s an annual cost.

So, perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing at all, but it still doesn’t sit with me well. It seems dirty somehow.

IGDA Presentation – Madden Ultimate Team Review

I had the pleasure to speak at the September IGDA meeting giving a development review of Madden Ultimate Team. I was fairly certain that the game community hadn’t heard of Madden Ultimate Team and it was a good chance to reflect on how the Free to Play model could be applied to a football game. I gave an overview of the game mode itself and talked a little bit about the development, how we were on a shortened schedule having to get it out by the end of the football season. Then gave an overview of the Free to Play model and how Madden Ultimate Team related to that. The bulk of the questions that I received after the talk were about the economy that we had created in Madden. I had explained how Madden Ultimate Team was a closed economy where we knew exactly the “gains” and “drains” were and we were able to regulate the amount of coins by controlling the amount the user gain and how many contracts a new card now has.

Overall, I’m looking forward to participating more with IGDA. Coming from Austin, where there is a large game community, I think we could do better here in Orlando. We need to come together and start building that entrepreneurial spirit here so that more companies will form or move to Orlando.

Right now IGDA is having a membership drive through October. If you aren’t a member and are in the Orlando area, go to the IGDA web site and join or re-new your membership. The chapter who has the most join (or re-new) over the next two months will receive a party with a game developing luminary. I know who, but can’t tell. All I can say is that it would be worth it.

Madden Gras

Had a great time at our media launch for Madden NFL 11, on Monday August 9th. It took place in New Orleans on the eve of the release of the game. We had a special VIP area which several PS3 kiosks running Madden on them. While I was playing a game I was impromptu interviewed by a local television station. I talked about our major feature, GameFlow, and answered a few other questions like who the highest rated team was in Madden.

Down below in the street, GameSpot had tents set up where people could get their first hands on Madden NFL 11. There was also a stage with a band playing. People were playing games trying to win Madden Gras t-shirts.

In the afternoon, it was my turn to get interviewed by our live USTREAM coverage of the event. There is a video of the recording and my part starts at 02:35:00. I gave a “shout out” to the server team back in Orlando who was still hard at work trying to make sure our servers maddengras_ustreamwouldn’t melt down on launch night. I talked about various features on our server driven features and that was it. It went pretty quick, but I had a fun time doing it. Would love to start doing more media events like this in the future.

After a late lunch, the floats arrived and we got on board the last one in line. The football player guests we had, Marcus Allen, Deuce McAllister, and Marshall Faulk, were in the lead float. We rode on the float for several blocks, down Bourbon street, ending up in Jackson Square, where another huge stage had been constructed. The floats were loaded with boxes full of t-shirts, beads, cups, and koozies. We threw them out to the crowd as we rode down the parade route. It was awesome. Phillip Holt, the General Manager for EA – Tiburon said it best, “Riding a float and throwing beads down Bourbon Street needs to make your bucket list.”