Topic: Work Stuff
What'll we do to sell PAC-MAN?
As the early 1920's baking soda ad goes (and, no, it's not an actual Chinese proverb) One Picture is Worth Ten Thousand Words:
Are we proud? Heck, no!
What'll we do to sell PAC-MAN?
As the early 1920's baking soda ad goes (and, no, it's not an actual Chinese proverb) One Picture is Worth Ten Thousand Words:
Are we proud? Heck, no!
Today is the day I head for L.A. for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. This is the big video game industry trade show where vritually everyone previews their new wares and tries to show that theirs is bigger than everyone else's.
The show actually start tomorrow (Wednesday), so today is just about getting to L.A. and getting ready. I met Scott Rubin at LAX and we caught a cab to our hotel: the Omni. All was fairly uneventful until after lunch, when we tried to get a cab to the Convention Center, but found ourselves in a real-life comedy routine with three cab driver, the first of whom would not take us because we were carrying fast food to our co-workers Amy and Katherine. So, we tried the second cab, and he said we had to take the first cab, but the first cab refused...anyway, after several back and forths the THIRD cab finally took us. Such a hassle for 12 blocks!
Today is setup day for the show, so it's like backstage before the curtain. Everything's half assembled and half whacked, but it's fun seeing what's coming. The Namco booth is big, but our mobile division is around the side, like an afterthought. But actually, this separation is good because it puts us right on a major aisle instead of lost in the clutter. Our area's a little shallower than I expect, but I'm confident it'll look good when it's "live" tomorrow.
Scott and I return to the hotel and join two of the guys from Namco's wireless group in Europe. This is my first opportunity to meet them. Nice guys. Amy and Katherine join us after they're done setting up the booth, and the group of us have a very nice dinner.
Today we're busily trying to get ready for the big E3 trade show in LA, but we all have to drop what we're doing for a very important visitor: the Chairman of Namco Limited is coming to the office.
As a sign of respect we all came to the lobby and greeted him. An office was set up just for him for this visit. Later, we were all asked to come down and be photographed with him.
Left to right:
Scott Rubin, General Manager of Sales and Marketing
David Rhea, Lead Tester
Kory O'Daniels (with cap), Lead Tester
Rie Hisao (in front of Kory), Engineer
Me, General Manager of Product Development
Rob Schoeppe, QA Manager
Bryan Chang, Producer
Jeff Buccellato, Producer
Umesh Ghodke, General Manager of Technology
Dad, who was extremely hard of hearing, never admitted to it. Mom, on the other hand, wore her age like a badge and used it as an excuse for everything. There's a line somwehere between blindly refusing to accept the consequences of growing older, and surrendering to it. I'm determined to find that line. As part of this, I've been trying -- despite working too many hours -- to get out and actually get exercise. Of late I've mostly only managed it on weekend hikes with my friend Skip. But the rainy weather of the past month or so has put the kibosh on that, alas!
Being over 40 now I'm trying to take better care of myself in general. As such, I've been trying to take preventative action on anything health-wise that seems off. I recently had dermatological surgery to get rid of some things on my scalp (the medical name of which is a mile long and I can't recall offhand), which were benign but of which I thought better safe than sorry. I've also noticed that I've been feeling increasingly run down, and even after a solid night's sleep, I often feel like I haven't slept. Boyfriends past have told me that I sometimes stop breathing for a minute or so at a time while sleeping, which I seem to recall my father doing. I mentioned all this to my doctor this week and he said it sounds like I have a classic case of sleep apnea, so he sent me to a sleep clinic.
There's not much to say about the clinic, other than to say they put a zillion sensors on me and put me to bed, and recorded a thousand pages of data from EEGs and blood oxygen levels to breath analysis and even if I had leg twitches while sleeping.
I am Locutus of Borg... or it's 7 a.m. at the sleep clinic
The official results go to my doctor on Monday, so I'll have to do a follow-up with him. But the technician at the clinic said that I did exhibit apnea in the second half of the night (the constricted breathing), so we'll see what the recommendation on a next step is. The funny thing was that since she not only recorded this data but watched me via camera all night, she was able to tell me in which sleeping positions the apnea occured, and in which positions I snored or didn't snore. Right side good, left side bad!
Apnea is a problem for a couple of reasons. One, it's now believed to be a serious contributor to heart failure. Second, it distrupts the normal sleep cycle. The way it was described to me is as follows. You go into REM sleep and your voluntary muscle control switches off. When this happens an apnea sufferer may end up where some point in the airway actually closes, so even though the lungs are trying to draw a breath, no air comes in. So, after a minute or so the brain goes "hey!" and kicks you out of REM sleep so the voluntary muscles turn back on and you can move or swallow or do whatever it is that clears the airway. Trouble is, this can happen over and over in the night, repeatly kicking you out of REM sleep. So even though you're sleeping, you're not deep sleeping...so you sleep but yet you don't. This airway constriction also can cause the lungs to work hard to draw a breath and make your heart rate go up, so you actually can wake up exhausted because those organs have been getting more of a workout while you're asleep than when you're awake, which is why the medical community suspects a correlation between apnea and the high instance of heart attacks that happen at 4-5 in the morning during sleep.
That went on longer than I meant it to. Anyway. let's see what the doc says and what I need to do to fix it.
Guess I'll try to sleep on my right side tonight and see if I feel more rested. How to keep myself from rolling over...hmmm...
Since I moved into this house [on Ivy Drive] I've been taking my time trying to design spaces that I actually want to live in, rather than just buying pieces and see how they fit together.
One of the odder spaces in the house is the kitchen, which isn't very big, and is made even smaller by a whole wall of cabinets at one end. That end of the room just feels too "woody" and boxed in.
So, I got the idea to put some kinds on insets into the the doors to break up the solid wall of wood.
CLICK HERE to see my concepts
I like the mirror concept a lot, but the weight of all that glass and all the holes I'd have to drill to support them makes me hesitant to go that route. I'm going to look into lighter metal or mylar materials that would be mirror-like. So decisions made...but I'm thinking.
What with Christopher Gray having moving away, the SNAFU improv group long since dissolved, and my job in Sna Jose keeping me away from S.F. on weeknights, I've sort of fallen out of the improv arts scene. Tonight was my first stab of 2005 to get back into going to these things. I had thought I wasn't going to be able to go, as I was originally scheduled to be coming back from the CTIA trade show in New Orleans today, but as I cancelled that trip to work in the office, I was around. And, to ensure I got to the show, I made sure I schedules a meeting with developer Ben Lee this afternoon, as that would put me in S.F. near the venue in question.
Bryan Chang, one of my Producers at Namco, joined me for the show, which was held in a theater space called "The Luggage Store", which is above a storefront on a part of Market street just in the transitional zone from tourist trap to transient town.
The main reason I was there was to see/hear a performance of the a capella improv singing group Tonal Chaos, of which above-mentioned Christopher was once a member. They were good as always, making up all kinds of music and tonalities based on suggestions fro the audience. At one point they launched into song by imitating the beep Bryan's cell phone made as he shut the ringer off. They climaxed with a nonsense-word operatic piece.
The were followed by a group called the Board on Inquiry, which consisted of one fellow using mixing board to do odd things with sounds coming from a laptop computer, a toman who sang and made vocal tonalities, and a man who made sounds with everything from a bow on a pipe to a vibrator in a towel pulsing on a drum. It was interesting, but somewhat distracting. i had to close my eyes and let the sound just wash over me. Still, in the end it seemed like Ligeti meets the electronic score for Forbidden Planet, and sounded like the soundtrack to some weird artsy short subject film.
After last night's late night with Iwatani-san, the last thing I felt like doing was another late night out. But, this was a special night, so there was no way in heck I was gonna miss it.
Every company has its goals. Well, we in the wireless division of NAMCO hit one of our critical milestones recently, so Kenji-san took us all out to celebrate.
Our destination was a really fabulous Greek restautant in Palo Alto. Many courses of food were consumed, and something like one bottle of wine for every person at the table (there were 14 of us).
I had fun asking many at the table a question my friend Alyssa had posed at Tommy's some years back: If you could have dinner with any three people who ever lived (and assume you could speak with them), who would they be? The answers sometimes surprised me. My own answers? My parents when they were 30, so I could see who they thought they were going to be, and Jesus Christ...just to set the record straight.
Amy's been "In the Basement" counterfitting again...
Late into the meal our Marketing Manager Amy Steele presented awards to everyone. Those of us who've been there the longest got lucite encased bills for One Million Dollars! Well, not real dollars...Federal Reserve PAC-DOTS...which I guerss one can only spend in PAC-Land. I guess I can buy all the power pellets I can eat! Others got faux gem's with a PAC-MAN ghost etched atop. Contrators got PAC-MAN boxer shorts and candy.
The evening got pretty silly late on. Kenji was drunk enough to start telling us his plans for world domination...then he'd back off and refuse to tell us the key ingredients in his plans. The tease!
Linked below are pictures from the event:
CLICK HERE to see most of the crew
CLICK HERE to see me getting my just reward
It's my experience that most people outside the game industry don't recognize the names of even the biggest game developers/publishers, even if they've played their games. So, when I tell people I work for Namco, they have no idea what that company is or what it's made...until I make a munching motion with my hand and go "wacka wacka".
I've been working on a number of PAC-MAN related games for mobile phones at Namco (www.namcogames.com), and one of my jobs is to make sure that our PAC-MAN and Ms. PAC-MAN games are as arcade accurate as possible. This isn't always easy, because there's very little actual documentation on the games, so I have to rely on my familiarity with them and what information I've gleaned from playing.
So, imagine my glee when Kenji-san told me I;d be meeting and having dinner with Mr. Toru Iwatani, the creator of PAC-MAN!
The only challenge: Iwantani-san speaks only slightly more English than I speak Japanese...which means a few words at best. Luckily, Kenji and Scott were there to translate.
I asked Iwatani-san a lot of questions about how the original game works. Most of this would bore the average person to death, but it was pretty illuminating to me. I mean, how many people wonder about the differences in the seek behavior of the ghosts in the game. What's the difference between Inky and Pinky, aside from the obvious color? Let me raise my hand here.
Scott Rubin, Iwatani-san, Maurice and "The Man"
We discussed some ideas I have for future games. Iwatani-san suggested we do back and forth discussions, rather than him just accepting or rejecting my ideas outright. Oh, twist my arm...ow...ow...
Dinner was very nice, Scott, Kenji, Mr. Iwanti and I were joined by Hideki from our licensing dept. at a nice Japanese restaurant in Mountain View. The bill, with tip, was over $700, and something like 3/4s of a gallon of sake was consumed. Scott and I went our separate ways at that point, but the Japanese contingent then went into San Francisco and partied and Karaoked until 2:30 a.m. Yikes!
Today was the first day of the GDC (Game Developer's Conference), held this year in San Francisco instead of San Jose where it was usually been held in the past. Great for me, because it means I don't have to do the lengthy San Jose commute that my job usually requires.
This morning I worked on update the "roadmap" for Namco's 2005 wireless (mobile phone) product line. I added two games, one of which is somewhat obscure, but a really fun game with a good name that I hope we can make attractive to our carrier partnes like Sprint and Verizon.
The afternoon was spent in meetings and at GCD panels. The fun thing about trade shows like this is that you run into industry people you don't see often. Today I saw three people from Tira Wireless whom I visited in Toronto a few weeks back, a lady from Stunt Puppy (a company I briefly interacted with a few years ago), Steve Patterson (formerly of Psygnosis), etc. etc.
The conferences were pretty boring. I guess most of these things are of more use to people trying to break into the biz than those of us who've been down in trenches slogging through the mud. I put my time to use scribbing game designs in my notebook while waiting for the few-and-far-between nuggets of information I didn't know.
I was three different people today. I loaned my show pass to Rob Schoeppe while I was in meetings, so when I was done Kenji loaned me his pass, so I was Kenji for a while. Then Kenji needed his pass back, so I borred a pass from Rie, because Rob forgot to give me my pass back before driving to San Jose!
In the evening I joined Scott and Kenji for drinks with reps from Verizon. Afterwards, sans Verizon people, we went to a restaurant in Japantown (S.F.) and had good food and drink.
I tooled back across the bay bridge listening to loud disco music. I then fell asleep on the couch watching an episode of the new Battlestar Galactica series. Odd evening, but viva le difference!
Below is what I looked like just after walking in the door...
Today I did something I've been wanting to do for a while, which was to have some of my co-workers from Namco join me for a day out and about. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but not badly attended for being so short notice.
Fellow Namcoites (Namconians?) Amy Steele, Bryan Chang, and Jeff Buccellato arrived, along with Jeff's fiance Eileen. They carpooled up to Oakland and met me at Jack London Square. The overall plan was a day in San Francisco, but the only thing I had decided for certain was our brunch destination. I planned to wing everything else.
After recent rains, and Friday's downpour, I was concerned that the weather might not be condusive to running around. However, Mother Nature smiled on us and after the morning gray it was sunny and not cold. So, we went with Plan A and took the Ferry across the bay from Oakland. I love that ride, out on the bay and under the Bay Bridge. Sometimes it can be frickin' freezing, but not today! The ride was so nice I proposed that we not get off the boat at the San Francisco Ferry Building and instead ride the ferry to its final stop at Pier 41.
There was one big rule for the day: no talking about work! This was a social exercise and I wanted all of us to hang out as friends and not get into office stuff. Fortunately, no one really crossed the line, so spankings were not required! Well, maybe I'm just a tad disappointed by that, but that's not really appropriate to discuss I suppose...
As we arrived I told the group the story about the Transamerica Pyramid and the Bank of America building as seen from Marin County across the Golden Gate, where the two are often referred to as "The finger, and the box it came in." And yes, "finger" as in "giving the..." Take a look at ye olde pyramid from due north sometime and see what I mean...
After disembarking at Pier 41 we made a beeline for the F Line streetcars. My goal: get as far away from the tourist trap that is Fisherman's Wharf (Pier 39) as quickly as possible! After a very short ride on an old SF steercar we had to change to a different car, which was from Milan Italy (the F line usues vintage streetcars from all over). We rode this car along the Embacadero (SF waterfront) and then up Market Street to the end of the line at Castro. Ah, Market Street, where the socio-economic scale fluctuates by block almost as rapidly as a Gough Street changes altitude... but perhaps that's a tad too much an S.F.-insider comparison.
Anyway, after showing they group ye venerable Castro Theater, we used an L underground train to get to West Portal, where I took the crew to brunch at one of my favorite restaurants; A Cafe for All Seasons. Rob Schoeppe joined us there (he lives on the far west end of S.F.) and we have a very pleasant meal with mucho good food. Bryan had never had polenta before (he's from Irvine, CA, so we cut him some slack), so we expanded his palette with a taste of these "fried italian grits" as I called them.
Our boss Kenji-san was out of town an unable to join, but he left a phone message saying that uncle PAC-MAN should pick up brunch, so the meal went on the company credit card. Thank you PAC-MAN!
As we were leaving, co-worker Umesh Ghodke called and told us that he was sorry that he could not attend. I hadn't actually expected he would make it, but one of these days I'm going to make that man come have fun with us! Hmmm...a plan must be formulated. Bribes musy be made...plots must be thickened...
We piled into Rob's vehicle, but there wasn't really room for six, so poor Bryan rode in the back. He got pretty comfortable...he looked like he was napping!
Next stop was Ocean Beach. The sun was shining, the waves were impressive without being big, and the temperature was perfect for an early March day. I was the only one who dared to shed shoes and dip toes in the ocean. Amazing how people can be so fearless about all kinds of things, but hesitate about putting their feet on sand for fear that someone somewhere broke some glass there. Wimps! Needless to say, my tootsies survived without incident. A few jokes were had about all the great white sharks that inhabit the waters offf the S.F. coast near the Faralon Islands, and we did make a few obsevrations that kids and dogs playing the water's edge would be "tater tots" for said fishies. But no fins were seen, and no puppies were gobbled up like so many deep-fried potatoes. Ah, never any excitement on this beach!
Amy's boyfriend Bill met us at the beach, and we moved the group slightly up the coast to the site of the old Sutro Baths. Most of the group climbed the rocks north of the old tunnel, but Eileen didn't feel up to it, so I stayed with her and Jeff and we climbed around the old foundations and eventually met with the others.
Naturally, being a mere 26 blocks from Tommy's we couldn't leave the city without stopping for a drink or six. We were there for quite a while (where DOES the time go?) and put away a lot of drinks but none of us crossed the line in drunken slobland. Rob and Bryan were the odd men out, though, because Rob was drinkign Jack and coke, and Bryan drank maybe half a margarita total to my 3+ or whatever the heck I drank. Heck, even Amy drank more than Bryan and she's the lightweight!
We parted company at this point, Amy and Bill heading back to San Jose in Bill's car, and Rob drove the rest of us downtown so we could catch BART. Jeff and Eileen live near the Froment BART so Bryan and I bid them adieu at the Lake Merritt station. We then strolled back to Jack London Square to fetch out cars from the garage, and parted company there. Lucky me, my drive home was like 5 minutes. Bryan's was probably 40+!
Everyone seemed to have a good time, and it was nice to hang out socially without work stuff interrupting. I actually genuinely like my co-workers, and I really enjoyed this day out with them. Another excursion seems mandatory. But where? Angel Island? Bodega Bay? Las Vegas? The sake tasting place in Berkeley? Tune in next time to find out!