Sometimes in life we pause to take stock of what we are doing and where we are going – probably motivated by the underlying feeling that maybe we aren’t currently doing what we want to be doing (or that perhaps we should be working harder to reach our goals). It’s not something we do enough – probably because our conscience mind keeps us pinned on the here-and-now – but something that really makes us focus on our own lives is the death of someone else – which is a little depressing.

Marco Simoncelli died today doing what he loved.

Marco was just 24 – and who knows – may even have gone onto become the MotoGP champion one day. But unfortunately we will never know. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than talent cut short.

If there’s something you want to do, a dream you want to acheive – anything – and you aren’t doing it. Start right now.

Marco 1987-2011

For me – the audio of any game is as important to the overall experience as great graphics and gameplay. Most of the music I listen to is video game music. There are too many examples of classic game music to list here – but lately I’ve gotten back into Shadow Dancer of all things…

The game is great, but nowadays I get more enjoyment out of the music than the idea of revisiting the game again. It’s something I’ve done of course (for many Mega Drive classics) – but music generally stands stronger against the test of time. That is really an indication of how important it is. There are games being made today with great soundtracks but on the whole I find they can’t compete with music created for games in the 80s and 90s. Using licensed tracks and off-the-shelf music is partly responsible for this – as is the increasing scope of games and the amount of people required to produce content – which would account for inconsistency and lack of character. Back in the days of Mega Drive it was more than likely one person would create all the music for a comparatively (by today’s standards) tiny game – if that person was good at what they did, you would have a classic soundtrack.

It’s Oktoberfest time. Beer, pretzels, schweinshaxe and lederhosen. It’s a great festival, but what prevents it from being Uber-great is the lack of zombies! What would be great is a game that takes these two wonderful creations and mashes them together – it doesn’t have to take a step in the inventive direction – I’m thinking Plants Vs Zombies would suffice. In this case the plants would be replaced with over-worked, underpaid, busty German beer maidens – and the zombies would be replaced with…well zombies. Make it happen PopCap!

In November’s issue of Edge (yes, don’t worry – it is still September) they interview Gears writer Karen Traviss. One question starts with the statement

Zombies have become one of gaming’s biggest clichés.

One of gaming’s biggest clichés? What isn’t a cliché in gaming? As far as I’m concerned everything has been done to death, reheated and then pimped-out once again. It’s not very often you come across an idea that hasn’t been overused – but as Karen alludes to in her reply; it all depends on how it’s done. If every game was released with zombies in it that would probably kill off the industry quicker than E.T. did back in the olden days, but as it stands – there’s plenty of games available without zombies to keep the children happy, and plenty of room left for more zombie games to keep us real men happy too.

Here’s a prediction for you – zombies aren’t going to go away – ever. The games will continue to come in all shapes and sizes – the good, the bad and the ugly.

The artwork for SZB has been coming along nicely these last couple of weeks. The artist and myself have developed a working pattern as such: he works during the day (as he is freelance) and provides an updated build containing new and improved artwork at the end of his day. Since I have a full-time job I get to review his work in the evenings and provide feedback ready for him in the morning. When he works the next day he’ll either focus exclusively on my feedback or defer it in favour of creating new content.

Overall it’s a very good working pattern – I like to know that when he asks me a question or needs an opinion he’s going to get it first thing when he comes to work the next day. There’s nothing worse than waiting around for an answer or decision to be given – or working underneath a cloud of confusion and presumption. Similarly – I like to know that anything I ask for is going to be done within a day or two.

You could probably write a book on communication woes between developers and clients (or at least a dissertation like I did). It’s one of those things that gets touted when things go pear-shaped on a project – but overall I think to be successful at communication you have to be open, provide clear direction, constructive and detailed feedback and don’t spend too long trying to provide it – basically do it as quick as you can. It’s not so bad for me because if I miss a day the artist can work on something else, in a professional development environment those artists, programmers and designers are going to turn up to work regardless. And they will continue to work regardless of whether they have your feedback or not.

Probably won’t happen in my life time – so how handy is it that a company is providing this experience for the princely sum of £28? 2.8 Hours Later is the name of the game and it takes place in London at the end of October. I’m tempted. Really, really tempted! I like how concessions applies to students, the unemployed and those on a pension – normally this isn’t anything strange; but the thought of a group of pensioners turning up for some zombie-dodging fun raises a smile…

Like HL3 (or just plain ol’ Episode 3) a Half Life movie seems like it’s never going to happen. Well, the games probably will in due course – but the movie isn’t going to happen. There are three reasons for this –

1. Valve, as a games company, are untouchable – they have a Midas touch when it comes to producing quality software. They’d struggle to find a film production partner as good at making movies as they are at making games. So the end result would no doubt produce…unforseen consequences!

2. Gordon Freeman doesn’t talk – so how would you go about casting a character that has no voice – you’d probably piss off half the Half Life fans with the choice you make anyway. On the other hand – the movie could stick closely to game and have a main character that doesn’t talk…but for the movie’s producers – there’d be a certain amount of…apprehension!

3. My personal choice probably wouldn’t work anymore as he’s getting on a bit. But Charlie Sheen circa The Arrival would have been a great actor to play Gordon Freeman. Not only did Mr. Sheen actually look like Gordon in that movie – but it also had a sci-fi riff too. Age isn’t the only thing going against Charlie now though, casting him in light of his recent behaviour would be…questionable ethics!