June 12, 2017, 12:25am
Exactly one year ago today, Lutetia and I pulled out of Berkeley with all of our belongings packed in the back of a U-Haul truck. In many ways, it was a day like today: the sun was shining, the Warriors had commanding a 3-1 Finals lead over the Cavaliers and everyone was talking about Donald Trump. Underneath the surface though, much has changed.
Late Thursday night, I hopped on a bus for a spontaneous trip to the Bay to watch Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Even though the Warriors lost (I still root for the Warriors despite living in Cleveland) I enjoyed walking around. The Bay Area and I have both changed and grown a lot over the past year but I take comfort in knowing that a lot has stayed the same too.
The weather in Berkeley was unbelievably beautiful. Everyone always talks about the California sunshine but it's the cool Pacific winds that makes it perfect. Even on the hottest days, I could always open the windows to get a cross breeze and it would be fine -- no AC needed. The salt air blowing through the Bay is clean and crisp, unlike the humid, muggy air that travels over Lake Erie to Cleveland to make both me and my electronics overheat in the summer.
May 23, 2017, 4:55pm
Last Saturday night, I arrived back in LA for the summer. It was the culmination of my first year in Cleveland and also the 10th year since graduating from UC Berkeley. In any case, it’s cause for reflection.
I was planning to post this two days ago, but I got sick. It’s the first time I’ve been sick all year and also the most sick I’ve been in many years. It came after my trip to the Bay Area earlier this month, which was also the self-imposed deadline to finish work on my latest game (more on that later). I hit the deadline and enjoyed a great trip, then after returning to Cleveland, promptly fell ill.
I’m finally feeling well enough to be productive again, so here are some reflections of the last year, and 10 years, of my life.
The EECS (Electrical Engineering/Computer Science) department at UC Berkeley was, like many of the other departments at Cal, focused on history and theory over practical skills. The idea was that students could learn practical skills on the job but college was a time to explore the origins and nuance of various fields of study. I remember a professor saying, “UC Berkeley graduates start their careers behind everyone else, but after 10 years jump ahead to the front.” I can attest to feeling behind for the first 10 years of my career but now that I’ve reached the 10 year mark I wonder what, if anything, am I at the front of?
This is perhaps difficult for me to determine because I am still in the midst of it. In 10 more years, maybe I will be able to look back say with certainty, “At age 31, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was breaking new ground with my ideas.” That’s my goal, anyway. The most important lesson I’ve learned in this first decade of my career is that for every idea, hundreds of hours of work are needed to make it into reality. I have tons of ideas, but to bring them to fruition I either need to be an inspiring, visionary leader or be willing to do the work myself. Perhaps I’m not cut out to be a leader but I’ve found myself to be a willing and capable worker.
Starting in March of last year, I built 35 games in 35 weeks. Some were great and some were terrible. On October 17th, 2016 (my 31st birthday), I posted my 26th weekly game: a block game hybrid between Tetris and Puzzle Fighter. At this time, I was also in the midst of applying for Google so my mind was racing with graph theory and optimized run-time algorithms. It’s interesting to see how this, and deep reflections on the elements and seasons, combined to form this unique game mechanic, which I am incredibly proud of. For week 28, I added some musical elements and knew I had something special on my hands.
After taking a break to do some freelance work (gotta pay those bills), I decided to put the weekly games on hold to build out features for the block game, which is now named Godai. I spent six weeks pushing myself to the limit, writing front end (C#) and backend (Ruby) code, composing music, building art assets, and designing the game’s user experience. Again, I am quite proud of the result and encourage everyone who reads this to give it a try at br80.io.
When people ask me how I like living in Cleveland, I point them to Godai. Moving from California to Ohio was a drastic and difficult change but I am happy with the work I accomplished. Staying productive was difficult but I managed to push code every single day and the results speak for themselves. Much like my UC Berkeley professor predicted, I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride as a coder 10 years in.
April 01, 2017, 1:00am
Today, I beat Shinryu in Final Fantasy 5. As is often the case with these games, I was leveled to the point where he hardly posed a threat.
ExDeath, the final boss, followed shortly after and wasn’t much more difficult.
ExDeath’s final form, NeoExDeath, was supposed to represent the four elements (the story revolves around reviving the power of four elemental crystals) but I really don’t see it.
FF5 is usually praised for its implementation of the Job system, allowing you to customize your characters however you choose. I found all of the characters to be quite bland and forgettable though. There was no one I really cared about or even liked in this story. In FF4, by contrast, all of the characters were very memorable and each character's personality and role in the story were directly related to their job class.
The next game in the series, FF6, would return to fixed job classes only to return to generic battle classes in FF7. FF6 was incredible and FF7 is my favorite game of all time so even though FF5 became a chore to grind through to the unmemorable ending, I enjoyed revisiting the roots of this great franchise. FF6 is next!
March 21, 2017, 9:56pm
Yesterday was the first day of Spring and so it was time to shed my winter coat.
With my head a whole lot lighter and a long, busy Winter in the rearview mirror, I’m pushing to finish a project I started a long time ago: the Block Game from Week 26. I was thinking about restarting my game-a-week project but I started to feel a little burned out by the end. I may get back to it once the Block Game is finished but for now I’m dedicating my full attention to shipping.
March 15, 2017, 11:21pm
Despite crossing through Winter Storm Stella, Lutetia and I made it back from Toronto in one piece! It was too cold in Canada to walk around much but we ate a ton of amazing food. There was one restaurant that has me totally baffled, and that is the ever present Tim Hortons.
What makes this donut chain so mysterious? First of all, it’s named after a hockey player named Tim Horton so where’s the apostrophe? According to Quora:
Weird, right? That’s not all. Why does the Canadian Maple donut with a hole contain 10 more calories than the Maple Dip with no hole?
Canada, you were cold and mysterious but I had a great time visiting you.