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Month: January 2014

Japan Day 5 – Shinjuku and Kabukichō

Japan Day 5 – Shinjuku and Kabukichō

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Shinjuku was the next train stop north of where I was staying in Shibuya – and a very different sort of place.  First off, there were a LOT more lights and people out to have a good time.

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It’s amazing how many people were out even on a weeknight.  Shinjuku on the west side of the tracks is a lot of large skyscrapers and shops that I didn’t get to visit during my short time.  On the east side…well…it’s very different.  This area is a complex of streets with all manner of diversion available.  And by all manner, think a cross between the drinking centers of a large downtown area meets Vegas meets red-light district.  I only spent a few short hours here and barely was able to cover half of it.  And by ‘cover’ I mean just walk around.  Actually going into half these places would have been all-night adventures in themselves…

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First you see some classic and themed bars and restaurants – even a standby or two like this Mister Donut and fast food places like McDonald’s/Burger King.  There were so many themed bars that I couldn’t even begin to know where to start.


Since it was November, there was already Christmas trimmings available for you to purchase.  That certainly felt odd and out of place.

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But go about 2-3 blocks and you find the area called Kabukicho.  Like the rest of the area around Shinjuku station – it had been destroyed after the WW II bombing raids.  It was slated for the creation of a Kabuki theater in the 50’s.  The theater never appeared due to financial problems, but the area exploded in development.  This development was led mostly by foreign Chinese investors.  Now it is a world famous red-light district complex that houses over three thousand bars, arcades, nightclubs, love hotels, massage parlors, host/hostess clubs and similar businesses.  Because of the near constant activity of all sorts – it’s sometimes called ‘Sleepless Town’.  A person could spend weeks investigating all the different venues, drinking establishments, arcades, and…er…shows and still not see it all.

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First off, there’s some pretty standard stuff: karaoke, bowling, pachinko parlors, and buildings full of more innocent diversions.  Many of the buildings here had a whole different experience on each floor.  After passing blocks of buildings like this, one wondered exactly how long it would take to just visit each place once!  There were hordes of young people and businessmen coming and going constantly – which certainly help  it earned its name ‘Sleepless town’.


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Here was the really strange ‘robot restaurant‘ that has become somewhat famous.  I wanted to attend since I heard it was pretty crazy (but mostly innocent) fun, but it looked like I was between shows or they weren’t starting till later and there was nobody to talk to when I passed by.  Most of the action apparently happens downstairs, but the upstairs alone put the gaudiest Vegas casino to shame.

While they weren’t doing a show at the time I came by, this video can give you an idea of the madness that is usually inside (disclaimer: not my video or anyone I know).


It wasn’t the only place done up in crazy lights.  I just blindly wandered past this place too.


This is one of the manga-kissa‘s that have recently popped up.  Manga kissa’s (cafe’s) are usually open 24 hours and they let you rent out a small cubical for as many hours as you’d like.  They have different kinds of cubicles depending on what you’re looking for.  Some come with a computer and internet access, others with just a TV to watch shows, and some cafe’s come with amenities like a shower.  A number of them have huge libraries of manga to read, anime, and movies you can rent and watch.   From what I could tell, the cubicals were barely 8×8 little rooms.  But they were fully enclosed and had doors.  You rent the rooms by the hour.

While they do have plenty of manga and other fans that just come to enjoy some quiet, they have also become something of an alternative place to crash for late partiers that have missed their last train and can’t get into one of the capsule hotels.  The hourly rates are so low, they actually can make for extremely cheap lodgings if you don’t mind sleeping in an office chair.  I always kept these in mind in case I ever missed my last train (thankfully it never happened).

Many people think such things as capsule hotels and manga-kissa’s are strange.  In fact, most of the things Westerners think of a strange actually make a lot of sense when you understand the context.  Living space in Tokyo is hard to come by and every square foot expensive. Not only that, but hotels are often booked up weeks in advance (as I found to be the case.  Hostels were booked MONTHS in advance at times).

Also, Japanese trains shut down at midnight and don’t start back up until 4am.  So what happens if you go drinking and miss your last train?  You could pay for an expensive cab – which might be impossibly expensive if you live 50 kilometers or more away from the downtown core (very likely!).  You are left either with staying up drunk with little to do until 4am and then fight morning crowds to get home/back to work.  Maybe you try to get lucky finding a hundred+ dollar a night hotel but could wander around for hours trying that.   All you really need is a friend’s couch really.  So as an entrepreneur, why not make a couple of small places for people to crash at for a few hours until the trains start?  It really isn’t that strange at all.  If all you need is a place to crash – a capsule hotel is just a little more formal than a friend’s couch.


Speaking of capsule hotels – the capsule hotel of Shinjuku appears to have shuttered – quite literally.  This doesn’t surprise me considering it’s surrounded by a very seedy red-light district and was likely used for all kinds of … activities.  It was also surrounded by love hotels – but more on that in a little bit…

As I worked my way north and away from main drag, things thin out a bit and become…seedier.  You definitely run into the red-light district aspects as you wander around.  Strangely marked nondescript buildings with guys standing around front with cel phones.  Some saying ‘Japanese only’ and others advertising girls with pictures outside. The very shady looking guys outside these establishments were constantly asking you if you’re looking for some fun.  I’ve been told most of these guys are yakuza and judging by the way they dressed, acted, and looked like they’d just assume stick a knife in you as look at you, I tended to agree but never felt in real danger.  I shuffled along through this area and then ran into something I knew about, but didn’t know I’d see.  Host clubs.

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More towards the main street of this Shinjuku, you saw lots of hostess and themed bars catering to men.  There were lots of pretty ladies advertised outside and many were themed much like maid cafes or the robot bar.

There were tank girls bars, maid cafes, singing bars, etc.  If you could imagine a theme – it probably existed.  Based on what I was told about by two ex-pats I met, these bars are actually quite fun with friends.  The girls are very friendly and hang out, talk, and drink with you – for a price.  Often a very HIGH price – so you have to be careful or you might find you accidentally drop hundreds of dollars in just an hour or two.  The understanding is this is all this opposite sex company is very platonic, there is no sex/physicality.  As you move away from the main areas, the ‘Platonic-ness’ quickly fades to blatant sexuality.  Go even further, and closer to the love hotels, and you run into the flip side.

Hostess clubs are not just for men. There is an equivalent for women as well.  These are called Host clubs.

For a price, many very attractive young men (all looked in their 20’s) will hang out and drink with female patrons.  Again, it’s completely platonic – there is no sex or even physicality to it.  Again, it’s purely emotional company.  Here’s a good video that described the trend. The male equivalents with women (hostess clubs) are almost the same – just with genders reversed. In another video I saw, one of the hosts admitted he earned well over $200,000/year.

Past the host clubs, you run into a quieter area…the love hotel district.
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Love hotels also seem strange to westerners at first, but again, they fill a need.  Japanese apartments are very small and expensive.  Young people especially often share apartments and many of them still live at home. In families, parents may share rooms with their kids.  In such conditions, it’s very difficult to enjoy intimate time with your significant other.  Some crafty business people saw a need and filled it.  These fancy hotels can be rented by the hour or by the night.  To distinguish themselves, many of them become themed.  And, well, you have love hotels as you see them today.

This was all tremendously fascinating – but I was somewhat sad because I didn’t have a local guide to help me experience any of the bars and crazy stuff of Shinjuku safely.  Up until a few years ago, this area was notoriously dangerous.  All manner of red-light district scams would take place: most of the drug your drink and you wake up with no wallet and all your cards have been maxed out variety all the way to yakuza street justice. While the area has been apparently cleaned up a lot, it wasn’t a place I’d like to go drinking on my own.  But I was heading to an area called Golden Gai anyway.  I’d been there the night before to check it out, and was coming back to celebrate the bar’s 4th anniversary – which just happened to be happening while I was in town.

So, enough of the Vegas-style Shinjuku – and off to Golden Gai.

Violating your classes Objective-C with method swizzling

Violating your classes Objective-C with method swizzling

Went to a iOS programmers meetup recently here in Portland and they did a talk on the C-runtime.  I missed most of the talk due to other commitments, but the topic of method swizzling came up.

Basically, it allows you to change what class methods are called by a class – at runtime.  In other words, you can start willy-nilly re-pointing your member functions at runtime by:

  1. Create your 2 or more classes as normal (class A, class B)
  2. Create some methods off each class you want to swizzle (A.thisFunc, B.thatFunc)
  3. Swap’em – using the runtime functions:
    1. class_getInstanceMethod()
    2. class_addMethod()
    3. class_replaceMethod()
    4. method_exchangeImplementations()
  4. Profit!


While this is obviously very, very dangerous and likely not something you’d do in production, it does create some interesting opportunities for testing and exercising record/replay and persist/restore code.

Either way – interesting write-up.  Perhaps the title of the talk should have been called ‘Stupid Objective-C tricks’. 🙂


Video game trivia

Video game trivia

Browsing the goofs and trivia for movies on IMDB is one of my favorite pastimes while watching a show (especially bad/low-budget movies).  Did you know the same such collection exists for video games?  Learn all kinds of interesting tidbits about your favorite game here:

Summing all positive integers = -1/12

Summing all positive integers = -1/12

What if you sat down and added up:
all the way to infinity. What would you get? Most people would say – well – infinity.
What if I told you it wasn’t infinity – but -1/12. Hogwash you’d say!
But here he is proving it, and he claims the result is used all over in string theory and astronomical physics.

How? Well, it has to do with how you think about and sum infinite series.

I remember a prof telling me that depending on how you interpret infinity – you can get systems in which parallel lines converge or diverge or stay parallel at infinity.  It didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, but now you see a real case.

You start to enter the rabbit hole when he proves the Grandi’s Series = 1/2:

Here’s a link to all those explanations
But how does it really work?  TerryTao goes into tremendous detail of how the summation works and why the Grandi series can sum 1-1+1-1+1… even though it does NOT converge in the classic sense. But that’s the difference between applied mathematics/physics and theoretical.  In applied fields – you really DON’T have infinite things summing – you have real things – and it makes modeled results…unexpected.  Amazingly enough – we had models for these systesms before we even knew of real things that displayed the properties.

Thanks parents…

Thanks parents…

Ever have a parent tell you that you’re getting “A big old car – one made of steel. That way you will be safe in an accident”.

Well – tell them to stop trying to kill you.

Crash Test 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air VS. 2009 Chevrolet Malibu

Stainless – slow-motion train stations

Stainless – slow-motion train stations

Amazing.  Adam Magyar takes high-speed video of crowds as his train pulls into stations and then replays them at slow speed – creating a ghostly passage through the terminal. He did this in New York, Berlin, and Tokyo. Having just been in Shinjuku station a month or so ago, this one is my favorite.

Costco secret pricing guide

Costco secret pricing guide

Next time you are walking through Costco, knowing these secrets may help you with your buying decisions

Price ending in .99 – Full Priced

Price ending in .97 – Discount decided by the manager

Price ending in .79 or .49 or .89 – Discount decided by manufacturer or being tested at Costco. Usually lower than Costco’s price

Price ending in .00 or .88 – Should be the best deal and used to move the product fast

Price tag with an asterisk * on the right/top side – Discontinued item

Japan Day 4 – Piss Alley

Japan Day 4 – Piss Alley


After leaving Odaiba island, the beautiful sunset, and the giant Gundam – it’s about dinnertime as I head back through rush-hour downtown Tokyo.  For dinner, I’m heading to an amazing place I read about – Memory Lane (aka Piss Alley) and later, Golden Gai.

Over the last few days, I spent some evening walks finding these two locations (not an easy task in itself) and scouting them.  Now I wanted to actually enjoy them.  But first, some background.

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First, we’ll start with “Memory Lane” (Omoide Yokocho – 思い出横丁) which is less reverently, but more popularly known as “Piss Alley” (Shonben Yokocho – 小便横丁).  Nestled just north of Shinjuku Station, it is a few narrow alleyways with ramshackle eateries squeezed right next to each other.  It looks quite out of place next to the modern shiny modern glass/metal sky-scrapers surrounding it.

But before that, let’s have a little history lesson to understand it better.

(Piss alley circa 1960 – it’s already shrunk dramatically)

Located just north west of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, this collection of stalls has it’s roots in the gritty and terrible post-WWII days.  In 1945, WWII bombing raids had left the area around the station as little more than piles of rubble.  By 1946, the few remaining shops and food stalls started selling daily goods like food, clothes, and other necessities to war-battered residents trying to rebuild.  A black market street called Lucky Street popped up in the area.  By 1947, food shortages become more severe and the Japanese government started placing strict regulations on many goods – such as flour.  Many of the shops then switched from all flour based foods like ramen, udon, and other noodles to cheap meats such Yakitori and Motsu (which you’ll still find there today).  The area grew and soon earned its pungent name because there were no bathrooms or other public sanitation fascilities.  By 1959, there were over 300 stalls – many illegally set up by squatters.  A redevelopment plan was made for the area and many of the stalls were razed and replaced with the gigantic skyscrapers you see today.

Today, only about 50 shops still remain in the area, but they are under pressure.  Modern Japanese culture frowns on people eating while walking around – so much so that it’s quite common to see a group of people gathered around vending machines consuming their purchases instead of leaving.  In some places, even eating in public (on the train/walking down the street) is seen as ill-mannered.  There is also a general sentiment that considers street foods to be for the poor/lower class.  On top of that, the area itself carries a lot of the stigma and reminders of those post-WW II shortages and struggles.  For these reasons, many would like to see the area razed – but it still clings to life today.

So over my first few days, I discovered that even finding they alley can be an adventure in it’s own right.  The area isn’t usually found in most guide books – which is a shame really because I believe it’s places like this that help you really understand a place, it’s people, and it’s history.


The location of the alleyway is not well documented and is surrounded on the outside by strip-mall like modern stores that one could easily walk right past.  The low-budget mobile phone vendors and small electronic nick-nack shops certainly disguise the fact they are surrounding a whole different experience of shops on their inside.

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The entrance to the alley is down a pedestrian side street and is so tiny that it is barely noticeable Even when looking for it.  There is this little green archway sign with a yellow map of the restaurants below it.  You then see the half-stall (4 foot wide) entrance to the alleyways.

Once you step down the alleyway though – you enter what looks like a totally different world.  The network of tiny walkways is lined with tiny eateries serving ramen, yakitori, soba, kushiyaki, and countless other street-food style dishes.  Each restaurant consists usually of just one counter with some stools, but there are a few larger ones that have a couple of tables.

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By about 9pm, the stalls and alley were getting quite busy and one had to start squeezing around folks.  Occasionally you’ll run into a group of Japanese businessmen/group of ladies that had already hit the bars pretty hard and were ferrying an inebriated friend or two home.  One such fellow in his 40’s/50’s came by, threw his arm around me, and we became ‘best buds’ for about half a block until his buddies pried him off and we exchanged knowing nods and laughs over their poor inebriated, but completely friendly, friend.  More on the drinking culture later.

Each restaurant stall is often no bigger than 8-10 feet wide – but go about 20-30 feet deep.  Most have open fronts and are packed right next to each other.  Some had little sliding doors against the outside weather, some had plastic sheets, others had nothing and were open to the outside air.  Most of the ones with with doors appeared to be more for locals that people would sit, drink, smoke and chat leisurely for long periods of time.


Most of the stalls were laid out similar to this one above.  There is a long counter that runs down the center with the cook on one side and stools/patrons on the other.  The counter has a shelf/display case of whatever is being cooked up for the night, and there is usually a small charcoal fired grill on the end cap near the opening that vents out into the alleyway.  This made for some amazing smells as you walked down the alley and got great whiffs of fish, yakitori, eel, and all sorts of other meats being cooked up.


Some of the stalls had a great number of different dishes (like these guys above) with lots of different varieties of meats, vegetables, and soups.



Others had only one or two kinds of dishes. These guys, for example, only had some kind of chicken soup/broth dish they served up with various sides.


This was some kind of ramen/soba noodle place that never had an empty seat when I walked past it.  Bummer – looked really good.


This place had many vegetable skewers – but you can also see 3 shops in this particular shot – and how thin the walls are to each other and how tightly packed they are.  I had the 17mm lens at it’s max FOV and still was having a hard time getting things into shots.


Another very typical scene from one of the small shops.  Note that smoking is totally cool – so this isn’t really a set of places to eat out if you’re a non-smoking snob.  Still, smoking was fairly limited with only one or so people smoking at a stand.  Most of the time you wouldn’t see anyone smoking; but you should be prepared for someone to light up at some point.


Some of the eateries have upstairs rooms that you can’t really get access too unless you’re an insider or are very polite.  You can see there is barely enough room to squeeze through to the stairways.  This one had the stairs up front, some were hidden in the back.  I had the option on the night I was there to eat upstairs at one place with such a second floor, but the food would have to be brought up to you.  Since I was traveling alone, I opted to sit downstairs where the action was next to the grill so I could meet folks and see what was being made.  It would have been a great way to keep with the Japanese custom of sitting and drinking with friends for hours though.


In the end, I decided to stop into this little shop that seemed to have a wide variety of food and start my eating and drinking adventures.  It also had an open seat right up front near the open charcoal grill so I was constantly smelling great food and seeing everything being ordered by the 10 or so folks in the place.

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I pulled up my stool next to the grill and started watching for the dishes I wanted to try.  I started with this fried fish.  I ordered a beer and had an absolutely scrumptious dish of fried fish and rice.  I then branched into some yakisoba and other skewers that the matron had pre-made and were sitting on metal trays, ready to be cooked and then eaten.


While eating, I started making friends with those sitting around me.  After a few beers, I got to talking to these guys.  They worked at a South Korean chemical company.  The guy next to me was a chemical engineer that specialized in coagulates for waste-water treatment.  The middle guy was his boss, and the guy on the end was a friend of the boss (if I remember right).  We had a lot of great fun drinking, eating, and swapping stories.  We ended up buying each other numerous rounds and all kinds of crazy foods – but there was no way I could keep up with the hard-drinking style of these guys. I told them I was a software engineer and we swapped cards.  The guy next to me even gave me a Korean 100 Wan coin as a souvenir.



We also had a lot of great banter with the matron – a very funny and happy lady.  We had lots of fun with her making me various dishes and I ate until I was stuffed.  I even bought her a round as part of a round I bought with my new Korean friends.  She politely had a shot of sake with us as part of our toast, but then insisted on drinking my beer with me most of the rest of the night (yep – she’d reach over and take a swig out of my beer and wink at me).  There were some funny comments by my Korean friends about ‘indirect kissing’ and many a good laugh was had despite the fact she spoke no English and I very little Japanese.  In the end, I couldn’t eat another bite or drink much more and had to call it a night as we rolled into the midnight hour.  I bid goodbye to my new friends and staggered home to catch the last midnight train back to my hotel.  It was also pretty amazing price – I blew less than $40 for tons of food and drinks.

But it wasn’t the only night I ate there.  The next night I returned.

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I decided to try a very different booth this time – one that looked very much full of Japanese businessmen.  I could tell this booth was a much more locals-only style of place, but with a bit of charm and a LOT of Japanese politeness, I managed to get a seat.

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This is the only picture I took while in there since you could tell they were not beholding to the tourist crowd (or cameras) at all.  This place seemed to go by the style of only serving one dish style – and this night was fried eel yakitori.  It was served up by this older guy that cooked them on his little charcoal grill just under this fantastic melty lamp.  There was even a picture of it behind him enshrining the lamp.  Can any of you help decipher/translate it since I found nothing on the internet about this artifact?  It was covered with black grease/tar/??? from what I can only assume was years and years of frying underneath it.  It was also melted in a very odd way too.  The lamp was trippy in a Salvador Dali sort of way and clearly something of a trademark/mascot.

As a counter spot opened up, I sit next to an extremely drunk older guy that attempted numerous times to have a conversation with me.  Despite the fact I didn’t speak any Japanese, I don’t think it would have mattered much if I spoke the language or not.  You could tell the servers had kind of stopped serving him and he was nearly falling over drunk and barely getting sentences out.  I took the opportunity to earn a little face by being very kind to him and helping him remain upright in his chair and making some small-talk (very small talk since I only knew a few dozen words of Japanese).  After a few minutes of this and being very polite, I seemed to have won over the servers who had started by gruffly telling me ‘no English’.

This place worked on the system that they would cook up a full grill full of skewers and then serve them out as people asked for them.  Within a few minutes, another batch of the skewers were cooked up and I ordered up 4 of them.

Each skewer was about 4-5 inches long, covered in some delicious sauce, and absolutely wonderful.  Over the next 45 minutes, I think I down about a dozen or more of  them along with a beer and a half.  Looking around, I see that I’m on the low side since some guys have a pile of 20-30 empty sticks each. I end up after this feast having only spent about $10.  Anyone that says Japan is terribly expensive must be going to the wrong spots.  I got one of the best meals for a super-low price in the heart of Tokyo.

It’s at this point that I realize that Japanese beers are actually pretty good.  I’ve had Japanese beers like Kirin and Asahi (my new favorite after this trip) in the states, but the same brands here taste completely different.  Much, much worse in fact.  Not sure what happens in the translation/shipping, but they’re way better in Japan than their same-named US counterparts.  They tend to be very light beers without a lot of hoppy flavor – which makes me happy, and a complete outcast in hop-loving Portland.

This second night I cut out a little early (and a lot less inebriated) – because I’m heading over to the heart of Shinjuku to spend some time at Golden Gai.

Notes from PAX Prime 2013

Notes from PAX Prime 2013

Man, sorry I didn’t get around to this sooner.  Been busy with work and just slipped my mind.  With all the CES announcements, it reminded me of the notes I took at PAX Prime 2013 in Seattle.  Here they are in kind of un-filtered format.

Session: Building a Team for Indie development

A panel of several successful indie development teams answering some common questions/start-up topics.

  • Hiring:
    • One team hired 7 of their 10 employees from forums.  Forum members are often a great place to pick up passionate people.
    • The folks that team hired were valuable contributing forum members that did all kinds of crazy things like robustly testing out the latest beta features and giving really good feedback – for free.  The dev team then approached these passionate forum folks about full-time work.  They knew these high contributing forum folks were passionate since they did the work on their own.
    • Most teams hired contract people in some cases (artists, musicians, and some devs). They gave small tasks to their new folks to see if it worked out and then expanded/continued/discontinued working with them based on how well they performed/quality of their work.
  • Funding:
    • Your team WON’T get funding without a track record.  Another team of vets said that even if you do have a track record, you still likely won’t get funding.  Those days are pretty much gone.
    • You can pretty much assume your first game will be unfunded at this point.
    • One group’s team was all industry vets that bootstrapped their project with their own money.  Likely the only way you can do it anymore.  Most of the panel agreed this is what they did.
    • Meant they had to have saved up a good bit of money, balance family commitments/needs, etc.  Stressful.
  • Pay
    • Base pay for everyone was very low but with high royalties (5%-10% royalty range for key contributors)
    • Temps and those not actively working at ship got capped amounts
    • or, they split pay by hours/days spent on the project out of the total
    • One team capped royalties after one year (i.e. you got % royalties but only for first year of ship)
    • No profit sharing with brand new folks to avoid problems
    • Braid developer wanted ALL royalties so he simply paid his artist $200k flat with no royalties
  • Different time zones required good, veteran people to avoid lost time on back and forth vision differences.  Skype/Google hangouts key for communication.
  • Takeaway: Continuing a trend I saw last year, indie dev teams are more and more industry experienced developers that quit to go follow a vision they’ve been fleshing out during their day jobs and fund these endeavors themselves.  Money is tighter, which makes time tighter.

Session: Gaming’s dirty secrets – why your favorite game never left Japan/got ported/has crappy port/etc.

A panel of developers/producers/game industry vets answered questions about why games get canceled/delayed/never ported/etc.

  • Bugs and bad ports:
    • Big games: almost half of the budget is marketing.  You have to do multiple releases on multiple titles at the SAME TIME.  You can’t delay release date because one platform has a problem.
    • Often you will be forced to release with minor bugs to avoid introducing new big bugs/stop-ship regressions.  Why?  It’s easier to ship with minor bugs and then provide a day 0 patch because you can then pull patches if it breaks, but releasing with a showstopper is the end of the world.
  • Steam Early Access games/route:
    • On almost every steam early access game forum page – people railed absolutely VITRIOLIC HATRED against the problems and bugs they find.  People completely flip out – even despite all the huge warnings that beta/early access games will have problems.  You spend LOTS of time having to deal with those problems and bad PR/unhappy folks despite the fact these issues are exactly what one should expect.  People have crazy expectations.  Steam has tried to help issue by placing more warnings.
    • Plus side of early release is that it does build a community and funds you until ship if dev cycle too long for you.  Also, playtesting is ‘free’.  People trying totally different stategies that break the game/etc are revealed early.
    • My own side note: why don’t early access games only show up in B&W or with red pre-release overlay/border to make it even more clear they’re not playing a full release game.
  • Publishing slots
    • Bigger games must sign up for ‘release slots’ on a publishing houses’ schedule.  There is often a fixed schedule with only X number of Triple-A releases, Y number of Indie, Z number of casual, etc.  You have to sign up for one of these slots well ahead of time – and the slots all come with different conditions.
    • Early exclusives, for example, are often part of the conditions of a publishing houses release slot.  Often you aren’t paid for all the extra work or the fact it’s exclusive to one platform – it’s just flat a condition of xBox/Sony or the publisher’s release slot you signed up for.  So stop thinking that certain exclusives make the dev rich – they usually don’t get anything for it.
  • Patent trolls:
    • 15% of on dev’s emails were patent trolls threatening to sue.  He simply had to just ignore them and see if any bubbled up.  Other heads nodded this happened to them to lesser/greater extent.
  • Shipping:
    • Don’t fret if you hear that/your game is delayed.  Games that are in great shape get shipped (as you’d expect).  Good games that *could* be great (but are not due to flaws) get delayed.  Bad games will always simply ship because they know nothing will fix them and you just get what you can out of them.  Delayed games are a good sign because that means they’re willing to pay to fix things and you’ll really be getting a better game.
  • Managing your community:
    • You spend a LOT of time with annoying personal attacks over and over again.  Tip: the emotional damage is already done, so let it go in that moment.
    • You will get lots of hate comments every day.  Really, really hurtful ones too.  Unbelievable stuff.  Every morning.  Made one guy never want to go look at twitter/facebook.
    • Death threats are common – and becoming even MORE common.  Everyone on the panel seemed to have gotten a few.

Session: Game career management

Panel of Indie developers.  Much of this was similar to things that had been shared in previous years.

  • They re-iterated much of what was said in previous years.  You should be networking and connecting with as many Indie devs in your area/forums.
  • Indie appears to be moving towards more seasoned vets that quit ‘regular’ dev jobs to go into indie development vs fresh-out-of-college types.  Experience is more important now.
  • Do not be the naysayer on the team.  Anyone can do that.  Be a SOLUTION provider.  That’s what makes you stand out.
  • Be bold – remember that the worst anyone can say is ‘no’.  You won’t make an impact if you don’t make a difference.
  • Finish what you start.  Getting to 80% of a finished game is still no game.  You must complete it to be anything.
  • More elaboration about being ‘passionate’.  One guy was having trouble staying motivated after all the long hours, low pay, and balancing his personal relationships.  The panel pretty much said, “Get out – you’re not passionate enough’.  Personal note: This sounded nasty because his concerns were totally normal work-life issues.  Basically, the panel seemed to indicate they only wanted people that were willing to trade anything to be in the industry – family, personal life, etc.  Since when has ‘being passionate’ meant ‘be our slave-robot in our game mine’?  I would have hoped to have seen some helpful suggestions on balancing work-life and tips to staying passionate (which IS a problem for everyone at some point despite what the panelists believe).  Left a bad taste in my mouth about their companies since they clearly were of the mind you toed that line or were gone.