The news of Steve Jobs’ passing hit me in much the way John Lennon’s death did in 1980 — I mean it blindsided me and my whole circle of friends with a surprisingly personal sense of loss although we’d never met him.
And not just because we heard the news — and shared it with our friends — on the iPhones and MacBooks that our fingers touch, on a daily basis, more than practically anything else.
Apple’s products have changed the course of my life, as I’ve previously written. But I admire Jobs most of all for three reasons that have little or nothing to do with the MacBook I’m typing this on:
- He got fired from Apple. Kicked out of the organization he’d devoted his life to building. I can only imagine how that must have felt. Yet he came back from it in a way that said: “That wasn’t my life’s work, it was just the overture.”
- He bought Pixar from George Lucas when they were down and out. He put his own money on the line, then doubled down, buying into the dream of computer-animated features at a time when nobody else would.
- He gave one of the best commencement speeches ever, one I’ve often returned to when I’ve felt the need to adjust my frame of mind. He said things like this:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Jobs was no plaster saint. He shares many traits with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney, and will take his place in history books (or history ebooks) alongside them. Like the co-founder of that other Apple, John Lennon, he was, is, and always will be an inspiration.
The amazing husband-and-wife artists LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (my collaborators on Solomon’s Thieves) recently participated in a project called “sketchtravel.”
It’s one sketchbook with a bright red cover that’s traveled the world for over four years, passed from the hand of one artist to another — literally. Shipping the book in the mail, or giving it to an intermediary, is not allowed. Each artist gets a few days to do a “sketch” in the book. No do-overs, no mistakes.
The sketchbook eventually reached over 70 artists, including such living legends as Quentin Blake, Hayao Miyazaki, Peter de Seve, Carlos Grangel, and Tadahiro Uesugi — and, I’m proud to say, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland.
Here’s Uyen’s page:
You can read more about the project at www.sketchtravel.com.
The original book will be auctioned in Brussels on October 17th, with proceeds going to a charity called “Room to Read” that builds and furnishes libraries for children throughout the world. I really, really envy whoever gets it.
For the rest of us who don’t come up with the winning bid (I think it starts at something like 20,000 euros), a reproduction of the book is being published by a European house called Chêne, and can be purchased through amazon.fr. There’s also a super deluxe collector’s edition complete with a wooden box.
Pre-ordering mine now.
In today’s guest post, Yuri Lowenthal (who voiced the Prince in 2003′s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) talks about the special challenges of voice acting, as opposed to acting on camera.
When Yuri, Joanna Wasick and I came together in a sound studio for the first day of voice recording on POP:SOT, we didn’t have animations, animatics, or even concept art yet. While the POP team was bringing the world and characters of the game to life on screen, two actors first needed to make them real in their imaginations. The Prince and Farah began as voices in darkness.
I cherish voice recording as a special, thrilling, and terrifying moment in game production. Having experienced it from a writer-director’s point of view, I asked Yuri for an actor’s perspective on the process.
Yuri Lowenthal is an actor who lives and works in Los Angeles. You may have heard/seen him in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Afro Samurai, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Ben 10. He is married to actress Tara Platt and easily stalked at @YuriLowenthal. And if you’re nice he’ll tell you the exciting story about the time he met Jake Gyllenhaal.
People often ask me: “What’s harder? Voice acting or real acting?” I’ve heard it so many times that I hardly get offended anymore. Almost hardly. I mean, I get it; the person speaking is really trying to say: “What kind of acting is more difficult, the kind where we just end up hearing your voice, or the kind where we end up seeing your face?”
Well, let’s break it down:
For on-camera acting, I generally get the script in advance, time to talk with the director about the character and what his or her vision is for the project, maybe do a little research, put on a costume, work with some props, walk around the set, rehearse with other actors, and take time to break down the script so that I can bring you, the viewer, the best performance I am capable of.
For voice acting, I generally show up the morning of the recording, am handed a script, and after about 5 minutes (if I’m lucky) of discussion with the director (or sometimes writer) about the project, we get down to business so that I can bring you, the viewer/listener/gamer, the best performance I am capable of. Will my performance be judged less harshly because I didn’t have the niceties that an on-camera or theatrical situation can afford? Absolutely not. Continue Reading
Screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin have been posting terrific weekly podcasts over at John’s site. If you’re an aspiring or working screenwriter, or just curious about how writers fit into the whole moviemaking process, I highly recommend them.
Friday’s podcast especially warmed my heart. It’s ostensibly about the working relationship between screenwriter and director, but that’s not why I’m reposting it. It’s because Craig and John showed me that I wasn’t alone growing up pronouncing words like
misled = mizzled
segue = seeg
awry = orry
hyperbole = hyperbowl
until the day, generally years too late, when the awful truth came crashing in on me.
But I still think it’s possible that I may be the only one who grew up reading HWADDA-nits. You know, in paperback. Like by Agatha Christie.
Today’s guest post comes from KlickTock founder Matthew Hall, creator of Doodle Find and Little Things.
I can identify with Matt’s feeling that he came to the industry too late — that the “golden age of the bedroom coder” had passed him by. That’s exactly how I felt in 1982, when I’d had my Apple II for four years — since age 14 — and still hadn’t managed to get a game published. While other programmers produced hits like Space Eggs and Alien Rain, I could feel the window of opportunity closing, and kicked myself for having taken so long to get my act together.
As Matt and I can both attest, the brass ring comes around more than once.
I met Jordan at GDC earlier this year. I’d recently attended his postmortem of Prince of Persia and ran into him in the halls. We talked about developing games at that time and our own game development histories. However, given Jordan is quite famous and you probably have never heard of me before — what went wrong?
I am only a few years younger than Jordan. Just like he received his first computer, an Apple II in 1978, I received my Commodore 64 in 1983. I programmed games throughout my childhood, but by the time I was able to produce a professional quality game — the golden age of the bedroom coder was over. My 8-bit heroes had moved onto 16-bit and found themselves struggling. The industry had passed to the hands of those with big cheques and bigger teams.
Instead of producing a hit title in my bedroom — as I was always hoping to — I developed homebrew titles for the newly released Game Boy Advance. Nintendo would never allow garage developers like myself access to their development kits, so I used one of the many “flash-kit” solutions available on the black market. As an unlicensed developer I had to release all my titles for free; hardly untold riches! Regardless, I am proud of my titles even if only a handful of people were ever able to enjoy them.
My portfolio of titles and expertise in new hardware allowed me to get a professional game development job. But after 8 years of doing thankless work-for-hire, I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to leave my paid jobs and strike out on my own if I ever wanted to make a game I was truly proud of. I left my job just as the App Store was launching, though I had no idea it was going to change my life.
Little Things was released a year later. Though it was initially a failure on PC, it was featured by Apple as the iPad App of the Week and I’ve had similar chart-topping success with my other iOS games.
Finally the games industry had come full circle, once again empowering a lone developer with a stable platform, low cost of entry, excellent engines and tools available on the market, and a direct line to customers hungry for more games.
So I have a few pieces of advice for those with a passion for games and a notebook full of game ideas: Continue Reading