12.13.2007

The Butterfly is in Full Effect

They say that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a storm on the other side of the world. My father told me recently that although this is sometimes true, typically a butterfly's affect is dampened out into insignificance. The turbulence it generates meets a predominant flow in the ichor of the atmosphere, whose impetuous flow is barely interrupted. Any meaningful causality from that flap hits the equivalent of a brick wall.

For this reason, butterflies do not form a prominent place in the American Military Arsenal. There are no fields of cabbages placed strategically at the polar opposite location of Iran, attracting caterpillars who bloom into storm-generating Weapons of Mass Destruction causing lightening storms, flash flooding, and as an unintended positive effect, allow crop production in the previously arid deserts.


Tommy's asked me to clear up some confusion which probably could have been cleared up a while ago. This may be my last post here. (Edit: That sounds a bit like I'm going to kill myself, apparantly. Don't worry. I'm not going to. I simply meant that I'd be posting on this blog from now on).

For the past 5 or 6 months, I haven't really contributed to Goo. This is because of the depression I've been going though. I guess I won't go into detail about how this disease robbed me of the will to work on a game that I had been planning since I was about 19. Basically, my psychotherapist says I built an enormous castle of expectation on it, and was slain by the performance anxiety guarding the gates.

It's never quite as simple as this, of course. There are many other contributing factors to my decline, but there it is. I got depressed. I choked. I'm still dealing with the guilt of leaving Tommy in the lurch. Now I live, cocooned in my parents house, isolated, dormant, hoping to awaken, but not holding my breath.

During my slow and torturous departure, Tommy took on more and more of the weight of production. Not only has he revised the code almost completely (twice over) he's also had to take on board feedback and make design changes without me*.

I'm still proud to be a part of Goo, even though now it goes on without me. Though my coding contributions have been written into insignificance, I still feel I worked damn hard on the design - at least while I still could. I know it seems like a simple concept - one you wouldn't expect a lot of design for - but simple concepts don't necessarily make for simple solutions. I tried my best to focus on the intrinsic joy of handling the Goo physics, to have the shaders explain the interplay of thick and thin, and thus the unending depth of gameplay even with such a simple concept. I wanted to do it without using gimmicks as a kind of apology for weak core gameplay. I wanted it to be "pure", and enjoyable within that. I even tried to think of what the mechanic was trying to express**, and ways to amplify that. I put a lot of love into Goo. It breaks my heart that it no longer belongs to me. The fact that it took me several months before I finally came to favor my mental well-being over this game ought to be proof enough that my heart needs some glue (Note: not gay slang).

I said, a long time in this blog, that passion is like a fuel, and that when you make a game with no secure income, you need to stock up on passion for the long haul. There's obviously something wrong with that analogy, because I had passion... but somehow my petrol tank exploded. In slow motion. Across a 4 lane motorway. Causing five deaths. 15 injuries. Long tailbacks.

Tommy wanted me to point out - to anyone confused - about who was really behind earning Goo an IGF Technical Excellence nomination, since we both seem to have been credited equally in a few cases. I'm here to say that the IGF technical excellence nomination is all down to Tommy's hard work. My contribution to the technical side was certainly not in implementation - Tommy's coding ability humbled me completely any time I tried to do anything useful. I merely outlined the broad strokes of the technology at the beginning of the project - I'd had this idea (of blending blobs to create a height map, and interpret that through different shader visualizations to create a wealth of different effects) for many years, and had been waiting for hardware to catch up. When the hardware finally arrived to achieve it, I was no-where near expert enough to act upon it. Ideas are one thing, but without implementation, they're just ideas. Without Tommy we'd have nothing.

A butterfly's flaps won't always cascade into a major weather-front. Similarly, as the butterflies around us flap as hard as they can in the hopes of causing a storm, the causal persistence from our own meagre turbulence may be dampened and redirected into other streams of flow. In this life, some of us are destined to work hard and achieve little. I know this is true, because I flapped myself half-empty even before working on Goo, and still have nothing to show for it. Tommy, thankfully (and guilt inducingly) still has a lot of flap left in him. Take it home, buddy!

Oh, and speaking of flapping myself raw, I won't be able to fly to the IGS this year, but I do hope that everyone who goes has a nice time.

Goodbye, caterpillars.

*I don't doubt that the game will be different from what I originally intended, but then, that'd be true even if I were in tip top shape, beavering away along side him. It's typical for games to change as they are made.
**In the same sense as Jon Blow's recent talks mentioning "Meaningful Gameplay" which I always called "Logos ex Machina", because translating English into Latin
badly, and putting it in italics instantly raises your IQ by four points.

4 comments:

Matthew said...

That's pretty rough, man. I truly believe everything is what you make of it. Sure, you're in a rough place now and things didn't go as you expected, but give it time and new paths and possibilities will open up.

Taoism teaches that every apparent setback/problem is an opportunity, it just depends how you look at it. And while it's very hard to see that when you're in the middle of it, give it some time, things will brighten up again.

Not to get all spiritual and bullshit on you, but you seem like you're in a hard place. Even if none of my words help, I'm thinking of ya and wish you the best. You're good people.

-Matt

Ninja Dodo said...

Hey man, keep on flapping.

- Christiaan

JC Barnett said...

Damn those butterflies! Eradicate the lot of them, I say.

Sorry to hear about your depression, it's a rough deal. I'm a flapper myself, also running on fumes though I'm not in as bleak a place is you right now.

No advise here. I have no clue. Just a hearty "chin up, old boy".

Raigan said...

damn it, check your email!