Archive for the ‘howto’ Category

Backlog, Schmacklog

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

As recently as a month ago, I was making grand proclamations about how I was going to knuckle down and get my backlog under control. I was going to pare down that list bit by bit and eliminate it once and for all. That was a good idea, in theory, and I am still making progress toward that goal, but I very quickly came to a realization: No matter what I do, my backlog is probably never going to be zero.

And I’m okay with that.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m giving up and am going to let myself drown under an ever-growing pile of unfinished games. That would be crazy. But I did go through my backlog and I identified three kinds of games in there and my likeliness to get them finished as a good first step.

Type 1 – Games I got as a part of a bundle that I didn’t really want in the first place. There are way, way too many game bundles floating around on the Internet. Lots of these game bundles are ‘pay what you want’ with special plums if you pay over a certain dollar amount. The big problem is that you get a game that you want, that is maybe pretty good, and you also get four or five (or more) other games that you’ve never heard of, didn’t really want, and may never play. I have lots of these artificially inflating the number of games in my backlog, so it looks worse than it actually is. It’s tempting to get rid of a lot of these games, but since most of them are digital-only, I’m stuck with them.

Type 2 – Games that looked interesting or were recommended, but it turns out that I didn’t like. Games like 3D-Dot Game Heroes get moderately favorable reviews, and look interesting enough for a try (or were in the bargain bin), but on putting them in, it turns out that they’re just not very good. I’m sure that to someone somewhere these games are good, but I’m not going to waste my time slogging through them if I’m not having any fun doing it.

Type 3 – Games that are just too long. Probably until I either retire or hit the lottery, my time for playing games is limited, and even when I do get a chance to play, I may not be able to play in long stretches. Some weeks I can manage six or eight hours, and other weeks it’s a bit less (like zero). That time may not be in big chunks, either. Some days I might only have a few ten or twenty minute chunks of time that I can devote to a game, other days it might be two or three hours. If I can’t pick up a game and put it down after a few minutes, I may end up putting it down and coming back to it just after never. If a game takes 40 or more hours to complete, and I can work in 10 hours a week playing it, it’s still going to take me a month or so to get to the end.

What are the odds that I’m going to finish these up? Type 1 is very unlikely. I might play it once to see what it’s all about, or I might never look at it. I didn’t really want it in the first place, so these don’t count toward my backlog. I can write them off.

Type 2 games can also be written off. I’m not going to force myself to play something I didn’t like. If I gave it a try and didn’t like it enough to finish it, or at all, then I’m knocking it out of the backlog.

Type 3 games are an interesting category. Games that I liked, probably, but took so long to play that I just got tired of playing them every free evening for a month or more. These games I’d like to get back to, but the odds of me doing that are directly related to how long it’s been since I played it last. A game that I last played a month ago? There’s a decent chance I’ll give it another go in a couple of weeks after I’ve played something short to ‘cleanse my palate’, so to speak. Something I stopped playing in 2007 two consoles ago? Assuming I remember that I have a saved game, and the console is still hooked up to my television, I might play again. But, realistically, we can take these off the list, too, if they haven’t been played in the last year.

And, just like that, my backlog goes from insane and completely unmanageable to slightly off-kilter and kind of manageable.

It’s a start. I’ll take it.

Operation: Get Stuff Done

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

I’ve written on more than one occasion about how ponderously large my video game backlog has gotten. I would tell myself, “I’m saving up so I’ll have something to do when I retire.” Jokingly at first, and then semi-seriously. I kind of stopped saying that when I realized that the backlog had gotten so enormous that, at the rate I’m acquiring games today, even if I retired tomorrow, I might not be able to finish them all.

I mentioned before that a big reason that my backlog has almost taken on a life of its own has to do with the social component. Most of my friends and I have diverged in what kinds of video games we play, so there’s not as many things we can discuss about whatever game we’re playing, and there’s no friendly rivalry to see who can get all of the Gold Skulltulas first, or whatever.

But I think that’s only a part of the equation.

The second part is that there are just too many video games. There are so many video games coming out these days, and between the ludicrous number of bundles out there the wallet-destroying digital sales (Steam, Origin, GOG, etc.), it’s very easy, and sometimes very cheap, to quickly get so many games so quickly that the sheer number of the things hits you like a tidal wave. It looks daunting, but you can steel yourself. You know you can do this, you’ve been playing video games for years.

So you start trying to figure out what you want to play and analysis paralysis sets in. Do you want to play something relatively short, or do you want to play something that will take dozens of hours to complete? Which of these looks like it will be long enough, but not too long? Will I have time to play it around the times where I have to do Grown Up Stuff(tm)? Will I be able to put it down for a couple of days or even weeks and then be able to come back and remember where I was? What if it’s no good? The critics were all over the place with some of these games, what if I wasted my money on it? What if my instincts were right and I find that a game is actually good, in spite of the critical score. What if it was critically acclaimed, and I thought it was boring?

All of these whatifs were really slowing me down. I’ve been getting dragged down into analyzing the minutiae of my potential game experience and hemming and hawing about what game to play so much that instead of playing games, I’ve just been thinking about how nice it would be if I could play some of these games in my backlog, but I just don’t have time.

Or is that really true?

I wasn’t sure. I mean, I have more responsibilities now than I did when I was younger. I have a full time job, a house, I have to do my own laundry, buy and prepare my own food, maintain my own vehicle, and so on. But I’m not actively doing one of those things every moment of every day. For example, I do sleep on occasion. But what do I do with all of my time? Where does it go? I decided to find out by my typical method: overanalyzing the situation, to find out. And that means, making a chart.

Pretend there’s a chart here that shows what I’m likely to be doing at any given hour of the day.

The chart was interesting. It showed me that I have about 30 hours per week where I’m doing nothing in particular. It also showed me that even though I don’t have an 8-5 job any more, that I’ve still got my sleep schedule set up like I do. And that means that I’ve got a couple of hours that I’m spending idle every morning that I could be using for something besides sitting around waiting for time to go to work. I also have more time during the weekend than I originally thought, even though it’s pretty well scattershot through the day.

That’s encouraging.

That means that I do have time to get some game playing in, and I can slowly whittle down my backlog if I can manage to shoehorn it into the timeslots I have available. But, there’s another problem.


It’s weird to think that I would ever need to get myself mentally motivated to play video games, an activity that I have enjoyed for most of my life, but sometimes that motivation just isn’t there. I could play a game anyway, and see if that forces me to get motivated to play it more, but I don’t think I want to do that. Forcing myself to do something when I don’t really want to seems like a good way to sour me on the whole thing, which seems like a bad idea. But I can use that time to do other things related to games. I could update my blog (see the last few weeks’ worth of updates), I could read something, watch a video, create a video, and so on.

*A very important aside, I know that loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy can be a possible sign of depression. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have that, but if you think you might, nothing I say in this article is going to help except this: I encourage you to find someone qualified to help with depression and they will help you. Depression is a serious issue, and not something that this article (or any other article on a crappy blog site) is qualified to help with.*

I also want to set some goals for myself so that I can revisit this post somewhere down the line and see if I’ve actually made any progress in whittling down the backlog. Feel free to follow along or add your own:

  • Play something for a few minutes every day.
    • Even if it’s something that I’ve played to death, playing something for a few minutes is going to keep my momentum going to tackle something bigger
  • Ignore the Backloggery
    • The Backloggery is great, but it’s a pain to remember to go update it when I buy something, when I finish something, when I 100% complete something, when I start playing something else, etc. etc. Plus, there are no penalties for failure, and no real reward for succeeding, either
  • Don’t go for 100% completion.
    • I wasn’t doing this much these days, anyway, but I need to avoid trudging through a game, trying to collect ant heads or whatever for some unlock or a trophy or something.
  • Don’t rush through the game, either
    • I’m weird, I know, but I hate rushing through a game the first time I play it. I like to soak in all the ambiance and immerse myself into it if I can.
  • Play one new game per month
    • This one is going to be tricky, and my not be sustainable. But the idea here is to at least try something in the backlog instead of letting it sit there and rot, especially if it’s one of the shorter games, to see if it’s even something that I’ll like. I’ve bought some duds before, and didn’t find out about it for over a year because it took me that long to get to them.
  • If a game is terrible, shelve it
    • This goes hand-in-hand with the above. If I try out the new game and it stinks, well, then I just won’t play it any more and I’ll move on to the next one. I don’t need to force myself to slog though it to the end, hoping it will get better. It might, but I don’t really want to waste my time not having fun now for promises of something that might be kind of fun later. I need to trust my instincts, if it’s not fun now it probably won’t be fun later, either.
  • Limit MMORPG time
    • MMORPGs are great, but they will sink and steal time like no other activity I know. And, since they never really end, there’s always something for you do to in them. I had to kill my World of Warcraft subscription a while back because that was all I was doing with my free time at the time. Now, since there are so many MMORPGs that are free to play, it’s incredibly easy to get lost running around a virtual world doing things for hours and hours without actually spending a dime. That’s almost worse than a paid subscription. A paid subscription makes you feel like you need to play something to get your money’s worth out of it, a free subscription is always there, waiting on you to have an hour or three to kill, and that can be dangerous.

Of course, these are only guidelines. Who knows if I can actually stick to them or not, but I won’t know if I don’t try. I’ll be refining them as I go on, seeing what works and what doesn’t. I don’t expect to ever have a backlog of zero unless I just sell all of my games and consoles (fat chance of that happening any time soon), but I can do more to get it pared down, it’s just going to take some work.

And, who’s afraid of a little work?


Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I mentioned recently that I’ve began to chronicle some of my backlog-clearing exploits over at, but I left a couple of questions unanswered that nobody was really asking, such as, “I want to make videos of myself playing video games, too. How do I do that?” There are lots of ways to do this, ranging from pretty cheap to bowel-emptying expensive, but I’ve got nailed down what I think is a pretty good starting point.

First, the capture computer itself. It was tempting (and way cheaper) to just toss a video capture device (more on that below) into whatever existing computer that I used for gaming. But that would cause it’s own problems. First: if I wanted to capture video from my computer while I’m playing a game, performance would be dragged way down the toilet while I was trying to play and the capture card was doing its thing, and second: I would have to move my gaming PC into the room where my video game consoles are, and hook them up to the television (which has a lower resolution than my monitor, so it’s not ideal). So my happy medium was to build a low(ish) cost PC that would act as a dedicated capture station.

After checking around a bit, I settled on the AverMedia MTVHDDVRR. It had pretty much all I needed: HD capture, HDMI, S-Video, Composite, and Component inputs, and modest system requirements. As a bonus, it was (relatively) cheap at about $100.

Running total: $94.99

The requirements for running such a card weren’t too outrageous, and it’s no secret that I’m a fan of AMD and NVIDIA, but I wanted to also take a look at the other side of the fence, so to speak, and checked out the Sandy Bridge stuff from Intel. Staying relatively low-end, I settled on the Gigabyte GA-H61M-DS2 with an Intel G850 stuck in there. And since RAM is cheap, I went with 8GB, and put it in the cheapest case I could find. This probably means that I’ll have to replace the power supply with something better at some point down the line, but that’s probably not going to happen for weeks.

As an aside, it turns out that this combination can be used as a Hackintosh if I ever decide to go down that road, so, you know, bonus for me.

PC Components: $211.12
Running total: $306.11

Well, this is turning out to be not quite as cheap as I thought. No time to think about that, though! Let’s press on!

Now it’s time to think about connectivity. To tackle problems such as, how to send the output of my consoles to my television and to my computer at the same time? (Otherwise I would be playing in a tiny, slightly laggy, window). The solution? Use an HDMI Splitter, of course. There are powered and non-powered kinds. I chose a powered one, and it seems to get the job done.

Splitter and HDMI cables: $36.95
Running Total: $343.06

At this point, my build was missing a couple of key components: optical drive, hard drive, operating system, and cable to hook my computer to the television. My television has a VGA input, so getting a cable was a piece of cake, however, if yours doesn’t, you might need to use one of the other connectors on your television, or just haul a monitor in the room with your capture stuff.

VGA Cable: $11.25
Running Total: $354.31

What about the rest of that stuff? Well, it turns out that I, for some reason, accumulate lots of parts and components from past upgrades (including mine and that of friends and family), so I was able to scrounge up a copy of Windows Vista (effectively $0), a 500GB hard drive (effectively $0), and I used this guide to turn one of the several freebie USB drives I have laying around from various IT conferences into a bootable Vista install drive. It didn’t seem worth it to install an optical media drive just to install the operating system, and then never use it again.

Drive and Operating System: $0
Running Total: $354.31

After all of that, assembly took place, and in one day of installing updates and drivers, it was time to move on to broadcasting software. The bundled AverMedia software works well enough for capturing, but if you want to broadcast out to the greater Internet there are several options. However, most people that I can find seem to be using either the Flash Media Encoder (free), or XSplit (free and paid versions exist). So far, I’ve just been using FME since it’s free and relatively straightforward to get configured with the service.

And how well does it work?

You can check out the results here.

The Video Game Industry hires more than just programmers and artists

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

What do you do if you want to make games, or at least be involved in the process, but don’t know a linked list from a bubble sort, or your art looks like it was done by a painting turtle? Believe it or not, there are jobs out there that you can do.

Gamasutra has opened their ears and are soliciting questions on what you can do, even though you may not have the skills needed to be a programmer or an artist.

“The beauty of any of these jobs is that they are open to anyone who can do the basic functions, but applicants who love games are still typically given preference. No joke. Who do you think is more valuable at a game company: an office manager who has five years experience working in a law firm but has never laid hands on a PlayStation 2, or one who reads game industry web sites and loosely understands what a Scrum is? (A Scrum is a meeting that occurs daily when a software development team uses an agile development methodology.)”

From my own experience as an Assistant Producer, I can say that a formal education is not strictly necessary, for any of the disciplines. Though it can give you an edge, experience and skill are often an acceptable substitute. If you have talent, you will be recognized and given a shot. You just have to have the ability to work hard, be eager to learn, and be willing to start low on the totem-pole. You don’t need to know how to program or do art, but being able to talk effectively between the departments will go a long way. The best advice I can give is to learn your craft, hone your skills, create something to show off the relevant skills, and apply to absolutely every company you can find. Everyone wants to work at places like Blizzard and Bungie, so they get mountains of applications. You’ll likely have better luck going to a smaller developer. The smaller guys usually have smaller staffs, so you’ll get the added bonus of wearing multiple hats, which will increase your skillset and your marketability.

Link! (Gamasutra)

So you want to be a games journalist?

Friday, June 29th, 2007

There is an interesting article up on GameDaily Biz that details the steps that all armchair bloggers need to take to make it to the big time (that is what they all want, right?)

“[I]f you’re reading this, chances are you want in. Can’t say I blame you: All things considered, getting paid to travel the world, play games months in advance of release and rub elbows with the industry elite is nice work if you can get it. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the vast majority of editors, fellow freelancers, marketing/PR reps and developers I’ve encountered are some of the hardest-working, most intelligent and interesting people you’ll ever meet.”

He also references another post in the same vein by EGM guy Dan Hsu, which is also worth a read. The information in the articles overlaps slightly, but both are certainly worth reading if you’re thinking about diving headlong into the realm of Video Game Writer Stardom.

Link! (GameDaily Biz via Joystiq)
Link (1up Blog)