05 August 2014

New Writing...

Via Gamasutra, I published two new articles on game Development in the last 6 months...

Reality Bytes : Pondering The Limits Of Realism
A meditation on the pros and cons of video game realism in all its forms, and why games don't need to aspire in that direction to be engaging, emotional, and interesting.

Digital Future, Invisible Past : What Lives On When A Good Game Dies
An investigation into the ephemeral nature of video games as a medium, and a novel theory about what our true legacy will be.

Also, just finished writing a play. Still need a title for it; the old one was stale.

08 March 2014

Baudelaire In Translation, Part I

Two poems by Charles Baudelaire, translated into free verse versions ... originals included below.
So often music transports me like an ocean!
Towards my pale star,
Beneath a ceiling of mist or in a vast ether,
I take to the sea.
My bosom pushed forward and my lungs inflated
Like canvas sails.
I ride the backs of amassing waves
Hidden by the night.
I feel within me all the vibrating passions
Of a trembling vessel;
The merciful wind, the tempest and its throes
On this open abyss,
Cradle me. Otherwise, stillness—a vast mirror
Of my despair.
— Kloé Rahilly & Darby McDevitt

La Musique
La musique souvent me prend comme une mer!
Vers ma pâle étoile,
Sous un plafond de brume ou dans un vaste éther,
Je mets à la voile;
La poitrine en avant et les poumons gonflés
Comme de la toile
J'escalade le dos des flots amoncelés
Que la nuit me voile;
Je sens vibrer en moi toutes les passions
D'un vaisseau qui souffre;
Le bon vent, la tempête et ses convulsions
Sur l'immense gouffre
Me bercent. D'autres fois, calme plat, grand miroir
De mon désespoir!
Charles Baudelaire

20 November 2013

Short Fiction From Way Back

(Note: I wrote this piece over 10 years ago, possibly 15. I stumbled across it last night and it made me smile more than once, so I decided to publish it here and give it a final resting place. Minor amusement, nothing more. -DM)

The Critics are Talking About This Life's Monument

"As majestic and fragile as a hydrogen Zeppelin, this is one story I can guarantee will afflict that small part of your anatomy you call your 'sense of decency' with a ravaging apoplexy. Enter with care; exit enraptured."
     -Roddy Rakish, Author of The Chartruse

"A canny look at the building blocks of culture. No stone is left unturned, no brick unmortared, no cornerstone unchristened … no flagstaff unsundered, no window uncracked, no tapestry unhung … no billiard table unbroken, no gas lamp unsnuffed … no rampart unmanned, no head unshaven, no knee unbent … a true delight."
     -Garry 'Gristle' MacHugh, Conjuror Laureate

"Crushed, rebuilt, intensified, illuminated, rarefied - these are the founding artistic principles of This Life's Monument. Extemporaneous, Magical, Fraternal, Wet, Green, Loaded - these are the Adjectives that describe it best. Read it today - this is the injunction I pass on to you."
     -Kiki Rote, a New Woman since that day in Fresno

"Never before in the history of literature has an author conceived a character so vague and indistinct and yet so compelling as Kid Ubiquity; and never before has a protagonist roused such complex reactions and agonies. Kid Ubiquity and his colleagues at the International Tychist League are the secular trinity of decency, shame, and ambition rolled into a single bundle for our investigation."
     -Rev. Buck Young

"A Riot! A Tour De Force! I laughed my ass off and wiped my tears away … crystal tears of limpid bliss… A real treat!"
     -Not Her Real Name

"A … bizarre [story] … I … like[d] ... it."
     -Sven, Accounts Manager

20 January 2013

Music Music Music

A small update to my album Technoir Classics '78 - '86.
The whole damn thing is available on Bandcamp:

Listen here. Or visit the page itself...

Love Love Love Thud of the Old Plunger

Heaviness of mind and heart pushing through these battering winter winds. Sometimes feeling thick and syrupy, like the solid swirls in a block of marble, cold and inert, only the illusion of forward movement. Yet still ... the sun is out!

Today I'm glad I remembered this old poem, tracked it down, and devoured it...


By Samuel Beckett

why not merely the despaired of
occasion of
is it not better abort than be barren
the hours after you are gone are so leaden
they will always start dragging too soon
the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want
bringing up the bones the old loves
sockets filled once with eyes like yours
all always is it better too soon than never
the black want splashing their faces
saying again nine days never floated the loved
nor nine months
nor nine lives

saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love
the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words
terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending
I and all the others that will love you
if they love you

unless they love you


Best known for his plays, then his novels, Beckett was also a life-long if infrequent scribbler of verse. His earliest poems were baroque pieces of jaunty wordplay and opaque symbolism, thinly veiled attempts to tear Joyce's crowd from his head. But he never quite managed this, being always too clever by half, and never empathetic.

But as Beckett aged, his poems grew as spare and trim as the rest of his writing. The above poem comes from a period just before his most fruitful. He is learning to dispense with extraneous details and useless allusions, and cut straight to the bleeding heart of the matter.

It's a great little piece of writing. The sound of an exhausted chest heaving, of a man tired of pretending his unrequited love isn't poisoning him, one breath at a time.

"The grapples clawing blindly the bed of want..."

"The churn of stale words in the heart again..."

"If you do not teach me I shall not learn..."

I like to think it was this poem that made things like Waiting for Godot, Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, Happy Days and Company possible. The shape of his sentiment is here, almost fully formed.

08 January 2013

Game Theories: Epic Fails

I was having a late-night discussion with some designers at work about the nature of Succeeding and Failing in games. The question of the hour was this:

"In a narrative-driven or narrative-inflected game, what is a player's threshold for tolerating narrative failures with respect to gameplay."

To illustrate this, consider an exemplary assassination set-up in a typical Assassin's Creed game: You are given a target, and discover multiple approaches to reaching him. After choosing your path, you sneak up on the target and press the final "Attack" button. The assassination animation kicks in ... then cuts to one of the following cinematics:

1. You plunge your blade into the target's chest, killing him. [Success!]

2. You plunge your blade into the target's chest, but the target is wearing an iron vest a la the Man With No Name in "A Fistful of Dollars." Surprise! Your blade breaks. He has tricked you. After you wrestle, your target escapes. [Failure!]

3. You slam your fist down, but your target slips to one side at the last moment. The blade misses completely and slams into the ground. Your target rolls away and escapes. [Failure!]

Two of these scenarios end in narrative failure, one in success, and yet, in all three the gameplay loop is exactly the same -- the planning, approach, the execution of the attack. In all three cases, the player can be said to have "played the same game."

06 January 2013

Technoir Classics '78 - '86

New Music for a New Year!

Download Autographic's "Technoir Classics" right here.

Some background: I started composing the beats for this album on an MPC-500 back in August of 2010. I was in the process of dismantling my life in Seattle, preparing for a move to New York. Most of the work was done late in the evening, sitting on a mattress on the hardwood floor of a naked room bathed in the light of "Logan's Run" and "Soylent Green" playing on my laptop.

Three weeks later I was in Spokane, staying with my parents for a few weeks before heading East. I set up a small studio in their basement and began recording most of the basic backing tracks. But this process only got me about halfway to the finish.

Then something unexpected happened: I stumbled into a job in Montreal, just 4 days into my drive to NYC. It's a long story, but it resulted in work on the album being suspended for quite some time. I didn't dive back into recording until after I had finished work on "Assassin's Creed: Revelations", a project that consumed my life for almost a year.

At last, by late 2011 I returned to the album, and over the course of 10 months, dedicated a few hours a week to finishing it.

So it's done. It's fun. It's lo-fi. And it's a messy tribute to a few of my favorite things: The early 80s hip-hop and Electro scene in NYC, and the Technoir films of the 70s and 80s.


02 April 2012

A Leonard Cohen Cover

Here's a cover of Leonard Cohen's fantastic song. I sing, play guitars, and devised some of the swirling atmospherics. Bryant Moore plays drums, bass, and horns. While recording I wanted to see if I could come up with an emotive harmony to accompany the already amazing melody, and I'm pretty happy with what I ended up with -- though I use it sparingly, only at the end of the second verse and chorus.

I should note here that I screw up the lyrics in one spot: in the second verse I sing "...you set yourself..." while the original lyric goes "...you fixed yourself..." It's impossible to say why I misremembered this line but the damage to the song is minimal, I think. My addition, while not better, is weirdly ambiguous.

01 March 2012

Game Theories: The Whiteboards

Over a year ago I left a nice job at Griptonite Games near Seattle, Washington with a mind to seek my fortunes in the east. My plan was to move to New York City after taking two months off to finish a few lingering personal projects and begin a few more. That almost happened, until life intervened. But that's another story.

The day before leaving, I brought my camera into the office to execute pet project that had been simmering in my head for a long time. I wanted to take pictures of my colleagues' whiteboards. Over the course of my many years in the game industry, I had grown fond of the messes that accumulated on the small doodle stations adorning every cubicle in the building. And I mean, every cubicle. Griptonite was as generous with whiteboards as they were with staples. And thank heavens, too, because they always came in handy....

The fact that nearly everyone had access to a whiteboard is precisely the cause of what I love most about these pictures: the juxtaposed variety of evidence of every discipline in the studio -- programmers and artists, designers and producers -- haphazardly scribbling to make their ideas known, to solidify concepts, or just let off a little steam. The whiteboard empowered everyone.

It's too obvious to admire the remnants left behind by the clearly talented artists in these pictures, through fun all the same. But what I like best are the wrinkled diagrams and the hastily scratched notes. They are visible evidence of a halfway point in an otherwise inscrutable creative process; these are middles of so many unknowable ideas. Ideas that started in someone's head, leaked out on to a whiteboard in any one of five or six colors, and then perhaps, if it was lucky, eventually made its way into a game that you yourself may have played only last year. Just maybe.

Click on through to see more. And click on the photos themselves to blow 'em up bigger.

10 December 2011

Random Thought

Internet forums are the future of literature.