Welcome back to the stage of history!

Sunny Koda is a concept artist from Australia who went to the US filming a Documentary about Gamer Culture. He went from Sand Diego to Vancouver, from Comic Con to PAX. Now he's following his dream of working in the daunting US Games industry. Will he make it? I hope so. Because I am that guy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Um... hi

A modest collection of my latest artwork, I thought it was time I actually showed you what I have been on about. I want to do this for a living, enjoy :)


It's no secret that I'm operating under fairly desperate parameters. But sometimes I really wonder about my luck. In case you are confused by the link, it seems that because of my circumstances (claiming three welfare payments and my University government loan) my tax return hasn't come through despite submitting it about a month ago. It goes on to say they supposedly have been processing them from the 20th of July, but then you can expect to wait a few weeks even without the massive backlog. I really wanted to have that money to reassure me before attempting the August leg of my trip (where I travel up the coast meeting american gamers and living with them). I don't really feel secure with only a few thousand in the bank. Even walking around Sand Diego without Luke was a little scary. It's one thing to be around the world with a friend and quite another to be there alone.

Luke seems to have epic luck. While we were in San Diego we found a cheap hotel on the day of Comic Con, trains left just after we boarded and lines were just long enough to get us into panels. I am hesitant to leave without at least a lock of his hair.

A message from my dad reads "It seems you are having a dream run. Make the most of it. It may be time to look for a job." You have to dig deep to find the heart; even on the other side of the planet he has me feeling guilty about my holiday, my state of unemploy and my lack of self confidence in regards to my art. My fiancee also pressed me about contacting games studios. I feel like listing my current feelings on the trip right now:

1) While I still have a few thousand dollars, I am really holding my breath for this tax return. Staying with Luke and Comic Con was initially the entirety of the trip: the vacation part. It has been so good I am hesitant to continue as I am welcome to stay here longer and continue hanging out with Blizzard people.

2) After going to Blizzard and then Comic Con I really got a sense for the level of artwork that will get me a job here and, although I feel sure I am close, I don't think I am quite there yet. I printed off a folio of my latest (and best) work which I am fairly happy with but didn't end up showing it to anyone. The only company doing folio review that I want to work for is Wizards of the Coast, and I know my work isn't ready for them yet. I also know what I need to improve on to get there and I have a contact when I'm ready.

3) Although there are supposedly many games companies around they are actually hard to locate/contact. They seem to make it their business to be immaterial, whether to avoid rabid fans or sad people who keep pestering them for a job. After seeing Blizzard and getting along very well with all the people there I'd love to go back to Australia and really push my skills for a job there. If I'm going to live in the US it'd have to be for a damn good job. Canada is another story, as that is where I'm hoping to find some work. But I'm not there yet am I? I'm in Irvine, without a car. The only things within walking distance are Spectrum Mall and Blizzard Studio.

4) Thus far my filming has been enthusiastic but amateur. I am frequently disappointed with the footage and frustrated by doing it on my own. I can't really put myself into the film the way I wanted because I have to operate the camera. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that I am having an exciting, interesting and successful trip but are failing to capture that on film. Cameramen must develop amazing intuition for what to film and when. My respect for documentarians has also risen.

5) Starcraft 2 just launched...

and it is completely awesome! So far I'm about half way through the story line and I am well impressed. Also a little excited to see that my speculation about the events may actually be accurate. Seriously, I should write these things. It's surreal to see Luke's art right there in the game too. Well done old chap! Well done indeed.

I also smashed out a bit of Alan Wake last night (while Chris struggles to devise a mono-black deck to face off against my Nemesis deck, which we have you to play with) and found it a little off-putting. Not because of the whole writer writing a story about a writer who is writing about the other writer, but because it is immediately tired and frustrating. I'm no fan of Stephen King novels anyway, but I don't think flailing about in the woods can be considered a core 'game mechanic'. I'm also going to go out on a limb and say he killed his wife and it's all more or less in his head but having such a pretentious premise, I'm sure it's much more convoluted whilst simultaneously no more satisfying. Maybe I was just getting frustrated so I didn't have to be scared? The game really does evoke that sense of a nightmare, where your actions seem futile and the lights seem so far away. But in reality I have no fear of the dark, so the games obsession with batteries (of the worst brand I have ever seen) and lights does little for me. I would almost say I'd prefer to watch it than play it, but that's not true.

Hopefully we'll play Castle Crashers again tonight, a game in which the fun is immediate and direct and the emulation isn't so obvious they mention it by name.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hell, it's about time.

Just got home from the midnight launch of Starcraft 2 featuring a stage with live matches and Samwise's own band (and a few others that feature on the SC2 jukebox). I must also mention the pre-zerg Kerrigan cosplayer who was quite hard to look away from. Luke and the rest of the SC team were ecstatic, for one night they get o be celebrities and sign boxes. Nice! It's also Luke's birthday which Chris and I both forgot this morning. Sorry buddy =)
We went there straight from sketch group inside the Blizzard compound so I couldn't bring my camera... I'm failing hard now.

In fact, we are standing around the kitchen while Luke cooks a stir fry discussing how great it would have been to bring my camera. Renee was dressed as Raynor and had found himself a hot little Kerrigan, there were live games of starcraft 2, Samwise's band played and there were a ton of hardcore gamers being interviewed in line by tv networks. Sigh.

SC2 looks amazing and I look forward to playing through it tomorrow. I played through the Frozen Throne expansion to Warcraft 3 today and realised how much of WoW is set up in that game. Warcraft may have borrowed heavily from Warhammer initially but has since become irrefutably original. The writing on Blizzard titles is often overlooked, but it is increasingly solid. After all, they just buy the best writers in games. Bioware has good writers? Blizzard hires them. Mark Gibbons is a brilliant designer? Hire him. It's a solid business plan. I saw MG again tonight which was again very cool. I may get a chance to buy him a drink before I head on up the coast.

I'm having such a wonderful time here with Luke and Chris it's hard to man up and head off. But plans are tightening up nicely. Then I'll be dedicated to filming and it should go well. My two camera setup is yielding results. But the phrase 'I should have brought my camera' is becoming a mantra.

I honestly think if I had the talent to produce a good folio, I could have gotten a job by now. Which is good for the future, but right now I feel my skills fall short of the standards set by companies like Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard Entertainment. Next time Gadget, next time.

I played through an indie game today that goes by the name 'Limbo'. It only threw a few hours of gameplay at me, but (due to a lifetime of puzzle games) I didn't get stuck on any of the puzzles. Which was fine because what really stuck me was the cold and cruel visual style of the game, well worth the price of admission on xbox live. If you like puzzle games (perhaps you recently enjoyed Machinarium?) then you may like this one.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Comic Con wind up

'Isn't that one enough?'

said a bothered looking Mike "Gabe" Krahulik as I hastily set up my video camera and passed the two Penny Arcade figureheads lapel mics. I felt very rude; he has a way of looking at you that makes you feel like you're wasting his time which, in all fairness, I pretty much was.

'Well, I'm doing this all by myself.'

I managed, trying to impress upon them how difficult and probably naive it was to try and film a documentary by myself.

Jerry 'Tycho' Holkins interjected, suggesting that my idea and journey warranted it's own documentary. I already intend to document the whole trip as an attempt at Gonzo-Journalism (basically impossible without a cameraman) and it was gratifying to hear that my premise, at least, was solid. He is much more comfortable on camera, truly personal and immediately friendly.

Just as well I had that second camera, as in my nervous and anxious state I managed to record my feet as I asked questions and then pause the recording each time they answered (obviously thinking I was doing the opposite). Oh well, at least I remembered to turn the mic on. I was further dismayed upon reviewing the footage of Comic Con. The Penny Arcade interview is the best of it and even then only one question provided any valuable or relevant answers. Why? Because I was so nervous I forgot my questions. I rehearsed them all the previous day, but suddenly on the spot before my heroes I just froze up in a most unprofessional fashion. To add insult to injury, one great shot of me from the following day (casually showing my appreciation and sharing a joke with Jerry) was completely rendered unusable by two idiots in the background grinning and thrusting at the camera as if manifest straight from the depths of a Halo 3 online match.

I even had a few great conversations with people about games and being a gamer, but naturally these were all during times that I either hadn't brought my camera or was not allowed to bring my camera.

So I didn't get much footage for the documentary.

But I did have an incredible time.

Ultimately I ended up with a few figures; Cammy (Street Fighter 2: Turbo), Yoko (Gurren Lagann) and Ace (One Piece). I also got the PA book, Brom's latest work 'The Child Thief' and the little Deadspace artbook. I really wanted to get Joe Mad's art of Darksiders as it is probably the best game artbook ever bound, but by Saturday $80 was well out of my price range. I did get to meet him and tell him I was a fan though so that was pretty cool.
Panels wise I saw Nic Cage in his latest stupid movie, but woah it was really him! A live table read of a new episode of The Cleveland show and Futurama, Seth Mcfarlane sang 'Down Syndrome Girl' and didn't make a single mistake, Matt Groening answered the same old Simpsons questions and I became quite interested in watching a tv show called 'Chuck' purely based on the crowd's enthusiasm.
A very special panel was the tribute to Drew Struzan, master of the 80's movie poster. Think of an iconic movie poster and he probably painted it. He was awarded a trophy for recognition of excellence and we provided the standing ovation to match. Three guys presented 20 minutes of a documentary they are making about Drew. It was 100% sit down interviews, mostly with famous directors and actors. They said they were making it without a budget, which made me feel pretty crappy in comparison. All their gear was very pro. What am I doing!?
But my very favourite part of Comic Con was seeing SCOTT PILGRIM vs THE WORLD! Now I usually don't care about lining up for hours just to see an advanced screening, but this was with the entire cast (huge cast...), Edgar Wright (Dir) and Brian Lee O'Malley (Original comic creator) and 900 dedicated fans. I sat next to a girl named Kat who turned out to be from Vancouver. She told me she trusted Edgar Wright, a good sign. There was a huge buzz about the whole thing and every time a piece of game music played, a character made their first appearance or scott defeated an evil ex the entire crowd erupted with cheers an applause. Some of the comedic moments amplified exponentially by the audience in attendance to the point where it was unthinkable to consider any movie funnier than this one right here, right now. Not that it was ever going to have the trouble generating attention that Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead did, but go and see this film as soon as possible. It is incredible! One final thought is that I expected good things from the director because I believed he was capable of blending the real world with the 'gamer' experience in a convincing fashion. I'm glad he managed it so well because it has further inspired my own ideas to make this documentary blended between the real world and the world of games.

What I mean to say is this; while I may not be getting all the footage etc. that I wanted for the doco I have long been toying with the idea of filling in scenes or generating entirely new ones using animation that emulates classic iconic video games. For example: when I first had the idea at work. That moment could be animated a a black and white old-school gameboy zelda game. Other times I can add gamer stuff in using after effects (such as life bars and sims green-diamonds). You may think it sounds lame, but it wont be! I am a fervent gamer so I know what works and what looks like a tv commercial designed buy eejits.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

blog in prog

Just got back to the hostel and talked to Erin, feeling a lot better.

Walked around this morning, bought a Yoko figure to go with my Cammy. Bought the art of Deadspace ($5 minibook) to go with my PA 11.5th Anniversary book. I need to get Gabe to draw a penis in it...

Gonna bug the PA guys for most of tomorrow, try to get some usable material. Met a cool guy for my doco, interview him tomorrow.

We took a nap at lunch and then powered through some huge pizza slices. On the way back to the con we ducked into EA's Dead Space 2/Dragon Age 2 playable demos. Nice! Then got back to the con where we met Luke's privateer press contact and Brom and Raneman from Blizzard. Finished off with MtG panel and saw a new card from the upcoming set! Sword of G/U!!!!

Excuse me for Scribblin'

Today was one to remember! We arrived at Comic Con in San Diego after a somewhat noisy train trip (it was opening day at some horse track, it was very remeniscent of the Melbourne Cup in terms of dress/noise) only to find that my good friend Tariq had canceled my accommodation. It was based on a misunderstanding, but it seemed a little harsh considering San Diego plays host to about 120,000 visitors for the convention and is therefore pretty much booked out. Fortunately (so very lucky for us) I remembered my mother recently describing hostels in a kind light and there was a USA Hostel with room only four blocks from the convention, in the heart of the city. Feeling intense relief we checked in, signed up for the pub crawl, and headed back to see what all the fuss was about.

As we streamed in to the convention centre (after waiting for an hour in the first of what I'm sure will be many lines) I couldn't help but feel a combination of excitement and disappointment. It's basically just a huge market with displays that, whilst impressive, are purely sales driven. People clamouring not for artists work, but for sneak peak snippets of films and crappy tv shows. We wandered the grounds looking mainly for high quality figures for Luke's desk, until finally I could put off my primary mission no longer: I met Mike, Jerry and Robert of Penny Arcade fame. They are genuine and friendly people and I was wholly satisfied. I bought their anniversary book which not only celebrates their 11 years of writing/drawiung PA but also my 11 years of reading it. They are going to be very busy during the lead-up to PAX but they shook my hand for making the effort to come from Australia and said they were happy to do an interview if it gets quiet some time. Awesome!

Then we came back to the hostel very tired but content. There was a pub crawl which we took partook of and I'll have to go into that when I get some more 'net time. Which I now have! So we decided to fully embrace our hostel experience and join a bunch of Austrian guys on the pub crawl. This was good as we met Michael from Sydney (Bro) and Tim from Seattle (Nerd) who would keep us company each night we were there. Tim was a particularly useful friend as he was also attending comic con and taught us how to wait in line like a pro. Although I didn't share his enthusiasm for 'Chuck' we went with him on Saturday morning and managed to get into the infamous Ballroom 20 for the whole day. But I'm getting sidetracked. We went to four bars on the trip and had about 15 standard drinks worth of a combination of beer, vodka and tequila. One venue offered mechanical bull rides and, after seeing Luke get thrown bodily across the floor to land completely upside-down, I chose not to ride although I did slip the guy controlling it a little extra to take it a bit easy on Tim. Another venue had a dance-floor covered in dicks. No venue had girls. I was surprised that none came from the hostel as, in the days that followed, I found the occupancy of the hostel to be heavily in favour of blonde european girls. Single men take note. The highlights were definitely Luke-centric; at one point he vaulted clear over a bar to land amongst some girls who, overwhelmed by his awesomeness, immediate disappeared. Outside another club he did an impressive 'kong' over a small garden which ended with a less than 10-out-of-10 face-concrete interaction. Finally on our way home, arms about each other; best friends forever, we were harangued by a cute russian girl on a rickshaw. The rickshaws (they call them pedicabs but I think that sounds a little sus) buzz about constantly but this time there was the right combination of drunk/tired/appealing to warrant a ride. Unfortunately we were pretty much home so the three of us (four wouldn't quite fit) took a turn around the block. At one point I leapt out and pushed. I can't quite communicate the moment, but it was close to sheer unadulterated bliss. The kind of giddy joy only a drunkard can obtain.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


My plans for August have finally began to crystallise:
1st-3rd : LA
3rd-9th : San Jose
9th-13th : SF pt1
13th-15th : SF pt2
15th-20th : ???
20th-22nd : Alabany
23rd-I get bored : Seattle

Then flying back down to LA... so I can catch the PAX Train right back again '>.<'

September is a little more structured:
1st-2nd : PAX Train
2nd-5th : PAX
5th-I run out of money : Vancouver!

Then flying back down to LA once again to spend a couple more weeks in paradise with Luke and Chris before finally waving goodbye to excitement and adventure, to live out my days in the Australian countryside in a little town called Yarram.

But America has a vibe that is infectious. I feel connected to the industry, I feel like this is a place where you can be part of something. Comic Con will be the first real test. I have a notion that after I see geekdom on that scale it'll be hard for me to stay away.

Played some SF4 with Chris. His character of choice is C. Viper. I find her a little unwieldily and mainly stick to Ken. Ken is basically Ryu without the stigma of playing the hero (everyone knows heroes are lame a frequently OP). I really like the look of Juri Han, but I wonder about how she stacks up with only kick-based specials and the Feng Shui Engine.

Last night I went back to Blizzard to say hi to a few friends I'd made in my short time here and take part in a weekly sketch group. This weeks theme was 'Predator in Wonderland', I think I hit the target pretty well. Following, we celebrated a life of nerdiness at Kitayama where we ate sushi 'omakase'. It was all delicious! Highlights included Ahi, Maguro and the incredible Toro (served on tempura prawns with crab rolled in seaweed and sushi with avocado* and sesame seeds). I shared some sake with Luke, which was also the best I've had. They seemed pleased when I practiced my Japanese, but perhaps it was more like amusement. Chris gave it a try, but with little attempt at pronunciation, resulting in some funny dialect indeed.

Time to go get my folio pieces printed for comic con, and some business cards. Who knows?

*I'm allergic to avocado so I scraped it off but it's the chef special so you know, if you are ever making gourmet sushi...

Monday, July 19, 2010


On friday I finished up some more art for my mini-folio I'll be taking to comic-con. Mainly to prove that I am capable of artistry. The folio review looks to be a)bureaucratic and b)comic-based. I want to be a concept artist for a games company. Oh well I guess I'll only have to sign up for the few games companies that are there. I was keen to get my work in front of Wizards of the Coast in the hope of doing some magic cards, but now that I have met a good contact at Blizzard (who has done MtG artwork in the past) I'm more inclined to go back and work on some really good magic-styled art pieces before making a submission. I feel that, of my three goals, the one where I contact games companies looking for work is the one that is going poorest. My travel plans are good and I'm having heaps of fun, my documentary is taking shape with plenty of interested parties but despite making some good friends at Blizzard I have struggled to contact games companies. People have been telling me about how many there are in LA and Seattle, even telling me where they are, but I haven't yet made plans to visit. I have tried to contact them but it's difficult without someone on the inside. Perhaps I just feel like I'm not ready, that my small folio and two years experience isn't quite enough to march into people's offices inquiring about work. I'll try to at least make contacts while I'm here, and I'll definitely make a concerned effort in Vancouver, but I can't shake the feeling I'll wish I did more while I wasn't 7,500 miles (12,000km) away.

Inception was awesome, movie of the year. Chris Nolan is a legend of our time. Absent where the characters and lines that made The Matrix a cult-hit (cult, not mainstream) but this deliberate stripping of Hollywood machination left the lean and deliberate framework of good sci-fi. I certainly have my own ideas about the film, ideas I feel have strong merit, but I'll let you ask the person next to you during the closing credits.

On Saturday we went driving for the first time since I arrived a week ago. We visited a huge warehouse that was like a craft market for nerds. Endless isles featured trading card and comic book vendors but we were on the lookout for figurines. Whilst there were none of the promised Ashley Wood 3A robots for sale I did snap up a Bioshock (Luke's apartments use the Bioshock font!) Big Sister for just $13 and a Jessica Rabbit pin for my guitar strap. Luke almost bought a Jessica Rabbit statuette of his own but ended up spending the least (a surprise given his figurine fetish, which is mandatory for all concept artists) with Chris grabbing a set of Corpse Bride skeletons which are very cool indeed. Then, feeling a powerful hunger combined with a powerful need to get somewhere with air con (it was 32C) we pulled into an In'n'Out which as far as I'm concerned was like a McDonalds. I was assured it was the best fast food for cost but it failed to impress me and raises further questions about the quality of America's McDonalds. I do know for a fact that KFC is infinitely worse over here. I think I'll be avoiding the fast food, particularly when a $12 Burger'n'Fries from The Yardhouse tastes like meaty heaven. I am however enjoying the abundance of root beer. Particularly with unlimited refills.

Feeling rather stuffed and desperately dreaming of the pool back home, we called it a day. But fate had other plans. At the last minute I suggested we try to make it to Jim's Music shop before closing time. They had got an ESP Viper in just for me to play on a request the sunday prior and, according to the guy, he had 'pulled a few strings' to get it. It's very difficult to find a decent guitar in Australian stores and impossible for a good price, so it's been in the back of my mind to get one whilst I'm here. Well... I did. After holding it I knew it was destined to be mine! I got a very good price, about 35% of what it would cost me in Melbourne. Chris is perhaps as excited as I am as the guitar will be with him while I travel. I can see a Megadeath dvd by the tv.

We finished off with a wild magic draft with each of us picking 3 different packs from when we began playing magic: Sunny- Visions, Weatherlight, Coldsnap, Luke- Shadowmoor, Eventide, Morningtide, Chris- Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn. I ultimately won off the sheer power of my blue/white featuring first picks such as Waterspout Djinn, Empyrial Armor and Darien, King of Kjeldor. It was pretty crazy picking power from our different backgrounds.

Yesterday was Sunday and it was time to go outside. We went down to Laguna beach and tried our best to hide our inherent nerdiness, for fear of muscle-bound jocks kicking sand in our faces. This was short-lived as Chris insisted on visiting a bead shop to alter his bracelet. I also carry a bracelet my fiancee made for me before I left, a good way to hold onto someone far away. The beach was very similar to those you'd find in the bay around Melbourne, although not as big and with twenty times as many people. Strangely few went in the actual water despite the heat. Mostly children; the teens preferring to swan about playing at awkward poser-courtship while the middle-aged did slowly bake themselves in the pulsing Californian sun. Unless I am surfing, the beach does little for me. Sand prevents the encroachment of any electronic equipment while heat and lack of shade work well to melt my mental faculties. I always treat such outings as anthropological excursions and it was indeed a good opportunity to observe the locals at play. Chris reminded me of that horrible old Baz Luhrmann 'sunscreen song' which suggests you live in California but leave before it makes you soft. Without being too quick to judge a people who are overly friendly, particularly to me, I think 'soft' is an appropriate word. A few incidents (a loud bang, a dead rat) quickly reveal people's hard-maintained glamour to be a shell veiling insecurities and dependencies. Another interesting thing about the beach is it's unusually intimate nature. I felt perfectly comfortable when two young girls in bathing suits made camp next to us, but when they began to put clothes on (no less skimpy than the bathers) it suddenly seemed almost voyeuristic. Then there was abs girl and yellow bikini, but that is more of a mental note to myself. We also managed to catch a glimpse of American excess, in the form of a woman with gigantic artificial breasts. Only in LA.

We ate at a diner named The BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer and were served by my favourite waitress thus-far. The prices can sneak up on you because they don't include tax or tips in the costs, this makes me feel like I have to get the most out of my waitress (nothing sus). I ate swordfish for the first time and tried a Tangerine Beer that was, as Chris remarked, like some kind of fruity 'children's beer'.

Finally we settled in for our final magic draft of the week. We managed five in seven days! This time it was all Rise of the Eldrazi and Chris managed a spawn token deck with some huge colourless cards such as Eldrazi Conscription while I have some midrange with heavy removal and Luke has a B/R deck with a big Hellcarver Demon that actually went off and flipped some Eldrazi. So far we have all won one round, leaving us in a bit of a dilemma as to how to progress. Tonight I'm going back to Blizzard for the monday sketch group and then some sushi at Kitayamas Wafu. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I love chili dogs!

Okay well there's Sonic Colours, which seems to star Sonic and involves some side-scrolling portions. But it looks as lame and buggy as any of the recent Sonic titles. Just watching this makes me cringe as familiar problems and shortcomings of the previous titles persist. I didn't play Unleashed, I heard the portions where sonic ISN'T a werewolf were good. But really I could just go play Sonic Adventure DX again and have a better time. Oh but if you pre-order you get this sweet hat to make sure people don't confuse you with fans of a Sonic that had genuine 90's spunk. Seriously even if you get that thing, don't wear it. I am concerned about your safety.

Just went out tonight for a burger and wow, it was the best. I loathe ordering burgers with fries anywhere in Melbourne. But the waitress actually asked me how I'd like my beef (rare) and it was the most delicious burger I have ever eaten; grilled onions with gorgonzola The house beer was rubbish (trash, they call it) but I wasn't expecting anything there.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What a sunny beach. It looks great! I should get some awesome shots there!

It's 30+ degrees (celsius) today so I'm not really doing much of anything. Too hot to even go swimming. I spent the entire day just sitting here drinking root beer and listening to tool. Occasionally glancing out to the pool to check for those Californian girls I've heard so much about. I passed a stunning woman just as I left the pool yesterday, but she was actually Australian. I feel like a wildlife photographer, but the camera would be taking it too far. There's also a joke involving Pester Balls and a Poke'Flute but my parents read this blog. I may go down now that the sun has passed, I think I see Vidas. He's a soldier on leave from Iraq enjoying some hard earned downtime. Yesterday we discussed the OC and how it has sprung up from ranches and relatively desolate American midlands. At one point on the way to Blizzard you can see the edge of Irvine and the dry hills beyond stretching up to the mountains that loom ever present further inland.

I spent the morning researching Aztec, Indian and African mythology. Particularly the creation of idols. Yesterday I stumbled across Luke's collection of PopBot books by Ashley Wood. In case you live under a rock (without wifi, because even those living under rocks can network on the information super-highway) AW is an Australian artist who paints large geometric robots and erotically proportioned naked girls. I admit I was not much of a fan of his work for those exact reasons, but after reading PopBot I now know the story behind his work and, like I did with Coheed and Cambria, I suddenly understood it all. Stories really pull me in. Fantasy worlds can make me love/buy pretty much anything. The 3A series of Ashley Wood's robots are proof of this; Luke has already amassed an expensive (and exponentially growing) collection. So, inspired by AW's universe, I felt motivated to create my own world so that my artwork would not exist in a vacuum. I have a lot of stories have written and a few worlds to go with them but lately I've been hiding Aztec idols in my paintings and so I began to think about some kind of mythology to work into 'the work of Sunny Koda'. There are twin tribes in South India named Kota and Toda respectively. Kota are artisans and produce some very cool looking idols while the Toda are agricultural and do a lot of grunt work. I like the balance between expressing yourself and making a living as an artist the Ko~ and ~Da. There's also a cult in Africa known as the Bwiti that eat the roots of the Tabernanthe Iboga to achieve extreme 'divine' hallucinations. I like their insane stories quite a bit. I should also point out (since I'm listening to Tool right now) that the Bwiti don't sound so different to any decent musicians. Even if it's just caffeine, everyone creative has their muse and their drug. Once I was so drunk I figured out how god works, so maybe there's something to it.

Sega had what was supposed to be big news for Sonic Fans, but it turned out to just be a rotation in the english voice actors. Roger Craig Smith joins the ranks of luminaries such as Urkle and Munchlax... Not only could I care less about who I hear in the few moments it takes for me to switch my game to japanese, but until their big news is "We are not going to make anymore shitty, buggy, sonic-esque spume" then I'm not even buying the games. I love my Sonic 2 shirt, and others like it enough to tell me so. You know why? Because it says 'Hey, remember when Sonic was awesome?' and people still remember. But we are veterans now. Sure there's been some good stuff, Sonic Rush and Sonic Adventure where both pretty great. But so much bullshit goes down these days it's hard to hold out hope. Yet it seems so simple: make a sonic game that is 2-D, you play as Sonic AND ONLY SONIC, has badniks and puzzle-based boss-fights, lots of high speed and loops and minimal dialogue. Personally I was hoping the announcement was a release date for Sonic 4 (episode 1 ugh, this episode business is more bullshit. Finish your god damn games you assholes) after it was pushed back for 'polishing'. Sonic 2 was made in about a year, and that's what we are asking for!

You speak of knowledge, Judicator? You speak of experience?

I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities... I've been to Blizzard! Unto my experience, Aldaris, all that you've built here on the internet is but a fleeting dream. A dream from which your precious Conclave shall awaken, finding themselves drowned in a greater nightmare: Starcraft 2 launches July 27th.

Aldaris: We shall see...

What a punk. Naturally all I can tell you is that it was an amazing experience. I was genuinely moved, by the environment that has been created for making the best games possible and by the passion and dedication that is abundantly evident in every aspect of the studio and it's employees. I was reluctant to put Blizzard at the top of my list of studios because, being a concept artist, they have stuck to the same three franchises for more than a decade and I am eager to work and develop entirely new IP for games companies. However the people, products and perks are just so overwhelmingly exceptional that I couldn't possibly come away with anything but the desire to walk among the giants.

Which brings me to the best part of my trip thus far; shifting nervously from side to side and clutching desperately to a tin of baked beans (brought at tribute) I stood whilst Chris introduced me to Mark Gibbons. Who is he? Oh you know, just my inspiration for being an artist...


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Show me your moves.

Last night Chris emerged victorious from a gruelling 3 game final in our second MtG draft. He would have had me, save for an All Is Dust ripped off the top of my deck followed by a Pestilence demon which hit for 9 and then pinged Chris for the final 1 (I was on 2 prior to this). Then we eagerly began our 3rd draft and, despite picking cards across 4 colours after some desperate colour-fighting, I ended up with a W/U/R deck that has had little trouble establish force. We'll see how it ends up tonight, Luke's deck has yet to be seen.

Yesterday was a relaxing day. I did the patriotic thing and went shopping. Picked up Super Street Fighter Turbo and a pair of white DCs that only cost $27. Then a swim in the pool, I'm practicing swimming underwater laps to improve my breathing/control anxiety.

But probably the highlight of the day was joining my friend Luke at Blizzard for a sketch group with some of the artists who work there...


I couldn't sleep last night; could have been the jet lag, could have been the fact that I'm getting a guided tour this morning and possibly meeting Mark Gibbons. He's the Brit who inspired me to pick up a pencil in the first place...


Monday, July 12, 2010

Well, I think I'll go out and get some fresh air for a change

Not video-game related but certainly game related, Netherlands lost the world cup in brutal fashion. Most of today was spent eating Chris' delicious breakfast before spending a full two hours watching a game where no-one scored. This less is more game format really doesn't grab me. De Jong could be in the new Mortal Kombat reboot...

It seems post-Batman Begins/The Dark Knight there is a sudden interest in series 'reboots'. People have finally realised that it's okay to go back to the drawing board with a franchise if the tower you've built is comprised mostly of shit. Not that you should per se, most franchises are contemptible things and I really feel like publishers don't understand the value of new IP (I shudder to even call it that) over the safe sequel. Furthermore, when someone says 'reboot' it's usually a darker grittier re-imagining more suitable for the 21st century when games aren't so pixelated and brightly coloured and gamers apparently have no interest in games like 'Da Blob' (which is funny because I'm pretty sure it was a big success). You won't see a Gears of War reboot with ridiculously comical dialogue, cartoon characters and an invisible flying R2D2 esque companion, oh wait. I think the lesson that can be taken from the new Batman films is this: Adult fans like to be treated as adults. Serious fans want content to reflect their own passion. Mortal Kombat has never been considered adult or serious so, despite my own fondness for the game, I can't see a reboot really carrying any new appeal. Funny to think that it was DC's insistence on soft-cocking MK vs DC that really left the game with zero appeal. I'll just play this reboot for the fatalities, and to ride with my friend Scorpion one last time.

I had someone from Oregon contact me yesterday, which is awesome! Post Comic-con I really might make something of this trip after all. Very exciting stuff, I'm glad I have plenty of time to acclimatise before the most challenging and rewarding leg of the journey.

I also met a couple of Chris' friends from Blizzard. One particular fellow works designing and assembling the terrain of World of Warcraft, a job which I'm told is endless. It is interesting to think that there is no end to the development of an MMO. Normal games have a crunch before release and then you just sit back and hold your breath and see if people buy it. An MMO as broad and popular as WoW requires constant improvement and development to keep people playing but in return offers ongoing profits like no other game. No downtime does suck a little. But hey, if you work for Blizzard and you love games, I can't think of anything better to do with my time. Apparently he has 4-5 level 80 toons and another handful 60+ so I think he's in the right place.

I also went to a super-super market. Have you ever seen an entire isle of salad dressing? Presentation was intimidating! Have I mentioned my love of guitars? It goes further than buying a cheap one mid-life crisis style. I borrowed my dad's nylon string classical accoustic and played it for a straight year before I got my first shitty electric and then played that for a year before buying a PoD for effects so it didn't sound like my shitty practice amp. Point is I've been paying my dues and upgrading gear as my skills improve and just lately I've been keeping my eye out for a really nice guitar, the kind I couldn't justify buying until I could play well. Chris and I went a music store (that, like every other building in the OC was build like a spanish villa) to get his guitars set up. I asked them about ESPs and the guy said there was a rep coming in next saturday for a big giveaway day. We're gonna go back there and have a play, I'm looking forward to it! Plus the guys that served us said 'dude' a lot which made me feel very much at home. I'm the only person in Melbourne who still speaks like a Ninja Turtle.

Today Luke and I are going for a bike ride. His apartment block looks like a resort and has a pool, spa, outdoor fireplaces and a gym. So hopefully we'll check that out too...

Finally I managed to come away victorious from our first Magic draft after going with a solid R/U stompy deck. The second draft is midway with Chris drafting much better, a lethal black/red deck which really disrupted my own draft as I was going for B/R and ended up having to grab what white I could. I played R/W/b in the first couple of rounds but switched to B/W to beat Luke into the final. I have All is Dust but haven't managed to capitalise on my mythic bomb thusfar. We'll see tonight!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I wish I had a weaa-poon!

Here I am! The US of A.

I'm a little tired but well fed/showered/rested. In target whilst buying a phone I nearly passed out from exhaustion but a long nap put me in better shape. The flight, you see, was terrible.

Things just tend to go wrong when I'm involved and while I'm glad it wasn't something life threatening the problems on the plane have left me pretty rattled. Firstly my idea to stay up all night prior to my flight (playing Halo ODST/HAlo 3 with my bro) in order to help me sleep on the plane didn't work, as the flight was too turbulent, causing me to remain awake for a record 48hours. That's two seasons of 24. But what really sucked was that the electricals malfunctioned in economy causing complete loss of all video, audio, lighting and the flight attendant call buttons. All I could do was read and when it got dark I couldn't even do that. Hours dragged by bored out of my little clockwork mind while trying not to be completely terrified by the pitching turbulence keeping me from the sleep I so badly craved. For our discomfort they have offered a $150 domestic flight voucher which I can take advantage of to visit San Francisco. I'm still pretty messed up though, hopefully a proper night's sleep will amend this. It was winter this morning (30 hours ago) and now it's a humid summer eve. Luke's apartment complex is beautiful, just like the OC on tv.

I checked out the stash of t-shirts Luke has been stockpiling for me, they are by and large awesome and I wholeheartedly thank the companies that are supporting my gamer adventure! I wore an oldschool Sonic The Hedgehog shirt today and a guy working at Gamestop gave me sweet nerd props for it. Thanks 80's Tees :D

I might go back and chat with him tomorrow, perhaps he'll say something for my doco?

I started doing a little filming which was fun, Luke played Battlefield and then we did a three-man MTG draft. Chris (his English housemate) seems to like fighters so perhaps he'll come with me to meet Zufall later this week. I'll email him now; I'm very interested in the 'Bar-fights' his friend organises. More on that later.

I'm loving it here, everything is warm and spread out and pretty huge. Every time I hear someone speak it sounds so unreal, so tv. I can hear some girls by the pool outside chatting about girl stuff and they sound so Californian I can't help but cock my head and grin. Speaking of girls, Luke just went out for some parsely and (after some cajoling) returned with a girl's number instead! His new haircut has gone straight to his head. Alll in all an interesting first day.

Tomorrow; the soccer world cup, turning my new mobile phone on, Chris' famous 'fry-up' and meeting some Blizzard chaps.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Well I'm about to head to the airport to start this whole thing. Packed some stuff, stayed up all night playing Halo 3 with the Bro-zak, took some medicine.

Thanks for reading my blog, I think it's about to get interesting.

Here we go!

Friday, July 2, 2010


Two weeks since my last post, I'll have to invest more time in this blog on the road. I've been extremely busy turning my idea into a reality and a plane ticket into a trip. In fact, it was only when nothing good was going on that I had time to write a decent post. Since my melancholy and that random post about internet/movie stuff things have really shifted into high gear. Have I just written the same thing three ways? Yes.

This computer is one of the only things not packed into a box at this point. I'm having a going-away party in a virtually empty house tomorrow night, where people will be free to eat and drink anything I have left. Then a hung-over move down to the countryside to set up with my fiancee in what will be our home when I get back. I'll spend the last week down there focused on my folio and any last-minute correspondence.

Prior to this I have been frantic; buying mics and adaptors, consulting my doctor, buying meds (checking they're clear to bring), grabbing a backpack and sleeping bag, cleaning my house and moving out, throwing out a lot of stuff (*sob*), testing all the equipment, seeing relatives and friends, painting painting painting. I'm trying to get three things done every day and even still there is so much left undone. I figure if I at least get the main things right I should be okay.

But that's not to say I haven't been enjoying myself; one should always make time for fun. My fiancee has been down for the week (school holidays... she's a teacher you sicko) and we have been to a shopping mall for clothes/books/icecream every single day. I've been counterbalancing this phenomenon with healthy bouts of gaming.

I gave up $60 of my travel funds to buy the first two games since I was fired:

Machinarium, which is a cutely styled puzzle adventure that reminds me very much of The Neverhood (best puzzle adventure of all time, in your face Myst and Zork) and is well worth a few hours of your time. I particularly appreciated the hint option which I used once and was rewarded with a comic storyboard that gave me a clue without completely giving away the solution. Puzzle games used to just stop you dead, but people know how to google 'Gamefaqs' so it's nice they put the effort into the clue feature. Alternatively you can play a Zero Wing style minigame to unlock a more comprehensive guide that looks like the actual game design document.

The second was BlazBlue which, for $37 still included the arcade stick. Nice! I've been working on my Taokaka and Rachel and general arcade-stick skills in anticipation of my encounter with the best SF4 players LA's arcades have to serve. I know it's futile, but I do love me some frantic zany 2D fighting.

I also managed to finally fully finish Final Fantasy firteen which was actually pretty average. The gameplay is an interesting and challenging upgrade from traditional turn-based rpg (although I prefer my combat turn-based, which gives me oldschool cred) but the story is more Japanese psychobabble and the lack of an option for Japanese dialogue (which any anime fan will tell you, improves the story a LOT) further exacerbates this fact. The setting is interesting, the characters establish themselves well (although they are anime archetypes of the most insipid variety) and even the slow revelation of the plot is eventually rewarding. But it just fails to compel me in the slightest. These terrible Australian accents and whiney verbose cartoons completely bore me and, despite the high graphical upgrade, the background environments feel more soulless and underdeveloped than a Disney animated feature.

On the other hand, I managed to log in to Warhammer and find my guildies rolling Order toons on another server with a much larger Destruction population. I recall we started there about a week ago so my White Lion (whose lion is more powerful than the actual character) is rank 11, but everyone else was just reaching 40. They were grinding in a high level hour so I joined them and was up to rank 17 in about 30 minutes. It's good to have friends. Most of them are playing similar classes to the Destruction side, and they comment that Order classes seem near-universally superior. Not that they didn't pwn on Destro; since the Australian servers closed we've found a much lower skill level on the US servers. Now I'm not saying US players are bad, just that the average skill level is lower. I guess only the hardcore AU/Asian gamers still play with the bad lag and all. I won't have much time to play while I'm abroad (if internet cafe's even support WAR) but I wish them the best of luck facerolling the Destro zerg before them!

I'm having a going away party tonight and looking forward to seeing a lot of friendly faces. Then it's a week in the countryside just me and my girl and my folio/final pack before launching the shuttle to an unknown planet. Hope I will meet more Pikmin than Predators.