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Lone Wolf and Cub: The Beauty of Escaping Blood


Five reasons why I think Lone Wolf and Cub may be my favorite comic story ever told. Which (as anyone who knows me knows) essentially means it is, in fact, the greatest comic story ever told.


5) I read Dark Horse’s Lone Wolf and Cub digest series twice in a row. 8,700 pages times two. I was so struck by the beauty of both the story and its violence that one pass didn’t do.


4) I yearned to understand what the ending meant. I still do.


3) After finishing the first time, I immediately missed the people I had spent weeks getting to know.


2) I researched the series as I read, to learn of motifs I’d missed.


1) I secretly wished for a son for months after I passed through the last page.


Long live Itto! Best dad ever!


Microsoft’s new phone OS – the Sony PlayStation of the mobile games world?

Years ago Nintendo sat on top of the game console world. Sega had a share of the market, but Nintendo really bowled people over with new takes on the old platformers. People were hooked.

Then along came Sony.

Before the PlayStation came out I worked at Rizzoli, a bookstore in Soho (since shuttered). With a liberal dress code I wore my Nintendo t-shirt to work one day. Right before store closing, a guy in an expensive suit and ridonkulous tan sauntered up to the register. He took one look at my shirt and pssh’d.

“They are so going down,” he said.
“Pardon me, sir?” I asked, all too accustomed to the arrogance of Soho shoppers, and wondering what beef with the world this bozo was going to take out on the minimum wage monkey.
“Nintendo will fold under Sony’s PlayStation.” His wife came up behind him and did her best to excuse her stupid husband with a “boys will be boys” smirk.
“I doubt it. Nintendo makes good games,” I said. Correct, as usual.
“I’m an SVP at SCE and I can confidently say Nintendo will be #2.”
And with that he looked down his nose and walked away from the guy who just made .0215 cents (before taxes) while ringing up his impulse-buy books.
He was right. And, as usual, so was I. PlayStation kerplowed the world and redefined gaming. They went to #1. For awhile. Now they’re #3. Such is life. I wonder where SCE SVP Man is now.

The point? Besides the historical insight into Soho shopping in 1992, I think we could be looking at a similar shift with the introduction of Windows Phone 7 Series.

It’s familiar isn’t it? The big player in the space in an upstart innovator (iPhone=Nintendo) who stole the crown from a stale gaming market (Sega=Symbian). They seem unstoppable, but what if a big player in entertainment steps in with a better gaming experience at a better price point? That could be Microsoft’s role in the upcoming shake-out. If the hype is even half right, MS is going to release their best mobile OS yet. That may mean nothing, but it may also mean they can carve a massive chunk out of the iPhone’s ridiculously large market share. I mean Apple sells 90-95% of mobile apps. On one device. Uh, there’s room for competition there.

It won’t come from Nokia. They learned their lesson. It won’t come from Google. Their attempt to get into games has been…wait, have they even tried? Nintendo could but don’t seem to want to. They’re a toy company after all.

But Microsoft…well. Microsoft has the urge, the resources, the experience and with W7 Mobile (maybe) the weapon to clear the battlefield and make us re-evaluate what we put in our pocket.

Good times.

I, for one, will be checking out what they have under their raincoat at GDC. I may even miss the iPhone summit to be there.

How to be wrong most of the time. Think fast!


Watching Digital Nation on Frontline I’m seeing a hell of a lot of agenda disguised as concern. The show is fascinating but it gets lazy — leaning on assumptions when the data isn’t there. If anyone can tell me the study done of multitaskers was executed without an agenda then I’d also like to hear your thoughts on Fair and Balanced ™.

However, I share the concern. Not that technology is making us dumber, or even less wise. In fact, an alternate title for this post could be “How to appear dumber than you are.”

My concern is that decision-making as a skill is atrophying.

In a world that moves this fast and has this much data available within seconds, we’re under the impression that clicking a link is making a decision. Of course, it is, but it’s not an important one. A standard morning is now jam-packed full of tiny choices (what to have for breakfast, what socks to wear, how to get to work this morning). Then you can add literally thousands more (should I click on that news link or just favorite it? is that feed interesting to me? which email should I answer first?) In the midst of so much noise, and in the vein of fast-pace for fast-pace’s sake, why should a more complex decision require more thought?

The funny thing about the flawed study of multitaskers in Digital Nation is that it fell into the same trap that multitaskers fall into. Gather seventeen pounds of data, shake, repeat, realize you need more data to make a good call and come to a conclusion anyway.

There’s a simple rule for making a good decision, and it applies to any dilemma from “should I call her and apologize?” to “should I launch the game?” to “should I attack Iraq?”:

Consideration should be equal to the facts in front of you.

Facts, as defined here, means hard data (“she’s always hated it when I apologize”) and strategic priority (“it’s the opening salvo of the War on Terror! winkwink”).

In a nutshell, you need to look at the problem you’re trying to solve, determine if it’s important, ponder the consequences if A or B is done based on solid data/history, and decipher the bones that drop on your desk. It may be that the decision isn’t needed right now because the priority isn’t high enough. It may be that the data is insufficient. But, in the end, if the problem is big enough it deserves big thought. BIG thought.

It takes time, sometimes. It takes quiet thought. It even takes patience. None of which feels in abundance these days, right?

Having said all that, I highly recommend Digital Nation. It’s good data ;-)

What my book ‘A Knight Named Simon’ looks like on

My boss doesn’t like writing. It shows in his pained, English-defying emails. He’s a great storyteller so it’s a loss for the world, but he just doesn’t have the chops to string more than two or three clearly written sentences together. That’s okay, he always has the phone (which he overuses) and, besides, his talent is closing a deal like only a hard-ass motherfucker can. Good for him.


“Writing is like hell for me. I never got the point of it. I can’t imagine writing a story without going insane,” he once said.

That’s a quote I won’t soon forget. Initially I chalked it up to a difference in culture. Only someone who doesn’t get “the artist’s life” could say something like that. My thinking was, he’s a conservative guy with good biz acumen, from a conservative upbringing (likely with good biz acumen). He just doesn’t get it. That’s okay. I don’t get Statements of Work.


But when I took a glance at my book’s outline, all mapped out in boobly bubbles, I got into his head uncomfortably deep and wondered if he’s right after all.


The image in this post is the chapter breakdown I did in for A Knight Named Simon. Elements of the story loop around to other elements in some arcane (magic!) pattern. Frankly, it’s mad. Isn’t it? Wouldn’t any reasonable man take one look at that technicolor barf splat and ask, what’s this nonsense? I certainly did when I stumbled on the outline while reviewing story notes.


For a second, maybe less.


And then I followed the lines around and found myself telling the story again. I spotted weaknesses, references to plot points that need to be carried into book two… I found myself pleased that it made sense, and terrified that it made sense. I saw method to the madness, which implies that there is method — and there is madness.


So here’s to Greg, the Boss.


“Writing is like hell for me. I never got the point of it. I can’t imagine writing a story without going insane.”


Maybe you have to be nuts to even start.

Some random thoughts (and surprising ‘learnings’) on web game development at AOL’s

I’m currently producing seven online games for We’re building everything from a brain game (to make America smarter) to a Zombie game (to make America dumber).

While they’re mostly in the Alpha stage it’s pretty clear which titles will need more TLC than the others. It’s always interesting to see how quality, or lack thereof, can emerge almost immediately. Every game is a “game-of-the-year” contender before it starts getting built, but the sheen of a fine-tuned spec is the first element to dim.

Even in the face of problems on the battleground, I enjoy the process of guiding the design and getting at the fun of a title. It can be tough, especially when tackling a few at a time, but good teams ultimately hit a stride where the final product comes into focus and everyone converges on what needs to be done.

In many ways it’s like writing a book with an outline. But in the case of crafting online games, the outline’s ending is doomed from the moment fingertip meets keyboard and the first line of code is laid down. With online games, in fact with any game development, you’re working with committee (especially at AOL). This means the product is more at risk to get paralyzed by points of view; and conversely, a team effort can blossom into tremendous gains for the title.

Case in point is a game we made last year called Ice Breakers. There were only 3 people building it — all of us focused on making the same game. Then we had the larger team, which had other tweak ideas and various methods of communicating said ideas. For a while it was a mess. But as we hammered through the frustrating meetings, the harrowing internal tests, the hurt feelings and late nights, we arrived at launch with a great game. Ice Breakers now sits at #2 on and has been there, consistently, for a year now. It rarely has less than 2000 people playing at any given time. People spend an average of 30+ minutes engaged and enjoying themselves. That’s what I call a success, by any standard.

Will any of the other games we’re making reach that level of success? Definitely. Will it be because of well-crafted specs, clear communication and hierarchical design decisions that sweep confusion and delay aside? Not a chance in hell. But the semi-organized mess of opinions, ideas, sweeping arguments and eurekas that will get us to the next hit will likely be as fun as the product we launch. In hindsight, of course…