The last thing you want as a developer is your code to go out into the wild before its ready. When that happens people start to build expectations on a product that’s not yet complete and will form assumptions that, for better or worse, don’t align with the vision you had so carefully constructed. Most often this happens as a result of management pressure and there’s been many a time in my career where I’ve seen systems moved up into production long before they’re ready for prime time. However the damage done there pales in comparison to that can be done to a game that’s released before its ready and I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve delved into this dark world of game leaks before.
The key word there is, of course, almost.
I remember my first steps into this world quite well. It was late 2002 and news began to make the rounds that someone had leaked an early alpha build of Doom 3, the next installment in the series in almost a decade. I was incredibly intrigued and began my search for the ill-gotten booty scouring the vast recesses of e-Donkey and Direct Connect, looking for someone who had the magical files. Not long after I was downloading the 380MB file over my dial up connection and I sat back whilst I waited for it to come down.
After it finished downloading I unzipped the package and waited whilst the crazy compression program they had used did its work, feverishly reassembling the code so that I could play it. This took almost an hour and the eventual result was close to double the size of the file I downloaded, something I was quite thankful for. After a few tension filled seconds of staring at the screen I double clicked the executable and I was greeted with the not yet released version of Doom 3. The game ran extremely poorly on my little box but even then I was awe struck, soaking up every second until it crashed on me. Satisfied I sank back into my chair and hopped onto Trillian to talk to my friends about what I had just seen.
It wasn’t long until I jumped back into this world again. Just under a year later rumors started to make the rounds that none other than Valve had been subjected to a sophisticated attack and the current version of Half Life 2 copied. The gaming community’s reaction was mixed as we had been promised that the game was ready to be released this year but as far as everyone could tell the current build was no where near ready. Instead of jumping straight in this time however I sat back and considered my position. Whilst I was extremely eager to see Valve’s latest offering I had seen the damage that had been done with Doom 3’s premature release and my respect for Valve gave me much trepidation when considering taking the plunge once again. Seeing the files on someone’s computer at a LAN I couldn’t let the opportunity go by and I snagged myself a copy.
The game I played back then, whilst by no means a full game, still left a long lasting impression on me. The graphics and environments were beautiful and the only level I got to work properly (I believe it was the beach level) was made all the more fun by the inclusion of the makeshift jeep. I couldn’t bring myself to play it for long though as whilst I knew that the code leak wasn’t the sole reason Valve delayed Half Life 2 I knew it wasn’t going to bring the game to me any faster. This time around I deleted my copy of the leaked game and waited patiently for its final release.
Most recently it came to my attention that the Crysis 2 source, which apparently includes the full game and a whole host of other goodies, made its way on most popular BitTorrent sites. This time around however I haven’t even bothered to go and download the game, even just for curiosity’s sake. There’s less than a month to go until the official release and really I’d rather wait that long to play it legitimately than diving back into that dark world I had left behind so long ago. The temptation was definitely there though, especially considering how much fun I had in the original Crysis, but a month isn’t a long time to wait especially with the other games I’ve got on my current backlog.
If there’s one common theme I’ve seen when these leaks come out it’s the passion that the community has for these game development companies and their flagship titles. Sure its misplaced but the fever pitch that was reached in each of these leaks shows just how much people care about these games. Whilst it might damage the project initially many of them go on to be quite successful, as both Half Life 2 and Doom 3 did. Crysis 2 should be no different but I can still understand the heartache that those developers must be going through, I don’t know what I’d do if someone nicked off with the source code to Lobaco.
Will I ever download a leaked copy of a game before it’s release? I can’t be sure in all honesty. Although I tend to avoid the hype these days I still do get really excited when I hear about some titles (Deus Ex: Human Revolution for example) and that could easily overwhelm my sensibility circuits forcing me to download the game. I do make good on purchasing the games when they’re released however and since I’m a bit of a collector’s edition nut I believe I’ve paid my penance for delving into the darker side of the gaming world. I can completely understand if game developers don’t see eye to eye with me on this issue but I hope they recognize passion, however misplaced, when they see it.
Show me a man who has nothing to do and I’ll show you a man with no ambition.
I’ve always wondered when people tell me they have nothing to do, whether it be at work or in their personal life, whether or not they realise what they’re saying. I’m one of those incredibly lucky people who’s been able to be focused on my goals for a very long time and it’s a quality I see in so many successful people. The common term used for this is ambition or drive, as a lot of successful people will tell you they just felt the need to achieve their goals. This idea came to me after a few weeks of one of my housemates telling me he had nothing to do, and I realised it was because he had no real ambition for any goal.
There are many things in life that can lead us to have a lack of ambition. I often find myself hitting road blocks in plans (like my last 3 week struggle with banks, brokers and lawyers ugh) that lead me to question what the point of it all was, and then throw my hands up at the situation thinking there’s nothing more I can do on it. Sometimes this is true, there are times in life when you can’t make any progress on a problem and the best thing you can do is leave it. What you have to avoid is the trap of never going back to address that problem as with time comes wisdom which can often be applied in ways you may not have previously thought of.
I’ve found the best way to keep myself motivated is to have 2 sets of goals. The first set is a set of small short term achievable goals that are mostly based on time invested. Something like this blog is a good example. It takes me about an hour every day to write a post and that’s something I can easily achieve without having to sacrifice anything else. I also have goals set for myself in the games I play (yes admittedly its World of Warcraft, but that doesn’t invalidate the idea!) and that small reward keeps me motivated for the rest of my activities. The second set are long term goals that I’m constantly working towards, like financial independence or getting my pilots license. It’s this combination of almost instantaneous gratification and long term prospects that keep my ambition going, and leaves me with few dull moments where there’s little for me to do.
The hardest thing about all this is finding what drives you, but once you discover what your passion is so many things seem to fall into place.
This post is going to form the basis of a new category of posts here on The Refined Geek which I’m calling Ideals of Life. A couple years ago I made a habit of writing down one or two sentences that described a philosophical ideal that anyone could ascribe to every day just before I went to bed. These were often reflective of my mindset of the time and embodied one of the ideals that I unconsciously believed in. Writing them down reaffirmed my commitment to these ideas, and I’ll share one of them with you today.
Ever since I was a child I’ve been told that I was a dreamer. I can remember catching the hour long bus to my primary school and gazing out of the window endlessly contemplating the outside world. As I got older I never stopped doing this, I merely wondered more about specific topics, rather then having my mind wander aimlessly. During one of my nights of musing over my journal of thoughts I began to realise the importance of losing myself in something, whether it be gaming, thought or conversation. I summed it all up with this point
Let yourself get lost in something every so often. To experience life to the fullest, we must also escape from it.
It’s a twofold point deeply rooted in escapism. I’ve found that often get heavily focused on a few topics or activities at a time and that losing myself into something else from time to time gives me perspective on things that I might be missing. Initially this thought was confined to escaping through games as at the time I was playing through Dreamfall: The Longest Journey which dealt with ideals similar to this. However over time I found myself getting lost in other activities, such as research. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up one article on Wikipedia only to find myself still researching the topic hours later.
I’ve also begun to believe that this ideal also encourages passion in any endeavour you might undertake. You can find many examples of people who are so engrossed with something that they lose their identity when they become involved in it. This is an amazing characteristic and it’s something I note in the truly altruistic individuals that exist in this world. Whilst I can’t remember the real source for the following quote I can attribute its paraphrasing:
I have no need to defend my ideals, they defend themselves. – Eamon Logue on the topic of Buddhism
This I feel embodies the essence of losing yourself. Eamon was no longer a man defending a point or a belief, he was merely manifesting the ideals of Buddhism through himself.
So become passionate, lose yourself in something every so often and gain perspective on your life. Once you find something that you can truly lose yourself in, the rest of your life takes on a new level of meaning.