8 Days ’til GDC! Press Spacebar to Get Up

I used to believe that I was a night owl. I would convince myself that I composed at my best at 3:00 AM in the morning and that I was too groggy to be able to do anything in the morning.

And then I got accepted as a Conference Associate for GDC 2018. Now, I HAVE to be able to get up early in the morning. Not only are my work schedules affected by my schedule, I also need to be able to get to that shower before a LOT of my new potential friends (But 10 of them!) before my morning meetings!

It’s been only a week since I’ve started training myself to go to sleep early and to wake up early. My body feels neutralized to this change. Even with the daylight savings affecting me last night as I was thinking of all the cool melodies for my school’s Alma Mater (I’m entering a short composition competition of writing an Alma Mater for my school), I still woke up feeling refreshed and motivated.

I think in my head, “What if my life was a video game?”. If I don’t get up right now, I won’t get EXP, I won’t gain Levels and I won’t make any difference in my life. And if you ever played any kind of RPG’s, you know that the morning time is like one of those 2x Double EXP Boost times when you can get the most out of my day. So I do a quick roll around in my bed like a cat, stretch, and simply “Press Spacebar” to get up.

A lot of people know the benefits of early mornings – but struggle with getting up to experience it firsthand. It takes two steps: First, prepare to sleep early the night before. It’s mostly a battle in your mind, but if your body’s not on your side when you’re fighting that battle, you’ll lose the first and most important battle of the day. Then when it’s time to get up, imagine a blank screen with nothing but “Press Spacebar to Get Up” and play yourself like a video game. It may be the nerdiest thing in the world but it works for me!

Now, what can you do? It’s a lot quieter outside so you can work on things without distraction. And if you’re really good, the sun will be rising. Go outside a breath in the fresh air, smile, do a light exercise,  plan out your day and follow where your God calls you to be. Congratulations! You’ve won the first battle! These victorious, positive feelings will chain on to the next battle you’ll be fighting. You can do it! See you in the morning. 🙂

14 Days until GDC! Sleeping Tight & How to Focus!

I open my eyes to the sound of my alarm clock ringing, hitting 6:30 AM.

I wash some rice and put it in the rice cooker, put my headphones on and start jogging. I feel the fresh breeze of the crisp, cold morning air against my face. I come back from my jog and eat my delicious rice and curry that my mom made for me (Thanks, mom!) and start getting on with my day.

For the longest time, my sleeping schedule was off by miles. When I end up going to bed at 4:00 AM, every night feels like a mistake and every morning feels like a torture.

But I couldn’t live like this! GDC is coming up in about 2 weeks, and I needed to make sure that I can be awake and refreshed every morning so that I’m not tired or groggy at the biggest event of my life ever.

I want something different for my life. I want it to change. I can see that getting up early saves so much time. I know that at least there’s nothing better I can do to make sure that the rest of my day is ensured in a filter of positive energy and productivity.

There will be temptations telling me that I can stay up a little bit longer each night, working on that new music… or looking at more dog gifs on Twitter. But I will deflect those temptations away and establish a better life habit for myself from now on!

Another really important thing happened yesterday. I was reading Akash Thakkar (The amazingly sexy, fried chicken eating champion)’s blog and learned a really cool new way to focus on and get things done – he calls it the… wait, what? *takes off my glasses*

AKASH’S ADVANCED APPROACH FOR AUGMENTED ACUITY:

“To start, you’re going to schedule an hour of work in your calendar for the task at hand. For example, you’d have an hour-long block that says “compose” or “email developers.” Then, at the start of this block, you’re going to set a timer for a small amount of time – anywhere from 10-25 minutes. The more you hate or dread the task you’re going to be working on, the shorter the time that you’ll set. And, just as you expect, you’ll work on your task for the amount of time you’ve set.
But then… Once the timer runs out…
*whispers*
~~~~~You take a break for the remaining hour~~~~~
Yes, that’s right.
If you just worked for 25 minutes, you get to spend 35 minutes goofing off without guilt. Check Twitter! Look at dog gifs! Roll around in your own filth! The idea is that you’re giving yourself a disproportionate award for the work you just did. This will release some of those intoxicating brain chemicals, which will help the reward centers of your soft, delicious brain light up. And once that break is over, you can start the cycle again if you want.
If you work like this just once a day, you’ll gradually improve your ability to focus and get shit done. And as time goes on, you’ll feel comfortable increasing the amount of time you work, even on dreaded tasks. And even though it may seem like such a small step in the beginning, this is the superpower that will make all the difference in your life and career.”

I just want to say that Akash, this is amazing and a brilliant idea! It really entices my brain to think that I can spend more than half of an hour doing whatever I like doing. So I’ll apply this and see how much work I can get done today as well.

Anyways, that’s all for today! Hope you guys have a lovely Tuesday. 🙂

Can’t wait for GDC!

-Daniel

Preparing for GDC 2018 – 15 Days until Awesomeness!

Sometimes I forget that I’m a game developer. I write music and make cool sounds that go into Videogames! If I told this to my 10-year-old self, I would be freaking out and be smiling and running all over the house. WHAT!

There are so many people in this industry that I love. Many aspects of it that I absolutely adore. It’s a place of encouragement, passion, and friendships. And all of the things are coming together as one at Game Developers Conference is the biggest conference for the game industry, with over 30,000 game developers coming together to share their passion and have fun away from work. That’s why I’m willing to be prepared for this upcoming GDC, to make it the best experience ever!

A lot of people are coming to GDC to find work. I wanted to take a bit of a different approach since I’m attending my first ever GDC as a Conference Associate! On the back of the shirts that we get, it says “Ask Me, I can help!”. That’s exactly what I’ll do best – helping people at the GDC. If there’s anything that I’ll be doing for my own interest – I’ll be there to learn as much as I can before coming back to Long Beach to prepare for a possible SGDA workshop for my fellow audio folks.

Just like how Akash Thakkar, the wise man, the Prince Charming of the game industry once said after his post-mortem of GDC 2015, “Just add value”.

Here are some of the tips that he shared. I already knew about the first two, but the other questions I realize are pretty important for Game Industry meetups (duh!)

  1. What do you do?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Who do you know here?

  4. What are you working on?
  5. What games are you playing right now?

Additional Bonus Questions that I can think of that can also be beneficial for asking others that we run across at GDC:

  • Why are you at GDC? What’s your goal / passion?
  • Are there any sessions that you’re interested in going to?

Having these basic questions written down and figured out will help not stuttering in the time of need. Don’t just answer these in one sentence, boring way.

That’s it for today!

Fear and Confidence – Longboard

Yesterday, my dear friend Adam Kinnischtzke invited me out to a nearby park to Sabbath with him. Adam and I arrive at the parking lot, when suddenly he smirks and to my surprise, pulls out a longboard – a forbidden object that I’ve never tested myself to ride before. After a brief moment of nervous laughter, the first immediate thought of ‘no way’ has passed over my head and I decided to give it a try.

At first, I struggle to stay on top of the longboard for a while. My two aloof feet are awkwardly placed and I barely miss my balance, almost resulting in a trip. Luckily Adam’s on my side and he patiently helps me maintain my balance for a few minutes. Little by little, I start getting further and further without losing my balance until finally, I’m able to let go of Adam’s shoulder and even start making longer strides on my own.

A true test of balance came at this giant hill (not really). Adam said,”Here, you’re going to go all the way down without stopping.” It’s a curvy hill, and I needed to constantly make a turn without leaning too forward, otherwise, I might fall. I start making my way down, and my longboard gains more and more speed over time. Time starts to feel slower and a thousand fearful thoughts start to creep into my head and I imagine what it would be like to fall flat on my face or scrape my knees on a peaceful Sunday afternoon- But I put aside those thoughts and focus on maintaining my balance on the board. Finally, I make it to the end of the hill, and the board starts to slow down. The rush of exhilarating joy and self-confidence flourishes inside of me. I have challenged myself and overcome a small but substantial fear! Now I can truly call myself a longboarder. 🙂

When overcoming our fears, we grow as a person and are able to connect certain lessons that we’ve learned from to another valuable aspect of life. I can relate this small victory to other instances in my life where I’ve completely trusted in myself to go for it and didn’t give up halfway. It results in a very important growth in self-confidence and the ability to want to challenge ourselves at other things in life. Every Sunday, I commit to going out to the park with Adam and enjoying the fresh breeze brushing against my face as I ride the longboard. Maybe I’ll fall one day. But I’ll get up again.

 

GGJ 2018 – Starreach & Music behind it

The GGJ 2018 is officially over! So excited to write about the experience and how it has been my favorite game jam so far! 🙂

CementCactusTeam.png

Two days before the jam, I was messaged by Chau Ho with an intriguing idea of teaming for this jam! Naturally, I then nudged Eric Lee and Justin Gonzalez, who I worked with together on our previous game jam, Defenestration. Once Justin was on board, Sarah Cho was immediately brought onto our team. Ken Miller, a fantastic programmer, and our lead, also joined aboard. Later, Ruben Sanchez and Doan Doan joined our team, closing our team’s count at 8. All of us were from VGDA, and had a great amount of experience working on the same game before with each other and knew exactly how to scope the game and set a deadline. We communicated with each other throughout the jam, staying in that one room and asking each other questions in person. All of these factors allowed us to propel forward very quickly and have a very polished game at the end of the 48 hours.

Ken and Ideas

After we’ve brainstormed, we started writing down every idea we had for improving the game on the whiteboard.

When we arrived in our room, we started brainstorming what game we should work on. Many creative ideas came out from the theme “Transmission”, but the one we settled on was Eric’s pitch – having two people bounce off of each other and gaining momentum. It was a very simple concept but proved to be challenging and perfect for the 48-hour jam.

Room

This spacious computer room was provided by the SGDA UCR Crew! This was our home base for the next 48 hours.

The work environment was very loose, yet filled with passion. Everyone in that room had a role, and we were inspired by each other’s works.

Ken Miller was a fantastic lead and programmer. He kept our team on time and made sure that every voice was heard. When I suggested an adaptive music, he was eager to go miles to implement it. He admitted that it was the hardest challenge that he came across throughout the development during our presentation, and I don’t doubt it!

Ruben Sanchez is THE man who can conjure up anything with code. We can often times find him lying down on the floor lifelessly, but whenever he is on his chair, he would create some crazy stuff that none of us knew how to do, help Justin with checking for bugs, and having fun.

Eric and Justin were having so much fun programming and playing games off in their free time. These guys would implement systems, test them and merge their progress with the rest of the team’s.  I loved leaving my station from time to time to see what they were doing because they would be always doing something different. On our first night, Eric and I stayed up until 5 AM playing Battlerite. It wrecked us for the next day but it sure did make a good memory. 🙂

Chau Ho set the story of the game and helped design everything in the game. She also helped me a lot with the ideas for the music. She literally looked up 20 different pieces of music for me to reference from, and was patiently sitting there with me, absorbing everything that I was doing when we were creating our fun, bouncy sound effects. Thanks Chau!

Doan Doan was a ‘monster’. He would go to sleep the latest out of all of us, and wake up the earliest, just silently working on his UI, which ended up “WOW”-ing everyone in the room at our demo presentation. His popping UI and the animations were so meticulous and eye-catching. This man is going places.

Sarah Cho did every art except the UI in our game. Character concept, background art, booster swirl, animations, everything! She is a very talented artist and we were so fortunate to have her join us. She would sometimes come over to my station where Chau and I would be writing music to show us her artwork when we would give her positive feedback about her amazing work, which would then inspire us.

I did the music for the game, as well as the sound effects. When we first settled on our game concept, I loaded up a piano, put a reverb on it and started improvising. I took into consideration the length of this game jam, and the type of music needed – ambient. I was playing a lot of Hollow Knight before I came into this jam, and I thought the City of Tear’s background music had a very nice 6/8 piano melody.  I needed the music to not sound repeated, so I mixed up the meter here and there while using lush chord progression changes. I made sure to give this music to my programmers on the second day, so that they can start testing their prototype with the music in it.

Making the music adaptive required a bit of design challenge. At the beginning of the game, the piano would be playing at default volume, as well as a flute track and clarinet track. The Flute symbolized the sister Fae, and the Clarinet represented the brother Rae. As the siblings are jumping up and down and the camera is focusing on them, the music would emphasize whoever is actively jumping in the air. (so if Fae was in the air, the flute’s volume would be 100% while 25% on the clarinet).

We wanted the player to feel an emotional sense of progression and reaching the end as the game played on, so I designed two ‘thresholds’ that the player would have to go across in order to unlock a new layer of music. Layer 1 introduced lower piano notes, which helped to stablize chord progressions on top of the piano 6/8 notes we had before. It also contained bits of synthesizer elements, as well as harp tingling noises, providing sounds in all range of frequencies and allowing the player to understand that they’ve achieved a new level of progression. Layer 1 also introduced lush a deceptive cadence which would really juice out the emotions. Layer 2 introduced strings in, overall amplifying the emotional expression of the music and filling in any empty gaps there was in the soundtrack.

When we finally presented our game at the demo session, it came out very strong. The music that Chau and I worked on started playing, alongside Doan Doan’s beautiful UI, and everyone in the room immediately expressed excitement. The game played out perfectly, even though the sound effects were a little bit louder than I expected it to be. Sarah’s art stood out from other team’s art styles, and Ken’s particle effects were like sprinkles on a freshh donut. The transmission particle effect by Ken really visually showed them that we were using the theme as the main inspiration. Ken, Eric, Justin and Ruben’s hardwork made sure that everything from jump feels to the camera movement was fantastic, and that the game would play out very smoothly.

The game jam was a fantastic experience. Even though we had to sleep on hard floors, with laid down chairs as beds, it brought us closer together and created amazing, beautiful memories that I will never want to forget. We’re coming back for more next year. Shout out to UCR’s amazing crew that supported us with such hospitality by providing snacks, water and taking care of our trash every time. Thank you SGDA for organizing this and bringing the students together for Global Game Jam 2018.

P.S! How did we come up with our team name, Cement Cactus? We all thought of one random word going in a circle and then started piecing them together to see what sounded wacky and good. I drew up this logo, which was inspired by Chau’s idea of two cacti’s shaped like an 8 and having the team’s name “Cement Cactus” on the side. Eric then improved it by slightly tilting the cement on top of our friendly cactus.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 3.21.59 AM.png->CementCactus

Writing music while doing chores

Today, everyone has left the house and I’m alone. They’ll be coming back around at night, and I was doing some workouts on the floor when I realized that it was dusty again. Has it been a week since we vacuumed? I vacuumed the floor and did the dishes – and then suddenly, one after another, amazing pieces of music started coming into my head. I sat in front of the piano and recorded four themes that I think can be used for Garden Warrior – the game that I’m currently working on with Little Pebble Studios.IMG_20180111_182235_054 Roughly about 11 minutes of musical ideas came out from doing chores. I think chores personally allow me to relax and reach into my subconscious without trying to overcome a writer’s block.  Then it clicked in my head: It’s always been like this – my major compositions always came from chores.

So I learned something very valuable today. Do the dishes and clean once in a while. For others’ good and for my own good as well. 🙂

Junkie XL and his way of sharing

There are a lot of free tutorial videos out there made by Junkie XL that really shows his master craft as well as his generosity. He shares every tidbit of what he does and how he makes his sounds, and he’s not afraid to show it to the world. Most people try to hide their secret formulas and make it as hard as possible for the newcomers because they’re afraid that they might lose their job. But what makes it different Junkie is that he isn’t afraid. He wants a good challenge.

What I’ve learned from creating video lessons is that you learn a lot more from making your own tutorial videos. I’ll continue to absorb as much as I can, and make my own discoveries and share them with the world.