Going home

Changing the country you live in has introduced a very particular anxiety inside me; an anxiety that I feel I’ve finally overcome. I’ve moved countries twice now, and both times I’ve had a strong sense of loss associated with the country I was leaving. I was afraid that everything I knew in there would disappear, and that it would no longer be ‘mine’. Every time I’d go back to those countries I’d revisit all the places I had my best memories at, trying to document as much as I could of how I wanted to remember everything.

Years pass, and hardly a year goes by where I don’t at least make a quick visit to either Japan or the Netherlands. The first going-back trips were only mildly memorable, with the memory of how I used to live in that country still fresh in my mind, and my mind uncertain about where I would be staying. But as I started to accept that, first, I wouldn’t be returning to the Netherlands to live, and then, that I wouldn’t be coming back to Japan any time soon, those trips became more nostalgic. Melancholic, even. Not overtly. Not obviously. But the feeling was always there at the back of my mind.

I’ve finally out-nostalgia’d myself. I’ve gone back to the Netherlands and to Japan so many times now that the going-back trip has become a steady, recurring, theme that I can rely on to keep occurring. No mad catastrophic event will suddenly wipe either country off the planet. Life moves on in all places. Nostalgia has been a warm and cozy side effect whenever I went back, but lately I am focusing more and more on the new things, on the way forward. Rather than seeing my experiences as a past that is over, I am starting to see it as a stable foundation that I can build something new on. It expands my options. The more I think about it this way, the more I am able to come to terms with my nostalgia. And finally, after ten years, I think I am at peace with having lived in multiple countries.

The past is dealt with. The future is being built.

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The right moment

There is a right moment to get out of the shower. There is a right moment for returning home after a nice walk. There is a right moment for everything. Your brain will tell you. If you overstay, you’ll know. If you’re early, you’ll know.

This is the right moment to finish this blogpost.

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Be direct

People are too polite. Politeness causes misunderstanding, especially across cultures or across nationalities, but even within the same culture it can be a problem. British people are sometimes ridiculously polite and indirect to the point where it serves no logical purpose and only slows down social progression.

Example: two people are getting to know each other and want to be better friends, but neither is sure about the other whether they want to improve their relationship or not. They are not sure because, at the end of their meeting, they repeat set phrases such as “That was fun, let’s do it again some time”. Then, when setting up the next meetup, quite often the tone of the next message is something like “Hey, last time was kind of fun. Do you maybe kind of perhaps in the future want to do something similar again? Only if you have time though. I wouldn’t want to impose on you or anything..” – Totally British tsundere.

Don’t fucking do this. There is absolutely no need to make communication this complicated. Just say “Last time was fun. I want to do X with you again. Do you have time Monday?” It really is that simple. There is no need to beat around the bush. Just say what you think. No one will think worse of you, or if they do, you are not a good match and there’s no point in hanging out anyway. Be direct.

I see this kind of behaviour a lot more when interacting with native English speakers, or in a group that is largely composed of people that are very adept at speaking English even if it isn’t their first language. The more adept you get, the more subtle the language becomes. This is not a good thing. At least not in this context. When it comes to social situations it is very important to be completely unambiguous. I’ve noticed this in Japan a lot while hanging out with people from various countries at the same time: eventually people realize nobody gets the cultural subtleties that they put in their speech, or they just don’t translate well to English, so after a while people tend to become more direct with each other. This is a great thing because it saves time for everyone.

Playing with language subtleties is fun when you’re having pub banter or lifelong friends or just two native speakers with an interest in language, but as soon as you’re not 100% sure that the other party will interpret your signals correctly, be direct. Use more easily understandable phrasing. Don’t leave things to be misinterpreted.

That’s for the sending end. As for the receiving end, I’m very comfortable with taking people at face value and not spending ages trying to analyze what they’re trying to say. I do find myself occasionally encountering people who throw linguistic subtleties at me. I take “That was fun, let’s meet up again” to mean “That was fun, let’s meet up again”. Even if I usually get that there is (or might be) a deeper meaning behind something, I am very comfortable pretending not to understand it. As a result people have become more direct with me and life is simpler for both me and the person I’m interacting with. It saves me a lot of mental processing power to spend instead on things that I enjoy. Miscommunication is not a thing that I enjoy.

Keep it simple. Baka.

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Still going

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There’s something utterly fantastic about finishing up all your chores (‘adulting’…) on a Saturday and then going cycling on a Sunday. Today was just perfect to pick up cycling again after a short break, and I definitely felt the cycler’s high upon returning home. I’ve been keeping cycling on the exercise bike indoors. I was expecting myself to be weaker than I actually was today, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself actually overtaking some people on an uphill. Keeping in shape for the next trip. Still not sure when, but I’m already looking forward to it.

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Volcanific

What is it with volcanic islands? I just can’t help but end up on a volcanic island every once in a while. This one was particularly nice though. Tenerife was quite amazing.

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The Friend Situation

(after writing this post I realized it is somewhat of a followup to The Intern Effect.)

It’s been a long time since I started blogging. I’m no longer a green 20-year-old. Life has happened and is continuing to happen, but rather than levelling up all of my skills, some of them have begun to atrophy from lack of use. One such skill is that of being social. My life at this point is so comfortable that I can usually get away with only talking to the people I need to, eg. the colleagues in my team and my significant other and on occasion an old friend or two. Over the course of last week I’ve had the opportunity to engage in social interaction with a much larger group of people, who are all unknown yet amazingly interesting to talk to. It was an event that I won’t soon forget. Let’s call it the “going on a trip with people you think can be your friends but you don’t know them that well yet and then you end up being pleasantly surprised by everyone” kind of feeling. It’s the AK feeling all over again! How fitting that the company I would go to after AK ended up being part of something called AKQA. Life gets better if you just keep adding letters.

But hey, this blog wouldn’t be this blog if I couldn’t find something to bitch about, so here goes. There’s one thing in my current life that I am not very happy with, and the effect of which kind of got hammered home during last week’s events: I don’t have any super best friends. I mean, I’ve got close friends, and I’ve got one or two people who may take offence at my saying this, but I don’t really have any one or multiple people that I know I can and will be able to hang out with at any time now or in the future, and that’s entirely my own fault. Life has happened, and all my old friends (and myself!) now have their own situation that takes precedence over ‘hanging out with friends’. I don’t blame them of course; none of us live near each other any more so it’s not like we can see each other every week. As a result everyone spends more time with their significant other which leads to babies, which leads to even less time spent with close friends. That’s life. But that’s also choices.

That’s where I left it at in 2009 in The Intern Effect. What I feel I am lacking is something that, at the time, I attributed to Japan being Japan and interns being knowingly temporary, but it was really much simpler: I was younger. Greener. I still seek the same thing, but I am seeking it at a level further than I even thought about back then. Close personal connections. Connections that are hampered by those pesky little personal lives that everyone has. A perfect example of this: one of my friends changed cities recently and I promised to visit him, yet I still haven’t done so, even after I had read a blogpost from him complaining about the exact same feeling of friend disconnection. We’re all seeking a more fulfilling form of friendship, yet we’re all somehow not doing the things we need to to get it.

I dare not answer yet what could be the reason for this, or how to ‘solve’ it. Perhaps that’ll just automatically make sense when I’m older. But I think I’m old enough to see the problem clearly now, and to have some ideas of where to look for a solution.

Learning a new skill is easy in that you can quickly get up to a reasonable level, and then need an extra-ordinate amount of time after that to become an expert. It’s no different with friendships. True friendships require a lot of time and commitment, with no guarantee of payoff. Just like when learning chess or playing a game or training your body, you might plateau and be unable to get any better. I think that’s a little bit what is happening to me: I’ve built up the social skills and experience needed to easily make friends and quickly get up to a quite-satisfying level of friendship, but then I plateau. I need to improve (or recover) my social skills as well as just spend more time with people in general. I haven’t made it easy for myself by moving away from a lot of people who I could be closer to, but that’s something I can fix. Not easily, though. Getting better at something takes time, and I need to finally make a proper decision on what (or who) to spend that time on. Like I said in 2009, I want to make the world a better place. I am becoming more aware of my own personal limitations within that context. Perhaps many people taking many small steps is as effective as one person taking a giant leap. Just don’t jump off a cliff.

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Quality versus quantity

My soreness about No Man’s Sky has led me down an interesting path. I was (and still am) incredibly disappointed in the game because I wanted it to be the successor to Freelancer, which it really wasn’t. NMS wasn’t really much of anything. I wouldn’t even call it a space game, since there’s literally nothing to do in space, it’s just hopping from planet to planet. Anyway, my frustration with the game has led me to thinking about how I would build a proper space game, and I’ve been writing down a *lot* of ideas since my previous post. Then I learned more about Star Citizen and realized that it will have about 90% of all the ideas I’ve written down. I’m bloody amazed by that. Star Citizen is going to be epic.

The reason I think Star Citizen is going to be amazing is something I realized as I was preparing to build my own space game. After having written down all my ideas I realized that I am pretty much capable of implementing all of them. “All I need to do is pick a suitable 3d engine and learn how to use it. Easy peasy”. Of course, before I even got to that stage I realized that the basic setup I was envisioning would take me years to develop by myself, even if I quit my full-time job. But I can see quite clearly the reasoning that goes into building a space game: it would take me crazy amounts of time to do this all by myself, so that is a problem that needs to be solved.

Procedural generation is one of the ways to solve that. Even as a one-man team you’ll be able to generate crazy amounts of ‘content’. The problem with that is, as No Man’s Sky quite sadly demonstrated, that the content will become utterly boring and repetitive, no matter how good your algorithms are. One of the key features I wanted in my own space game is that there are factions and factions within factions, and standings between factions, and a galaxy whose factions keep changing. NMS has none of that: it’s just one bland galactic plane of a little bit of everything everywhere but not anything specific anywhere specific. Better procedural algorithms can fix this. They can add more structure, more variety, more realism. But in the end, once you ‘get’ the algorithm, the game is over for you. You will find nothing new.

Star Citizen does not have this issue, because the team of Star Citizen has lots and lots of money. They get to hire lots of people and they get to handcraft their content. Each of their star systems is meticulously designed; its history written and rewritten until it is perfect. There is a storyline, there is custom, unique content. It’s the exact opposite direction of No Man’s Sky. It’s quality versus quantity.

The quality-vs-quantity thing has always been an issue with games. I remember the Grand Prix series, of which 2 was brilliant, 3 kinda showed Crammond’s inability to keep up, and 4 came out in a time where the competition had larger teams and managed to release a much more polished product. A more recent example is Kunos and his netKar series, followed up by Assetto Corsa. netKar was a kickass sim in its day, but you could clearly see its limitations for having been built by one man. netKar Pro started out with the engine sounds synthesised rather than sampled, which is surely a faster way to do it, but nowhere near as immersive as having the actual engine sound as recorded, which is what they did for Assetto Corsa. The cars in Assetto Corsa are incredibly well made, with as much detail crammed in as they could. A manual process that could only be done by a larger team.

In retrospect, No Man’s Sky focused on all the wrong things. It focused on procedural generation as its main gimmick, which it should never be for any game. It should be used to assist in making the game more immersive, but if you take it away the game still needs to be a game. No Man’s Sky is just nothing without it. NMS also focused on being able to take off from a planet and flying into space. It’s a cool gimmick, but it was implemented poorly and, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about it. It’s the liveliness of space and each of the planets that immerses me. With no backstory it’s just not interesting.

I’m still kind of interested in building my own space game. I suspect that when Star Citizen comes out it’ll satisfy most of my space needs, but there’s still things that I’d like that Star Citizen doesn’t have, or do differently. The ship monetization in particular is a thing I definitely do not like about Star Citizen. Also, in SC the factions seem pretty unchanging and static. I wonder if there’ll be player actions that can influence the balance of the galaxy, other than predefined events by the developers. When it comes to the perfect space game we’re still not quite there yet.

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True

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I’ve got a great idea for a space game. I can make something a million times better than No Man’s Sky. It’ll take me forever, though.

 

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