Monthly Archives: February 2012

On the Windows 8 Logo

Natalie Joy put me on to a blog entry over at Brand New this morning that made my jaw drop.

We all know that I am and have been a fan of Microsoft products. I love me some Metro. My Windows Phone actively makes life more enjoyable. The XBox is far and away my favourite console. And Windows 7 is a delight to use, fitting perfectly into my workflow.

Thus far, I’ve been really looking forward to Windows 8. The prospect of having a Transformer-style product running Windows 8 is exciting. The fact that the dev team is actively listening to users and incorporating feedback into their decisions is awesome.

And then, we get this.

So this leads me to my central question for this post: Guys, I love you. But what are you doing? Even when you explain, and even take an approach I feel like I suggested in Why Windows, I can’t agree with your justification.

What you’re doing here, as Armin over at Brand New says, is breaking a long and effective design continuity. Windows Phone and the excitement surrounding Windows 8 are starting to restore some consumer goodwill in the Windows brand, and here’s what consumers identify with Windows:

I understand that this is “old Windows.” This branding came in around XP, and you’re pushing to enter the Metro Golden Age. But maybe the association with XP isn’t a bad thing. People liked XP. Enterprise and education use a lot of XP. It’s associated with stability. It’s also the logo you’re using with Windows Phone:

There’s currently strong continuity between the desktop OS and the mobile OS. If you continued with it, you could draw continuity onto the third screen as well. At this point, why are you pitching the baby out with the bathwater?

Further, what do you think is Metro about the Windows 8 logo you’ve produced?

Sure, it works with the “tile” aesthetic, but that’s where it ends. Guess what Metro doesn’t have? Perspective. Even when it’s “welcoming you in.” (It’s actually siding you away from the wordmark, but that’s another argument.) Metro is flat tiles. Period.

So, let’s fix this problem. Metro has no perspective thus the logo is non-sequitur, we like the Windows flag-style logo, and furthermore, Segeo works best as a leaner font. Here’s my take:

It’s far, far from perfect (kerning/tracking needs adjustment), but I really think it’s more Windows than what you guys have put together.

Let me speak to the Windows team directly (via my spillway avatar, so I guess not directly at all) for a minute.

Lots of love, Windows team. More on this subject later. I think I know how the Windows Phone-style logo would work as a motion graphic for Windows 8, and it’s kind of awesome. Stay tuned.

Usually I sign off with “paddle your own canoe,” but in this case, I’ll remind you that you’re paddling upstream at this point, and in it helps to have someone in the bow to help you navigate.




I made a pretty bold promise in Throw It Against the Wall* a little while ago. That was that 2012 is the year I make a video game.

I really thought I had it figured out. I wanted to finish and put to rest an idea that’s been kicking around since, probably, seventh grade. It’s evolved since then, but the core of it has always been the same. A story about relationships in wartime, about disparate definitions of right, about making tough choices and taking terrible, necessary action that you know will ruin any semblance you have to the person your partner fell in love with.  It’s since gained a setting and philsophic base torn from the pages of Plato’s Republic. It’s a Final Fantasy-inspired JRPG called Spuria, and it’s experienced fits and starts in various forms since I discovered RPG Maker about five years ago.

When I read about the impending English-language release of RMVX Ace, I figured this would be the perfect time to do it.  New system, more options, some enabling constraints on what I could and could not do.

Something kept nagging at me as I began to make notes on this game.

It’s big.

It’s too big for me to do as a labour of love. It’s something that would need a team.

And I don’t want a team on this “make a game 2012” project. Not really. This is something for me to challenge myself, to put something together in a medium that will tax my writing and artistic abilities, my direction and ability to create something complete.

I did a little mental pro-con list about pursuing Spuria. Pros were really limited to “finally excising this idea from my brain.” There was some self-congratulatory stuff about having really fascinating characters and building in tangential learning opportunity. There ended the good ideas.

But the cons didn’t end. Too long. Too big. Sisyphean, if I really wanted to put a word to how it feels. Using a toolkit I’m not thrilled with. A genre I chose because the source material for this idea started as an homage to Final Fantasy VIII a squillion years ago, a genre I wasn’t overly familiar with or fond of. Limitations on my art. Limitations on how much voice acting I could include. Limitations on the gameplay I could offer without learning the RGSS scripting language.

I’m not equipped to create a world in my spare time. But as I had no other ideas, I halfheartedly kept making notes and slowly updating a wiki to organize everything. For the last week, I’ve been developing a game I didn’t want to make.

Then, today, while putting away the dishes, I had a flash of insight. Just a mental image:

A man crawls out from behind a snow-frosted and upturned table, bleeding. The vessel he’s on is abandoned. He knows why he’s there and who he is, but has no idea why the boat is silent. It’s night. Polar night. He’s in the high Arctic, freezing to death, and alone. And something doesn’t want him to get off the boat.

Then I sketched this.

This is it. This is my game. Confined by the size of the boat. Confined in its scope. Atmospheric. A character study. An old-school adventure game, built on free tools, an opportunity to really showcase my art and writing. Fewer voice actors needed. And way more accessible than a JRPG.

I don’t have a name for it, or a high philosophical concept, or a motivation to make it that borders on obsessive. What I do have, however, might be something that people would want to play. And something I feel I can make–and make well.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.


*I know the TIATW feed is broken. I need to sit down and get it up and running again; Feedburner is pointing to a domain that no longer exists and the permalinks are similarly all broken. I’ll post when I’ve fixed all the things.

Cheesy Shells

I think that chain supermarkets rank high on my figurative list of “places I don’t expect to be surprised.” They’re up there with “Apple stores” and “in a room with a hardcore Trekkie.” I know exactly what I’m going to get, whether it’s slightly wilty produce, a feeling of displacement, or a fleeting moment of common ground before losing the thread. And yet, occasionally the most slavering fanboy shows critical detachment, occasionally Geniuses (TM) live up to their name, and occasionally I’m struck with a rare moment of reflection in aisle six at the local edibles warehouse.

Earlier, I was at the local store for a smash-and-grab stop for salad dressing. This is always a longer buy than I want it to be, because, in my compulsive world, anything processed and in a bottle needs to be compared to three other processed-and-bottled things so that I’m getting the one that’s best—sorry, least bad—for me.

With my thoughts on something else entirely, I wove through aisles looking for the dressing and several times crossed paths with a family of four. And each time, the snippets of conversation I overheard were strikingly similar.

While near bread: “… Hamburger Helper…”

While pausing at a boxed meat display: “… with the Hamburger Helper…”

Grabbing fish fingers: “…Hamburger Helper tonight…”

At pop and chips: “…next it’s Hamburger Helper…”

These weren’t just fixated younguns, either. This was the entire family, and the kids were grade school seniors or in grade seven.

I found my aisle and ducked down. I grabbed a PC Blue Menu yogurt dressing, an Irresistables, and a fat-free generic one. A couple of minutes with the labels and a handful of comparisons (the yogurt one actually had significantly more carbs than the others, and the fat-free one more sodium) made the choice for me. I grabbed some pasta, too (as it was on firesale), and headed out.

On the way, I passed the family again. They were doing their own comparison.

“We’ll get these, then, and leave the cheesy shells for next time.”

The cheesy shells were abandoned and the family headed out.

Notice a difference?

Maybe it’s my compulsion. Maybe it’s because I have a wonderful mother who has for some time worked at Health Canada, and who drove home the importance of eating balanced meals early. Maybe it’s a combination of the two, resulting in mental math every time I prepare a meal to see how well I’m providing servings of the food groups. But irrespective of my compulsiveness, the fact that they spent as long selecting the night’s flavour of Hamburger Helper as I did comparing nutrition labels says something.

Taken by itself, that night’s helping of Helper isn’t significant. But when your cart is full of cheapo red meat, pop and chips, juices, processed chicken patties and fishsticks, a couple of tins of vegetables, bottled sauce and a half-dozen assorted types of Hamburger Helper and you start to develop a clear picture.

I try not to be someone who judges peoples’ health based on size. I creeped on their cart at the checkout because I didn’t want to make assumptions. This was a big family. Pale, too, and the kids walked with splayed feet, both of them. This isn’t a case of assuming these folks weren’t too healthy based on a smattering of conversation and their size. Their colouring, stride, grocery loadout (checked off a list), and size all contributed to a clear snapshot.

What I’m getting to is this. It’s unfortunate that the adults in this situation have poor nutritional sense. Neither of them were in great shape, obviously. But the fact is, once you have kids, your bad nutritional habits aren’t just your own. They become your kids’ bad habits too. And whatever good sense your parents have that set you up with a nutritional baseline you could fall from, you’re condemning your kids right from the start.

The parents were in bad shape, but they were models of athletic health compared to their children.

I wish Health wasn’t limited to a part-time course in high school, and that nutrition didn’t have to fight with sex and drugs for time at the podium. I wish Home Ec was compulsory and in every grade. I wish the importance of activity, any activity, was stressed more by teachers, that balance was paramount, that we valued health care instead of sick care, that prevention was more important than treatment. I wish that parents like that saw what they were doing to their childrens’ health and that the difference between poor and proper nutrition can be the difference between anxiety disorders and not, back issues and not, compromised cardiac and pulmonary function and not, arch issues and not, stroke and not. That’s not just weight-related stuff, that’s cholesterol, sodium, sugars, chemicals, and the rest. Things that can be controlled by being aware of what you’re putting into your body.

Learn about nutrition. Start with Canada’s Food Guide and the Percent Daily Value on nutrition labels. Know what exactly a portion size is (a 40g portion of those cheesy shells is barely half the size of a hockey puck). Then move on from there and tailor your nutrition and activity to yourself–Health Canada’s web tool will do it for you. Figure out how you should be eating and do it. Figure out what level of activity you should have and do it. Don’t think of it as health for health’s sake. Think of it as health for a better quality of life.

It’s its own reward.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.


Postscript: Taking another look around the Food Guide website has made me really appreciate the work that HC does. Mom, and all your coworkers, thanks for looking out for us, in spite of our best efforts to wreck ourselves and blame others. And on an only slightly related note, Mom, I love you. And thanks for helping me develop those helpful supermarket-aisle compulsions.