Outside the Box:
By Paul "Villam" Steed
Anything I say comes from me and represents my personal opinions, views and subtle plans for influencing society. Read, ruminate over and remember at your own risk. If I teach you something and it helps, teach someone else.
elcome to the first installment of Thinking Outside the Box. I picked that particular title since it aptly describes the gist of the verbiage that will be read in this column (coincidentally in more ways than one). I plan to alternate between opinionated pieces like the one I'm writing today and tutorial/instructional articles covering aspects of what I do for a living: make computer games. Art, specifically - the low-poly animated kind to be exact (with a dash of cinematics).
"Thinking Outside the Box" is actually a phrase I've freely stolen from a friend who used it at the Computer Game Developer's Conference last year in Long Beach. The story goes somewhat like this: after sitting through an agonizing award ceremony emceed by the completely UN-jocular editor of a big gaming magazine on board the Titanic-like, permanently dry-docked Queen Mary, certain VIPs were invited to an (ahem) exclusive reception area to imbibe and be convivial with the socially challenged. Well, previously I had accepted three awards on behalf of id for Quake 2 at the award ceremony so I was happily walking around gloating and showing off my bouquet of trophies as I made my way towards the said special reception.
Well, in order to get into this one area of the boat where the "special" reception was being held, I needed to show this sticker that allowed me to pass the checkpoint at the door. Trophies in hand and friends at my arm I went to the door where this soiree was being held. I had given a bunch of the pass stickers to my friends since I didn't really ponder the awesome significance of not having a sticker on my person with my nifty ribbon badge and three trophies.
Despite the ribbon hanging off my badge, despite the trophies, despite my shameless gloating and overall grandiose posturing earlier, this dude at the door was not going to let me pass because I didn't have that damn sticker. Feeling like I was trapped in an un-aired episode of Seinfeld I futilely tried to reason with this door-boy. Smug in his responsibility and adherence to his simple set of instructiond burned forever into his young little mind, he repeated his mantra: "No sticker, No admittance." Finally coming to the conclusion that the spotlight awards in my hand might survive a few blows to this moron's head, my beautiful and effervescent companion finally said, "Look, Man. Would you please just think outside the box for a minute?"
Needless to say that phrase stuck. And it worked. We got in, mingled happily and later on I was handed all sorts of apologies by sycophantic, self-important types who weren't exactly sure how I rated, but seemed to feel a little butt-smoochio action was in order.
Thus the title.
It also fits nicely with the instructional theme dealing with vertices, faces, polygons and UV's which I'll be covering as well.
Okay now you know why the name...so let's talk. How are you? Cool. Glad to hear it. Read any .plan files today? Yeah? Which ones? Hmm. Me too. Pretty interesting, Huh? Funny even. Yeah I wished I'd still be out there in the world of .plans but alas I had to give in to the PC Police and delete it from cyber-reality. "Why," you ask? Good question.
.plan files started I guess as a work log from techno-savvy geniuses and workers in the world of operating systems, programming and the internet in general. You essentially write up this text file which through the magic of limited access can be "fingered" by almost anyone with the right means. Eventually an internet news hound (don't know who first organized the .plan files to be accessible by everyone) decided that giving people easier access to .plan files would be a great way to spread the word and get some hits.
Now when a .plan file is written it's not disseminated by the person writing it. That's taken care of by others like PlanetQuake, or Stomped. Granted, everyone who posts a .plan update knows it's going to be picked up by the news sites, dissected, analyzed, criticized and generally held under public scrutiny. Thus .plans are a venue by which to share opinions, feelings and otherwise conversational bits of effluvia that range from dull as shit to successful attempts at entertainment. I was heavy into the .plan thing last year and gained a bunch of notoriety from .plan "wars" with people from other companies. They'd talk shit, I'd talk shit back and we'd pretty much devolve into a pissing contest to see who could get the last word in.
That was fun as hell. And for the most part plenty of other people agreed.
Unfortunately for every one hundred people who love to watch the .plan operas unfold one or two whiners write in to complain about the evil bantering of the .plan writers. Losers. Granted, an anonymous forum like the .plan file can be akin to the results of drinking too many beers (tends to not be too inhibitive), but .plan files are often mistaken for a public relations announcement on behalf of the company where the employee works.
Talk to anyone who writes a .plan file and the biggest reason they write it is (gasp!)…ego. Yep...plan files are written because they can be written and the person writing them has the confidence that someone out there would actually dig reading something from them. Whether it's to impart knowledge, gossip or a glimpse into the mind of the author, a .plan file is a product of someone who essentially talks to themselves with full knowledge that there's a whole bunch of people craning their necks (or clicking their mouse) to overhear their ramblings. Didn't know you had voyeuristic tendencies didja?
When I wrote my .plan file I pictured a smoky pool hall, lots of sexy, friendly serving-wenches, a pitcher of beer, a couple of frosty mugs and you - the reader taking your turn at trying to sink the eight whilst I ruminate over whatever it is I decided to rume over.
The response was great to say the least. People generally could relate to what I was saying and even when they disagreed they agreed it was food for thought (or fuel for argument). I've made lots of acquaintances and a few friends out of updating and enjoyed massively stimulating conversation and discussion from those .plan file updates. I feel good about what I wrote and would still be posting the updates today if it wasn't for that little embodiment of fulsome myopia that creeps itself into every situation and every perceived "good" thing: "them".
You know. The "they" that basically screws everything up in the end and make it their life's mission to piss in every still crispy bowl of corn flakes in sight. I'd kick "their" ass in a heartbeat if I ever found "them". I'd poke a tiny hole in their belly and start pulling all twenty plus feet of their small intestine through that hole as they scream in very intense pain. But unfortunately it's sadly a truism that "they" are the secret sand-baggers of nearly anything fun, or otherwise questionably opinionated, forthright or untainted-by-politically-correct-flavoring-and-fortification. "They" basically wore down the powers-that-be and convinced them that my .plan updates reflected badly on the company I passionately work for and believe in.
That sucks, but now I have this forum which is much, much, much cooler. Thanks, loonyboi. (Editor's note: my pleasure)
So hopefully, "they" will get a clue one day and realize that a little less salt in their diet, some simple personal hygiene practices, a self-help book or ten, a personal trainer and a dose of common sense will cure their problems with anal retention (oh, and Depends will aid their urges for random urination).
- Paul Steed is an incredibly opinionated 3D artist at id Software
Credits: Thinking Outside the Box logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Thinking Outside the Box is © 1998 Paul Steed. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't even try it. We've got really big guns, and we're ripped, baby.