Archive: September, 2013

Breaking Bad series finale: a man becomes a legend in ‘Felina’

Andy Greenwald, writing for Grantland (warning spoilers for the series finale ahead):

In the end, there was no art. Only science. And this was sort of the problem, wasn’t it? After five-plus years of watching everything break bad, the finale gave us 75 minutes of watching everything break just right. There was plenty of sweet coincidence and even sweeter revenge. The timing was deliberate, and immaculate…

But was it equally satisfying? I’m not so sure…There’s been a great deal of talk these past few weeks about how Gilligan is a moralist, but I have to say, I have my doubts. After last night, I’d say he’s an aesthete, one who admires clean lines and elegant design above all else.

This is pretty much exactly some of the problems (or questions?) I immediately had scattering about my head after wrapping the finale. Enormously enjoyable? Yes. And as always, the visuals and acting worked extremely well. But it felt a bit too tidy in the end.

Then again, maybe we’ll all have dramatically different feelings days, weeks or even years later. Already my feelings are starting to change on Breaking Bad’s earlier years, mostly for the better and some for the worse.

Why I’m a little bit worried about Kinect

Mark Serrels writing for Kotaku:

And make no mistake, a device like Kinect — the device Microsoft is hellbent on shoehorning into our living space — must be seamless if the Xbox One is to capture the mainstream audience Microsoft is lusting after. In short: I have very little confidence in Kinect’s ability to respond quickly, efficiently or consistently and that’s an issue.

But the major issue is this: if you want to purchase an Xbox One, Kinect is being forced upon you. You are paying extra for a device that, two months from launch, feels like a rough, unfinished product. You don’t have a choice and that’s problematic.

I don’t want Kinect to be dropped; it’s got incredible potential. But from all accounts it seems like Kinect is half baked, tech not taken seriously by most gaming developers. What launch XBox One games are even using a fraction of the Kinect’s potential? Without that extra level of polish it feels rushed, rough and something I don’t want to pay extra for. Another reason my preorder is still for the PS4.

Bringing Breaking Bad into focus

Great breakdown of the cinematography basics behind Breaking Bad over at The A.V. Club, as dissected by Scott Kaufman (expect spoilers through Season 5 part 1 in the full article):

Breaking Bad relies more heavily than most shows on what are called “tight singles,” or shots in which a single character occupies the majority of the frame in shallow focus. The background is usually out of focus because it’s unimportant—if you’re watching a show set in a coffee shop, you don’t need the background in focus to remember where the characters are—but in Breaking Bad, the relationship between the planes of focus (foreground, midground, background) typically matters.

A beginner’s guide to perceived performance

Some great advice over at the Mobify blog. I’m done the overflow-scrolling listed here on some of my side projects and it’s an easy, quick win.


With my current job I’m on a very small web team, with little delineation between developer, designer and QA. When you’re banging out code for an impending web release, it’s an environment that can be ripe for regression errors if you’re not careful.

Traditionally one of the best ways to combat regressions are with unit tests (ask any Rails developer.) But for front end developers and designers, there’s often limitations. Sure, you might get valid data from the back end, but how does it actually look and feel? That’s why so many of us rely on lots of repetitive, by hand testing.

Enter CasperJS, a framework perfect for front end unit testing. With a single Unix command running in the background a “headless” Webkit browser that runs through several core actions on my web app, taking screenshots along the way. As long as it stays updated, it’s a great way to check the basics before making any big commit. Great syntax and documentation too. If you’re a front end developer or QA, take a look.

Art of the Title: ‘The Last of Us’

I’ve written here earlier on how amazing the PS3 game The Last of Us is, on both a narrative and cinematic level. So there’s a sense of validation when Art of the Title, which usually focuses on classic film openers, highlights the game’s title sequence. It’s a bit nuts to hear what the creative directors went through to get what’s basically a time lapsed fungal growth captured on film. In the words of title sequence director Kevin Joelson:

So I found some slime mould stuff and some YouTube videos and hacked something together. Within three days we had our foundation…I ended up taking it to my house and growing some there with my wife watching the cameras. We shot everything camera raw so that we had the most to work with. By the end of those two weeks I had a pretty severe cold, I think from all the spores and slime moulds, but it had to get done.

An excerpt from some instructions to the new guy concerning the preparation and presentation of my French toast

“Stanley Kubrick”, writing in McSweeneys (with a little help from Chris Okum):

If the heat is not at it’s absolute lowest, the crust on the French toast will turn a darker shade of brown, almost black, and while it is perfectly acceptable to eat a piece of French toast with slightly blackened crust marks, it is not aesthetically pleasing, at least not to my eye…You must care about the French toast. If you don’t care about the French toast, then perhaps you don’t care about anything is my train of thought on the matter, and if you don’t care about anything, then working for me doesn’t seem feasible, as I have an insatiable desire to be surrounded by people who care as much as I do.

Performance as design

Web developer Brad Frost:

It’s time for us to treat performance as an essential design feature, not just as a technical best practice.

Some may interpret Brad’s post as a shot against a traditional web design workflow. It is, and rightfully so. Too often, both in my own career and in talking with other developers, designers run off the Photoshop deep end without a lot of developer collaboration. They create something that is gorgeous, groundbreaking but in the end really slow. Or a team’s focus is just on shipping new web functionality without considering the performance impact.

Successful teams consider and optimize for performance. As Brad emphasizes, get into prototype form earl and if it’s too slow revise immediately.

I am not a ‘cancer’ on the game industry

This guest post by free-to-play consultant Ethan Levy on Kotaku was interesting, but I’ve flip flopped on my feelings on it. I planned to first link to it pointing out some of Levy’s strong arguments, but at rereading it a few times he comes off harsh and defensive with his audience.

Levy makes a fair point about changing economics and tastes of the audience, and how a free-to-play model can lower the risks for developers:

On the development side, a free-to-play game lowers the risk involved in making a game. A developer is able to release a high quality game that represents a fraction of the total vision, and if players think it is fun and justify it by spending money, the developer can continue to improve the game for months or years on end.

But at the same time, there’s a “business first” tone in the article; a lack of financial support for traditional games forces studios to jump to free-to-play. But I think there is a lot of support for more traditional gaming, especially on mid budget indie releases. Furthermore, many genres of games, especially those with a longer, single player narrative (e.g. The Last of Us) just can’t adapt to free-to-play. We need a strong market for these games as well. If gaming markets sees dollars only around free-to-play, we could lose a lot of gaming diversity. We’re seeing these problems already seep heavily into EA’s latest game releases along with mobile gaming.

Emmet LiveStyle

Emmet LiveStyle is a Chrome extension paired with a Sublime Text plugin that transforms your CSS workflow. Install both tools and you get no BS live bi-directional CSS editing. To put it another way, either tweak in Chrome DevTools, your Sublime Text CSS file or both, and the changes immediately take effect on your page.

Admittedly LiveStyle isn’t perfect. First you have to be committed to Sublime Text as a text editor (which I’d highly recommend, but it isn’t for everyone). Setup can be sometimes annoying; when you switch to the tool in DevTools you’re often forced to assign CSS files you’re editing manually. Also it’s in beta, so expect occasional stability problems. But for the most part when you start getting in a CSS editing groove it’s pretty awesome.