Saturday, August 25, 2012

Daytona USA 2 Saved/Ruined My Life

EDIT: Fixed some typos & stuff a day later.

Well guys, I'm back.  Let me tell you what's been going on.  Recently, I had a two week break which I spent at home in Slidell, Louisiana.  Then I drove back to Orlando, Florida and I've already completed one week of my internship.  Just didn't bother mentioning it until now.

Driving to and from Orlando by myself was a nine-hour nightmare (that happened twice).  It rained a lot both times (precipitation for about 40% of the distance) and there were two traffic jams in which I had to come to a complete stop.  The only excitement came from a "race" between me and a geriatric couple in a white Dodge Caravan.  I pass these guys and two hours later, they start creeping up on me (at 76 mph) so I slingshot past them (at 77 mph).  Hey, anything to keep me alert is fine by me.

Me driving with my little furry friend.  I'm not ashamed.

BTW, Florida toll booths are crap.  There's this one booth that charges $3 for a two-axle car.  What a piece of crap.  What's worse is that I didn't have $3 in change on me (sorry I don't walk around with tons of cash in my pocket) so I offered the toll booth lady my debit card.  They don't take cards of any kind.  Are you serious???  The hot dog cart lady outside of the FIEA building takes credit cards but the State of Florida doesn't???  So they took my license & plate number and now I have to mail them a $3 check within a very limited amount of time that my dad agreed to pay for me.  But he got lazy and said "you got a Louisiana license plate that's crap, don't bother."  So now, if Florida law enforcement tows my car, confiscates my license, and makes me face a judge, then I know who to thank.  Thanks, dad.

So now I will tell you about this old town of Slidell, Louisiana.  That's my home.  You check out what has changed and, as usual, nothing really has.  So I made another pilgrimage to Northshore Square Mall.  Not even this mall has changed.  That's not bad seeing as indoor malls are "on their way out" but whatever, it's still good to know.  Buy some expensive cookies, some flat greasy pizza, check out the arcade, sit on the bench, I have zero interest in buying clothes so what else is there to do so I left.

It is properly fitting that as I begin working in the game industry we visit the place that actually got the ball rolling on this career path.

This is the water fountain, a picture taken while sitting on a bench.

Another water, that's pretty, I love palm trees.  Yu Suzuki does, that's why the AM2 logo is a palm tree (omg, symbolism).

This is the shot directly behind where I was sitting.  It's the arcade.  That's hallowed ground there.

As usual, my head was swimming with thoughts at the time.  Now I already told my arcade story a while back and how this all began, but I omitted some details.  I should mention these now.

I practically lived in Slidell my entire life until a year ago when I moved to Orlando.  I've always known about this arcade.  At first it was "Pocket Change," then it was "Namco Arcade," now it's "Coin It Up."  Pocket Change had a Turbo (1982 Sega arcade racer) cabinet and that was great.  I loved race cars as a kid and that was one of the many games that I played at the time.  Unfortunately, my parents were always reluctant to take me to the arcade for many reasons--it costs money, the mall is a ghetto full of gangsters and miscreants, and so forth so I didn't play much Turbo.

Never mind that, let's move on.  It was about 2000.  At the time, my greatest extent of racing game knowledge was Cruis'n World and Mario Kart.  Didn't know much else.  But Penny Arcade brought in a California Speed cabinet!  That was great--the first time I played it, I thought it was the greatest that racing games could ever get.  Stupid, I know.  Then what happens?  Penny Arcade closes down.  Aww, that sucks. I felt a bit sad but whatever, let's zip ahead a year when Namco Arcade opens a month or two later.  This is the make-or-break moment.  I mean, I had an It's a Wonderful Life moment and wonder if that arcade never opened.  Like if it were replaced with sporting goods, cell phones, or a hair salon.  Let me explain why.

What I've seldom said is that those years from 2000 to 2005 were some of the worst in my life.  I'm not going to paint a picture of doom & gloom--I had two parents who loved me, I lived in a nice house, and I didn't suffer any terrible injuries or sickness.  But I did suffer from extreme anxiety which I apparently got from my mother.  There's many reasons, most of which has to do with social situations.  EDIT: I wouldn't say I was a nerd (like Napoleon Dynamite) but I was just foolish when it came to these social situations.  I went from home school to a private school and I acted like an idiot--a Socially Awkward Penguin.  I also spent a lot of time on various internet message boards, making social blunder and blunder and not knowing why.  I was a fool who had just lost all of his childhood friends and made none other at that time.  School was miserable and all I really focused on was getting good grades--I maintained all A's from 9th grade up until my Senior year of College, true story but not like it matters now.  My loving grandmother died in 9th grade.  Took tons of anti-depressants.  I spent a lot of time playing "grind-it-out" games like The Sims which really proved to be a waste of time in the long run.  9/11 just happened and that was depressing.  And finally, I had some religious questions pertaining to my Christian faith that hung over me--not stuff like the existence of God but stuff like,  "What is Heaven like and what are you supposed to do for eternity," and "If the world is supposed to end soon, why bother doing anything?"  (please, for the love of God, no one comment on these things or I will probably delete it).  Oh, and puberty, that probably made me depressed too.  I try to block out this clusterf*** part of my life as much as possible.

Well, except for one thing: Daytona USA 2.

No, really, the new Namco Arcade had a twin Daytona USA 2 cabinet.  I can't remember the first time that I played it (purely on a whim, nonetheless) but it was pure joy every time that I played it.  What was otherwise a miserable time of my life was capitalized by the times I got to go visit the arcade and play it.  But like I said before, my parents hated going to arcade.  I only got to play Daytona 2 only a handful of times every two weeks.  I kept track of my fastest times with each car, bought Namco Arcade coupons to increase my number of plays, and ingrained the soundtrack in my head (whatever bits I could hear over the roaring engines).  In other words, old racing games that I thought were "good" were now bad because Sega moved to #1 in my book.

But as you know, Daytona USA 2 never came to home consoles.  I always read the occasional story while browsing lousy Reddit Gaming about how video games changing peoples lives for the better.  Pokemon, Halo, Portal, OH MY GOD GUYS they saved my life, thank you developers!  Yet the distinct difference between those games and Daytona is that you could actually play those games at home.  YOU COULD NOT PLAY DAYTONA USA 2 AT HOME AND IT HONESTLY BROKE MY HEART WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT (and still do today).  So I look up more Sega games, I buy a Dreamcast & find out about OutRun, Crazy Taxi, Sega Rally, the Dreamcast version of Daytona, all of which were great but why Sega chose to cast Daytona 2 away made no sense to me.

Then I always talked about that day: February 1, 2005.  Aaaand, it's gone.  Goodbye Daytona USA 2, it disappeared from Namco Arcade and never came back.  I stood in the rain and cried all night while my dad thought I was bats*** crazy.  He offered me the three most encouraging words from a father that you could ever hear: "GET OVER IT...."

I felt like a goldfish whose fish tank just cracked.  There goes my primary source of happiness.  And I did the only thing that I could--frantically post on the internet about Daytona, research more about Sega, learn about game design, and ultimately wallow in a state of depression.  I even e-mailed a 20-page document directly to Sega-AM2 with a bunch of ideas for a new Daytona--yeah the ideas were stupid but at least it was a valiant attempt.  They never replied back, to no one's surprise.

Then one day, I was sitting in a chair thinking about life.  You see, up until this moment, I didn't have a clear career track in mind for the future.  Until then, my mother was trying to groom me into this preppy, intellectual type--piano lessons, Latin classes, chess club, all sorts of honors societies.  But then, just like Forrest Gump, I had a revelation and got up out of that chair and said,  "There is no doubt what I'm going to do with my life.  I'm making a new racing game.  If Sega ain't doing it, then I will.  I'm bringing back the Daytona USA name once and for all and may the Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on those who try to stop me!!"  In Forrest's case, he just ran.

But I'm running too, sort of.  Running down a dream!  Go to Southeastern Louisiana University, get a computer science degree.  Never programmed anything before then!  Then I went to grad school and I'm nearly done with that.  I also made the Northshore Square Mall Counter-Strike map to exorcise some of the demons--it helped but it's still a sad state of affairs.

But it's so easy to lose track of the "goal."  Daytona USA 2 was released FOURTEEN YEARS AGO.  A lot has changed since then.  Arcades are dead, Sega is a deplorable, hollow shell of their former selves (which'll probably die out in a few years), I've been locked in a war of attrition with this new commercial-obsessed model for game design/publishing from the likes of EA and other game companies that have been stripping me of my morale.  Oh, and the racing genre is a complete joke now but that brings me to my next point...

Maybe Daytona USA 2 was a flash in the pan?  Look, most/all of us racing aficionados can say that Daytona 2 is a "good" game.  But is it a great game?  Perhaps it left that emotional impact on me because of the circumstances--it was one of the only good things going for me during those years, I seldom got to play it, it's gone now so it makes an emotional bring the game back.  And all it does is make me irrational to think about get mad at stupid video games (usually other racing games that I'm supposed to "like" so much) I don't like and ostracize myself from the rest of the community.  And it makes working on games especially difficult.  Other programmers are a happy-go-lucky type--they'll work on games X, Y, and Z without problem.  Yet with someone like me, whose has become so hung up on a 14-year-old game no one remembers, I'll work on X but struggle with Y and Z simply because "I hate it" or "I wish I was working on Daytona USA."

And then there's Bart's Model 3 emulator.  Once Daytona USA 2 (and Scud Race) finally came home, I wasn't overjoyed, I was FUCKING ANGRY.  Angry cause it took me so damn long to get this game back.  Angry that Sega did next to nothing to try to bring this game back...that it took the efforts of rogue fans to save the game to make some 50-100 people on the Internet happy.  Angry at whatever outside forces, directly or indirectly, held back any chance for Sega to redeem the game.  Angry that this game got no credit until now.  Angry at video games in general which have done nothing that let me down over and over again.  I played the emulator, yes, and I was thrilled, but it's not the same as it was before.  All I could do was throw rocks at the proverbial abandoned Sega building as hard as I could before giving out.

Of course, I learned more about Sega's situation at the turn of the century and clearly they were on hard times like I was.  So beating up on Sega is equivalent of beating up the special kid on the playground and it was no use.  So while I feel inclined to help Sega not just for myself but everyone else's sakes, I don't even know if I'll work there someday.  Whatever happens to Sega, I'll still bust my ass on that definitive racing game...the "utopia project"--whether it's Daytona 3 or some other game altogether.  It's only a matter of finding out who'll help me, whether it's Sega or some other studio or group of developers altogether.

So even though Daytona 2 was made available at home, my job's not done yet.  Which leads me to me and my very first game design "job."  Like I said, I can't tell you where I'm working or what game or platform it is, but I've just submitted a few lines of code to my very first game.  It really is a legitimate game--you could Google it and find out plenty of information on it.  But otherwise, it's a mellow job in which I work alone having just ditched all my old friends at FIEA.  See, I was the only person offered an internship from my cohort.  I did my best to leave FIEA on a good note--have fun, tell jokes, take people to Wendy's for lunch, etc. so I'm demoralized.  Despite my inability to make friends, those that I do become accustomed with over the years usually go away and I never see them again.  And this will inevitably happen--if I'm trying to go to Sega (or some other important place), well....goodbye, friends!

Back to Namco Arcade, I wondered if that arcade had never opened.  Maybe I had never played Daytona USA 2, I would've probably shed that depression, grown up, and become a fully responsible adult, never having to suffer the burden of dealing with "bad" racing games that let me down.  Maybe I would've been a pianist, a lawyer, a scientist.  Or maybe I still would've been a game programmer but I would've been a much happier person, able to work on anything at anytime with no emotional encumbrances whatsoever.  Stupid things like this can be morale killers which explains why I lose the motivation to do "necessary" things like post on the blog, work on Super Sprint, and engage in racing-related activities in general.  But my brain is full of f*** and I can't continue talking anymore so yeah, that's it, I'm done, I'll return when I feel like it.  Not proofreading this for a while.

TLDR: I was miserable from 2000-2005, then I played Daytona USA 2 which made me very happy.  I wonder what would've changed with my life had I never played it and never had that burden of living up to that game in my head.

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