mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Twitch Anniversary Project

I’ve been fortunate to work at great companies during my career but one thing all have missed the mark on was celebrating work anniversaries. Fundamentally, anniversaries are special and worth celebrating. We should acknowledge people who have chosen to spend a year working with us each and every year.

Other companies celebrating work anniversaries provide a nice corpus for inspiration. Around the time I started exploring options for celebrating work anniversaries I stumbled upon this tweet from a Twitter employee. I liked it, but felt there was plenty of room for improvement; a block exists to have its six sides leveraged! I went to the drawing board, hashed out details for a few months, and this week was excited to deliver the first batch of anniversary blocks to the team!

These blocks are fully leveraged. The six sides are:

  1. Team member’s name
  2. Twitch logo
  3. Number of years at Twitch - New team members get the Year 0 block on their first day.
  4. Current year
  5. Twitch emote - Gotta catch em’ all!
  6. Twitch core value - Read more about Twitch’s Core Values.

These were well-received by the team and I’m excited to have seeded a new tradition of celebrating our team’s tenure, the fruits of which will hopefully be more recognized and happy team members.

P.S. I ordered these on Etsy from Alexander who runs the StarBlock shop and would highly recommend him if you are considering doing something similar.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - Torna The Golden Country

I typically find myself not engaging in DLC content that releases after I’ve completed a game. But Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has bucked that trend repeatedly. A major story expansion that covers events 500 years before the story in the original game recently came out: Torna The Golden Country Review. 20 hours later, I’m happy to report this DLC expansion was awesome.

  • Getting Blades is a lot simpler. Three characters that over the course of the story acquire two blades each. That’s all. No gacha-style Blade acquisition here!

  • The battle system is easier. The battle system changes up from the original: Drivers and Blades are essentially equals and swap in-and-out during battle. What makes the system easier is that given fixed characters and Blades Driver Combos (i.e. Break, Topple, Launch, Smash) happen much more frequently. In the original game it required some careful coordination to even have your party capable of performing a full combo.

  • The music is jazzy goodness. The original game had an amazing soundtrack and this expansion adds onto goodness, giving us some new jazzy tunes and some revamped originals like the Gormott theme.

  • The cast is likeable. Say what you will about Rex, Lora is a lot easier to like. Hugo and Addam are also affable. The campire fire scenes, reminiscent of Final Fantasy XV where characters chit chat with each other, were always enjoyable.

  • The final battle with Malos is amazing. The usage of Siren mecha in the battle against Malos was awesome. It made the battle feel bigger and more epic than the usual battles in the game.

  • The story arc of Blade Eater research and Gort feels tacked on. These two story arcs were presented but either didn’t contribute much to the story in the case of Gort or didn’t get wrapped up nicely in the case of the Blade Eater research. I would’ve preferred seeing Gort show up more frequently during Lora’s travels instead of randomly popping up at the end.

  • The Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Season Pass was a great investment. For $30 the Monolith Soft team delivered a bunch of additional quests, a New Game Plus mode, a Battle Challenge Mode, and the Torna The Golden Country expansion.

I think I can finally say I’m done with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. What an enjoyable – and grindy – ride! I can’t wait for the next gem from team Monolith Soft.

Hung Up on the PlayStation Classic

Sony’s announcement today that it was joining Nintendo in making classic versions of its former consoles is exciting for those who never had a chance to explore the awesome games of that generation and exciting for those who are craving a nostalgia trip. Everyone’s a winner, right?

Wrong. I’m massively hung up on the PlayStation Classic because of the reveal video. On video start, I immediately muted the Apple-esque hipster music but little did I know the worst was yet to come. Within the next few seconds there was a transgression to common sense.

There is so much wrong in these few seconds. The size comparison text glitches in and starts at “99% smaller than the original PlayStation” and then works its way down to “45% smaller than the original PlayStation.” Imagine walking into a store and someone tells you everything is 99% off but when you get to the register everything is only 45% off. That’s a raw deal: you don’t show someone a more impressive number and then lower it right in front of them. This is a reveal video, not New Year’s; not everything should count down.

If that’s not enough, the size of the PlayStation Classic inside the original PlayStation is going from physically bigger (0% smaller compared to the original) to physically smaller (45% smaller compared to the original). This is the inverse of the non-sensical countdown above.

Me after watching this reveal video: 😵.

Awesome Nintendo Direct

Nintendo Directs are always exciting but this week Nintendo delivered an A+++ announcement.

I was already excited about the stuff we know about coming to the Switch. This week a massive DLC expansion (warranting even a physical release in addition to a digital release) is coming out for Xenoblade Chronicles 2. A week later comes Valkyria Chronicles 4: a one-of-a-kind SRPG that had an amazing series debut on the PS3. If you never played the original, no worries as it is also coming to the Switch!

And then today happened! Over the coming year we’ve got nine Final Fantasy titles coming to the Switch! I love Final Fantasy. Here’s where I stand on each of the announced games:

  • Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition - I played the non-pocket edition on the PS4 and while it had some flaws, I loved FFXV. That said, I will pass on this watered down version.
  • World of Final Fantasy Maxima - I played the original on the Vita when it came out in 2016. It’s different but I enjoyed it.
  • Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! - I never played the original Wii version and will wait and see what reviews are before diving into this entry.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - I got this game for the GameCube and played a bit but didn’t have others to play with. With the incoming Nintendo Switch Online service I’m hoping online play can help make this game awesome.
  • Final Fantasy VII - I have yet to replay FF7 but given the HD remake will likely not come out in my lifetime, I may invest in another trip to Midgar soon.
  • Final Fantasy IX - Another classic that I have not replayed yet but really want to. Given there is no HD remake in the works for this one I’m more inclined to revisit Gaia soon.
  • Final Fantasy X - FFX is my favorite Final Fantasy and I’ve played it three times on the PS2, PS3, PS4. Three times is also my personal record for the number of times I’ve replayed a game.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 - I admit, unashamedly, I’ve played this game twice and guess what? Contrary to a lot of the blind hate, it’s a good game!
  • Final Fantasy XII - The Zodiac Age - I recently replayed FFXII a.k.a. the best Star Wars ever made on the PS4 so I’m going to pass on this release.

Overall, I’m excited to see Nintendo finally becoming a serious platform for the Final Fantasy series after the heydays of the SNES entries. Seeing my first Final Fantasy game, the divisive Final Fantasy VIII, missing from this lineup is upsetting but not surprising given people say the original developers did a bad job of keeping the code and assets around.

Does all that Final Fantasy not satisfy you? How about some other juicy great games also getting ported like Katamari Damacy, Bastion, The World Ends With You, and Super Mario Bros. U? Oh, the Switch is a glorified port console you say? Let’s throw down some new entries from beloved IP like Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion, and Yoshi’s World to quiet the naysayers.

Nintendo, consider me pumped.

Manager Reads - Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

It’s been a while since my last Manager Reads post as Octopath Traveler cut into my reading time but I’m back to report on my latest managerial read: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by decorated former U.S. Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Who recommended the book? This book is highly regarded by our Ads leader here at Twitch, Mike Minton. My manager – Ravi – picked it up and also really enjoyed it so he pushed for it at the most recent meeting of the Twitch Manager Book Guild as the next book for us to dive into.

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The cover is a simple black cover with a high impact title in large font featuring the SEAL Trident and a large red banner that screams #1 New York Times Bestseller. Can’t blame anyone here: if I was a #1 New York Times Bestseller I’d slap it prominently on my book as well! The paper inside this book is nice and thick with very, very little highlighter ink bleeding through. The font, point size, and leading inside also pleased my not-very-strict eye. Overall, 👍 across the board.

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? Extreme Ownership was a very worthwhile read. The authors posit that “leadership is simple, but not easy.” Why? Because “leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” A simple statement for sure but executing on owning everything in your world isn’t easy. But don’t fret! The book walks through strategies for living Extreme Ownership and how to achieve victory in whatever you may be working on. The major strategies I took away from my read:

  • Check the Ego - Always check your ego, operate with humility, and never get complacent. Ego drives successful people but don’t let it become destructive!
  • Decentralized Command - An effective team will be able to function with their leader absent because that team will have many leaders on the team capable of taking the reigns as needed.
  • Believe - A leader needs to truly believe in the mission if they ever hope to convince their team to also believe in the mission.
  • Decisiveness Amid Uncertainty - We will never be certain about what’s the right decision so leaders must be able to make a decision within this uncertainty and course-correct as more information reveals itself.

And that is only 4 out of 12 principles the book covers! 😲

Favorite quote from the book? “Leaders must be free to move to where they are most needed, which changes throughout the course of an operation.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? I started reading this book on Friday night and was done by Sunday night; it’s a pleaure to read and will positively transform your view of leadership.

Notes in Evernote? My notes don’t capture the battle narratives and business examples that serve as real-world models of the principles covered in Extreme Ownership, but feel free to review my notes on 🐘.

Enjoyed this episode of Manager Reads? Check out more in the Manager Reads corner!