When I was a kid I used to watch Toy Story almost every night while falling asleep.
I’ve been getting back in to console gaming in a big way lately. Everyone at work is always talking about these really fun console games that I’ve never played, asking each other for their gamertags, and comparing gamerscores, etc. And with PC gaming in the drought that it’s in, I figured now was the time to give it another shot. Rented a few games, Wanted, Dead Space, etc. Got my Gamerscore above 10,000 (my gamercard can be seen on the right, under ‘Gaming’). And yesterday one of the guys at work was selling off a bunch of his 360 games for cheap, so I ended up getting 6 games for 70$, some AAA titles in there too! All in great condition. Got Devil May Cry 4, Dark Sector, Beautiful Katamari, Bioshock, Bourne Conspiracy and Stranglehold. 70$!
One Friday a month is Cake Day at Bioware, which is when we take the last 2 hours of the day off, everyone in QA goes down to the second floor break room and we eat cake, socialize and play games. It’s for everyone who’s birthday is that month. So yesterday was this month’s Cake Day and we all headed down and had a good time. Reid brought Soul Calibur and him, Dave, Andrew, Mike and a few others got into a Winner-Goes-On tournament. Dave was kicking ass and actually drew a crowd. I didn’t play, because these guys were serious about it, and I’ve never really gotten in to the Soul Calibur franchise. If it’d been Dead or Alive, I’d have been the one kicking ass.
Yesterday was also the last day for a few terms with shorter contracts. Martin, a really cool guy from our office, had his last day. Really sad to see him go. Makes me dread the day my contract is up and I have to take those 3 months off. God that will suck, and also be really weird. I can barely conceive of the idea of working at some job “just for the money” anymore. If I ever manage to get full time, I can honestly say it will likely be the best day of my life.
Last night I started playing Stranglehold, working my way through the first of my 6 new games! Today I believe I’m hanging out with Dann and Melissa, probably gunna wander around Whyte Ave since it’s so beautiful outside.
Here’s our offerings at E3 2009!
Ok, I may catch a lot of flak for this, but I beat Mirror’s Edge last night, and have to say… I think this was one of the most over-rated games I’ve ever played. After all the hype from the demo, which for the most part was only bolstered by the retail release, I was expecting to have some fun with it. I bought a copy, along with a few other games, before moving to Edmonton with the hopes of it getting me through the first few lonely months.
3 chapters in and I couldn’t stand it, and put the game down. Months later I’ve decided to come back to it, partially to give it another fair shake, partially to try to get my money’s worth, and partially for the achievement points… I was still not impressed. It had one or two cool parts, and I definitely have to tip my hat to the developers for trying something new. And I think that may be what all the hype is about, the fact that it’s something new. Some are classifying it as a new genre, First-Person Platformer.
I’ll agree with all that. In today’s economy and with the cost to a studio to develop a game, it was very brave of DICE and EA to take a risk on an idea like this, and that has to be applauded. So in that regard, I’m happy it was successful because it shows studios the consumers are still looking for new ideas, but when I bought it I was expecting to have some fun. And I did not.
When I first started my job at Bioware working for QA, my cousin told me one of the downsides to the job was what he called “The Matrix Effect”. Once you’ve seen behind the smoke and mirrors, and know how to spot bugs and design shortcomings, you can’t turn that off. Gaming as a hobby becomes a challenge, since gaming is also a job. And Mirror’s Edge really brought that statement home. The trial and error approach of finding the right way to go, but never being able to truly rule a path out due to the possibility it was just collision detection preventing you from taking what was meant to be the right path after all, the die die die die checkpoint, die die die die game design… Well it felt a lot like troubleshooting. And I get enough of that at work.
When I play a game I have no problems with it being challenging, but it should still be fun. And many games accomplish that. Bionic Commando was great fun, not the perfect game by any means, but it was fun, even though it was quite challenging. Every time I died, it only encouraged me to get back in there and try again, try harder. Mirror’s Edge I just found discouraging. It grated at my soul…
So when Mirror’s Edge 2 comes out, which you can be sure it will after the success of the first, let’s hope DICE doesn’t take the success of the first to mean they shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. That’s not an approach you can take when you’re building something new, because you can’t break what has yet to work.
Love, love, LOVE the new Devin Townsend (“Proiect”) album, Ki. Took a while to grow on me at first, as his albums usually do, but I love it. Somewhat more minimalistic than I’m used to. I don’t know if I’ll be able to fit any songs from it into a playlist. My playlists are usually indie with a bit of electronic pop, and I’ve generally been ignoring my prog/metal/orchestra side since it’s so much less accessible. But I may attempt a playlist with the likes of Devin Townsend, Porcupine Tree, Dog Fashion Disco, Opeth, Pain Of Salvation… Or not. No one but me would listen to something like that (but I’d listen to it again and again and again).
Also, the new Dredg album seems like it has potential, though I haven’t been listening to it enough since Ki has been on repeat most of the time.
Well, back to setting up some Xbox360 Demo kits for E3!
Such a gorgeous day out.
Slept in this morning, then headed to Rogers to rent some games. Got Bionic Commando and Chad forced me to rent the Riddick game. Not something I normally would have rented, but he swears by it, so I’ll give it a shot.
It was so nice out and I was in a good mood so I ended up driving South halfway to Red Deer and back! At one point I was cruising 120 with Nine Inch Nails cranked and my window down, in a great mood, and a red Cadillac full of young girls drives up beside me and they all start waving and blowing kisses, lol.
I found a bunch of new music last night from some bands I’ve liked for a while. Got the new Dredg album, the discography of Jon Crosby, the lead singer from Vast, some other bands and last but not least, a new Devin Townsend album! I LOVE Devin Townsend, so I’m sure I’ll be listening to this one for quite a while. It’s part of a 4 album project of his, and supposedly all 4 are coming out this year! I’m sure many of the new songs I’ve found will end up on a playlist soon enough.
It occurred to me today I’ve been a good mood for months. Just one long stretch of good mood. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before, but I like it!
I had a great day today. And it was at work. I love my job.
My work on the PC build of Dragon Age was more or less completed today. Been a long haul, and come a long way since I started. It’s been an amazing experience being a part of the project, and seeing the game come along. And now I’m on to consoles, with a whole new slew of bugs to find and file! I’m excited. There hasn’t been a ton of extra work for me to pick up on the PC build the past month since it' was more or less complete, but there should be no short supply of extra tasks available to me now! And maybe we’ll crunch again, get some overtime hours!
Most of the day we were running updaters to prepare for our work on consoles on Monday, so for a good chunk of the day we couldn’t use our computers for anything but browsing the net, but couldn’t leave them because we had to babysit the updaters. My boss literally said “Don’t do any work, just browse the net and stuff, but don’t leave your computer”. So I just sat in the room with the other guys in my office, Reid, Dave, Martin, Scott and Owen. We ended up in some deep philosophical conversation, some great gamer talk, etc.
When Zac, my boss, came back there was still nothing anyone could do so he just joined in on our gamer talk. We talked about how Shadow of the Colossus was a breakthrough in minimalistic storytelling in gaming, whether or not Fallout 3 was a true open-world game, the age-old pc-vs-console debate, how piracy is leading the industry to favour the micro-payments economics model, how console services like Xbox Live Arcade are bringing back independent gaming and nostalgia gaming, and more. I was getting paid the whole time, and the whole conversation was considered “talking shop”. I LOVE my job.
I wanted to do something productive though, so at the end of the day, once the updaters were done, I helped one of my co-workers with some of his assignments, and managed to get a fair amount of work done.
Tonight I decided to take it easy and just bunkered down in my room and beat Dead Space on 360. I’m on a mission to get up my gamerscore so I recently beat Wanted, and now Dead Space. It was a great game, with an epic last boss!
You know you have the right job when the line between your job and home life is seriously blurred.
It’s not that there’s no work, there is. But I love the work. I take on as many extra tasks as I can, I love being as integrated as possible and being a part of the project, part of a team. I love the milestones, watching day by day, week by week and month by month, a project make observable progress and to know I had something to do with that. I love knowing gamers around the world, gamers just like me, will play this final product and hopefully love it. And I love knowing my name is in the credits to something I’m proud to be a part of.
It may sound silly to someone not into gaming, but to me, someone who’s been playing videogames his whole life, watched the industry grow, seen it mature from a hobby, to a mass form of entertainment, and now beginning to transcend into an art form… Well it’s cool to be a part of this, regardless of my small role in it all. I feel like in my own tiny way, I’m leaving a mark on the world.
Decided to throw together a new playlist. I honestly didn’t put a hell of a lot of thought into this one, but I think it actually came out pretty good. It has the usual indie and electronic, but towards the end there’s a short stretch of blues! As always, will probably take a few listens to grow on you. So if you’re looking for some new music, give it a listen! Hit play on the player on the right! ---->
Just because Dave says I have too many celebrity crushes, this entry is dedicated to him!
She’s just got that dark mysterious look I love in a woman.
She is pure sex.
I swear she’s getting hotter as she gets older. Watch the movie The Wrestler. Not only is it an amazing movie, but she is in it, and she's hot!
I even thought she looked good bald in Empire Records…
Yes, even I am not immune to her… charms.
I hung out with Dann, Melissa and Colin last night. Colin has worked at Bioware for a little over a year longer than I have, so about 2 years total. And we got to talking… I didn’t like a lot of what I realized, even though deep down I already knew and was just in denial.
EA recently made a company wide mandate that terms could only work on contract for a maximum of one year. The idea behind it is that companies don’t exploit term employees, and should know after a year if they’re worth hiring permanent (salary), otherwise they should let them go and try some new blood. This is all good and great, but when the economy fell apart EA also instated a temporary headcount lock. No new hires. So essentially that puts terms between a rock and a hard place. Maximum term of a year, with no hope of being hired.
But over the next few months I saw some exceptions. A handful of people did get hired permanent anyway, but they were definitely a small group of people. So we have a few dozen QA terms, some have been with the company as long as 4 years on terms, and know a lot more than I do, and they’re all competing for the rare time Bioware is willing to hire someone new. Doesn’t look good…
I knew all this already, but was just being extremely optimistic in hoping I’d be hired permanent by the time my year was up (October). During my last contract renewal I was told there was a loophole, somewhat. If I don’t get hired permanently by the time my contract is up, I can’t work for the company for 3 months, but after that I can come back for another full year. Not the ideal situation, but for the ideal job, I’d be willing to put up with worse.
So the way things will likely play out is I won’t get hired permanently by October, and will have to work somewhere else for 3 months (maybe the Rogers Video here!). After which I can come back to Bioware and work for another year, and try my hand again at making permanent, and hope the economy gets better and Bioware can start hiring more liberally.
I plan on learning the developers toolset to learn a new skill set and be more valuable, and just continue to be my best and make myself as invaluable as possible.
Another fact of the matter is that not everyone will be as determined. I hate the cut-throat nature of times like these, but I’m sure there will be a lot of people who aren’t willing to take 3 months off, and will just follow other ambitions or leads. This pushes me further up the seniority totem. I’m willing to put in as much time as required.
The whole conversation with Colin just made things real, doesn’t really change my plans though. But I have to be realistic. It’s pretty unlikely I’ll have permanent within a year making salary. But if I’m willing to stick at it for 3 or 4 years, by then chances go up quite a bit. My cousin was a term for 2 and a half years before he got salary, though that was in a better economic time.
But I’ve finally found a career path I’m passionate about, and I can’t let go of this. Whatever it takes, I’ll do. Absolute worst case scenario, if Bioware Edmonton doesn’t pan out, I can look in to EA in Vancouver, or the new Montreal branch of Bioware. Or even Ubisoft Montreal.
So the adventure continues. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Ok, here it is! Clocking in at just over 17 minutes, a full video of Chad’s trip to Edmonton. It was fun times! It’s made up of many clips taken over the week he was here. It’s got some pretty funny moments, and I did a bit of video editing in there too. Give it a watch!
So Chad has left back to Winnipeg. The rest of his trip was relatively low key. I was back at work so had to get up early, thus couldn’t stay up late. We still had fun though. Tuesday we went for Italian with Nathan and his new girlfriend who I met for the first time. She seemed really cool. After that we went to Marble Slab for some ice-cream. Good stuff. I gave Chad a hard time for ordering Vanilla, lol.
Wednesday after work we headed to West Ed one last time because I wanted to exchange my Apple keyboard. Wanted the one with the numpad, which I got and am now typing on. Chad bought a screen protector for his new iPhone since he’s already dropped it twice and it has a little crack in it.
We went to Moxies and had our traditional Louisiana Chicken Club. Just like old times. Dann came along and afterwards we ended up going to Marble Slab again, lol. After that we came back home and played Mega Man 9 the rest of the night. Very retro.
Chad’s plane left at 6:00 AM Thursday morning, so we went to bed early that night to get a bit of sleep, and set our alarms for 4:15. I paid for Chad to take a cab so I could get some sleep before work.
Today was weird. It felt like Chad was never here, like it was all in my imagination or something. Even though the air mattress is still blown up beside me, it just doesn’t feel like it was real. I remember I always used to feel this way when Tim would visit in Winnipeg when he lived in Saskatchewan. It’ll pass.
So all in all Chad’s trip here was fantastic. A lot of fun. It felt really good to show off my new life to someone from my old life, who could appreciate how different it was and how it fit me. I hope Chad does end up moving here next year with Olga so they can be a part of this life!
Now I just have to put together all the video from the week, but I’ll post that as a separate entry when I’m done.
Chad’s trip has continued to successfully rock. There has been an abundance of rocking. The quota was met and surpassed long ago. Been checking out the sights, hanging out with friends, playing video games and nerding it up (convinced him to get an iPhone), and just all around been having a great time.
It’s gunna be weird when he leaves, cause he was so easily integrated into my life here, and it’s been so fun. I really hope him and Olga do move here.
We stopped by Bioware to have lunch with Nathan and Dave and I headed up to get my timesheet signed and handed in, and Chad came with and was lucky enough to be a part of a nerf raid. That was really fun. He is extremely jealous that this is my job, and you know, I can’t blame him :P
Tomorrow I go back to work. It kinda sucks that we can’t stay up super late any more like we have been, and I’ll have to get up early again. Then we won’t be able to hang out until 5:00 when I’m off work. In some ways the real trip is over, and the next few days will just be chilling after work, much more low key. Though after work we’re including Chad in one of our traditional board game nights.
After Chad leaves I’m gunna put up a video of all our exploits, but for now here’s some more pix:
Oh, and I bought a sexy new Apple keyboard at the Apple Store in West Ed. It’s awesome. Had to remap a few keys to make it work for PC, but it’s great.
Chad’s trip has been great so far. I had to wake up bright and early on Thursday. 6:45 AM. Headed to the air-port and picked him up. Since we chat on msn, skype, play online, etc, it really felt like I’d just seen him, when in reality it’d been almost 5 months.
We went to McDonald’s for breakfast, since I’m rarely up early enough to do so, then we checked out South Ed Common. After that we headed to West Ed Mall and spent the day there. Lots of fun. That night we went for drinks with a bunch of my Edmonton friends. Was a really fun night. I really hope everything works out as planned and Chad moves out here with Olga.
We’ve been having a lot of fun. Gone to see Wolverine with some friends, and went to see Star Trek just us. Been showing him all the great restaurants we have in this city, introducing him to my friends, etc. Gave him the Bioware tour!
He was very jealous, lol. It’s really made me take stock of my life here. I love it. I love my life. I’d been dying for change back in Winnipeg, for a life that more accurately reflected who I’d become, and I definitely have that out here. Seeing the life I’ve created here from someone else’s eyes was like seeing it for the first time, instead of the gradual transition from being alone in a new city to feeling at home with a life I loved. It makes me very proud of myself. I never would have thought I’d be the type of person able to accomplish something like that. If you told me, even a year ago, that I’d move to Edmonton, be aggressively pursuing a career with an entire new group of great friends, I never ever would have believed it. And it’ll be that much cooler if Chad and Olga move out here!
Oh, and I finally convinced Chad to buy an iPhone, and through some very clever string pulling, he essentially got it for free!
Well, we’re off to get some pizza and play Wolverine on 360 all night!
Yup, life is great these days. I’ve really found my place out here, and absolutely love it. Winnipeg will always have a place in my heart, no doubt, but I’ve stopped missing it and started loving it here. Wish I could transport some of the people here with me though! And soon I will!!! But more on that in a bit.
I quit smoking! For real. It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve had a cigarette. I used to be able to quit no problem, but this time was very difficult. I think it was because I was using it as a crutch while I went through the hard parts of moving here, but those days are past, and I was finally able to knock it. I love smoking, I won’t lie. But I just couldn’t afford it anymore. Plus, you know, don’t wanna DIE or anything.
In gaming news, I’m addicted to Sim City 4 right now. It’s so old school you have to trick it into working on Vista. But it’s so addictive, and really brings me back. I still remember the first time I played Sim City my friend’s Dad saw us playing it, thought it was a really neat concept, and asked to try it out. We spent the next 4 hours begging for the controller back.
When I’m not playing Sim City 4 Chad and I have been playing through Resident Evil 5 on coop. Good fun. I need to play more 360 games, my gamerscore is pitiful compared to some of the people I know and work with. I also want to give Uncharted a shot if I can get my hands on a PS3 for a week.
This past weekend I had a great time. Friday I just stayed in and relaxed after work, but Saturday it was gorgeous out and I ended up spending the entire day walking around Whyte Ave with Dann and Melissa, grabbing food, shopping, chatting and just having a great day. Whyte Ave gets more and more fun the warmer it gets, and it's got a whole different feel during the day than the evening, and both are great. A few pix of the day:
So that was a great day. And things get better. Chad will be here in less than 2 days! I pick him up at 7AM Thursday. I booked Thursday, Friday and Monday off, so we’ll have a good 5 days to have fun. Then I work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but I’m always off at 5 or 6 so it’s not bad. He leaves on Thursday, so a full week. Can’t wait to give him the tour of Bioware, since he wants to apply next year. And all my friends have been hearing about him and can’t wait to meet him, and I’m sure he’ll fit right in. Gunna be a great week. And it’ll be funded by the $800 I got on my tax returns!!! I’m not going to go on a spending spree, cause I put it all to debt and want to keep as much of it there as possible, but it’s nice that I won’t have to be totally cheap while Chad is here!
Yup, life is good!
My work on Dragon Age is nearing completion. It’s been an amazing project to work on, and will always hold a special place as the first game I worked on. It’s come a long way since I started, and it’s very cool for me to be able to point at specific moments in the game and say I had something to do with that. There is once scene in particular I can’t wait to point out and say “It used to be this way, but I suggested changing it this way, and it was approved!”
Soon I’ll be moved to other projects, most likely still Dragon Age related, though I can’t say much. But none the less, when this game comes out, and I read reviews, see my name in the credits, and give my friends free copies, it’ll be a very cool moment for me.