Wednesday, April 28, 2010

First Unreal Level Completed!

When I first started my 3 months off from BioWare I decided to make use of my team and try to learn something productive to the job.  I used to love making levels for Duke Nukem but got somewhat left behind when Unreal became the norm in level building.  So I decided to spend my 3 months off learning the Unreal Development Kit.  I used the videos supplied by and made my progress.

I applied for a QA Design position on the Mass Effect team last week, and when I didn’t even get selected for an interview I was pretty bummed out.  I realized I still have a lot to learn.  After a short period of feeling sorry for myself, with the help of some good friends, I got my butt in gear and decided to use this to motivate me to make my Unreal level awesome.  To prove to myself that I can improve.  Three months ago I didn’t know how to even use the UDK program, and today, I’m happy to say, my first fully functional level has been completed!

Here are some pics, followed by a video.







I am really proud how everything turned out, especially considering this was my first real level.  I created a video showing off the level, and explaining some of the process.  The last 5 minutes are a Deathmatch with 5 bots showing the map in action!

I’m really proud I met my goal of learning an entire engine in my 3 months off.  I still have a lot to learn, of course, but after my recent disappointment with the fulltime position, it’s encouraging to remind myself that no matter where I’m at now, I have it in me to improve.

Approaching Completion

Here are some pictures of my progress on my Unreal level.

Every time I have to rebuild it takes about 45 minutes now…  I need a new computer…



Creating bot pathing.  An interesting process.


The BSP-Only view of my Level.  Just 3 floors.  EVERYTHING else is done with static meshes these days!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I’ve started making my first actual Unreal level from scratch.  It will be fully playable, and Chad is going to buy Unreal so he can play my levels with me and give me feedback!

I’m running into lots of obstacles the video-training didn’t prepare me for but I’m learning as I go and teaching myself the parts I didn’t learn in the training.  It’s fun!  Not sure how high the quality will be done, but it’s my first level, so it’s a learning exercise!

It’s a 3 story dilapidated building in the middle of a city.  The bottom floor is flooded, and the top floor is an attic!  It will have a lot more detail and look more fleshed out by the time I’m done, I’m just working on the “shell” right now, the basic architecture and game-flow.





Saturday, April 24, 2010

Goodbye Rogers

When I was in Winnipeg I visited the Rogers Video I used to work at and Robin informed me the store was closing later in the month.  Chad just sent me these pics on his cell :(

Mobile Photo Apr 24, 2010 8 04 06 PM

Mobile Photo Apr 24, 2010 8 04 31 PM

Fingers Crossed

So a fulltime position opened up at work on the Mass Effect team, and I applied for it.  It’s for Cinematics QA.  I fine-tuned my resume for the job, wrote up a nice cover letter and sent it in.  Phase 1.  Then all the applicants were sent questionnaires on video-game design in general, and then more specifically about a certain game, in this case Bioshock.  That was phase 2.  Then today the remaining applicants went in and took a monitored test.  I don’t want to get into details because I think some people still need to take the test, but it was challenging.  Phase 3.  So if I did good enough I’ll be in the final 5 who get to phase 4, in-person interviews.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Life Is Good

I went grocery shopping today and considered buying a scale.  I decided against it since the weight training will be putting on muscle and muscle is heavier than fat, so a scale wouldn’t be very informative in the end.  BUT I did weight myself while I was there and I’ve lost 5 pounds since I was in Winnipeg!  Go me!  I bought more healthy stuff, including much more fruits for snacking!  Apples and Kiwi!  I also bought a multivitamin and some whey protein!

Mobile Photo Apr 20, 2010 5 27 26 PM

While I was at Wal-Mart I got a call from BioWare telling me they were mailing me my official offer letter.  So it’s now 100%, I’m back at BioWare on May 3rd.  I’m also applying for a new fulltime position that was recently posted, and think I have a real shot!  But I’m not going to talk too much about that until I know the results.  Even if I don’t get it, I’m just glad to be going back to work, even if it’s just as a term!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tomorrow Never Comes

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.  ~William James

For as long as I can remember my friends have told me I should eat healthier, maybe workout.  Over the last few years, this last one especially, I’ve watched the pounds add up, and continually told myself I’d start working out soon, later, tomorrow.  It’s been this way with many of my goals in life.  They were abstract, not something I felt I could actually reach out and grasp, but a light at the end of the eternal tunnel.

I’ve been having a bit of a paradigm shift lately.  I’ve been making the most of my 3 months off.  I wake up early, work out first thing in the morning, shower, have a healthy lunch, do Unreal training, etc.  My days have been extremely productive.  At first this schedule was really hard to maintain.  Waking up early did not come naturally to me, I was incredibly out of shape so working out gave me a headache and made me feel like crap, and I’d spent years making a habit of procrastination.  Breaking these routines and excuses was tough.  But I forced myself.

As I caught up on everything I’d let slide, all the things I swore I’d do someday, I began to feel elated…  Moment to moment life felt so much better knowing there wasn’t a dozen tasks hanging over my head.  When I have a free moment, it truly feels free.  NOTHING is nagging at me, and instead of guilt for not doing what I know I should be, I feel pride in the reward of a truly free moment.

It’s like I’ve been in debt for most of my life.  And I don’t mean financially.  I owed this many tasks, to that many causes.  But I wasn’t budgeting, and in reality I was falling further behind from my goals, not catching up.

I’m finally catching up, finally making tangible progress.  And the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger as I get closer.  There will always be another goal after, but for the first time I’m actually making constant progress towards real goals, and every day offers their own rewards on the way.

I’ve learned procrastination is the enemy of happiness.  All the things you put off, you put in between yourself and your goals, your happiness.  You are opting for more obstacles, just to maintain your inertia.  And those obstacles pile up until they obstruct the light from reaching you.  It’s time to clear the tracks, full steam ahead.  The light at the end of the tunnel is not abstract, it’s there and can be reached.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fear Of Science Will Kill Us

This video is a must watch.  I’ve often found myself alone on the pro side when it comes to scientific progress.  Genetically modified food, new vaccines, medicine over holistic, etc.  I loved this video.

Twenty Four Minute Workout

I’d work out with this girl any time.  I doubt I’d last 5 minutes with her though…  Working out I mean…  What?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I cooked my own pasta today!  Part of eating healthy is no more pre-cooked microwavable meals.  I’m so proud!

Mobile Photo Apr 14, 2010 8 30 15 PM

Mobile Photo Apr 14, 2010 8 30 43 PM


Cascade Meets Matinee!

Continued my Unreal Training today.  Created a fire effect using 3 separate particle systems and then created the effect of a flickering light by using matinee to jitter a light around and change it’s brightness.  The result is a warm flickering light with dancing shadows.  Pretty cool, though I’m still trying to figure out a few details with dynamic lighting.  I’ll get it.




Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lifestyle Change

So I’ve started working out the past few months, and in the last month cut Coca Cola out of my diet completely.  I drink only water now.  Recently I started doing the Cardio section of P90X every morning.  Once I’ve lost enough of the gut I’ll start with the rest of P90x.  And today I went grocery shopping, and for the first time ever, bought healthy food.  I used to always buy lots of coke, chips, candy, pre-cooked fried food and microwavable.  But diet is the last piece of the puzzle to fill, so I made the smarter decisions.  Extra lean turkey breast, whole wheat bread, egg-whites, tuna, pasta noodles and low-fast sauce, lettuce, low-fat perogies, rice, lettuce, dried cranberries for snacking, etc.  Not only were these choices healthier, but buying base ingredients instead of pre-cooked stuff is way cheaper!  Plus I’m saving a ton each month by not drinking coke.


I’m really digging this change of lifestyle.  I feel more motivated and productive, I’m beginning to see the results in my body, and after working out I feel fantastic every morning.  I just hope I can keep it up once I get back to work!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back On Schedule

Back in Edmonton, time to get back on schedule.  Working out every morning.  Chad gave me a copy of P90x and I’ve started doing the CardioX workout every morning, and still doing weight/resistance training every second evening.  The CardioX is an EXTREME workout!  Literally: heart ready to explode, out of breath, sweat dripping in my eyes, etc.  But after the shower afterwards and a healthy breakfast (tuna sandwich today!) I feel great!


Then it’s on to level design!  Picking up right where I left off.  Just finished learning how to use the LOD (Level Of Detail) system for particle effects.  The training videos got pretty interesting as they explained the different random distributions that can be used:

4-10-2010 11-09-59 AM

All in all I’ve been making the most of my days.  I’m so ready to go back to work.  I will continue to learn level design, but I’ll have to make work a priority so the training will have to take a backseat, and I’ll continue it whenever I can, make it a personal project.  I’ll be done the bulk of my training by then, but there’s still a lot to learn, especially now that I’m considering the idea of doing it professionally some day.  The working out I will need to stay on top of.  It will be hard, considering the kind of hours and overtime I typically get, but I’ll just have to make it work.

None the less, I love how productive I’ve been lately!  Once you get over the inertia, it’s addictive!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Winnipeg Trip 2010 / VIDEO!


Good times.

The Scenic Route

So, as fun as my Winnipeg visit was, the drive back was equally horrific.  A complete nightmare.

Before leaving Thursday morning, I got a text from Nathan warning me Edmonton had a severe blizzard warning with winds reaching up to 90 km per hour and heavy snow.  It was +15 in Winnipeg so I foolishly assumed it wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t handle, especially after the blizzard I got stuck in on my drive to Winnipeg last year.


4505282047_e6d761e96a_b As I drove through Manitoba the weather was great.  As I passed through Saskatchewan the weather was beginning to get a bit iffy.  The wind picked up and for a while it almost looked as though a tornado was going to touch down.  As I was leaving Saskatoon it was dark out, and the wind was blowing tumbleweed across the road every few minutes, scaring the crap out of me.  In the dark, in the shine of my headlights, tumbleweed look a lot like deer.  So my nerves were already reaching their limit.  But it seemed to be dying down as I reached Alberta.  Passed Lloydminster and so far, no problems.

An hour past Lloydminster I saw one or two snowflakes, then BAM.  Blizzard.  Insanely strong winds that would almost push me off the road, and an onslaught of snow like I’d never seen.  In the dark, the snow was lit up by my headlights making it impossible to see the road, even with the low beams on.  I slowed down for a while until a semi passed me, then I sped up and used it as my guide.  I couldn’t see the road at all, but just followed the lights of the truck in front of me.  Eventually he turned off and I made it another half hour before losing sight of the road completely.  Even going 20 km per hour, I couldn’t tell if I was about to run off the road.  I hadn’t seen another car in hours, so I had to admit defeat and pull to the side of the road.  Not safe, a car could hit me from behind any moment, but I literally could not see the road even a bit, so I had no choice.  I sat there for over an hour with my blinkers on before realizing no one else was risking it either, and that my only chance would be to wait for daylight.

I unplugged the GPS, turned off the music, turned off the headlights and turned the heater down to the lowest setting without turning it off.  Only thing on was my blinkers.  Didn’t want the battery to die on me through the night.  If it did I’d be in real trouble, as in life-at-risk.  The road was buried in snow, indistinguishable from the fields around it and it was absolutely freezing out with wind-chill.  I turned off my phone so that it wouldn’t run out of batteries, as I realized I may end up needing it to make a life-or-death call.  I had about half a tank of gas, and hoped that it would last me through the night.

I crawled into the back seat and used my jacket as a blanket.  As I tried to fall asleep in the pitch black all I could hear was the wind blowing so hard it was rocking the car on its shocks, and all I could see was the violent snowstorm flashing with the red light of my rear blinkers.  I was terrified the battery would die.  I did eventually manage to fall asleep.

I woke up a while later and it was beginning to get light out.  I sat up and looked out the window.  It was still incredibly snowy and windy, but because of the sunlight I could at least make out a few meters in each direction.  The road was nowhere to be seen.  I turned on my phone, it was 6:00 AM.  I’d slept for 4 hours.  My entire windshield was covered in a thick sheet of ice.  I opened the door to try to see if I could make out the road, the wind was so strong I could barely push the door open with both arms.  It was definitely still freezing out.  No road.  I put my jacket on and went out in 1 minute shifts to try to scrape the windshield, making SURE I didn’t lock the door.  If I locked myself out of the car, I doubt I would have lasted 10 minutes.  It took a while, but I managed to clear off the windshield.

I sat there shivering violently, trying to warm myself back up.  The battery had lasted the night, and I’d only lost maybe 1/4 of my gas, leaving me with about 1/3 a tank.  I didn’t know what to do though; it was still nearly impossible to see, and the road was buried.  There weren’t even any tracks, so apparently not even a single car had passed in the night.

Thankfully, eventually a procession of cars passed.  3 in total, 1 right behind the other.  They stopped and the last car’s occupant,  a middle-aged man got out and knocked on my door.  I rolled down the window, and though I could barely hear him through the freezing wind, he quickly told me the 3 cars were sort of piggy backing through the storm, and to follow closely behind, then he ran back to his car.  I had to try a few times to get back on to the road, as the wind had piled the snow up against my car on every side, but I made it and started following the 3 cars.


Eventually we ran into a police car who was out looking for people like ourselves who’d been stranded in the blizzard.  He took to the front of the line and turned his lights on and guided us the rest of the way.  We reached a small village and found a gas station so we could all fill up, and got some hot chocolate.  By now the worst of the blizzard was finally passing so the police officer went back the way we came to look for more people, and we all went our separate ways.  Nice to know there are still good people out there.

From here the drive was considerably less stressful.  The blizzard had left a thick layer of ice over the road, so it was dangerously slippery even at 50 km per hour, but compared to the night I’d just had, this was a cakewalk.  I finally reached Edmonton at around 10:00 AM.  I had some McDonald’s breakfast and headed home, after nearly 24 hours in my car.  The Sunfire really proved itself on this trip, as I later told Reid, it probably saved my life!


I brought my stuff in and chatted with Tia for a bit before heading downstairs to my room.  I planned on staying up for the day and just going to bed early, but that didn’t happen.  After doing a bit of stuff on my computer I decided to lie in bed and watch Toy Story, something innocent to un-traumatize me.  And I passed right out and didn’t wake up until 6:00 AM this morning.  18 hours of sleep!  I needed it.

GREAT Winnipeg Visit!

I’m back in Edmonton.  I was in Winnipeg for a week and a half, and I’d have to say this was my best visit yet.  I had so much fun. 

This past Xmas I visited but I took the train, so while I was there I was relying on others to get a ride whenever we wanted to do something.  Because of this there were several nights where plans fell through, and in a few cases didn’t get to see certain friends at all as a result of neither of us having a ride.  So driving there this time made a huge difference, as now I could do anything whenever I wanted.  How I used to live without a car, I’ll never know.

The other major factor is that because I went in Spring and not during Xmas Holidays, it wasn’t so busy.  My past 2 trips have been during Xmas so all plans with friends had to be scheduled around what I was doing with my family, and what my friends were doing with their family.  Also, this was my first time back in Winnipeg where it wasn’t freezing out since I last lived there for a summer, in 2008.  Warm weather and longer days make a big difference!  Driving down Bishop Grandin while it was +18 out, tunes cranked and window down, reminded me of all the great summers I had when I lived there.

I spent most of my time with Chad and Kristina on this trip.  They’re the 2 friends I’ve kept in contact with most, so it was great to hang out with them in person.  I also made time for my family.  Had Chinese food on Easter with my Mom, brother and uncle, and spent a night at my Dad’s after our traditional Spaghetti Factory dinner.  Stayed up until 5:00 AM with my Dad having a great conversation.

Also reconnected with Brett and Tim on this trip.  Met up with them at Brett’s Mom’s for a bonfire and spent the night catching up.  Was good to see them again.  I think it was understood between all of us that we’d never be super close friends again, like we used to be.  But we’re all in better places now, so I think it goes to show our friendship had been toxic for us all, and some time apart had been good for everyone.  And with all our history, it’s good that we’re still in each other's lives in some form.

A few highlights from the trip:

  • Perfectly surprising Kristina, and then Chad, neither of whom had any idea I was in Winnipeg (I don’t care what Kristina says, she didn’t know!)
  • Eating at Sal’s with Chad (since we met when we both worked at a Sal’s) my first night back, him in disbelief I was in Winnipeg.
  • Drinks at Moxies with Kristina, Chad and Olga and having Liane and Tony, and then Craig all drop by!
  • Lunch at Mongo’s with Ashley, her treat!
  • Watching TV at Chad’s and using his laptop while he did his paid 3D art projects, imagining it won’t be much different when he moves to Edmonton.
  • Getting to see Simba again!
  • Staying up until 5:00 AM with Chad playing God Of War 3.  Thanks to Kyra for letting me rent it for free, and to Derek for lending me his PS3 for the night!
  • Seeing Hot Tub Time Machine with Kristina, Chad, Olga, Liane and Tony.
  • Late night coffees with Kristina.
  • Spending a day at St. Vital mall with Chad and Olga, meeting up with Kristina while Olga got her hair done, etc.  St. Vital mall always represented Winnipeg for some reason.
  • Chad buying Dragon Age Awakening and me signing his copy.
  • St. Vital park with Chad, seeing how high the river was.
  • Forks, Spaghetti Factory with my bro, his gf, my Dad and Andrea.  Then late night conversation at my Dad’s that night.
  • Friends and family seeing the Sunfire and being impressed.
  • Pellet gun fights with Chad.
  • My first time at a Joey’s, and the AWESOME Souvlaki Kristina and I ordered.
  • Many girly drinks over the week and a half I was there.
  • A nice warm afternoon on Corydon with Kristina.
  • Mini-golf!
  • Winning Kristina a stuffed animal from a claw machine.  Named it Sunflower after our shared love of sunflower seeds.
  • Going to the Casino with Chad and Kristina, only to have Kristina realize she forgot her ID.  We ended up going on my last day, with Olga too, and this time Kristina had her ID.
  • Goodbye hugs and handshakes.

Good times.  I miss Winnipeg already, though I’m also glad to be back in
Edmonton.  If only there was some way to combine my 2 lives!

Monday, April 5, 2010

RIP Horace Street

living room

Last night I drove around Winnipeg, stopping at all the houses I’d grown up in, the schools I’d gone to, etc.  I stopped by the Horace apartment too.  The lights were on, but I don’t know who lives there anymore.

Before I moved to Edmonton I lived in an awesome apartment on Horace Street in St. Boniface with 2 of my best friends and one’s girlfriend.  It was only 600$ a month, utilities included, 4 bedroom, and it was over a chiropractor’s office so on weekends, and after 5 on weekdays we could be as loud as we wanted.  Lots of fun parties there.


The cool thing about that apartment is that it had been in our circle of friends in some form or another for over a decade.  It started when Brett Naskrent lived there with Tim Der and Jeff Hrymak.  Them being the type of guys they were, it was covered in posters of near-naked women, banners for beer companies and of course pyramids of beer bottles.  Tim Der owned a huge 50+ inch HDTV that took up half the place.  From then one would move out, another friend would move in, until eventually it was the 4 of us living there.  That apartment has lots of history for us.

Even after I moved out my friends stayed there, and even though I had a bit of a falling out with them, it was always good to know it was still in the circle.  But that is no longer the case, new tenants have taken up the lease, and the story of the Horace St apartment in our lives is over.  A sad day.

The apartment was such a cool part of our lives, Tim Der, a friend of mine who used to make music videos for the band The Odds, and one of the original tenants of the apartment made a music video for The Weakerthans about moving out of an apartment that held so much history for us.  Check it out!

So long Horace St.  You will be missed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

End Of An Era


I visited Rogers the other day, as I tend to do whenever I visit Winnipeg.  It’s weird, at this point I hardly know any of the employees anymore.  Robin was working when I visited though, and he gave me some sad news.  It’s closing within a month!  I worked there for 2.5 years, and before BioWare, it was the best job I’d ever had.  It was a great group of people I worked with, most of whom became true friends.  We had awesome regular customers, and we got free movie and game rentals 5 days before release.  And now this will be the last time I visit while it exists.  Next time I visit it’ll probably be a mattress store or something…  I don’t like that Winnipeg keeps changing in my absence.  Why can’t it just stay the way I leave it, like I remember it?


End of an era.