As promised, the video of Kristina’s visit has been uploaded and here it is! A great week!
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Well Kristina’s visit has come and gone. It was a great week! Work has been getting pretty intense and I was in desperate need of some chill time with a good friend. I booked the days off months ago, but things at work had gotten pretty urgent so I was worried taking the time off would be a problem, but fortunately it wasn’t. Really cool of everyone at Longtail to make it work.
After work I walked to the hotel next door and caught a shuttle to the airport. It was great to see Kristina again! One of the bonuses of making more money than I did at BioWare is getting to see the people back home more often. I visited Winnipeg when I moved, then again for my Dad’s wedding, and helped pay for Kristina’s trip. Any time a friend visits I’ll pay half way, figure it’s only fair! (Next summer I want to visit Edmonton, and/or Vancouver too, depending on whether or not I still have friends living in Vancouver by then).
It was a great week! We saw Transformers 3, watched a lot of Community, explored downtown and the waterfront, had a LOT of candy, went out for dinner, caught the gay pride parade with Heidi and then had beers, went to Dartmouth to do some shopping, rented a car and drove to Peggy’s Cove and caught the sunset then ate lobster, and more general silliness. Like I said, it was a great week!
Got a lot of great pics over the week. Including some great photography, especially at Peggy’s Cove. I uploaded all the pics to Flickr, and they can be checked out there! I’ll edit and upload the video to Vimeo soon too, and when I do I’ll post a link here.
Having Kristina here made me realize some things though. Mainly that I’ve been out here for almost a year now, and yet I still act like I’m only visiting. Having a friend here to explore the city with made it feel like a whole new city. I didn’t feel like an outsider in it. After living a year in Edmonton my social life was really starting to flourish, but I also thought I’d live in Edmonton for a long time, maybe forever if I got the fulltime job at BioWare. After the second move I’m a bit more cynical about how long I’ll live anywhere, just the nature of the industry I work in. But that doesn’t mean I should always be an outsider. So I’ve decided to make a more conscious effort to build a life here.
When I dropped Kristina off at the airport we were both sad the trip was over. But it was a great time, and she had to get back to her life in Winnipeg and I had to get working on mine here!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Kristina is visiting for a week, and she gets here tomorrow! I’m pumped. A few months ago she said she’d love to visit and once I cleared the dates with work she bought her plane ticket (I helped) and we had ourselves a visit planned!
I’ve been out here almost a year and this will be the first visit from someone, and I am incredibly excited. It’ll be awesome to show her around Halifax, and in a lot of ways it’ll make the city feel new to me, exploring it with an old friend! I’ve been working insane hours at work, and it’s been taxing, so a mini-vacation with a good friend is going to just what the doctor ordered!
She’s here for 6 days and I have a few cool things planned. Only thing that sucks is quite a bit of it is outdoors, and the weather isn’t looking the greatest for the days she’s here. It’s +36 in Winnipeg today, and it’s been rather cool here this week, sometimes lower than +20. So I’m really hoping the weather cooperates! It’d suck if she left beautiful weather, and then it was cooled and rainy/cloudy the whole time here. But either way I’m sure we’ll have a great time! After work I’m catching an airport shuttle from the hotel next door to meet Kristina at the airport, can’t wait!
Monday, July 18, 2011
So about 2 weeks after the film crew who shot the video in my previous post were in, another film crew came to Longtail Studios to shoot a different video. This one focused on a co-worker of mine, Tina, who encouraged women to work in the video game industry. That video just went up too! More cool footage of my workplace, and I have a couple cool cameos in this one too! Check it out!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
A few months ago we had a film crew come in and shoot some footage at Longtail as part of an initiative to show the advantages Nova Scotia offers the video game industry. It features Silverback Studios and ourselves, Longtail Studios! The video finally went up. It’s filled with great shots of Halifax, and Longtail Studios and all the cool people I work with, and I made it in a few scenes too! Check it out!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So Grooveshark has been consistently letting me down lately, and I think I’ve finally had enough. So moving forward, playlists won’t be on Grooveshark anymore, since half the time it doesn’t work, and songs are vanishing as more labels force them to take down their music. Instead I’ll just include a download link for the playlist! Even better, now you can add the songs to your ipod or burn a cd! Over the next while I’ll go back and make download links for older playlists.
This playlist isn’t the normal indie songs. In fact it leans more to the hiphop/dance side of the spectrum. Something different. So without further ado:
- SONOIO – Minutes
- Penguin Prison – Fair Warning (Oliver Remix)
- White Lies – Holy Ghost
- SONOIO – No Fun
- Lupe Fiasco – I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now
- Childish Gambino – Freaks & Geeks
- The Whip – Movement
- She Wants Revenge – Reasons
- SONOIO – Silence (alternate version)
- Lupe Fiasco – Out Of My Head
- Adele – Rolling In The Deep (Jamie XX Remix)
- SONOIO – Suck Up Everything
- The Streets – Going Through Hell
- Childish Gambino – Bitch Look At Me Now (Two Weeks)
- She Wants Revenge – Take The World
- SONOIO – Enough
- SONOIO – Hold On, Let Go
- Innerpartysystem – Out Of Touch
- Innerpartysystem – Not Getting Any Better
- Lupe Fiasco – Beautiful Lasers
- The Streets – Trust Me
And a few music videos to go with it. First, quite a few SONOIO songs in this playlist. This is the new band by Alessandro Cortini, the lead singer from Modwheelmood and part of the old Nine Inch Nails touring band. Here’s his latest single, one of the songs in the playlist:
And another music video. You’ll see a few Childish Gambino songs in this playlist. One of my favorite shows on television right now (or ever) is Community. Awesome show. The actor who plays Troy, Donald Glover, also raps. And this is him rapping. SO different than the character he plays on Community, it was kind of weird at first.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
By now most people have heard of Google+ (“Google Plus”). It’s basically Google’s version of Facebook. Google has their hands in almost every facet of the internet, and they have a pretty good track record of winning. They overthrew Yahoo as the major search engine, and then took the email crown away from Hotmail. When Google Video didn’t pan out they just up and bought Youtube. Everyone is wondering if they will successfully pull people away from Facebook with Google+ and become the new social network leader.
They’ve managed to create quite the hype around it by only sending out limited invites while it’s in beta. Similar to what they did with gmail. It’s a smart marketing ploy, and it works. Chad got some invites from some of his friends in the 3D art community and sent me an invite which I then passed on to a few friends of mine and I finally got a chance to try it out.
There are some fundamental differences from Facebook I hated at first, but now realize are just differences. They’d take some getting used to, but the work. Mainly, you can’t post to someone’s wall. A profile is for outgoing broadcasts only, no dropping by and leaving a message. Instead that is pushed to the person directly, with the option of being visible to others, all through the “stream”, essentially Facebook’s news feed. I find in a few cases like these, in an effort to make things more simple, it instead complicates them.
Google+’s most hyped feature is “Circles”. You can group friends into different circles, and choose which circles see what. So if you’re posting pictures from a wild party you can make sure not to post it to the “Work” circle. For privacy reasons this is awesome. And for more control over your feed it’s great too.
One concern I have though is Google+’s philosophy seems to be one of exclusion, and this, to me, is not what social networking is about. I’ve made several connections on Facebook because someone posted something that revealed we had a surprising common interest. If that person had chosen who to send that link to based on their assumptions by placing friends into Circles we’d never have discovered we had common interests and formed that spontaneous connection. Facebook seems to be about connections, where Google+ almost seems to be more about cliques. On Facebook acquaintances can become friends. It seems on Google+ a casual acquaintance would file you in the “someone I don’t care about” circle, and never post anything to that circle. To you, that person would barely exist on Google+. On Google+ strangers stay strangers. Facebook, to me, is all about opportunities through connection. I’ve made friends, met women and even GOT JOBS through surprising connections on Facebook. I’m not sure any of those would have happened under Google+’s method of exclusionary social networking. In fact, in some ways Google+ feels more like a chat room than a social network.
On the subject of chat rooms, one of my favorite features of Google+ is the “Hang Out” feature. You pick a circle (or all circles) and you broadcast that you’re just “hanging out”. It’s basically a webcam chat room that anyone in that circle is free to join. Group webcam is something Skype charges for, and Google+ brings it for free. And you can watch YouTube videos together, which is an awesome feature. Seeing your friend’s reaction when the baby sneezes milk out it’s nose on YouTube is pretty cool. It wasn’t without its problems though. Brett couldn’t get sound working unless he left the Settings tab open. Several of us got browser crashes while trying to use it. And the quality and memory usage was generally worse than Skype’s. Still, an amazing feature, and one that is surprisingly free!
It’s this kind of integration into so many other facets of the internet that I think could really make Google+ a contender. Instead of a messages tab like Facebook has it’s integrated right into Gmail. You can “+1” a webpage right from Google search (Google+’s version of “liking” something), etc.
But this integration also led to an extremely sour first impression of Google+. Blogger is owned by Google. This blog is run on Blogger. Whenever I use an image in this blog it’s uploaded to Google’s image hosting service Picassa. Google+ decided to use Picassa for its image hosting. So when I created my Google+ account using my Gmail account, it auto-linked to my Picassa album and posted all my blog photos to everyone in my social network, including pics of half-naked celebrities from things like my crush lists. Not stuff I want plastered into everyone’s feeds. But if I messed with the privacy settings at all for those albums, the image links stopped working for my blog and I lost 4 years worth of images for this blog. So I had to decide to either lose all the images on my blog, or to save them, have them published for everyone to see in Google+ right on my profile, and every time I add a new pic to the blog it’d add it on my profile as well. Not impressed.
Looooong story short, to fix it I had to create a new gmail account, transfer my Picassa albums to it, transfer this Blogger account to it, wait for Google to process the 2 transfers and then reset my Google+ Picassa account. The whole time I was praying if it didn’t work none of it was irreversible. Totally ridiculous and not something I should have had to deal with on a fresh account for a new social network.
But my account is finally truly fresh. This blog and its images are now truly separate from my Google+ account. And to be fair, Google+ is still in beta. And Facebook is far from where it started, so Google+ will presumably evolve as the needs of its customers become clear.
One thing I don’t think anyone wants is further division among social networks. It’s already annoying having some people who use Facebook and some who use Twitter. Not to mention the professional social networking on LinkedIn. Google+, with its Circles feature, could theoretically replace them all. There’s a “Following” circle meant for following people you don’t know but find interesting, just like Twitter. But you can also post videos and pics to your friends and tag them when they’re in them, comment on them, etc., just like Facebook. And if they add a few more professional options you could theoretically have work history and resume just like LinkedIn. I’d love to see consolidation in social networks, but I’d hate to see further division. Only time will tell which Google+ ends up being.
If anyone wants to try it for themselves leave a comment with your email and I’ll send an invite!
A Facebook game finally sucked me in. A bunch of people at work started playing it, and they practically forced me to join. But it’s actually quite fun! It’s like Starcraft meets Cityville. And in an office environment, it’s exactly what it was meant to be, a social game. Sort of like having an ongoing board game you play whenever you have a minute. Never thought the day would come I played a Facebook game…
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Let me preface this entry with a simple fact. I love my job. I love the industry I work in, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.
Often when I tell people I work in the video game industry I’m met with the same response. They think it must be the easiest job on the planet and that it’s nothing but fun. They imagine my life as one without the challenges that come with a “real” job. The truth is, the video game industry is one of the biggest economical juggernauts out there. It brings in more than Hollywood, or the music industry. This year it was worth almost 75 BILLION dollars. With those kind of numbers involved, you better believe it’s not just a bunch of kids dicking around on computers, this a high stakes industry, this is as real as it gets.
But it’s also a young industry. As the cost to make a single game spirals deep into the millions and production times begin to exceed 5 years in some cases, the industry is consolidating and going through a phase of vertical integration. At this point, almost all studios are under a handful of major publishers like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, etc. Independent mainstream developers are vanishing as they’re absorbed by the big players. All this change as the industry matures with its audience means it’s still a very volatile industry.
Third-party studios pop-up every day, and just as easily they get shut down. With the overhead for a single game digging deep into the coffers, even if it’s successful, one miscalculation on the projections for that game can lead to a studio closure, and 100s of people out of work, falling back into the job market, competing with each other, and new members to the workforce fresh out of university, for a new job. Or if the publisher decides to cancel your game mid-project, this can lead to mass layoffs, not to mention a major drop in morale. The video game industry is easily one of the most competitive fields out there, even more so now during the recession, which is another way of saying it offers some of the lowest job-security around. And with the relatively small amount of studios (compared to to the amount of job applicants) being clustered across the globe, be prepared to relocate for work, and often.
The video game industry, unsurprisingly, attracts people who are passionate about making games. And there’s no short supply. As the industry consolidates under a handful of major publishers who invest millions in single SKUs, more and more is demanded of employees. Overtime to meet a deadline is not unique to this industry, but stories of year long crunches with mandatory 80 hour work weeks (in some cases with no paid overtime or comp time) are becoming more and more common. And individual employees can’t do much about it, because there’s a long line of people either out of work or just out of school dying to take their place. As a young industry, and one that’s grown with immense speed, it’s largely unregulated. You hear stories of shady practices all over. Sham-contracts seemingly being the big one right now.
All of these factors take a toll on employees, and their families. There have been a few high-profile instances of this coming to a head. This industry, if you want to get in and stay in, has to come first. It’s not for someone looking for a balanced life. You will spend years trying to get in, you will never feel totally comfortable that your job is secure, you will have to go through periods of crunch where you only go home to sleep and if you have family you won’t see much of them during these periods; you will have to move often either due to studio closures or downsizing or to climb due to limitations at the current studio, and in some cases you may even need to deal with shady practices, etc. It’s not the easy lifestyle many imagine when I tell them I make games for a living.
Many talented workers decide the big publisher model just doesn’t work for them. They want to retain creative control, they don’t want to compromise quality for a release date, etc. So they decide to start their own studio, and go at it independently. And fortunately for them the blockbuster game trend has left the market wide open for indie games to make a large impact. And while the indie game market is experiencing its golden days, it’s still the wild west. With no publisher to back you with marketing, or give you what often ends up being valid criticism, combined with the inherent niche market these games tend to skew towards, for every successful indie game with a new vision, there’s hundreds of confused messes that flop miserably, if they ever even see the light of day… And without publisher backing, the development costs are out of pocket. If the game doesn’t turn a profit you default on your mortgage. It’s hardly a high-security alternative to mainstream game development.
While going for a walk with the Design team at work the other day, we started talking about the phenomenon called “Smoke-Bombing”. Due to all these trials and tribulations that come with working in this industry, every other day you hear about someone who decided they’d had enough and just vanish, poof, to a new career. We shared a few stories. I’d once heard of a guy who’d been in the industry for over a decade and one day just quit to give bike tours in Europe.
This past week Chad smoke-bombed. After nearly 3 years fighting to get into the industry, and knowing full well he was in all likelihood less than a year away from a fulltime salary position at a studio, he took stock of his priorities, looked ahead at the kinds of sacrifices it would require, and said no. He is now in the midst of completely re-planning his life, no easy task. But I totally get it, and in his case, I believe it was the right decision.
Personally, I don’t see myself ever leaving. Sure, this industry takes a lot from you. Sometimes almost everything. But having a job you’re passionate about is a hard thing to walk away from. Even if that passion can be used against you. And the money ain’t bad either. It’s an extremely volatile industry, and it requires hard work. That’s just what it is. Whether or not it’s worth it is something each individual must ask themselves.
I spent years fighting for a fulltime salary position. Now I fight for a designer position. I’ve already moved to 2 cities in 3 years, leaving behind 2 great lives in the process to start over. I’ve been laid off. I’ve had a project I was passionate about get cancelled. I’ve worked a few 80 hour weeks, and many more 60 hour weeks. But I do it all willingly. I love this industry; I love the work, I love the community, I love the product. I can’t see myself doing anything else. And Longtail has done nothing but right by me. They’ve given me recognition, fair pay and steady opportunity. All crunch has been voluntary, and making the transition into Design is not something I was expecting to be available to me so soon. In a lot of ways this industry saved my life. I was lost until I found it. Despite its taxing requirements, it’s an exciting time for me in this industry and I can’t wait to see what my career has in store for me, and the places the industry is heading.
As Chad drifts away from the gaming industry into some new career, I will miss sharing this adventure with a friend who was with me before it all started. I will miss hoping for the day we once again worked together at the same studio, living in the same city. But this industry isn’t for everyone, and he needs to do what he needs to do to find a life that suits him. And I wish him all the best in it. We’ll always have the DA2 credits!
Friday, July 8, 2011
DLC for Dragon Age 2 is coming. Chad did a lot of art assets for Dragon Age 2 DLC, and in fact the sword that is prominent through the entire trailer, and even gets its own scene basked in light, was done by him! Here’s the asset he made in its own image:
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Pre-ordered this a while ago, take a look and if you like it you should pre-order too. You don’t actually pay until it comes out. God bless Kick Starter. Watching this trailer, I can tell I will connect with this movie deeply. A proper documentary on game development has been a long time coming!
P.S. I just realized the startup making this movie, Blinkworks, is based in Winnipeg!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
It’s that time again. Crunch has arrived. Working 60 hours weeks for almost a month now.
Crunch is a bizarre time. 13 hour days mean tempers can run high, and diminishing returns are an industry fact. But it’s also like being in the trenches. It’s when a studio bonds, and you get to know the programmer to your left and the artist to your right. It’s when bright minds work together to creatively solve major problems. Everyone pulls together to meet a sometimes seemingly impossible goal. The studio buys dinner for you every night, and everyone laughs and jokes around for a bit. You get home, pass out in your clothes, wake up and do it all again. And eventually that title ships, and you have tangible proof it was all for something.
I’m finding crunch a lot easier to handle now that I’m in a junior design position. Designing levels until 11:00 PM is a much more rewarding task than staying until 11:00 PM waiting to test the latest changes. For me at least, no offense to my QA brethren.
Things seem to be going well though, so fingers crossed and knock on wood, crunch SHOULD end soon and I can have a life again!
Saturday, July 2, 2011
I’ve now experienced Canada Day in 3 different Canadian cities! I love this country.
My first 24 Canada Days were of course in Winnipeg. And they were pretty awesome. Winnipeg throws an incredible Canada Day, and the turn out is always incredible. I have countless great memories of meeting up with friends and wandering around Osbourne and Corydon before making our way to The Forks to watch the fireworks. One Canada Day stands out, when a bunch of us met up and eventually even got one of those gangster photo shoots. A great memory.
I had 2 Canada Days in Edmonton. Edmonton pulls out all the stops. Whyte Ave is closed off to traffic and packed with people. Then an artificial waterfall is created on the High Level Bridge over the valley. Then the fireworks. Very impressive, and no doubt incredibly expensive! Some great memories as well! Sadly no pictures though, but here’s one of the artificial waterfall from google images.
Last night I had my first Canada Day in Halifax. Halifax being one of the oldest cities in Canada, it’s a pretty big deal here too. There’s a bunch of parades in the morning (which I missed since I worked late the night before), then buskers and shops lining the waterfront. I stopped to watch a fire-breather for a while. The city felt alive and I wondered around downtown and the waterfront before meeting up with a work friend and his girlfriend for a few beers. Was a good time. I stopped by work for a bit to get some things done, and then met up with work friends again to catch the fireworks. The fireworks were launched from a barge in the middle of the harbour between Halifax and Dartmouth. It was pretty awesome. Getting home was a bit of an ordeal since it was impossible to get a cab and the busses were packed. It took me over an hour, 2 busses and eventually a cab, but I did make it home. When I got home Heidi (my new room-mate) and I played some Black Ops PS3 online, each on our own respective PS3s, with 2 of her friends. It was a great Canada Day!