December 30, 2008

Gamer Be Not Proud

Not much to report on over the last few days really. I've been playing more games (surprise) and not doing a whole lot else :P. I am looking forward to the new job, but I am sort of lamenting the logistics of the move (and associated chores). Oh well, I guess you can't have everything. Today I played a bit of Endwar, some Prince of Persia, and some Gears of War 2 to finish off the day. Over the past couple days I've been struggling with Endwar as I tried to finish a campaign on the 'Hardcore' difficulty setting, but I have just been finding it beyond me. Just a hair beyond my skills and frustratingly so, add to that that I went 1-3 on my first foray online and that about 70 points worth of achievements depend on playing Hardcore and I was really reticent to move down to the 'Expert' difficulty level. Nevertheless I moved it down today and found the experience to be much more enjoyable and less stressful even if it is a bit on the easy side.

Over the past few months I have found myself favoring progression over challenge, which is a bit different from my original play habits. I still like to be reasonably challenged in order to feel that I have actually accomplished something, but I am finding that since I haven't had as much time to play games, or maybe simply because this year had such a fantastic crop of games to play, I prefer to make progress rather than be "really challenged." What's interesting about the whole things is that I have a general rule about my difficultly levels that I only violate in certain circumstances, most recently around achievements. Since most games tend to use a difficulty setting of either three or four levels, my rule has always been the second level if there are three, and the third level if there are four. Obviously it depends on the game, but this rule has served me well and generally finds me a satisfying difficulty level in most of the games I play.

Anyway, I violated it for the Achievements in Endwar, and I think it bit me in the butt for a while. Mostly because it was making the experience more stressful and frustrating then it needed to be, all for some random points on my gamerscore, which has no real value. I've fallen into this trap a few times before, and I realize it's a silly one, so I'll put it on my list of New Year's resolutions. I am sure most of the readers out there are perfectly capable of avoiding this trap, but to those few who do occasionally fall into the same camp as me, I say this: don't be so proud, remember that game's are about having fun, so play them in whatever is the best way for you to do that. Alright, there's my message for the day. Have a Happy New Year everyone!

December 27, 2008

Being Lazy (and Loving it)

Well, as expected my posting continues to be lackluster at best. Since my last post I've just been enjoying my time off by spending time with the family, playing plenty of games, and otherwise trying to avoid anything that can be considered an adult responsibility. Christmas was remarkably...lucrative. I probably get more presents than a 25 year-old with two master's degrees should get, but my parent's don't seem to have a problem with it, and I am certainly keen on getting free toys and games during holidays. Since then I've just been playing with my Christmas loot. I've played a little bit of Prince of Persia, Endwar, and Resistance 2 just to name a few. I also got a lot of paper games like Race for the Galaxy and Robo Rally, which I have been playing with Rick and Sharon. I am hopeful that I kind find a new group to play boardgames with in Burbank as I've certainly assembled a sizeable collection over the years.

Beyond that, I don't really have too much else to report on. I suppose vacation time isn't particularly interesting, but I'd rather have something here than not, so you can draw your own conclusions as to whether it is at all worthwhile. I've been in contact with a bunch of different people who are helping me relocate to Burbank, which is still very exciting. I know I have signed the offer at this point, but I still have trouble believing it. I just seems like a was in such a different place only a short while ago. It also seems like my life has completely changed in a relatively short span of time. Altogether it's pretty cool, though I still have trouble wrapping my head around it all. Anyway, I will leave my random introspective musings for another time, but suffice it say, I'm pretty happy with how everything is going at this moment. Now, I will get back to enjoying the rest of my time off before I have to return to the "real world." Later!

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas (Eve)!

Hey all,

It's been a few days since my last post, though not a lot has happened over that time. I've spent the last few days hanging out with Rick and Sharon and trying to finish Valkyria Chronicles while Rick wasn't around so as to not spoil the story for him. I got to about the 17th chapter, but was unable to finish it before he started his holiday vacation. Oh well, I'll try to finish it in the next week or so during the few hours each night between when he falls asleep and when I do. We'll see how that works out, otherwise I'll take care of it some time early next year. Other than that I haven't done very much, just enjoying my first real vacation in a while. I figure I won't post anything tomorrow seeing as it is Christmas and all, but I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and otherwise Happy Holidays!

December 21, 2008

Oh, Irony!

Alright, so it's been a few days (again), which is likely to be the story of this vacation as I try to be as huge a bum as possible before I start my new job next year. With that, I know at least some of you are probably interested where I finally landed (and some of you are trying to guess). I have now concluded my job search and let all the affected companies know so I can happily announce that I am the newest developer (I think) at Insomniac Games in Burbank, California!

For those that aren't "in the know" they are the makers of Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon, and Resistance: Fall of Man. They are a great company, rated one of the top small / medium companies to work for (not restricted to game companies) for the last three years running. The offer was also fantastic, actually the best one I received which made my decision very easy. In addition, about two hours after I accepted the offer, while I was out with Rick and Sharon celebrating the job, I received the following fortune in my fortune cookie:

Pretty crazy, probably the most apropos fortune I have yet received. Anyway, I was amused, and it was a humorous end cap to the celebration. I am trying to start on January 13th, though given I don't even get back to Texas until January 4th it may be difficult, but the HR director was completely understanding about the whole thing, so if it has to slide, it has to slide. Other than that, I have just been relaxing and celebrating my good fortune for the holiday season. This was the job I was aiming for when I started my job search, and I managed to get it, which is pretty amazing. Alright, now I am going to go back to me lazy reveling. Later!

December 17, 2008

Career Decisions

Well, not too much going on here today. I am working through the last few steps in my job process, and once that's done I will finally announce it here and I can actually talk through at least some of the specifics of my job hunt (finally). I imagine I should be able to talk about it some time tomorrow, Friday at the latest. Everything is pretty much settled at this point, I just need to let all the companies know what I have decided before I share it here. I imagine my humble little blog doesn't draw too much attention, but it still feels like the respectful thing to do.

That being said, I am very excited about how everything has gone, I don't really think things could have realistically gone much better. I think I am actually pretty good at what I do, but I also had that necessary piece of good luck, or at least good timing that it takes to be successful. Outside of handling job stuff, I basically hung around Rick's house doing very little. I played some games, installed Fallout 3 on Rick's computer and then attached his computer to his TV so I could play it there. I'm still playing a lot of Valkyria Chronicles which is pretty awesome, but I have to schedule my play sessions around the time that Rick is home from work to avoid any spoilers. We went out to dinner tonight to China Cafe (probably the best Chinese restaurant I know of) to celebrate my offer, and then came home to sleep off the massive amount of food we ate. It's been a good day. With my job search starting to wind down I feel like I can finally relax for a little while...and that's a really good feeling.

December 16, 2008

Whirlwind (-6 Days)

Well, the day tracker seems a bit moot at this point, but I figured I should at least do one more before taking it off...

Sorry for the dearth of posts over the last week, so much has happened so quickly over that I'm just trying to keep up. Let's see, the last thing I did was defend my thesis...After that, I spent a reasonable amount of time fixing a few things in my DFS before I presented it on Tuesday. The presentation went well and I did well on the project so I was perfectly happy with that. From there, I stayed up late on Tuesday working with my team to prepare for our final Dissonance milestone which was last Wednesday afternoon. By the end of that night there was still a few more things we wanted to fix before final submission, so we also worked through Wednesday morning (and actually straight into our presentation) nailing the last few things down. The presentation went great, and overall I was very happy with how Dissonance turned out so I'd say the project was a huge success.

Wednesday evening after our presentation as I was sitting around our pit burning Dissonance DVDs, I got a call requesting an on-site interview on Friday. The company was very interested in getting me in before I flew back to Michigan for break, and I was equally excited to meet with them, so we set things up although it meant I had to miss our final exhibition. I had been a little under the weather the entire week so I decided to head home, rest, and relax for the remainder of the evening. Thursday, I spent the morning making the necessary edits to my thesis and submitted the hard copy with all my materials for final sign-off by my advisor and the rest of my defense committee. Then, still not feeling great I spent the rest of the day drinking lots water and juice in order to get better for my interview on Friday.

Friday morning I flew out to the company and had a host of different meetings with the some members of the team, including a brief discussion/test of my technical abilities and a review of the map I had submitted for my design test. After that, I got back on a plane and flew back to Texas to meet up with my brother and father who had flown out for my graduation the next day. We went out to dinner and I told them what I could about my experiences during the interview, and afterwards I pretty much went home to bed. Saturday was my graduation. I spent the morning just hanging out with Rick talking about games, and where I wanted to end up after graduation and all that. The graduation ceremony was fun and a very memorable hallmark on the end of my Guildhall career. I got to hear a lot of nice things about Dissonance and the exhibition, and I even got the chance to talk briefly with Ken Levine about my favorite boardgames, which was pretty cool.

Sunday, my family flew back to Michigan and I spent most of the day packing or just relaxing, still not quite realizing that the Guildhall was finally done. I distinctly recall sitting on my couch, feeling like there was something I should be doing or planning for, but nothing sprang to mind. That night I went out to Benihana with a few of my closest friends, which was a lot of fun, and one of my friend's parents actually picked up the check, which made things even better. Then, Monday morning I got one of the offers I had been waiting on (my first official offer) which was pretty exciting. I finished up my packing and flew back to Michigan for the beginning of my Winter break, and arrived at around 11:00 P.M. at my brother's house, where I will be living for the next few weeks.

Finally, today I slept in til about 11 AM then went out with Sharon (my sister in-law, not sure if I have referred to her by name here yet...) to pick up essentials and do my Christmas shopping. After that, I wrapped a few presents, then vegged out playing some Valkyria Chronicles on my brother's gigantic TV. When my brother got home from work we ordered a pizza and watched the most recent Chuck from yesterday and the rest of the movie Wanted (which we had briefly started the night before). I was expecting an offer today, but around 7:25 P.M. it seemed like it was unlikely to happen so I settled in for the movie. A few minutes later, my phone started ringing, and I got the other offer I had been waiting on. This offer was basically my dream job, the job I was pretty much aiming for from the start of my Guildhall career, so needless to say, I was incredibly excited, as were Rick and Sharon. The weather and time precluded us from going out tonight, but we are going out tomorrow to celebrate.

So there's basically everything you missed unless you are part of my immediate family. It's been a crazy week, and a lot has happened, but it's been amazing. I know I've said it before, but it's really remarkable how quickly things can change. I mean, 18 months ago, I had no chance at a job and really no idea of what I wanted, and now here I am. I know I've invested a lot of money and a lot of time in this so it didn't come without hardship, but I also feel as though my path has been blessed. The opportunities I've had, and how I've been able to take advantage of them, I feel, has been nothing short of miraculous. I don't want to pontificate on this point too much, as I am sure that there will be plenty of time for that, but I'm just...elated. I feel like for the first time in a long time, I can finally breathe, like I've finally found my direction. It's an amazing feeling, and I will certainly have more to say about it in the days to come (when I can actually reveal more specifically what the hell I am talking about). For now, let's just say...I couldn't be happier.

December 8, 2008

Thesis Accomplished (2 Days)

Successfully defended my thesis this morning...YAY! (One hurdle down, two to go)

I need to make some minor changes to the document before final submission (no one has actually ever passed w/o changes), but most of them are pretty simple and some are already done, I just need to cite them in the doc. I am going to try to finish them before I head home, hopefully before my family arrives for graduation on Friday. Now, I need to complete my DFS for presentation tomorrow, then try to pull together our team project for presentation on Wednesday.

I'm almost there...


December 7, 2008

Running on Empty (3 Days)

I decided to update my day counter to more correctly reflect when I am "done" and make myself feel a bit better about everything. I have spent most of the day preparing my Thesis defense and now I need to rehearse it before the presentation tomorrow morning. I'm feeling a little better today though that may be due to the strong medication I went out and bought so I could keep working. These next few days are going to be fierce, I just hope I can keep going long enough to get it all done. Alright, time to practice for tomorrow. Later!

December 6, 2008

I think my day counter is wrong... (6 Days) would appear that I am actually "done" on Wednesday (minus exhibition and the actual graduation, but I don't think those should be hard).

As I said in my last post, it's been a busy week, I finished a design test, went out on an interview, and continued my work on Dissonance and my DFS (though the latter has been pretty minimal lately). I'm not sure if it's the ups and downs in the weather or just a weakened immune system from sleep deprivation, but I've found myself on the wrong side of another illness. It's a little one (or so it would seem) but it's been keeping me kind of run-down today.

I tried to write the presentation for my thesis defense on Monday, but my mind was just not working well enough for that so I wrote my post mortem on Dissonance instead (though I did at least outline my defense presentation). Overall, I'd say the project went really well, especially considering its scope and timeline. We certainly made some mistakes, but I suppose that's the point of the post mortem - to recognize and learn from them. Anyway, I'm still feeling pretty exhausted, so I think I'm going to cut it off here....

These next few days are going to be pretty tense followed by the sweet release of freedom (for real this time!) on Wednesday after our last presentation, so I may not do much in the way of posting over the next few days, but we'll see how everything goes. Alright, now I'm going to actually go this time...Later!

December 2, 2008

No Time (10 Days)

Lots of stuff happening right now. I'll try to post something more substantial when I have more time. Whether that is before graduation remains to be seen...

December 1, 2008

Friendly Skies (11 Days)

Sorry for the delay on the post here, my layover in Cincinnati (or was it Kentucky?) was unfortunately extended so I spent the night trying to get what little sleep I could before I had to be back at the airport at about 6:00 A.M. the next morning. Anyway, aside from that minor detour, things have been pretty good today. Core hours for Dissonance were productive and my job search efforts for the day were well-received which is pretty awesome. Now, I've still got a few things I want to do tonight and some sleep to catch up on from the whole holiday travel nonsense. It's still going to be a long couple weeks, but it's all going to be worth it...I can tell....

November 29, 2008

Vacation Hours (13 Days)

Hey, I've been on vacation in Michigan for the last few days and it's been pretty crazy with Thanksgiving and my mom's birthday...

Happy Birthday Mom! I haven't really had time to write a post. Not much going on, still waiting on any last-minute revisions to my thesis but everything seems to be on track. Things with my job search are continuing to develop, but I have decided that for the time being I am going to cull the whole job search thing. I realize it's probably the most interesting thing I am up to right now, but I don't want this reasonably public blog to give companies the wrong idea about anything. If you would like to know how things are going, just shoot me an email and I would be happy to let you now who I'm talking to. Also, once I have settled things I will try to recap everything in a big post at the end, but until then I am going to try to keep my posts even more vague. I'm probably being a little paranoid since this is my first step into my new career, but whatever...

Anyway, that's pretty much all for now. The Beta milestone for Dissonance went very well and the producer was incredibly complimentary of our accomplishments, which was pretty cool. We'll see what it means for the grade, but I suppose that ultimately isn't what really matters. Alright, well I'm gonna go hang out with Rick and I will be back in Texas tomorrow and return to my semi-regular posting schedule. Night!

November 25, 2008

Ready for a Break (17 Days)

Whew, it's been a busy couple days...

Thanksgiving can't come soon enough...

November 24, 2008

The Thick of It (18 Days)

Hey, I'm deep in Thesis stuff tonight (mostly proofing and reformatting all the transcripts), then tomorrow I need to make up some TGP core hours since I missed most of this morning because I was in several meetings discussing my current job opportunities. I met with a bunch of faculty and staff to try to get the counsel of some more experienced industry professionals. More or less it boils down to deciding between a bird in the hand and a turkey in the bush (the analogy seems holiday appropriate). I am still thinking through it a bit more, but I think I've reached a decision and when I let the companies involved know, I will let you all know (in vague terms, of course). Until then, I better get back to work. Later!

November 22, 2008

It's DONE! (20 Days)

The first draft of my thesis is done...

Weighing in at just under 300 pages it is almost three times as long as my Mechanical Engineering thesis...go figure. I still have to add in another thirty or so pages of transcripts too, but for right now I am just going to drink in the joy of having the vast majority of thesis work finally done. Now it's just some revisions, corrections, and the defense.


November 21, 2008

Ummm, what?

So, apparently my job search just exploded...
  • One company wants to hire me really bad (and I really like what they've had to say)
  • One company is about to extend me an offer (and their scripting environment sounds awesome)
  • One of the biggest game studios in existence wants to give me a test
  • My dream company just called to setup a phone interview
I'm freaking out...with joy and anxiety. The first on that list (and potentially the second) want decisions before 3 and 4 have even gotten to know me. Still, it's a good problem to have, I've no doubt about that...

And, right now I really should be finishing my thesis...Cripes!

A Very Special Post (21 Days)

I just want to say thank you to all the people who have helped me with the transcripts in past couple days, especially my brother Rick and his wife Sharon who will have completed 14 interviews when this is all done. The outpouring of support has been really amazing and more than I ever expected so, thank you...

Rick Hoeg
Sharon Hoeg
Trace O'Connor
Matt Higgins
Chris Wood
Matt Auen
Erin Spencer
Amy Pickens
Cassie Flint

Without your time and effort, I never would have had a chance of finishing this on time. Thank you so much!

Alright, now I should probably get back to actually finishing the doc. Later!

November 20, 2008

Zombie Apocalypse (22 Days)

I worked all day on thesis and organizing transcripts (which has gone really well so far) so I rewarded myself with a couple hours of zombie killing. We got totally owned on the movie we tried to complete, but we tried out versus mode with was pretty awesome. Nothing quite like getting to be the Tank and bat your friends around like dolls. Anyway, thesis is moving along pretty well, and I had a good discussion with the company that is interested in extending me an offer. Also, the company that wants to give me a test said I can do it pretty much any time I want, which is encouraging. Alright, now it's time for bed...

November 19, 2008

4,716 Zombies (23 Days)

Wow, 23 days, really? I guess I hadn't really thought about it. Only a few more weeks to freedom, that's so cool...

So the subject for this post really should have been the subject for last night's post if I hadn't been so completely exhausted when I got home. Yesterday, I had finally made the decision to hire a transcription service to do the transcriptions for my thesis which meant I would have plenty of time to complete the actual document. As a sort of celebration, I played through the first movie of Left 4 Dead on Advanced with a few friends at school, a herculean task that last until just shy of the building closing. There's definitely something to be said for such a challenging co-op experience. By the end it felt like our team was really in sync, as we deftly moved around each other while throwing an unfathomable number of bullets into the zombie horde. I also got my grade back on my most recent DFS milestone, which was pretty good, especially considering the average for the class was oppressively low for this milestone.

I also got invited to take a test with perhaps one of the most well known developers in America (some of you already know who this is), which is just outrageously awesome, though I have no idea how I am going to fit it in my schedule, but that consideration will have to wait. We got some bad news on our recent Dissonance milestone, which was upsetting considering how much I think the team really has managed to accomplished a lot in the limited time available. Fortunately, the Producer/Instructor seemed to agree with me today when we walked her through the game, where it is, and what he are trying to do with it before RTM. Apparently the game also went up in her esteem after she actually played it, which is a good sign, right? We managed to fix some really critical bugs today during core hours, which is good, but they took up a lot of people's time, preventing them from actually moving forward, which is unfortunate.

My day also started with a sad note, but has ended on relatively happy one. The transcription service I was working with pretty much fell through this morning. They were trying out one of my interviews, but the "poor quality" of the recording meant the job was going to be more expensive, take longer, and ultimately produce something of a lower quality than I would like. I got this information about five minutes before our core hours for the day. So I spent most of the morning freaking out about it, but unable to find the necessary time to collect my thoughts. After that, I decided to pass with the transcription company, and try to do it using myself and incredible support from friends and family.

You know when you were a kid and you had to sell magazines and stuff to raise money for school? It felt a lot like that. I basically sent an email to all my friends at school, plus my brother and his wife, and I immediately got a cavalcade of responses, with people requesting specific numbers of transcripts to help out (most refusing the pay I had offered). At this point, 14 of the 30 transcripts have already been claimed and are being worked on as we speak, with a number of other volunteers offering to help out during the day tomorrow. It's really heart-warming to see people willing to devote a significant amount of their limited free time to help me out with this, and their sacrifice is greatly appreciated. Anyway, I think that's all the time I have for now, as I too should be trying to complete a couple of my own transcripts so I don't feel like a complete bum. Later!

November 17, 2008

The Thesis Blitz (25 Days)

I think today was a good day overall. I got another phone interview with a AAA company, my thesis advisor was relatively encouraging about my new, aggressive thesis schedule, I even managed to make some reasonably good progress on my TGP goals despite almost the entire team being checked out for the day. As the term (and our time at the Guildhall) slowly winds to a close, everyone is starting to check out a bit I think. Less so for the Master's students, who are still trying to figure out how they can possibly finish in the time left (at least, those that still have the possibility of finishing on time), but I think pretty much everyone has been affected by some level of weapons-grade senioritis.

That being said, my thesis schedule is now very, very agressive so I need to focus all the extra energy I have available to get it done on time, perhaps even taking my precious Friday night this week so I can hit my Saturday afternoon deadline. Now, I'm going to try to do some work though so I can avoid or at least mitigate that as much as possible. Night!

November 16, 2008

Weekends... (26 Days)

Well, I got done with my milestones last week and I sort of collapsed. Not a physical collapse where I just can't wake up (although I have been sleeping a lot the past couple days), but more of a mental collapse where I just can't manage to squeeze out the productive weekend hours I used to. I'm not sure if I am burned out by the constant Guildhall workload or if I'm just using that as an excuse to slack off. Probably a little of both and having a job offer in hand doesn't really help matters much. That being said, I've still gotten some good work done the last few days, even if there wasn't much of it.

After the milestone on Thursday, I was completely wiped so I went out to dinner with some friends, took the rest of the night off and went to bed early. Friday I sent out the last of my job applications. I know, I know, I have an offer... but I want to make sure I at least talk to all the companies I am "really excited about". So far I don't think I've heard anything from any of my email applications with the exception of the fact that I am not eligible for a Canadian work visa. I did get to meet a Guildhall alum who is now a lead designer at Insomniac which is pretty awesome since I would absolutely love to work there (this was actually on Thursday, so I'm kind of bouncing around a bit here). Anyway, I've sent my last cover letter for the time being so that's a relief.

After that I took Friday night off as per usual, and I went out with friends to see Quantum of Solace. I have to say I was rather unimpressed with the movie. I thought the pacing was really off and it just didn't hold a candle to Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is pretty badass though, so he's got that going for him. After that, I played a little Left 4 Dead with friends, then went home. I've been playing a lot of L4D with people at school, which is pretty remarkable considering there are only two levels at this point. We've gotten pretty good at it now and we can consistently get through Expert provided we don't have a rookie with us shooting up the team (the friendly fire is brutal). It's hard to explain why it's so fun, especially to someone who just doesn't see it (believe me I know). I guess I'd just have to say there's nothing else out there quite like it. It requires some of the most co-op coordination I've ever seen. If you're on steam you should check out the demo before they take it down on Tuesday.

Saturday just got obliterated in a wasteland of unproductive time. I tried to play some L4D with my brother, which turned into my desktop needing a driver update, which turned into two hours of fixing my broken computer. After that I was incredibly frustrated so I spent the next hour or so killing Locust (i.e., Gears of War 2) with Rick (the new Horde mode is brutal, at least with two people on Hardcore). Then I went to school to pick up some thesis docs I needed, which turned into a trip to the Best Buy (I needed a new microphone), which turned into a stop at the ice cream store. After I got back I worked on Thesis for about two hours, then played games with various people for the rest of the night. Like I said, horribly unproductive...

Today was a little better. I woke up and got right to work setting things up for my Thesis draft which is due tomorrow. I got all the data organized and analyzed the way I wanted, all I needed to do was write it up. Then I got caught up in various multiplayer requests from my friends (beating up some old work friends at Resistance then trouncing my brother at Red Alert 3). I had to pick up some groceries, then I finally got back to work on my Thesis at around 6:00. At this point I've completed everything I said I would have done from my supervisor tomorrow, but not a whole lot else, which defitely puts me behind where I'd like to be. I think there are still a few productive hours left in the day for what it's worth...

Anyway, like I said the weekend has just been a sinkhole. The sad part is, if I was working a normal job this would probably be a "productive" weekend. Go figure. Anyway, I'm not going to go lamenting that, because that would just be silly. I haven't had a "normal" weekend in almost 18 months, why would this one be any different. The high note is I can truly see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and its glorious. The only real thing standing between me and it at this point is this Thesis and I feel confident that I can get it done in time. It may be a few long nights to get it there, but I mostly did that to myself with weekends like this, so I can't really complain.

Oh, I almost forgot, with that in mind, I want to offer a standing invitation to everybody to come to my graduation ceremony on December 13th. I originally wasn't planning to make a big deal about this, in fact I wasn't sure if I was even going to walk, but I guess I've changed my mind. This place has been such and ordeal to overcome that I really want to celebrate and enjoy a little well deserved adulation. Plus, the speaker's going to be pretty awesome, so you should totally come out. Anyway, I'll post up additional details once I have them, but I'd love you all to come, the more, the merrier! Alright, well this has gone on long enough, and my docs aren't going to write themselves. Later!

November 12, 2008

The Push (30 Days)

Well, I don't have a lot of time to write, as I have a big milestone in DFS tomorrow (about 16 hours from now) and a lot of ground to cover. Yesterday, I talked to the company that wants to give me an offer and it sounds pretty tempting overall, and it certainly doesn't hurt that it would mean I could stop worrying about the whole job hunt thing. Still a few leads I need to follow-up on, but very tempting. We had a TGP milestone that went pretty well today, it was down to the wire and there are still a lot of things I think we can stand to improve, but I think we've managed to accomplish a lot (and Sandy Petersen agrees!). N0w, I need to work on improving the visuals of my level A LOT. It's gonna be a long night...

November 10, 2008

Bad Day, Good Day (32 Days)

I GOT AN OFFER!!! (sort of, read on...)

I'm going to keep this brief, as I am very tired and I want to actually get home and get to bed (yeah, I'm still at school). I didn't sleep very well last night, so I was tired all day, a TGP day no less. I spent most of the day running around trying to fix bugs and help people keep moving on their tasks, so I didn't get much done on my task list, which is unfortunate. I went out to dinner with some friends to sort of get away from the day for a bit. About the time our food was arriving I got a phone call from one of the studios I've been in contact with, and they are interested in extending me an offer. I'm actually talking about the specifics with them tomorrow, but it's pretty exciting to know someone is actually interested in me. I can breathe a little easier knowing I don't need to be afraid of not finding a job, now it's just a matter of where I end up. That's a really reassuring thought, and maybe now I can sleep a little better. With that in mind, I think I am going to wrap things up here. I'll let you all know once things are settled. Night!

November 9, 2008

Get Back in There! (33 Days)

I think somewhere along the way, a portion of my mind sort of broke, or at least got confused on the order of things and thought the Guildhall was already over. While it's true that the worst of it is probably done, there are still a number of reasonably large hurdles to overcome before I think my mind can truly relax. I've definitely been letting myself get away with more "recovery time" than I have in the past, and I it's all starting to add up.

That's all there really is to say, I just need to get my head back into Guildhall mode for just a little while longer, and remember that after that it's all going to get a lot better: holidays off with the family, job of my dreams, free time on most nights and weekends. These are the things I need to remember, and somehow I think I lost along the way. I know that I am definitely ready to be out of here, but that doesn't mean I'm literally ready. There's still some work I've got to do, and it's time I remembered that.

As a side note, I picked up my last two, "last" games before Christmas this season: Valkyria Chronicles and Gears of War 2. The games are both top notch, and I don't think Valkyria Chronicles could really be more up my alley. It's a very unique, fun strategy game with a lot of story and and interesting set of characters. I played it...well, more than I should have yesterday, and I definitely look forward to checking it out more, probably over the holidays. Generally, I think Gears of War 2 improves on just about every aspect of it's predecessor, which was already a pretty good game so that's saying a lot.

The stop-and-pop gameplay of the first game is just as good as ever and the game is even more epic and awe-inspiring. In addition, the multiplayer matchmaking is vastly improved, which was probably one of my biggest gripes with the otherwise fun multiplayer of the first game. Co-op is just as good as before, but the drop-in/drop-out system has made the expereince much more streamlined and enjoyable. Finally, Horde mode seems really cool, I only played it a little on splitscreen with a friend while I was waiting for an interview, but it was a good time, so I look forward to trying it out more in the future.

Well, that's my game update, and hopefully now I'll be able to keep from having another until after the holidays. Well, I might allow myself to buy one more if there's something I'm really interested in right around the same time I get a job, but maybe I'll just reward myself by playing something I already have instead :). Alright, now I need to eat some dinner and really get to work. Night!

November 8, 2008

You Like Me, You Really Like Me! (34 Days)

Well, it's been quite a long week, but I don't think I could be much happier with how things went. I got lots of positive feedback during the career fair and the networking reception, and I've already been contacted by a couple of my interviewers, which is definitely a good sign. In addition, I've been working with some of my other contacts and I think I have a good lead on a position that would be just perfect for me, so I am pursuing that opportunity as diligently as I can.

With the career fair over and about 20+ applications to almost all my favorite studios, I think I am going to scale back my job search for a little while, at least the part where I apply to new companies. There are still a few places I want to make sure I hit, but then I want to leave time to work on my DFS, my thesis, and I design tests or interviews I end up landing. I have reason to believe that the career fair may result in at least one test if not more, so that's another thing I will be looking to complete on top of everything else, and I want to make sure I have at least some time for it.

Unfortunately, all this career stuff has made working on my DFS difficult from a time and motivation perspective. At this point, it seems like I have enough to get companies interested, which is what I want my portfolio to do, so I'm not sure how much value my current DFS has beyond its necessity for graduation. It's not that I think the project is unimportant, just not as important as the actual job search or trying to finish up my thesis. It's a hard decision to make, but it seems like something has to give right now, and DFS it's the most "bang for the buck" as it were.

Also, it looks like I'm almost definitely going to have to defer my thesis defense until after I graduate. I've been running over the thesis schedule I would need in order to defend before I graduate, and it would basically mean my entire thesis needs to be done within the next two to three weeks. That might be possible if I put DFS on the back burner and my job search doesn't become to intense, but one of those I don't have any control over and the other seems like I am playing with fire a bit. I've talked about it with my thesis advisor and supervisor and they have different views on the matter, so it's kind of a toss up. I may try to talk to my DFS professor just to get his take on it, and at least try to reassure him that I am not just blowing off his class. It's kind of a complicated juggling act right now.

All that being said, I'm pretty happy with where I am right now, especially when I consider where I was about 18 months ago. I mean, at GDC 2007 I was pratically begging for a job and I had absolutely no idea how the industry worked or what a game developer actually did. Now, I have a bunch of interviews and people emailing me to tell me how impressive a candidate I am. I'm not trying to sound conceded here, quite the opposite, the transition just amazes me so much because these two points in time, GDC 2007 and now, really stand out in my mind, and things have changed so much. Anyway, suffice it to say, I am very pleased with how the career fair went, though all the positive feedback on actually getting a job has made working on school projects a little more difficult.

November 5, 2008

The Calm (37 Days)

Well, tomorrow it begins...The first five interview of my job search within the next 24 hours, not to mention an important networking reception to cap things off. I'm feeling pretty confident about everything. My portfolio is strong and my mock interviews have gone very well, and the faculty and my fellow students have been very complimentary. I haven't been sleeping very well lately and I'm a bit under the weather, but I guess you can't have everything. I intend to drink a lot of water tonight and get as much sleep as I can force myself to before tomorrow. And on that note, I think I'll go do just that...

Wish me luck!

November 4, 2008

Red Alert (38 Days)

I'll keep this brief, as there as some work to be done and a game to be played. I had two mock interviews to day and they both went very well and also I've been getting positive (though very vague) feedback from our placement director, so I am feeling pretty good about the career fair. My DFS is coming along, but there's still a lot more I want to do before our milestone next week. I think my thesis work may have put me a bit off the pace for this milestone, but I hope I can pick up the slack before RTM. After our DFS class, I went out to dinner with the level designers, and afterwards after some poking and prodding, one of the designers decided to pick up Fallout 3, which led us to the local Gamestop. Long story short, I now own Red Alert 3. I left it up to fate to decide when I asked the Gamestop if they had a collector's edition of Red Alert 3 (fully expecting that they didn't) and when they did I decided to pick it up. Anyway, that was basically my day. I am feeling pretty confident for the career fair and a little less so for my DFS milestone next week, but ultimately things are going pretty well. Now, I am going to try to do a little work before I take a couple game hours for the night. Later!

November 3, 2008

The Plot Thickens (39 Days)

I'm not sure that the plot has actually thickened, but I don't really have a lot of time for tonight's post, and it was the first thing that occurred to me. Things have been going pretty good lately. I finished testing for my thesis last week and the data is all entered into my database so I can analyze it. Now, I am working on improving my DFS for my milestone on Nov. 13th. I've started building out the 3D skybox, then I'll move on to improving the visuals inside of the building. My focus for this milestone is on trying to make the environment more real and immersive. Mostly that's visuals, but there are also some little scripting bits like soundscapes and ambient effects that can help as well. There's a lot to do, but it's progressing, so that's something.

My big mental focus right now is on the career fair this week. We got our list of interviews for Thursday and Friday. I got seven in total and I am really excited about a few of them, which is pretty cool. There's also a networking reception on Thursday night where we have a chance to interact with the recruiters on a more informal level and also potentially line up interviews for Friday. I'm not extremely tense about it as I usually feel pretty comfortable doing interviews, but it's a lot of interviews in a short amount of time, and probably my best odds of finding a job for a while. I mean, how often do you get to talk to this many companies who have actually already expressed an interest in you? Anyway, I am excited and a little bit anxious about the interviews, but I ultimately need to focus on my DFS right now, so it's a little mental tug-of-war. Alright, on that note, I better get back to it. Later!

November 1, 2008

The Wasteland (41 Days)

Well, I guess I've let the blog lapse a little over the past few days, though this morning I figured out why when my playtime came up next to my save on Fallout 3. Apparently I've played the game for 18+ hours, which is pretty remarkable considering I got it on Tuesday. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I don't think it would be that remarkable if I wasn't at the Guildhall, which is pretty much how the number got to be that way. I've been pretty much maintaining a sort of "normal" work schedule the past few days. You know, the whole 9 to 5 thing. I think it's done wonders for my mental health, but I'm not sure about the effect it may be having on my current projects, most notably my DFS.

I've been throwing all my weight into my Thesis the last couple weeks, and with that I have managed to get all my testing done and all the objective data entered into a form that I can easily analyze. In addition, I've been trying to keep up a manageable level with my job search, about 5 applications a week, plus any other follow ups and networking. I might be able to increase that a bit now that I'm not spending 3+ hours a day doing testing, but that really depends on my other major project, my DFS. Basically, even though my level was done enough to test it for my thesis, there's still plenty I need to do in order to consider it "portfolio quality."

It's funny, I've typed this paragraph about five times now, but I keep changing it because it keeps coming out too negative. I think I'm a little stressed at this point and it comes across as a bad attitude. I mean, we've got the job fair this week, but we still haven't heard who if anyone is interested in even talking to us. Admittedly this is because our placement director is still hard at work scheduling new interviews, so it's not a complaint just something worrysome. I haven't done much on my DFS the last couple weeks because I've been focused on my thesis, so I am worried about that upcoming milestone. Finally, I think there are just some long term effects of this place. The high stress and long hours just eventually take their toll and you have to start letting go before it consumes you.

It's weird, as I write, I find myself very introspective, so as I try to find the right words I keep realizing certain things I don't think I've consciously thought about before. I mean, probably about a year ago, I felt like the best thing to do was just to work all the time and get everything as good as I could with the time I had, but now I feel like it's more important to try and stay happy and positive and do what I can with the time available. I'm not really sure what that means. I'm not sure if it is some revelation about life in general. That ultimately I would rather by happy than great (if I couldn't be both of course). Maybe it's just the realization of someone who is mentally worn out and needs a real break. Not one where he is working. Not one where he is "between projects" or "getting organized," but a real break, a real chance to let things go for just a little bit.

Sorry, this post has been all over the place. I guess I'm just in a strange place right now. Blame it on a lot of Fallout 3, sickness, and a healthy dose of prescription strength medicine for said sickness. What I can say is, Fallout 3 is awesome, probably my favorite game of the year if not the last few years (time will tell how the main storyline actually develops). If you like Oblivion or Fallout I'd definitely check it out, and just generally I think the game is pretty amazing in its own right. It's immersive, it's engaging, and above all it's fun. It's kept me up at night, and away from my homework on a few occasions, which is probably both a blessing and a curse. I also picked up Little Big Planet this week, but I haven't spent very much time playing with it. It seems like a cool little game, and the concept of an infinite number of platforming adventures is an exciting one (not to mention the opportunity to create some of my own).

Anyway, it hasn't really been a long week, but it's been a long program, so I'm gonna see if I can milk that for a little more time off ;-). Hey, at least I get a bonus hour tonight! Woo, daylight savings! Sorry for the random, rambling post, hopefully when I am finally cured of the C9 plague pt. 2 my posts will start making sense again.

No promises...

October 29, 2008

More Small Victories (44 Days)

Sorry for the lag, I'm sure you are all waiting with bated breath for my next amazing post. The last couple days have been busy, but not overly so. I was working for a while on my Thesis data on Monday until about 12:00 and then I came home and fell immediately to sleep. Yesterday, Fallout 3 came out so outside of class I spent some time hooking my computer up to my fancy TV and then just played that until about 1:00, which I am going to count as a sort of small moral victory (to let myself off for a night)

Today was TGP day all day. We had a milestone presentation which went alright. The game crashed during the presentation which is of course unfortunate, but overall I'm really quite proud of what the team has managed to accomplish in the short time we've had available. None of us has a lot of time to devote to it considering everything else, but I think the team has really put a lot of thought, time, and effort into the game, and it's really starting to come together. No we need to see if it finally manages to gel together or just remain potential sadly unrealized. The fact that yet another illness is rapidly sweeping its way through C9 isn't helping anything, especially with the job fair next week.

That's right, next week the company's that have decided to come visit the GH will be interviewing potential candidates all Thursday and Friday. We haven't really heard anything on who, if anyone, wants to interview us, but I figure I really don't want to be sick for that, so I'm trying my best to take it easy over the next few days, for what it's worth. Hopefully a week will be enough time to get over this thing. Anyway, that's about it. Now, I think I'll enjoy a little more Fallout before bed. Then tomorrow, I should try to work and stuff...I guess.

October 26, 2008

Small Victories (47 Days)

Well, this weekend got sidetracked a lot by various things, not least of all Fable 2. I don't know why, but that game has this addictive quality for me as I am continually sort of pursuing my own goals rather than those of the game (I think I've finished like five story quests including the prologue). It's funny because that is totally not how I play games usually, but the environment of Fable 2 seems so explorer centric that I guess it just brings it out in me. Other than Fable 2, I've been doing more Thesis testing and job search stuff (I sent out five more apps yesterday and today), but still not as much as I wanted to get done. Both tasks ran longer than I wanted, which precluded me from doing any of the Thesis data entry that I really need to do before I can realistically analyze anything.

In truth, the objective data (i.e., the numbers) shouldn't take that long to capture, it's the qualitative data (i.e., the interviews) that will take much longer to document and analyze. I think I can potentially keep moving without completely capturing the interview data though. The interview responses don't really need to be "analyzed" so much as I just need to think through them and use them to support my conclusions on the objective data. The more I can get done on the front end the better, but I'm juggling a lot of tasks right now, so it's important to determine which are the most critical.

As for the small victories thing, I guess I have two. The one is just that I managed to send out about as my applications as I wanted to despite delays. I'm aiming to send out a few a week to stagger any potential design tests I receive, and also to avoid driving myself crazy trying to fill out 10 - 20 applications every week. I'm not sure what is necessarily the correct approach, I'm not sure there is one, but this is the tact that I have decided to take. Also, I've been having trouble with my DirectTV so I called them about it, and after a somewhat lengthy troubleshooting phone call they resolved they had to send someone out to look at it, meaning they were going to charge me for the privilege.

Since I wasn't too keen on that plan, I told them I'd think about it and just decided to fix the thing myself. I unplugged the box, moved some cables (which I may have admittedly put in the wrong places during the phone call), plugged it back in and it worked. I realize that I may have been at fault at some point during this process, but the fact that they wanted to send someone and charge me for a problem that could have easily been fixed over the phone, really irritates me. Anyway, it's fixed now so, woo! Small Victory! Now, I am going to try to get organized for this week (and the rest of term to some degree) and try to get a good night's sleep tonight so I can be ready for the days ahead. Night, all!

October 25, 2008

Something's Gotta Give (48 Days)

I worked a lot today, but didn't get as much done as I would have liked (it's amazing how that seems to coincide with days I work on the job search). As I examine, what I've managed to accomplish, what I still have left to do, and the time I have remaining, I am really starting to realize how hard it is going to be to get everything done. I keep plugging away at thesis, but even after I've tested everyone, I still need to get all the data captured electronically. Also, as I focus on that my DFS gets less and less attention, which it needs if I am going to have any chance of making our next milestone. Anyway, I don't think this is a terribly productive line of thought, so I think I will cut it off there.

On a side note, I am really enjoying Fable 2. The best thing I can say about it is I think they have really created an interesting world that I just like to hang around in. Most of the time I'm not doing quests, I'm just wandering around exploring or trying to make money in less conventional ways (like stealing, trading, or owning property) than standard employment. The world has a lot of interesting nooks and crannies to explore and it seems like there are tons of things to find if you really start to look. Very enjoyable and very soothing, which I need right now as the ongoing job hunt continues to stress me out. I know it's only been a couple weeks, but it just feels like everything is riding on this, even if it really isn't. With that I think I will go let Fable soothe me a little more before I head to bed. Later!

October 23, 2008

Some Fable Morality Math (50 Days)

These last few days of preparing and testing my thesis have been really grueling, so I took some time off (too much, in fact) to play Fable 2 (and I may do so again tonight, though at a much more responsible scale). I came across the following amusing bit of Fable morality and I just felt I had to share:

Stealing a Condom = 5 Evil points
Having protected premarital sex = 10 Good points

Stealing in order to have safe sex = 5 net Good points for society

Remember that kids...

Moving on, thesis testing has been going pretty well, but it's definitely been tiring me out. I've gotten 14 tests done so far, which I think is a little more than half of what I expect in total. Tomorrow, I've got to run about 6 more, and also send out a few more applications, at least three. Then, this weekend I need to start entering all the data into something I can analyze and I should probably do some work on my DFS in order to start making progress toward our next milestone. Anyway, for now I'm going to spend a little more time with Fable 2 before I turn in for the night. Later!

October 21, 2008

Thesis 'til you drop! (52 Days)

Well, my thesis is sort of semi-deferred right now. Basically, I am currently planning to finish on time as originally intended, but I have contingency plan in place in case I need a little time to get everything organized. I managed to recruit a bunch of testers today and I ran a few tests which I think went extremely well, so I am actually pretty happy with everything. I still need to do some organizational stuff before I can go to bed though, so I may not be the happiest person tomorrow morning. Maybe, I'll buy Fable 2 tomorrow to make myself feel better... ;)

October 20, 2008

Rough Start (53 Days)

I'm too sleepy to even think of anything really interesting to say right now. Suffice it to say the start of term didn't pull any punches, and now I am really looking forward to getting some rest. Night, all!

October 19, 2008

Back in the Saddle...Again (54 Days)

When you were a kid, did you ever make one of those chains out of construction paper where you pull one of the rings off each day until Christmas? Well, I've decided to do that electronically (and to perhaps make an actual chain) until my last day, December 12th, so you'll see that parenthetical day counter from now on...

Today was a good day overall. I've gotten some good work done on my Thesis, helped make arrangements for the Dissonance playtest tomorrow, ran some personal errands, and even had time to play through a chapter of Dead Space (which still continues to impress) and play some SOCOM with Rick. Now, I'm still working on cleaning up my Thesis/DFS level to run through it tomorrow morning with my advisor so I can finally move on to testing it. It's going to be a busy semester, but I think I'm up to the challenge. I've come to far to crap out now...

Alright, work time! Later!

October 18, 2008

The Beginning of the End

It's funny...for some reason, this break has consistently made me think of my first break at the Guildhall, the one between Terms 1 and 2. I can't figure out why. Maybe it's just because they both occurred at around the same time in the year or maybe it's because of big game releases in and around that week, maybe being at the end of something makes you think about the beginning, I'm not really sure. Anyway, I spent the day getting some personal stuff in order, arranging some materials for our Dissonance playtest on Monday, and finally taking advantage of the Toys R Us deal. I ended up picking up SOCOM: Confrontation, Saints Row 2, and Tales of Vesperia.

After a somewhat lengthy setup process (ok, maybe it actually was lengthy) and some technical hiccups I got to play a little SOCOM both on my own and with Rick. I've been enjoying it thus far for it's slower paced more team-oriented, tactical approach to combat. Unfortunately, I'm a total rookie and the result is that I spend a lot of time dead...A LOT. I've definitely improved since my first match, but I still have a strong tendency to "spray and pray" whenever I see an enemy. Also, the servers are still a bit...unreliable at this point, so getting into a game is sometimes difficult, but I'm hopeful they'll have that ironed out soon, probably before the next time I have time to play anyway. I've only played a little Saint's Row 2 and most of that was customizing my character, but so far I enjoy it's tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top approach to sandbox gangster gameplay. Now, I'm going to try out Tales of Vesperia before I finally call it quits on what is effectively the last day of my "break."

Tomorrow I really need to hunker down and finish up with the Dissonance testing materials, not to mention getting everything ready to start testing my Thesis next term. With Dissonance, my DFS, my Thesis, and the job search, my next term is sure to be a busy and stressful one, but I'm only eight weeks away from freedom (not counting any minor overtime my thesis may require I suppose) and that's I very reassuring thought. On that note, I'm going to go enjoy what's left of the night. Later!

October 16, 2008

I Have Fans? Who Knew?

I recognize that I haven't posted in a while (obviously) and the reasons are numerous and varied, though they can't be distilled down to some mixture of exhaustion and forgetfulness. Ths lapse however apparently did not go unnoticed, so I figure I should attempt to explain it at least somewhat. This last finals week may have been the most difficult yet and the fact that it let out into this psuedo-break hasn't been much help either. Admittedly, the day after our last final, I took the day completely off, I played videogames all Saturday and pretty much avoided anything even resembling productivity, and it was one of the best days ever. For the first time I can remember in the last few months (maybe longer), I was completely without stress. For that magical day, I was able to completely forget about my Thesis, and Dissonance, and my DFS, and my job search, for that one day I felt really "free."

Unfortunately, my freedom may have been a glimpse of what lies ahead, but I am not there yet. The following Sunday, I basically worked on my portfolio from about 2:00 P.M. until 5:00 A.M. Monday morning in order to get everything in order before they went out to potential employers Monday at 9:00 A.M. The "final" version of my portfolio (at least the one that has now been submitted) is now available, and you can get to it through the same link as before or the more easily remembered Since then, I have been spending a lot of time relaxing and recovering from last term and trying to get caught up on my life, the stuff I let slide during the term until I have time during these breaks.

After recovering from the Portfolio crunch I slept in pretty late on Monday, went in to Gearbox to pick up a leftover paycheck, then played video games during the afternoon and hung out with friends that evening. Tuesday I played Starcraft: The Boardgame with friends (and I won) and then concluded the evening with more video games ( I am currently working my way through Neverwinter Nights 2). Yesterday, I ran a bunch of errands like renewing my automobile registration and picking up various necessities like soap and detergent, but I also took some time to shop for video games (unsuccessfully attempting to take advantage of Toys R Us' "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" offer on all videogames) and I ended up picking up Dead Space and playing it a fair bit in addition to cleaning up my email and watching the final presidential debate. Then today, I spent most of my day researching companies, writing cover letters, and submitting job applications (three in total thus far), with a little Company of Heroes thrown in for good measure (which took longer to get setup than it probably should have).

There's still a lot I know I want (or wanted) to do with this week, but time is quickly running out. I feel like I need another week just to get everything in order, but I guess everybody probably feels that way from time to time. With pretty much two projects to focus on next term (not counting Thesis stuff), I am hopeful that it will be a bit easier to manage things, but who knows what the whole job hunt is going to throw at me. Tests, interviews,'s all very exciting, but a little bit scary at the same time. I mean, in the next two months I will basically find out if the last year and a half have really been worth it. Maybe I'm placing a bit too much emphasis on it, but that's definitely how it feels.

About the job hunt, I suppose I should state this now to avoid and questions or comments in the future. I have decided NOT to post any specifics about my job hunt (where I am applying, who has interviewed me, who has rejected me) to avoid any potential negative fallout should a potential employer stumble upon my humble blog. I'm not really sure if anyone would care if I got an offer from Company X or never heard back from Company Y, but I figure I'm better safe than sorry. If you want to hear how things are going, feel free to email me or leave me a comment and I'll let you know privately. I may decide to summarize how things went at the end, but only after I am certain about where I am going.

Finally, I will leave you with this: Dead Space is awesome, it's probably one of the most immersive games I have ever played, and the team should be commended for the HUD-less interface they've managed to put together. It's a genius setup that I hope more games move toward if they can. It's so good that I considered putting subtitles on (because of some heavily accented audio logs), but decided not to because it seemed like a slap-in-the-face to the rest of the interface. Add all that to the fact that it feels like a real, honest-to-goodness survival horror game (unlike what certain Capcom franchises have slowly become), and I think you've got something really special, which is saying a lot considering its leading off against some heavy hitters in the next few weeks. Alright, well hopefully this long, rambling post, will somewhat make up for the last week, but if not....well, you'll just have to live with it. Now, I'm off to shoot some space zombies...

October 9, 2008

Wednesday: When Does Tom Go To Sleep?

Sorry, missed this in the dash to finish things on time...7:45 A.M. this time...

October 8, 2008

Late Night, I don't even remember...

At school, busy working, will post my bedtime later. Woo!

October 7, 2008

Tuesday: When Does Tom Go to Sleep During Finals?

10:50 P.M. today, I'm completely beat...

Short Update

I think the LD milestone went well today, I think my little GoW level came out very nicely. There are a lot of things I could still do for my DFS, now it's just a question of what I can do with the time left and where I can get the most bang for the buck. For now, sleep deprivation has turned my brain to mush so I'm going to turn in early tonight in preparation for my long, sleepless night tomorrow....

New Game: When Does Tom Go to Sleep During Finals?

Today the answer is 5:24 A.M.

This will be an ongoing posting series this week...Now, sleep...

October 6, 2008

Last Minute

This post is entirely for my siblings (who may or may not even read this). I apologize in advance, but your birthdays have fallen on our finals week this term and I am up to my neck in projects that aren't done. So...




I promise I'll send you all presents and well wishes as soon as I get a chance. I hope you all are doing well and I look forward to seeing you all for the holidays. Alright, work time...

October 5, 2008

No rest for the weary...

End of term is coming on as hard as ever this week. There's still plenty of work I want/need to do on my Gears level and my DFS before they're due in addition to work on Dissonance and my portfolio. It's definitely going to be a rough week, but for now I better get back to work and see how much I can mitigate the damage.

October 4, 2008

Scripting = : - )

I know I'm saying this a lot, but I'm too busy for a real blog post today. I'm still catching up on my DFS for our final milestone this term, in addition to other schoolwork. The good news is I've finally gotten to the point where I can start really getting into the scripting, which is easily my favorite part of designing the level. Anyway, I guess I should get back to it. Maybe I'll have time to make some more substantial posts once I make it to this next break...

October 2, 2008


It's been a busy week, just got back from school so I'm going to wind down for the evening and try to get some rest before tomorrow's portfolio review. That's all for now...

September 30, 2008

The LD Plague

Well, it's another busy day here today, and there just isn't enough time for everything. Looking at my schedule I'm pretty sure something's gotta drop here, but I'm not sure what. We found out this morning that one of the id developers had to cancel so they won't be playing our levels which is a good and bad thing. Good in that I don't need to worry about polishing up my levels just yet, but bad in that I really would have liked professional feedback on the level so I can make it really shine. Considering what still needs to be done in the next week, I guess I'll count it as a blessing.

I've been slowly succumbing to the disease making its way through the C9 level designers (I think its actually 100% at this point) and it's finally starting to slow me down. The timing is bad, but what are you going to do. I'm giving myself as much rest as I can, which isn't that much considering what's due next week. Check it out:
  1. Final Portfolio (for class) - Oct. 6
  2. Gears of War Level Beta - Oct. 7
  3. Dissonance Game Design Doc. - Oct. 8
  4. DFS Gameplay Milestone (Final) - Oct. 9
  5. Gears of War Level RTM (Final) - Oct. 9
  6. Dissonance Vertical Slice - Oct. 10
  7. Final Portfolio (for submission to employers) - Oct. 10
And that doesn't even include my Thesis which needs to be totally ready for testing as of the beginning of next term. It's gonna be a rough week...

Anyway, I'm not getting all down about it. I mean, if there's anything I can say for certain, I've been through worse. I'm going to do the best I can without actually killing myself. If any of you all are interested, here's the link for my GH portfolio. It's still kind of a work in progress, but I'd love to get any feedback...constructive feedback...on what you all think. Also, if you spot any typos, grammar errors, or otherwise broken stuff, let me know so I can fix it, thanks!

That's about it for now. I think I'm going to take it easy for the rest of the night and try to sleep off this illness before it gets too serious. Later!

September 29, 2008

Portfolio Crunch!

Too busy to really post right now...

Found out this morning that "finished" portfolios (i.e., school is sending out to potential employers) are due on Oct. 10th and designers from id are coming to review our stuff this Friday. Basically, that means I've got to put some time into cleaning up my portfolio pieces so I can post them and play through them with id. I also have to hope their feedback is relatively minor because it will be very difficult to make major changes before the 10th.

Also, I got my first rejection letter of the new season: Petroglyph Games. I followed up with them after AGDC, and apparently I'm not a good fit for their LD position. We're still a bit away from graduation and I think they require industry experience as well as experience in RTS editors, so I'm not surprised. I'll probably try to follow up with them as I get closer to graduation anyway, in case anything opens up that I might be a good fit for. Alright, now I must work. Later!

September 28, 2008

Catching Up

Hey all! Not much time for posting today as I'm kind of trying to get caught up from the last two days of slacking. I finished The Force Unleashed yesterday, and I have to say that overall I thought it was quite enjoyable. The game has some rough edges, but the plot is very Star Wars and very engaging, and I'm glad to have played it. I should say, however, that I rented it from GameFly, I didn't buy it, so you can take that for what it's worth.

Over the last couple days, I've also played a lot of the new King's Bounty remake, King's Bounty: The Legend, and I have to say it is very good. I managed to sink a lot of time into it and I've been enjoying it a great deal. It's pretty much an RPG/Strategy hybrid in the same vain as Heroes of Might and Magic (the original King's Bounty being the spiritual predecessor to that game) although with additional focus on the RPG elements like experience, levels, equipment, and quests. I don't have enough time to describe the game in detail, but I can say it's very addictive, very enjoyable, and if you have interest in either of the games I've mentioned you should definitely check it out.

Alright, now I've got to get back to work. Night, all!

September 27, 2008

Running on Empty

Looking at the blog, I guess it's been a while since my last post. I've been busy working or deliberately not working over the past few days. It was a stressful week this week and I needed a break so for the last couple days I've pretty much been taking one. The last few days I've been playing a lot of games and doing little to no work. I don't know if it's really a good thing or a bad thing, but it's what I've been doing. On the one hand, I've been seriously needing a break from everything, but on the other any time I take off right now has to be made up somewhere down the line.

It's just been hard to stay motivated lately. At least motivated to work with the same fervor that the Guildhall seems to require. I don't know exactly why, but I think it's just fatigue, both short term and long term. I've been physically under the weather lately as well, so that isn't helping matters. Anyway, I don't want to dwell on it, what's done is done, and I'm just going to keep moving forward. Sometimes this place just makes it hard to keep everything in perspective. Expectations are so high, both from the faculty and from ourselves, and the price for failure at least seems to be incredibly costly. It's a constant stress level that really weighs on you, and the longer you carry it, the harder it gets. Alright, I guess I'll leave it there before this goes to a particularly negative place. Suffice it to say, it's been a rough couple weeks, and break can't come quickly enough.

September 23, 2008


Busy day today...

Dissonance core hours in the morning went well, but there are still some things to do before tomorrow's presentation, and even more to do before Vertical Slice (a little over two weeks from now). Got some stuff done on my Gears of War level during LD class this afternoon. I found out that the little robot, Jack, in Gears of War isn't really an entity at all, he's just a model with some effects, so I had to create a matinee (read: scripted sequence in Unreal) of him slicing open the door for me. I got it in without too much trouble, which is good. After that, I had a meeting with the Dissonance art leads and one of the art professors to discuss some potential issues with our game, particularly our camera system. After some discussion, we reached a conclusion that I think everyone was happy with and I think ultimately generated some more interest in the project from the professor, so I don't imagine that could have gone much better. Finally, I spent the last couple hours trying to tie up some loose ends for Dissonance, before our milestone tomorrow. I've just got to create a few more sound effects, but I couldn't find anything good for them in the sound library, so I'm going to try to take a couple people into the editing booth tomorrow morning to record some stuff. Now I'm going to try to work a bit on my DFS before I finally succumb to exhaustion and pass out for the night.

Like I said, busy day...

September 22, 2008


Peace can be a hard thing to find. It's all well and good to say your just going to be more positive about everything, but it's another thing to do it despite everything else. A bunch of Dissonance crap hit the fan today or at least I became more aware that it had hit the fan. Anyway, I'm not going to lament it, I'm just going to do the best I can with the time allotted for that project, and try not to worry about it otherwise. Harder said than done, but I'll see what I can do. Anyway, I better get back to it if I want to finish my Thesis even close to on time. Night!

September 21, 2008

More Professional Development

Not much to talk about today. I followed up with AGDC contacts early this afternoon and then I worked on screenshots for my portfolio. Our professional development assignment called for shots from five projects which wouldn't be a problem except that my current DFS, LD, and TGP projects aren't exactly picture worthy at this point. As a result I had to dig into my UT2K4 materials. It's not to say that my UT2K4 stuff is bad, I actually think the levels came out pretty well, but it's from almost a year ago, and I've grown a lot as a designer since then. As such, I think their weaker than my other pieces, but I need them to complete the assignment so they will have to do. Once I have usable shots from any of my current projects I will put them up and probably remove the UT2K4 stuff. Alright, well I've got more work to do, later all!

September 20, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Happy

It's funny, when I first started to write this post, I was going to lament my current state, how nothing seems to be going the way I want or as fast as I want, and it made me think. I think I've written something to that effect too many times to count and I don't think it's really changed anything. It's probably made me feel better to know that other people (sort of) understand what I'm going through, but ultimately I think that this sort of brooding and moping just breeds more of the same. The funny thing actually is, the times I usually feel best about everything is when I'm talking to someone else about it.

I don't mean the semi-regular LD bitch session (which I think has actually declined lately). I mean when someone has been complaining about something or worried about something and my natural response was to just be as positive as possible. One of the most negative people here actually said one of the more profoundly positive things I could think of. After one of his rants, I asked him why he was here despite all those things, and he said because he'd rather be here than anywhere else. Even though all the crap got to him, he knew what he was working for, what he wanted and that made it all ok.

Throughout my life, whenever I was depressed, my mother would always say that if you wanted to be happy, you just had to be happy. At the time (while I was depressed), that was an infuriating opinion. Like, I'm sad now, how am I supposed to be happy, but I think I'm beginning to understand as I reflect on it. I've always been searching for something to make me happy, another person, another job, another hobby, and while all those things are important, they all pale in comparison to the effect that you yourself can have. If you want to make yourself miserable, you can do that, really it's not that hard, and if you want to be happy, you can do that to, it's harder, but you can do it.

I think that's really been my problem this whole's easier to wallow than it is to try and rise above everything and just be content. I mean, if I didn't want to be here, I don't have to be, right? I chose this path because of the light at the end of the tunnel, a light that now I can actually see. I figure I can spend the next few months complaning and lamenting my current position. Or I can just do the best that I can do, and try to find happiness in knowing I did that. I know it's going to be hard, but I am going to try my best to do just that, starting here.

I'm not going to write about how things suck or how hard they push us. I'm going to focus on the positives, the things I love about this work, the things I love about my life, and I am hopeful that writing about it that way will make me think about it that way (that makes some sort of psuedo-psychological sense, right?). I apologize for the after school special nature of this post, but I was sort of writing it as I thought it and I guess I'm kind of corny at heart. Well, anyway, I'm off to enjoy the few remaining hours of my Saturday. Night!

September 18, 2008


I'm not sure if it was burnout, or illness, or just latent exhaustion from traveling and networking, but I just completely crashed today. I didn't sleep well and I woke up with a headache which is never a good sign. TGP this morning was fine, but I ended up spending most of my time doing management and design stuff and had almost no time to move forward on any of the actual asset generation I had intended to do. The design tasks were important, but they were unplanned for during a milestone that really doesn't have a lot of wiggle room. Next Wednesday is our last milestone before Vertical Slice and there's a lot that needs to fall in to place very quickly if we are going to hit it.

All throughout the morning I was feeling a little rundown, so I headed home for lunch and had a bowl of Chicken soup before I headed back to school only to find that our afternoon class had been cancelled (coincidentally on account of the professor not feeling well). I still wasn't feeling so great so I finished up some TGP stuff and headed home to rest, which is pretty much what I've been doing ever since. I took some medicine, put some Angel on the TV and kept falling in and out of sleep. I'm feeling better at this point, though not 100%. I'm trying not to feel guilty about taking the afternoon "off" especially since I clearly need it, but with my work piling up it's hard not to worry about it at least a little.

On a side note, I did have the occassion to try out the Bioware sample mod that's been sitting on my desktop for quite some time. Basically, one of the application requirements for Bioware is a short, one level module in Neverwinter Nights (I'm sure I've talked about this a few times before now), and they have a sample mod up that you can run through to see what they are expecting. The mod definitely did some cool stuff with the scripting and seemed well setup over all, but it definitely felt well within my capabilities which was very reassuring. I don't really know what I expected, but I guess I was worried, which is probably why it took me so long to even try it. I'm sure that if I set aside some time and put my mind to it I can make something really impressive, and that's a very encouraging thought.

As for right now, I'm going to try to do a little work, but mostly I'm going to focus on trying to get a good night's sleep so I can hit the ground running tomorrow. I'm keeping up with all my classes, but my Thesis schedule is slowly falling behind as it's one of the few things I can afford to let drop with out serious (i.e., failing) repercussions. Worst case scenario, I have to stick around a little longer to finish up my Master's, not really the worst thing in the world. Alright, well I'm going to see what I can do before I turn in for the night. Later!

September 17, 2008

Wait and See...

Well, here I am having just returned from the Austin Game Developers Conference, with some useful job information I didn't have before, a few of my resumes/portfolios in the some choice hands, but otherwise not a lot of stories to tell. The conference didn't go poorly, in fact, I'd have to say it went better than expected and I'm glad I went as I think I made some progress I otherwise couldn't have. I think that when we (or at least I) go to these things, somewhere at the back of my head there's this fantasy rolling around that someone is going to instantly hire me and I'll have the option to just take off from here. I'm not even sure if it is an option I would exercise, but it's an option I dream about having nonetheless.

Sadly (though not unexpectedly), the conference was more like a lot of brief introductory conversations and a chance for me to hand off my resume and plan to talk more with that company later. Some companies just wanted us to upload our information to their website so they would have an easier time filtering it to their different departments, others wanted to talk to us a bit closer to graduation, while others were waiting to talk to us until they came on site to the Guildhall to have "company days" or do interviews during our job fair. Actually a number of companies told me about plans to visit the GH in the next few months, so I suppose I should take that as a positive sign for the school and our training if they are actually setting aside time to come and see us.

I guess the truth is we are still a ways away from graduation, so the companies want to take that time to see what position they are in two months from now before they start planning interviews, which I can understand. I think my networking at the conference did put me in a much better position with a couple of my dream companies, which in of itself makes the trip worthwhile. All this talk of jobs and the opportunity to actually talk to people working for the companies I want to work for has put me in an interesting mood however. I think it's just made me think about the things I want to be working on when I am done, the things I am working on now, and the things I should be working now (or soon) to get where I want to be.

It's an interesting sort of gamble deciding how we should spend our time for the next few months. I spent some time recently reviewing all the companies I could think of and creating a list of the top 25 companies I would want to work for given the choice. Looking at the list, I can see that there are probably a number of companies each looking for something different from me and my work and so now is when I need to decide what I really want. You don't really want to put all your eggs into one basket, but you also have only so many eggs to go around...three, four at the most. At least one egg has to go to the Guildhall in order to keep up with work and graduate on time, so that leaves three eggs for my 25 companies, each of which wanting a slightly different egg.

Okay, maybe I took the egg metaphor too far...the point is, I can think of a handful of non-Guildhall pieces I want or have to make in order to have a chance with some of the companies I am interested in, and now is the time I need to start deciding what I am going to work on and how I am going to fit it in with school and sleep. It's a hard decision to make as it really is a gamble however you play it. The other sad thing about these "personal" pieces is they make it harder to work on GH stuff for two reasons. One, because they are closer to what I actually want to be doing, so they naturally are more exciting (GH is almost 100% FPS because they are the most stable and widely available editors) and two, because they are the standout pieces that are really going to land me the job I want.

Anyway, I think I've pretty much made my choice so I don't know what I'm going over all this for. I guess, I wasn't really sure before, but as I typed this it made me realize what I wanted to do, what I was really excited about doing. I am going to make a Neverwinter Nights level and use everything I have to try to land a job a Bioware. Out of all the "standout" pieces I think I could make, that's the one I am most excited about. I am also interested to see how much I've grown as a designer since the NW Toolset was the first editor I ever worked with. I'm not saying it's Bioware or bust, there are still a lot of great companies that I am very excited to talked to and would be incredibly happy to work for, but Bioware is getting the spare egg I have lying around, at least when I have it (needed one more egg reference, right?) Well, this post has been plenty long and I need to get ready for the rest of the week. Night, all!

September 14, 2008


Aside from playing Spore a bit longer than I should have this morning, I've spent most of the day preparing for AGDC. I got my portfolio in order and updated/cleaned up a few things. I also finished the alpha of my Gears of War level and submitted it on Blackboard. I've spent the last hour or so working on some DFS/MIT stuff, and now I think I'm gonna wind down for a bit before I head to bed. Tomorrow morning I've got to make any last minute adjustments to my printed materials and then print out a whole bunch of copies before a group of us heads down to Austin. I am looking forward to the conference, and I am hoping I can put work out of my mind for long enough to focus on the task at hand. This will probably by my last post until I return so wish me luck!

September 13, 2008

Fast and Furious

Wow, this term just seems like it has been non-stop. I don't think that it's been as intense as some other terms, and yet it still feels like I am always running at full steam toward the weekend, and then I basically crash, which ends up putting me behind for the next week. Anyway, I spent most of the day working on my Gears level which has received little to no attention thanks to AGDC, DFS, my Thesis, and Dissonance. I probably spent a bit longer than I needed to on it, and certainly longer than I expected, but I forgot how much longer things take when you need to learn the editor (like how to create a working door or some such).

Level design almost always has you doing things that weren't necessarily intended, so your always learning or solving some kind of problem, but with Gears I'm still working on understanding all the basic functionality. Oddly enough, Gears is different enough from the editor I was using at Gearbox that there's a whole bunch of stuff I have to learn that is pretty much Gears of War specific. That and the fact that the package system is still awful can make work slow going at points. Still, I got it pretty much done, with maybe about an hour of work to do tomorrow to finish and cook it (i.e., put it in a state that is usable in the actual game).

That's pretty much it as far as work goes. As for games I've been playing a ridiculous amount of Spore with what free time I can manage to scrape together. That game is unfortunately dangerously addictive, so I've learned I have to be very careful about when and how I play it lest I get sucked in and face an unnecessary, sleep-deprivation induced headache. It's definitely very cool to watch as you little creature evolves into a space faring superpower and it is almost equally as fun to see the creations of friends and relatives running around and ultimately subjugate or surpass them. Obviously the creative aspect of the game is a big hook for many people (myself included), but I think they've also manged to hit the sort of mini-achievements that make the best addictive games.

In Spore, you are almost constantly working toward some 10 or 20 minute goal and when you hit that, you find a new goal and it just snowballs. I think this is most evident in the space stage of the game. Similar to the best "one more turn" games like Civilization, Spore constantly has you working toward something, not to mention the built in exploratory aspect. You never know what will lie over the next hill or on the next planet. I think the close camera perspective and high level of detail makes this the most exciting in the creature stage, but it's present throughout the game. Ultimately, the best thing I can say about the game is I really enjoy it. I find myself drawn to playing and often unable to stop. I've already created two creatures at the civilization and space stages and I am eagerly planning out a handful more.

I think the game has overall been rather underratted, because some of the stages themselves are a bit uninteresting (I'm looking at you tribal stage), but as a whole package I think the game is pretty much one of a kind. Well, I think I will leave me thoughts there and go play a few games (probably one of which will be Spore) while I whittle away the few remaining hours of the day. Later!

September 9, 2008


Too tired....Still behind on some things....Also, trying to get prepared for AGDC...


September 7, 2008

My Wasted Day

So, I had intended to play Spore for about an hour after picking it up this morning and then get back to work. I instead ended up playing it until about an hour ago and I have accomplished absolutely nothing on my level today. I really needed a day off and it was nice to have one (sort of), but I think it's going to make the rest of this week very stressful. I have milestones in DFS and TGP this week, plus several mock interviews and other preparations for Austin GDC next week. Anyway, there's not much more to say, and anything else would probably just be me whining about not having a real weekend, so I guess I'll just cut this off here. Night, all!