July 31, 2008

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

I can't believe it's already Thursday. I have absolutely no idea where this week went. I mean, if I sat down and thought about it, I'm sure I could plot it all out, but this week has really flown, and I haven't gotten really anything productive accomplished during the "productive" 90 minutes I set aside each night this week. I managed to tidy up the apartment a little, reserve a hotel for AGDC, make a D&D character, and pay my rent. I think that's pretty much it. I have work I could be doing to prepare for the Guildhall but every time I even think about it I start to feel a little sick.

I'm not sure what that place has done to me, but I feel absolute dread at the thought of going back. Not to cast aspersions on the institution as I think it is perhaps the finest available in the field, at least as far as the knowledge and experience it manages to impart. It's simply the toll it takes on its students to do so that I can't really stand. Pretty much the entirety of corporate America is starting to attach to the idea of work-life balance, the idea that you need to have time to have a life in addition to your job in order to feel like a real person and keep yourself from going crazy. I do not believe The Guildhall is among the proponents of this philosophy.

No, The Guildhall asks you to put aside friends, family, hobbies, interests, or really anything other than work for the 18 months you are there. Students still manage to escape every once and a while and remember that there's a great, big, wonderful world out there that isn't just full of deadlines and despair. The sad part is, that when we student see that, we are simultaneously overjoyed and downtrodden. The thought of that great, big, world is joyous, but then after that brief glimpse, we remember that we aren't there yet, and we remember the suffering we must endure before we get there. That has really been the story of the Gearbox interns, the level designers most of all.

I don't know how it has been for other cohorts, or how it will be in the future, but right now, the C9 LDs just seem to have the worst of it. We are often asked to put in the most effort, for the least amount of recognition, and eventually we will be the lowest paid discipline among the graduates. Our specialization sports and unprecedented 59% attrition rate, and we are consistently asked to do the same amount of work as the previous LDs in a fraction of the time. Now, during the internship, we've gotten to see what the world is really like. We have reasonable deadlines, reasonable expectations, and our efforts (even relatively minor ones) are consistently recognized.

So now, here we are, two weeks from the end of our "break" staring into the gaping maw of two more Guildhall terms before we can find our way back to this happy place. The sense of foreboding is almost palpable... Anyway, that sure was a lot of rambling and I'm not even sure I can make sense of it all, but I think it's starting to make me feel bad, so I think I'm going to cut it off there. I'm going to try to enjoy what is left of my break, and hope the Guildhall has the good sense to allow us to gradually readjust to the GH way of life. Either way, by the end of this year, God-willing, I'll find my way back to this place, with no more Guildhall to "look forward" to on the other side.

P.S. Sorry if this post was kind of grim, I'm a bit tired and sad about my internship drawing to a close so I think the post got away from me. I am very hopeful that my last couple terms at the Guildhall will be productive and beneficial, I think it's just the first couple weeks that may be painfully jarring. Anyway, now I must game, night!

July 30, 2008


Hello all, not too terribly much to report on today. I missed yesterday's post because I was playing Age of Conan and by the time I stopped I needed to go to bed. Work is going well as the interns continue to make steady progress on our goals. I can't really say much more than I think things are going well and the leads are happy with our work thus far. Tonight I've just been cleaning up my apartment and working on designing a D&D character using the new 4th edition rules.

One of my friends from the GH and a fellow intern is hosting a game with a bunch of people from school. It sounds like fun, and they've asked me to join so I figured I'd give it a shot. It will be the first time I've actually played a pen-and-paper RPG, though I have interacted significantly with the D&D ruleset through the Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate games. My character is a human cleric named Jorath Lightbringer (pending) and I'm still working on setting him up using this handy excel spreadsheet one of the other players found. I doubt the game will continue into the term, but it sounds like fun so I figured I'd get involved before we're out of time entirely.

I also booked a room in Austin for the Austin GDC which was surprisingly reasonable (especially since we'll probably try to cram 4+ people into the room). It's basically the last big conference before the C9'ers are supposed to find jobs so I'm pretty sure everyone is making a point of going through it is apparently earlier than it usually is (translation: we have less time to prepare - big surprise). That's really about it. Working on my character took longer than expected so I think I'm gonna play game for just a little bit before I better head to bed. Later all!

July 28, 2008

Monday, Monday

You ever have one of those days where you know you did a lot of work, but it ultimately doesn't feel like you got that much done? That was my day today. I got some things done and things are proceeding well at work, but it just felt like I should have been able to do my work much more quickly. It's probably a case of exceedingly high expectations getting the better of me (something the Guildhall hasn't really helped to improve), but it's kind of sucky all the same. Anyway, that being said I guess it was a pretty good day overall. I just finished doing my two productive hours at a home, which today consisted mostly of cleaning up my apartment and finishing folding my laundry. Now, I intend to play some more games before I have to head to bed. Night, all!

July 27, 2008

Long Time, No Post

I guess it actually hasn't been that long, but for some reason it felt like it had. I officially declared this my last weekend of "vacation" and so starting tomorrow I intend to start being productive at home and to start preparing for my final two terms at the Guildhall. Hopefully, I shouldn't have to work too hard (outside of the internship, mind you) to get things organized in the next few weeks, but we'll see. I think leaving Gearbox and going back to the GH is going to be pretty jarring for all parties concerned. I don't want to spend a lot of time lamenting it right now as I still haven't even crossed the halfway point of the internship period.

Anyway, to celebrate (or mourn?) the end of my vacation, I went all out in terms of being unproductive. I spent Friday night playing a whole lot of 1701 A.D. (which is excellent I must say), I spent pretty much all day Saturday at a bad movie marathon at Ensemble Studios (it wasn't actually hosted by the studio, just some people who work there were involved), and then I spent most of today playing lots of games and ignoring the minor productive tasks I had intended to do, like doing my laundry.

I tried out a new game I got from Gamefly called Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power. It's the Romance of the Three Kingoms franchise "reimagined" and I'd have to say it's alright. It might be better than alright, but ultimately it felt a lot like the Total War games, except not quite as good, which I feel is an unfortunate place for a game to be. It's probably a good game in its own right, but when you have a better game that you enjoy more (and already own) that offers basically the same experience, it's hard to recommend. I also was moving some games from my laptop over to my desktop (since it has returned to being my most powerful machine) and I got sucked into playing a game of Sins of a Solar Empire.

I hadn't played it in a while and since the last time I had played it they released a patch that was supposed to have improved the AI, so I decided to give it a shot. I'm not sure if it was better AI or atrophy of my Sins skills, but it was definitely a hard match. After four hours I still haven't finished it and it was only a 1v1 on a "small" map. I think I managed to reach the turning point, and now I just need to press my advantage and finish the computer off. After that I made some dinner and started up a scenario of 1701 A.D.,which pretty much brings me to the present (minus some eating and laundry folding). It's been a solidly unproductive weekend, and I'm sad to see it go as I'm certain I won't see another for quite a while.

Alright, well, it's getting late so I should start winding down. Night, all!

July 24, 2008

Sleepy Time...

Stayed up late playing with Rick's birthday present (1701 A.D. Gold Ed.), which came in this morning. Now, I need to get to sleep so I'm not dead tomorrow. The job continues to be awesome, it seems like no one is looking forward to going back to the GH (big surprise). Night all!

July 23, 2008

Conan and more Conan

Well, that's two nights of playing Conan and watching Scrubs, certainly much less enjoyable uses of my time out there, though perhaps not much less productive. I've decided that this is going to be the last week (and weekend) of my "vacation" and I'm going to start trying to be productive outside of work next week (mostly on the weekend I imagine). There's a whole host of things I need/want to do while I have the time, so I've got to start doing them. Work was good, nothing I can really talk about, but things are proceeding well, and I think the team is happy with out progress. That's really about it, games and work, not much else to say at the moment. Anyway, I should be getting to bed, later!

July 21, 2008


Wow, I have pretty much nothing to talk about right now. Nothing particularly notable happened at work, and I can't really talk about any of the more notable things anyway. My 360 died over the weekend which sucks, but as I response I've been playing more of my other systems, particularly my PC for the time being. I've been spending a lot of time playing Universe at War which is rather enjoyable. It lacks some polish in a few places but overall it's very enjoyable. The factions are different in a number of interesting ways, and overall the scenario design is very solid. Overall, I;d say it's a very solid game.

As I haven't had a great deal to talk about in my last few posts and it seems like that may become par for the course as I move further into the industry, I'm thinking of reviving a post style originally developed for The Vampire Penguin (my, now defunct, video game website): the one-minute review. I play a fair number of games, but I don't really have the time to play most of them to completion, nor do I have the time to write a complete, in-depth review. Still, I had some fun writing reviews for the website and I think it's important to be able to look at games critically as a designer, so I'd like to incorporate it into the blog. They'll be short and to the point with maybe a simple score or recommendation at the end. *Shrug* We'll see how it goes...

For now, you can take my brief discussion of Universe at War as a predecessor and I'll try out the new post style sometime in the near future (perhaps after I am able to retrieve my birthday presents from the mail room). Well, I'm off to play a little bit before heading to bed a bit early tonight. I'm not sure if it was the Texas heat or what but I was exhausted today at work and I need to get back up to speed. Night, all!

July 20, 2008

After My Birthday Weekend

Hey All!

Sorry for the void of posts yet again. I spent my weekend hanging out with Rick, who decided to fly down to Texas to see me. He came in Friday evening and we went out with a bunch of my friend's for a birthday dinner and showing of The Dark Knight. The movie was excellent and Heath Ledger's performance was terrific which is cool and then subsequently sad. I think Rick and I actually were mourning the late Mr. Ledger as he was one of the few actors of this generation we really liked and he generally seemed to be a "nice guy."

Saturday we basically hung around the apartment except for a brief trip out to lunch and the Best Buy. We played a lot of videogames and talked about random pop culture, typically videogames and E3 happenings (which were being replayed on G4). Today, we largely did the same thing with some discussion of my life added in for good measure. Mostly me dealing with this general exhaustion of the Guildhall. I know what you are thinking, "But, you're on break!" and while that is technically true, I still have plenty of GH responsibilities ongoing, that I am currently ignoring.

I need to polish up a few portfolio pieces and actually take some pictures/videos of them, do some design work for Dissonance, and start on my DFS LDD which is due before the end of the first week (a task that would be nearly impossible to accomplish without putting in some summer work). The Guildhall ostensibly didn't assign homework over break, but they did set up the beginning of next term to be nearly impossible without work over the summer. While that might not be so bad if we were actually on break, those of us doing the internship basically get screwed as now we have to pull double-duty over our "break." Anyway, I suppose there's nothing to be done about it now, but the whole GH experience has left me exhausted and even after graduation I think it will be some time until I get back to normal.

That's really about it. My birthday outing was enjoyable, and I theoretically have presents coming from my family all next week, which should be fun. The job is still fun and interesting, and I look forward to seeing some of our rather substantial brainstorming starting to come to fruition, though there's still more documentation/planning to be done before we move on to actually constructing something. Alright, well, I think I'm going to relax a bit more before heading to bed, night all!

July 17, 2008

Good Day...

Today was a good day. More brainstorming, presented our ideas, a bit more brainstorming, then finalizing our concept today and tomorrow. The LLD seems pleased with how things are going and I feel good about it, so things are going well. We went out to celebrate a friend's birthday tonight and we are basically doing the same thing for my birthday tomorrow, which is cool. Now, I need to finish up a few things and get to bed. Later!

July 16, 2008

Storming my Brain

I'm not sure that subject makes any sense...

Anyway, today was another solid day of concept work. I'm not really clear on what I can and can't say about it as I think my NDA covered things like "design processes" and "technical know-how." Regardless it all boiled down to another day of brainstorming and documentation. I think we are starting to close in on exactly what it is we want to do, and we have a meeting with the leads tomorrow to discuss. Beyond that, things are basically going well. I think the length of time we have had available to just think about our levels feels a bit foreign to the LDs so we're still working on getting used to it, though I suppose we shouldn't get too used to it. Not much else to say really, I guess its becoming clear to me that my blog may be a bit less interesting when I can no longer talk about exactly what it is I am doing. I hadn't thought about it, but I guess I'll have to find other things to write about or try to describe things as generally as possible like I am now. *Shrug* Alright, I'm tired, I should get some sleep, g'night!

July 15, 2008

12 Signs of Workaholism

I think the Guildhall has slowly (or not so slowly) turned me into a workaholic. I've been staying late at work often without any real reason, and after talking to one of the artists about it, I've generally decided it is a bad thing, or at least and unhealthy thing. I think it stems from a number of different things like a desire to sort of prove myself for my own benefit and also to impress Gearbox as much as I can in this short time period. Perhaps more specifically, however, I think it stems from the fact that the Guildhall has somehow broken my mind and I have a lot of difficulty disconnecting from work and enjoying free time. I think for overall quality of life considerations this is definitely something I need to work on, but it is not something I want to cultivate too much as the dreaded return to the Guildhall is not that far off.

It seems that this feeling of dread, while present in all the interns, seems largely restricted to the designers. I mean, we all work really hard, and I by no means intend to take anything away from the other disciplines, but as far as C9 is concerned, I think we've gotten the worst of it. Whether that is due to the curriculum itself, our ridiculous attrition rate, or perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy of bitterness, the LDs are typically the burnt out members of the cohort. It feels like we've been repeatedly tested and put through the fire, and we've proved that we definitely can take it, but that still doesn't make it let up. Ultimately, what I can say is I can't imagine being better prepared for the job. The Guildhall has given me a very good idea about what the job is, the skills to do it, and the confidence to excel at it, and that's pretty powerful. It has come at a price, sometimes a hefty one, but I think after I am finally out and a little time has passed, I can see it being all worth it.

All that being said, I am making a concentrated effort to try and get back to a normal life for the next few weeks. Leaving work at a reasonable hour, using my free time as I see fit (though there are sadly GH things that need doing before next term), trying to find a good work/life balance, all that good stuff. Work today consisted of more brainstorming, discussing, and meetings with the leads. We are closing in on what it is exactly that we want to do, and we are getting ready to move into the next phase of the design process. It's nice to have a lot of time to think about exactly what we want to do, but the brainstorming can be oddly tiring at times, especially when designers don't really agree on things. Anyway, the job is still cool and enjoyable and I think our feedback from the leads has generally been positive so that's good. Alright, I should get to bed, later all!

July 14, 2008

Being all creative and stuff...

It's surprisingly tiring to be all creative and stuff. Or maybe it's surprisingly tiring to be all creative and stuff with a group. I'm not really sure. Anyway, today was a long day at work and I am tired. We did some level work where I tried for quite a while to script a few things that the game isn't really set up to do. Then, we had a meeting, did some more brainstorming and documentation, had another meeting about said brainstorming and documentation, and then returned to our office to make some revisions to our concepts (through more brainstorming). Not hard labor, I will certainly grant, but after about 10 hours of that, I am pretty tired.

Not much else to report on right now. I spent most of the weekend playing games and running minor errands. I played a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company, some Age of Conan and a few various other games. It's nice to have free time again. I miss working and being able to put in a solid effort during the day and then basically have nights and weekends to myself. I can understand why people had trouble adjusting back to the Guildhall after the internship. Though I feel like removing the internship from the program was treating the symptom, not the problem.

Generally, at least among the LDs, there's been some general despondency toward the Guildhall since starting the internship. We've been treated well and feel like we've been able to make positive contributions since day one after arriving at Gearbox, and after a year at the Guildhall that feels almost foreign. Also, not working all night and all weekend comes as a bit of a shock that's hard to get past, at least is has been for me. Sometimes I can't help but think of work things at night and on the weekends, but thus far I've resisted the urge to crack open UE3 or try to do some impromptu brainstorming. It's an interesting situation. On the one hand, I certainly want to be as good and impressive as I can, but on the other, this is basically my entire break so I want to have some semblance of a "normal' life for what it is worth. I'm not killing myself over it, and I basically only stay as late as I feel I need to (or want to) for what I am working on (which is still markedly different from the GH).

Anyway, it's neither here nor there, but just something that floats through my mind. We had our first meeting today where our managers were able to evaluate what we had been working on the past few days. The response seemed generally good, places to improve and revise so we can revisit a few things tomorrow and continue on with our concept, but I think generally the LDs felt a bit bad about it. Not because I think they think we did a bad job, just that on face it seems like a lot of "revisions." Ultimately, I think it is just part of the iterative process, but it definitely felt like some people were a bit less enthusiastic after the meeting. *Shrug* It's a new environment with all sorts of new things to learn and understand, totally separate from the Guildhall, so I guess people are probably still adjusting. Anyway, that's enough random musing from me for one evening. I've got some games to play before I must finally sleep.

I'll leave you with this though: the job rules. If there's one thing the Guildhall got right, it is how it mirrors the actual job (albeit at a ridiculously compressed rate). I think I've finally found the job that is exactly what I signed on for, and that's pretty exciting. I recognize I am speaking after day four so there's a lot more experience for me to get before I can truly say such things, but of all my jobs thus far, I've easily enjoyed this one the most and the fastest.

July 12, 2008


Hooray, my internet has been officially restored!

Not really sure what the problem was, but it took the repair guy approx. 10 min. to fix which I suppose is better than the alternative. Work continued to be good throughout the rest of the week and now I am enjoying my first real weekend in what feels like a very long time. Actually, I think I am having trouble adjusting to the concept of a free weekend. It feels like I should be working. I think the Guildhall managed to fry the part of my brain that actually understood what free time was. It is actually taking special effort to keep from thinking about work or trying to brush up on a few of my UE3 skills. Still, I am certainly enjoying my time off at this point.

I picked up my car this morning, then spent a good portion of the day watching movies and cleaning up my apartment which had reached critical mass after about 1.5 terms of neglect. I played a bit of BF: Bad Company until the internet repairman showed up at around 4:30. After the internet was back up, I played a fair amount of Bad Company multiplayer with Rick before going our to dinner with a couple of the LDs. Now I am installing Portal which I never actually got around to playing over the last eight months.

As for work, I can't say much about the project, but I can say that things seem to be going well and it is agreeing with me quite well. The Lead Level Designer seems happy with how the LD team is organizing itself and we had lunch with one of the Directors of the company on Friday which was fun. The team seems really cool, I think I get along with everyone, at least the ones I've directly associated with. I'm not sure if that's typical, but it seems like they'd be a really good group to work with. Anyway, that's really about it. Now I'm going to go enjoy more of my free time (using my 360 it seems since the Portal download is going uber-slow). Later!

July 9, 2008

My Tubes Are Blocked

Sorry for the latest dearth of posts, my tubes have officially been blocked, or for the non-hip (or perhaps non-nerdy) kids out there, my internet is out (I'm currently leeching internet at a friend's apartment). They think the modem died, but the first time they could get someone out was Saturday. Technically they could send someone out tomorrow, but they said they'd come sometime between 8 AM & 7 PM, and since I couldn't spend eleven hours sitting around my apartment during the week, Saturday was the first day I could work in.

I started the Gearbox internship today and it is awesome. It totally reminded me why I've been putting myself through this, which is a really uplifting feeling. The job, the environment, and the people all seem really great. I realize I've pretty much only been through one day of orientation, but it's still pretty exciting. I can't really say anything about what I am working on, but I can say it is awesome. Anyway, I think I'm going to go enjoy my first night off in quite a while, before I head to bed. Later!

July 7, 2008


No time for a real post today. Spent most of the day working in Hammer. Final milestone for LD is tomorrow afternoon and then we have a Dissonance integration meeting for our Proof of Tech milestone on Tuesday. Not to mention I need to take my car in to the body shop at 10:00. Just a couple more days...

July 5, 2008

Premature Vacation

Not sure when exactly the last time I made a post was, but I know its been a while since I wrote anything really substantial. That being said, its almost 2:00 A.M. so it's very unlikely this will be anything really significant either. I spent last week scrambling to hit a few key milestones and then I've spent the last couple days rewarding myself. After class on Thursday I went out to eat with some of the LDs, came home and played games with Rick until about 11:00 and then played more games on my own until about 5:00 (I think the two near all-nighters during the past week really messed with my sleep schedule). Then yesterday I woke up at around 1:00, played some more games, did a little work around the house then headed out to hang out with the other LDs for the holiday, which constituted some boardgaming, Halo, drinking, and movies. Finally, today I woke up around 11:00, played some more games, did a little work (emphasis on the little), went with a couple of the other interns to locate Gearbox, went out to eat, went on a shopping trip to help one of the LDs find a copy of Diablo II, worked a little more, then played Diablo II with the other LDs for the rest of the night.

I managed to accomplish a fair bit of the minimal work I had set for today so I guess its not all that bad. Still, I think I've been reveling in the end of term a bit early considering I've still got some final presentations, projects, and exams to deal with before immediately going to work at Gearbox. That all being said, it's been a fun couple days where I've pretty much been able to basically forget about the stresses of school, at least for a little while. Now I'm going to try Battlefield: Bad Company, which I picked up today during the aforementioned shopping trip, and then try to get to bed so I can hit the ground running tomorrow. There's not really that much more I need to do, but there's still enough that I need to sit down put some focused effort into things in order to get them done. Anyway, I think that will be enough for tonight, later!

July 2, 2008

Art Milestone in 8.5 hours

The Art milestone is at 7:00 A.M. tomorrow so I am scrambling to get in as much as I can before then. The level is shaping up pretty well, so I probably won't pull another all-nighter, but I still intend to be up for a while working on it. On that note, I better get back to it. Later!

July 1, 2008

Another Long Day at the GH

Well, the end of term is approaching fast and furious. There's still a fair bit to do, but compared to last term it seems pretty insignificant. No DFS, no TGP, well not really. We do have a level to complete and a proof of tech for Dissonance but the scope of things is generally much more manageable. Since I think the fates were aware of my generally positive outlook on things they decided to throw another roadblock in my way....in the form of an errant black minivan. That's right for those of you who read that correctly, on my way to class this evening I got into a car accident. On my way to school someone tried to make a left turn and didn't see me and I slammed right into the side of her van. Luckily no one was hurt and the damage to my car seems minimal. I have to file the claim, but all in all things could have been much worse.

I was on time for class since I had left an hour early in order to coordinate a project with another student, which left me unprepared for the assignment that I had intended to finish in the hour before class. I managed to quickly finish up in some downtime during the class and submit the assignment before the end of class, so it's all good. Now, I just need to work on my level for our milestone Thursday morning. It's the visual milestone so there's a lot I still need to do, most notably implement a 3D skybox. There's really no endpoint for it, as it's almost always possible to add additional details to make the level pop, but I'll do what I can and be done with it. Anyway, I should start by trying to get a start on it now so I don't need to pull another semi all-nighter. Later!