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...