SkåBec Outdoor – Part 1

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(All pictures by me and my girlfriend on this one too. Also reused for my other blog)

SkåBec Outdoor – Part 1

Premise

Like written in my last blog post I decided to go more unplug in my life. To see what the world has to offer outside these pesky screens that we tend to spend way too much time in front of.

First of, what with that weird title right? Well, SkåBec is basically merging Skåne, the Swedish region where my girlfriend is from and Québec, the Canadian province where I am from.

A Skånian and a Québécois walk into a bar…

You know the drill. Anyway.

Last week, I told my girlfriend that I wanted to go hiking somewhere outside central Stockholm. You have to go pretty far north of here if you want to have any sort of proper elevation. I’m obviously spoiled because of where I’m from in Québec even though for other people, it would be considered flat-ish. In any case, the lower part of Sweden is fairly flat and Stockholm is part of that flat area.

I was checking on google map for potential area and she proposed the Tyresta National Park. From the pendeltåg (suburbs train) in Stockholm to a 20 minutes bus trip it was close yet far enough so we could get there without traveling for three hours.

It was set!

The Wish to be Alone

So we got to the town close to the national park a bit early and had to wait for the bus. I thought that we would be pretty much alone. I didn’t wanted to see human faces except my girlfriend’s one that day.

Shit.

The bus station was PACKED with people, so was the bus. I think the driver had to ask the people five times to move their ass to the back of the bus to allow more people to get in. As I sadly was expecting they were ALL going to the national park. It was easy to see anyway, they all had backpack, boots and other hiking equipment/clothes on them.

I started having anxiety symptoms inside just because of that. Jammed in that bus with so many people. Luckily the travel was fairly quick and with music in my ears on that part, I was able to not really think about that. Even though it started to become fairly warm pretty quickly because of the amount of people.

I just wanted to be alone for a couple of hours with my second half.

It was not a good start. To say the least.

Avoiding the Main Paths

So we finally got there. I was super eager to just start walking. I get pretty impatient in these situations but my girlfriend wanted to go into the small shop because there would probably be a map.

So she bought a map.

She also talked about possible paths with a lady working there and she proposed one secluded path outside of everything. I’m really happy that she talked to the lady because we went into one awesome walk. I was just not aware of it yet.

So here is an approximation drawing I’ve done over google map about the path we took.

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So the route seemed simple, we had to follow the path north-west to a scout camp and from there take another path.

We followed the path we found at the scout camp.

It was not the right one.

So as you can see on the left of the image above, the line is going to a lake on the left and then turns pretty straight east. We realized looking at the map and at our position that the road was really not where we were standing and that the road was to our right above a small cliff.

So we went cowboy, on a straight-ish line to find the new road!

Damn I was happy. Smiling. Having so much fun.

I was in the wood alone with the woman I love with no other human being in sight and an awesome traveling day ahead of us and already lost.

Freaking perfect.

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(This mushroom was HUGE but we even found bigger ones down the path. No banana for scale though.)

Back on the Right Path

So after climbing that cliff by going with some S shape movements avoiding trees, branches, bushes and other things we crossed an electrical poles line. I was kind of thrown off by these things. It was a little bit less magical that the trees but at least we had a big landmark to orient ourselves.

My goal was to go elevated enough so we could find the path and, as expected, when we reached a good elevated position, my girlfriend found the path not far bellow us.

We are the best team.

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From there we followed the small path and got offtrack once again. The path led us back to the electrical line and we knew it was not where we should be. We just came back and took the other path to our left.

Our next objective was to reach a small stream that we saw on the paper map we had. From landmark to landmark.

I felt like in a video game exploring a forest!

Compared to home there is way more berries growing in the wilderness. That’s good to know if you ever get lost, at least, you could find something to eat for a little while.

One thing that is so amazing is the taste of wild berries. These blueberries that were everywhere around us for almost the whole travel tasted amazing. Nothing compared to what you can by in grocery stores. Even if they are supposed to be fresh, it’s still not as fresh as when you pic them yourself.

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Deep in the forest I really feel like home. Swedish forest and the forest I used to go behind where I grew up and pretty much the same but sometimes you get a reminder that you are in Sweden.

There are quite a lot of rocks around the Stockholm area.

Everything is on a freaking rock.

No wonder why Vikings decided to raid outside of these areas. It’s impossible to grow anything on rocks!

On the other hand it was still pretty cool to be on open spaces from time to time but it was way better to walk on small paths and even moss. That was probably the smoothest hike of my life. Moss is so cool to walk on. We came across two little cairn during the day. I added a rock on the first one. Gotta keep the fun alive!

We also saw a hare on the way. He probably almost got a heart attack when it realized I was close and ran away really quickly.

The Small Stream

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So we reached the stream at some point. I think it was just a little bit after twelve. We were walking for quite some time already and I was starting to feel hungry.

So I took my bow and arrows and I decided to go hunting for some hare.

I’m joking.

Even if I would love to, hunting with bow is illegal in Sweden and obviously even more illegal on a national park.

I prepared some small sandwiches and also had cheese, nuts and just because, two cans of ciders.

So there, we sat near the stream. There was no other sound than the wind in the trees and the birds singing. I used my small portable tool as a table and we sat on the really over comfortable moss.

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During that time we saw the first human being of the trip. A guy on a mountain bike. Hats off to him, that was really not a mountain bike track but hey, everything can be a mountain bike track I guess.

We never saw him again. We found some bones on the way. I hope it was not from him.

After eating we then checked where to go next. Not that there was many paths but just to have a global idea of where we were heading.

There was really only one path possible anyway, to stay in the forest, leading to a pretty big lake named Årsjön. Which I guess could be translate as “The Year Lake” or something. (My Swedish is not really on point yet, maybe it just doesn’t mean anything).

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Smooth Sailing to the Lake

From the stream to the lake it was pretty straight forward. More trees, more small paths, more quietness and more awesomeness.

Important to say that my girlfriend had a mission! You can freely pick berries in parks in Sweden but you can also pick mushroom. And she knows about and love mushrooms.

I don’t really, but that’s all good.

Her goal was to get the most Kantarell as she could. I think it’s her favorite mushroom. Especially freshly picked. I also learned that, it seems to be a big thing in there. We saw so many people picking mushroom on our way back. I was really surprised to see people really well dressed going deep out of the paths to find mushrooms. I was also kind of laughing for that reason. There was some people really well dressed for that kind of activity.

So we were stopping here and there and she was collecting mushrooms. She probably has hawk eyes or an inside mushroom radar because I never found any and I was the one walking ahead. Maybe because I was not really looking at the ground?

I’m pretty sure it used to be a Forest Troll house or something. It really looked like an old shelter under all those tree parts. There was even a path going under it. Was pretty cool to see!

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The Lake

So we walked to the lake and half the quietness was over. Some part of me was pretty sad already because that day was going to end at some point and we went back to where the main roads were mostly. Meaning quite a lot of people.

Near the lake there was an official camping area, so, yeah, quite some people there but it was still pretty smooth.

There was two girls swimming in the lake. Some couples fiddeling with their tents here and there. A bunch of guys with a really beautiful dog cooking meat on a BBQ. This was great. The smell of the fire and the meat was amazing.

I had to take an obligatory picture of the lake for really obvious reason. I really love water and lakes. The water was fairly warm, at least, warm enough for a small dive. After all that walk it would have been really welcomed but we quickly realized that we didn’t really had time for it.

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It was probably around a quarter passed three when we reached the lake and we had some big plans to walk even more and see awesome spots. There is a pretty big area where the forest caught fire years ago and it seems it’s pretty awesome to see. We really wanted to see that but we had two problems.

The break gave time to my body to send me signals that both my pinky toes were hurting quite a lot already. My city walk shoes are really not made for forest walk. I’ve learned it the hard way.

We had less that three hours to catch the last bus.

So we had to shorten our plans. Sadly. We decided to go south-west in the starting area direction and trying to leave the main path as soon as we could.

The Last Stretch

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So we left the lake and the short goal was to reach the other lake close by named Bylsjön. (No idea what that mean really. We’ll just call it Lake Bill.)

Getting there was pretty quick but the walk was not super great. Probably 80% of the path between both lakes were on rocks. On one hand it was good cardio-wise to go up and down but it was pretty horrible for my poor pinky toes.

In any case we reached the other lake (not the picture above) and then we checked the map. Looked at the possible roads and went on one.

After like five minutes it felt weird. Like, the sun was not really in the right direction. I have a good sense of orientation in general and that didn’t made sense but, anyway, I just kept walking.

Then we reached the lake.

A lake? There was no lake on the way. What the fuck happened we asked ourselves. It didn’t made sense. We checked the GPS on my girlfriend phone and yeah. For whatever reason we went left at the lake meaning that we backtracked to the big lake.

Absolute Savage Mega Fail. (That’s the lonely weird line on the map above going north.)

We laughed quite a lot and went on our way back, which was forward right? We probably lost 25 minutes so all in all we didn’t really had time for a lot of shenanigans in the wood or else we would miss the last bus.

But still, after Lake Bill, we saw on the map that there was a dotted line, meaning there was a path. I have to say, we maybe have found the path, or we were just walking in opens between the trees, it’s hard to say.

We crossed a beaver dam (that was pretty cool, thanks beaver, Canada loves you) and we ventured into the wilderness again.

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This was how the path looked when we found it near the end of that wilderness. We can clearly see a path right?

This is where we saw a lot of mushroom pickers. Families with children, couples, old people, name it, all trying to find mushroom. I’m not sure they found much though. The area was really wet at some place so it’s cool for mushroom but a ton of people probably passed there before them.

In any case, it was the last stretch. You can see on the picture above that the sun was getting down fairly quickly at that point so we followed what looked like a path and ended up on a road crossing a little farm meaning that we were sadly at the end of our trip.

Sounds of cars, lots of other human beings, baby crying, etc. The fun was over.

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Conclusion

Amazing. A bit over 32900 steps of awesomeness.

We had so much fun.

We learned quite a bit there, it was pretty cool.

We were there on the Saturday and on the Monday I was buying proper hiking boots and pants. Even though I had long sporty pants for the trip it was not as good as proper hiking pants. I also carried four 500ml bottle of water. Two liters of water for two person is not enough. We had just enough and it’s because we kind of not drank that much on the second half of the travel and that we really shorten the path we wanted to take because lack of time to take the bus.

Getting lost is half the fun seriously. Trying to find your way back is really cool!

My goal, and she’ll probably be part of the adventure is to sleep overnight in the forest before the winter comes here. That walk was pretty good just to see how it feels.

It was one of many for sure. I’m already looking forward for the next SkåBec outdoor session!


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Jeff in Sweden – Part 4

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(All pictures by me and my girlfriend on this one)

Going Unplug

Premise

It’s been quite some time right? I have a bunch of draft about the Jeff in Sweden little “series” I’ve done but I’ve never finished them. The part 3 is when I have been in Sweden for six and a half week. I’ve now been in Sweden for one year and a half. Time flies!

Last year in November I wrote about men mental health. I wrote about my burnout and depression, my little own story to say. Recently my body started giving me signs that I now recognize way too well. Weirdly enough I don’t understand where it’s coming from since pretty much everything is in line in my life right now but, still, I decided to go more “unplug”.

You know, feeling what’s real.

Social Media

If anxiety is the bane of our generation, I would say that social media is the 2nd in line for it. The amount of time people spend on all these sites and apps to look at other people life is horrible. I was part of these people for way too long.

It’s a drug you know, like any other. The craving for likes, the views, the little moment of fame.

I decided to leave Twitter two months ago. It was one of the best choice I made. For different reason and obviously my work, my Twitter account became quite popular in the last year, from like 300 followers to almost 4000. Whatever I was writing could be taken out of context or linked to my job.

Fuck this shit. I’m gone.

I’m not really using Facebook anymore outside of the messenger feature and I already have unfollowed 99% of my “friends” so when I open the app, I basically see adds that I don’t give a damn about.

I still post a couple of pictures on Instagram, that this is smooth enough.

So since I’m not spending all that time on social media anymore, what am I doing with this amazing free time?

Manual Work

I’m a gamer. I use computers.

I’ve almost never have done any manual labor in my life. Yes, I grew next to a farm so I’ve built quite a lot of treetop houses and camps in the forest when I was young but that’s pretty much it.

For those of you who know me a little bit, I do Viking Historical Reconstitution. That thing kinda forced me to start using my hand. Since I love wood, I started carving a while back.

This led me, after viking markets and meeting friends to make a freaking Haithabu bag. (I’ll probably write about my experience in another post.)

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Nothing worked like I wanted it to be but I’ve learn SO MUCH because of it. Creating thing from scratch with no proper knowledge about a thing gives a ton of good feeling inside.

Working wood, cutting fabrics, learning about all different type of stitches, braiding some ropes, rolling yarn, etc, etc. Lots of stuff learned in like 2.5 days!

Viking Markets

As said above, I do, live and love viking stuff. The great thing about viking markets is that well, you live like a viking. There is absolutely nothing digital about it.

We’re obviously not raiding villages, viking was more than just that. We live unplug, really, that’s the gist of it.

During my summer vacations, I spent a whole week in Visby on the island of Gotland for what they call Medeltidsveckan. Which translate to Medieval Week. My girlfriend kind of hyped me for a whole year to go there and I was more than happy to accompany her!

An amazing experience.

A whole week where everybody is dressed in different medieval styles with countless activities to see and experience. I ate amazing food, I’ve seen jesters doing crazy funny shit in the ruin of a cathedral, seen Corvus Corax live in another cathedral ruin, saw a reconstitution act of the battle of Visby and a lot more.

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It was not really relaxing because of the thousands of people there but I walked so much and spend way too much money of amazing food and viking clothes and swags.

I was able to travel north of the island to a place called Fårö. I felt like I was in some sort of video game barren lands there.

Absolute quietness. This part was relaxing. This also reinforced the idea that I’m not made for cities.

I’m a countryside guy.

Even though I was raised in a suburb, when I was you, it was mostly fields everywhere and forest.

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Physical Activities

Swedish winter are horrendous. Not because it’s cold, at least, not for a Québécois like me. I think last winter the temperature didn’t even went down bellow -15C which is nothing compared to the usual -40C in February back home.

The problem is the darkness.

I was not prepared for that at all.

My body needs sun and you barely get any from end of October to start of March.

I arrived in Sweden in March 2018 and I was so surprised to see how many people were in parks and outside when it was sunny.

Now, I know why.

After a winter of darkness, the moment you see sun, you want to be outside as much as you can. You want to enjoy every single seconds of it.

It made me realized how much I love doing physical activities outdoor.

I restarted bouldering here in Sweden too. It’s a good thing when the weather is kind of shit and it’s a really good physical workout all around.

I even climbed my first 6C here.

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The cool thing about the fact that winter are so mild here compared to home is that I was able to bike in February

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Biking is really a joy in Sweden. There are bike paths everywhere and they often leads to some outside part of the cities, sometimes in the wood or through fields. I even ended up biking to the Queen Castle at the start of my summer vacations.

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I was even able to play Spikeball barefoot in the sand in March!

Like I said, if it’s sunny, you get the fuck out and enjoy it as much as you can.

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Also recently I was able to merge two things I love a lot together.

Throwing Frisbee and walking in the wood.

My climbing buddy Markus mede me try Discgolf and I’m totally addicted now. There are quite a lot of different parkour here in Stockholm and a few of them are super beginner friendly, which is obviously good for a n00b like me. Throwing a disc is not exactly like throwing a Frisbee.

Then, talking about walking in the wood, or hiking…

Allemansrätten

This is translated as “The everyman’s right” or “The right to roam”.

Basically, everyone can go everywhere for free in Sweden.

You can camp where ever you want if you are not too close to someone else house,
You can make a fire if there is no fire ban,
You can pick mushroom and berries in the wilderness,
And so forth.

I had a project in the back of my head when I was in Canada and it was to buy a piece of land and build a cabin there, for me, to leave the stress of a city for a moment. I still have the same project here but, for now, I’ll be able to do something close to that without owning anything. I started just recently to tame the forest here and get a feel of how it is. My girlfriend proposed the Tyrista National park so we went for a 23k walk there and it was an absolute blast to be her and me alone in the wood for half a day, walking.

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I realized that, I don’t have any anxiety feeling inside when I’m in the wilderness. It’s relaxing and it’s great to not be in front of a computer too. The thing I do the most in my life since that’s the main tool I use to work.

My goal is to pass one night in the wood with minimal gear. Making a one night shelter won’t be a big problem with the amount of fallen trees you can find in the forests here.

A bunch of pieces of wood, a nice fire, a good sleeping bag and I’ll be all set for one super relaxing day where the only thing I’ll hear is the wind, the birds and maybe a water stream running by.

I mean, look at that, isn’t it peaceful enough?

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Conclusion

I realized that, getting closer and closer to nature gives you a real feeling of freedom. I seriously think that it’s what freedom really means. Not being locked in what society forces you to like or thing nor being locked in front of a screen be it your computer or your phone.

I’m still young at 34 and I now realize that I should use the energy I have to be outside deep away from the burden of society as most as I can. Sweden is tiny compared to Canada but yet, it’ll take me a really long time to walk around here.

Maybe one day, I’ll even be able to make a shelter for a night where Norway, Sweden and Finland meet up far in the north!

 


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The Chance of a Lifetime

Image result for might and magic duel of champions

The Chance of a Lifetime

Premise

I saw a video about the Rise and Fall of Prince of Persia on twitter the other day and it brought back a ton of memories of my early career as a Level Designer. Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands Wii was my first “real and big” project as a Level Designer. It will always have a special place in my heart and my memory.

But let’s not talk about Prince of Persia here.

Not a lot of people in the industry can say that they had the unique chance of creating their own game working at a AAA Studio.

I can.

Might and Magic Duel of Champion (RIP) is the game I was able to create, from scratch at Ubisoft and I want to talk about it. Because nostalgia.

How it happened?

The funny thing is, I’m not exactly sure I remember exactly. I was in some sort of limbo between Assassin’s Creed 3 and other things I think and we were looking to do other things at the studio. It was known by pretty much everyone that I was a lover of Might & Magic and there was some sort of opportunity with the franchise as I recall.

At that time, Black Hole Entertainment were working on Might & Magic Heroes 6. There was some sort of will to port the game on the WiiU but with a twist. At least, that’s what some people were asked for.

André, a producer came to me and a few others one day and ask if we were interested to work on this potential game. I was already sick to death about working on Assassin’s Creed and on top of that, as a Strategy Game lover I accepted in a blink of an eye.

We threw a bunch of ideas on how we could port the game with a twist but one thing we were always going back too is how we could use the RFID reader on the console. We wanted to have some sort of plastic card that you would scan and it would give you units in the game.

Then at some point we wanted to add a card game in Heroes 6.

At that moment, the studio Executive Producer came to me and another guy, a really senior programmer and asked us both if we wanted to ditch the port and just work on a card game. I was playing Magic the Gathering a TON back then and so was the other guy.

“Jeff, you have the chance to create a whole fucking card game from scratch”, I told myself that day.

How I’ve done it

So yeah, I had to create a card game in the world of Might & Magic.

I learned quickly that almost everything is copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast in term of card game. That part was a real pain in the ass!

The goal was to make something unique.

I remember trying every single thing that existed in the franchise and one game stuck.

Might & Magic Clash of Heroes

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I really loved the unit placement mechanic in the game. This ended up the major thing in Duel of Champion card placement on the field. We first tried with 3-4-5 rows but ended with 4. Three was too small and five too big. For once in my life, 3 was not the magic number!

As a Heroes of Might & Magic 3 absolute fan, I also wanted to have that feeling in the game, somehow, we tried different things. There are a quite a bunch of different resources you can have in the game but that was way too much for a card game. Eventually the whole buying of card that we had at first got replace by some Leveling Up mechanic. In the ended we scrapped all I wanted to do with the buildings, it didn’t worked out. (Not until way later in the live service.)

We created event cards instead. Something each player would bring with their deck that would influence the game and create more variety. These cards would be buffs or debuffs for both players. It created a really interesting dynamic.

It was also important to have the Heroes feeling in the game. When creating the deck, the player had to select one Hero card. This was also selecting the faction (obviously).

I then added all kind of cards like creatures and spells.

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The interesting thing here is that, we had no tech but, who needs tech for a card game?

I had all the cards in a big Excel file. All with placeholder image, names, stats, effects and so on.

I gave a “value” to everything. All stats, effects, type and so on had a certain value and then I wanted every rarity of cards to be at a certain value from Common to Legendary cards. With this I created a first draft of balancing. If I was creating a creature card with big number for attack, that card probably had almost no defense for example or the price of the card would be super high. The price of the card was a negative value I was subtracting from the total pool of power points related to a card. It was far from being perfectly balanced but that was a good start!

Physical Prototype

That was so fun.

All of the ~250 cards I created for the first pack of the game were printed on paper and then added in a sleeve along a Magic the Gathering card!

Then we played.

And played again.

Removed cards, replacing cards creating cards and so forth.

Then at some point. We had a conference call with Ubisoft World, Design Director. That thing was stressful. I had to show an ugly card game prototype to a guy in France via Skype!

It went so well. We went into production.

Straight from the start I asked my producer to bring QA people who had knowledge about card games as quick as possible. They played the game 8 hours a day with printed cards on paper.

Then we played again and again.

During that time, more people joined the team, mostly artists, FX artists and especially Concept Artists. They were so excited. Everyone of them at the studio wanted to work on the game. For once, their work would be seen and even used as gameplay!

Every Friday, nobody would work on the game. Everybody in the team were playing the game. Trying new strategy and new decks.

The dream I tell you!

Then I moved On

Yeah. You know. I’m a Level Designer after all.

Just before we went into close beta with the game, I left the project in the end of the team and continues my career as a Level Designer. The game mechanics were all set. The team just had to add more cards and more variety and tastes to each factions. Also add new factions!

It was kind of sad for me but I didn’t wanted to move my career as a Game Designer. It’s not interesting for me at all.

So I went back on Assassin’s Creed after a couple of months of literal pure awesomeness.

Conclusion

Even to this day, I have a hard time to believe that I had this chance. Knowing the right people and being known by many helped for sure. I would do that again in a heart beat for a small project like that without a doubt.

Even though the game died (thanks Heartstone!), I’m still really happy about the product that tiny team was able to ship to the world. It was a pretty hardcore card game but it was liked by many and, that was enough for me.

I have a life goal of releasing a board game or a card game. Funny thing, to some extent, I have already done it.

 


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#InternationalMenDay

Depressed man sitting in the tunnel

(Image from :https://personalexcellence.co/blog/depressed-progress/)

#InternationalMenDay

Premise

More than two years ago I wrote a blog post about mental illness here. I was not at my best during that period, to say the least, and I felt like, writing about the simple thing that I found could help people. I started having anxiety crisis and panic attacks for the first time in my life and I didn’t really understood why.

I wrote in that article that it was important to do something before it was too late. I didn’t and I fell in that big black hole that so many men end up in.

So, this blog post will diverge to what I usually write about because it’s not really related to the gaming industry but can be, to some extent.

International Men Day looks like by definition that it’s about men but it’s not exactly. International Men Day about mental illness, depression, suicide and other nasty things that men, sadly, seems to be really good at in our society.

Sadly though, it’s not really popular. I mean, I was not aware that it was a thing before today. There was no special Google logo. The twitter hashtag was not on the trends page either. There is a lot of work to be done for sure. It’s still so hard for men to talk about their emotion. Most of the time, we are being told to “man up”, that men don’t cry, that men are strong, that “real men this” and “real men that”. Men need to be able to fix a car,  carry everything that weight more than five kilos, go get the car when it’s raining, open doors, provide, etc, etc.

I felt like talking about my story. I haven’t really talked about it publicly and International Men Day is there to help men talk about their problem. Brace yourself, serious wall of text incoming.

My Story

Like I said above, two years ago, I started having anxiety crisis. I was not aware it was that really. I had dizziness and vertigo randomly at work and only at work. I wondered if it was my nutrition or anything with my body. I was doing a lot of sports. Playing Spikeball twice a week and bouldering two or three time a week so I knew it was not really because of lack of physical activities.

Never I thought it would be related to stress or that I was having mental illness.

Men are stronger than that.

One night. I woke up with a pretty big pain if my left arm. It was hurting a lot for no apparent reason. I stood up to go get some ice in my freezer. I remember walking to the kitchen and then after that I remember that when I opened my eyes I was laying on the floor. I didn’t what happened. I took the ice and when back to my bed. Then, I started to wonder if I had a stroke.

Left arm pain? Falling unconscious? Vertigo?

The morning after, I went to work. Told my boss about what happened and he told me to go the fuck to the hospital. I’m a men. I don’t like hospital and talk about my problems so I was just like “Heh, it’s ok”. After some talk with him, I called my doctor. She told me, in a professional way, to go the fuck to the hospital.

So I went.

I explained my problem at the front desk. It took 2 minutes and I was laying down in a bed plugged in at like 10 different spots. They ran a ton of tests and everything. I stayed at the hospital for almost 9 hours.

The result? NOTHING. Everything was perfectly fine. Literally no, problem, at, all.

Great.

Went back to work the day after and kept on with my life. Still, I had vertigo and dizziness from time to time. One day, I was at my desk and at some point, I looked at the ceiling and it started moving really badly. So I left work and when home to lay down. I knew something bad was going on but I didn’t really knew what so I booked an appointment with my private doctor to see what was going on.

Blood pressure, ear checks and whatnot, all the things. Everything was all good again!

She told me it was strongly related to stress. I didn’t wanted to believe it. How could me, a strong minded man, be stressed to the point of falling unconscious?

I also found out that I was having a lot of memory loss. Forgetting really important thing at work. I was having a pretty hard time with my deadlines and the quality of my work. My obvious reaction was to work harder, taking the burden on myself and keep in going, over and over.

The saying goes like this right, “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you were strong for too long.”

Heh.

Then one day I was at work, it was one week before shipping the game. I was talking with a coworker on Slack and I realized that I fucked up something I had to do like, 2 months earlier. Something I totally forgot. The feeling I got at that specific moment was just unbearable. The amount of stress my brain decided to inject through my whole body was so big I never felt that way before. I sat there, looking at my screen for probably 25 minutes, doing nothing. Then, I stood up, when to a meeting room and called my doctor because I knew something was wrong. We booked an appointment 1 hour later then I went to my boss and said to him I didn’t felt well and was going to see my doc.

I didn’t knew what to tell her (my doctor) but after like, five minutes, she said, “Ok, you’re off work for at least three weeks.”

I then got probably 100 different mixed emotions at the same time and the only thing I said was, “I just want to cry right now.” I really wanted to cry, for real, but still, completely broken, I didn’t.

Men don’t cry in front of people.

She gave me some sort of little form to fill with bullet point. Rating different situations from 0 to 3 I think or something like that. My score was 22. She then told me that above something like 13 you’re in depression/burnout and above 20 it’s really severe. The only thing that was not a 3 was a question about suicidal thoughts, luckily for me.

She then game me anti-depressant and we booked bi-weekly appointment to check up how I was doing.

I went back to work after and game a paper to my boss telling him that I would be off work for illness for an unknown amount of time.

I never came back.

My doc strongly suggested me to consult a psychologist. It took me a month to call one and see what I could do.

I didn’t wanted too. I felt ashamed. I’m was a strong minded man. I could fix my problem myself without the help of anyone. I never asked for help in my life to anyone. That how I am. I hate asking for help. I always see it as a failure. Well, I felt like this.

Seeing a professional really helped me. It’s still so taboo to consult but it was so god damn useful. I learned so much about myself and how brain works and reacts to a lot of different things emotion-wise.

This was my story.

Conclusion

It’s been over a year now and I am kind of back to be a proper unbroken person but when you went into depression once, it leaves a mark forever. That’s how it is. I restarted having self confidence at work not so long ago. I speak more about my emotions and I even ask for helps sometimes. I still have a long way to go on that matter but baby steps are better than nothing at all.

I wrote it in my last post, cited above and I will say it again for those of you who went all the way down here reading.

DON’T. WAIT. UNTIL. IT’S. TOO. LATE.

Seriously. You’re not alone. There are a ton of people who wants to help and that were in your exact position before.

On that note, there is now a brand new group about gamer men helping other gamer men here called Men’s Mental Health Gamer (MMHG). It’s new and small but I hope it’ll grow to a big helping community.

Seek help if you need it brothers. Really. It’s important.

I’m also here to help. Poke me at anytime.

So then, what is your story?


 

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Bouldering Made Me a Better Level Designer

Bouldering Made Me a Better Level Designer

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Premise

Six or seven years ago, I went climbing with my (at that time) girlfriend. I hated it so much, to the bottom of my soul. I was out of shape and I was just plain bad. I hate being bad at things.
Fast forward 5 years-ish, after a friend of mine bugged me for probably a whole year, I decided to try it again but do bouldering this time around.
No ropes or whatever.
Just you, some holds and a wall.

I fell in love with it, really. It hurts and it’s really hard but I think I fell in love with it because in a matter of minutes I saw that bouldering (and climbing in general) in a center is really close to Level Design.
The more I went, the more I analysed everything, the more I loved it because of that.

Gameplay Ingredients

You know, in game, game designer usually create gameplay ingredients that level designers will use. Gameplay ingredients is literally everything the player will interact with in a game.
Goombas, Brick Blocks, “?” blocks, pipe, whatever. Different kind of ingredients create different kind of challenges. Using ingredients in different setups creates different kind of challenges.
You can use the same ingredients in “endless possible ways” and create harder or easier challenges.

Image result for mario bros

In bouldering, you have the same things with holds and obviously, walls. Same thing here, depending on the holds, how they are placed also where they are in relation to each others create different kind of challenges. When you can hold one with your whole hand easily, it’s way easier compared to a really small hold that can be only hold by the tip of 2 fingers.
Depending where the wall is leaning, it also creates really different kind of challenges thanks to gravity.

Image result for bouldering holds

Teaching the Player

In climbing a challenge is called a problem. You have to first understand the problem then solve it by the knowledge you have. If you start with a really hard and you have no experience at all you will mostly fail because, first, you may not have the strength to do it but mostly because you have no technique at all.

The gradation of problems are really straight forward and easy to get where you’re at.

Same with games, you don’t (normally) drop the player with an end boss and let him figure out how to beat it. You teach him the basics first and then you keep on bringing harder challenge.
It’s the same thing with bouldering. The easy routes are there to teach you how to climb.

In games, the best level designs are the one where you are not told with arrows and blinking lights where to go. It’s the one that helps you, with subtle details, to understand everything. Nintendo are really good at that.
In bouldering, I would say it’s a mix of Mario Bros and Darksouls.

Some routes will make you move your body in some directions that you’ll have no real way of doing anything else that a specific move. With that, you’ll learn a new technique by yourself.
This is the Nintendo part.

Then, when you climb more, you’ll just face a problem and you’ll just have no freaking clue how to do it with the knowledge you have. So, you’ll just do it over and over. Then you’ll look at people doing it and learn things.
It’s probably like going on youtube and check a playthrough.
You’ll know how to beat that boss but it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it.
This is the Dark Souls part.

Problem Creations

In game, level designers take the gameplay ingredients and create challenge for the player to overcome.

Like written above, using the same ingredient in a different setup will give a totally different challenge. Take like Call of Duty and have the player face an Apache Helicopter by himself with a pistol. That’ll be one really hard challenge.
Now, take the same Apache and put it static in a warehouse and give the player a rocket launcher.
It’s not way easier.

In bouldering you have the same with holds. Take the most classic hold, the Jug.

Image result for bouldering holds jug

This is really easy to grab with the hand, you can hold that for a long time and requires a pretty low amount of strength. Let’s say, compared to like, a pinch one.

Image result for bouldering holds pinch

But, even if the jugs are really easy to use it all depends on how it’s used in the creation of the problem.

Take the same jug but flip it 90 degree. Now you have to hold it from the side. Gravity will do what it does best and it’s a little bit harder to hold.
Now, flip it 180 degree. You have to hold it from bellow now.
Same ingredient, way harder.
Then, put it in a overhang wall.
The girl bellow is holding a jug but she’s totally horizontal.
Gravity’s a bitch I tell you!

Image result for bouldering holds overhang

Also, like in game, when you create a challenge for a player you normally want to give the player some objectives, at least, short/mid term.
Reach this door at the other side of the room or the big tower at the end of the battlefield. Just placing the player in an level without clear objectives would create some frustration.

It’s the same with climbing. I say climbing here because, with rope climbing, the problems are way way longer. If you even go rock climbing you may not see the end of the problem apart from “get over that rock”. Still, you can plan your short/mid term objective then after that you’ll go back to a “planing” phase.
Normally in bouldering, you see the start, the way up and the end. Then you plan how to solve the problem to the best of your knowledge.

Planning is Half of the Fun

Let’s take this beautiful Uncharted grey boxes level. (Damn I love those)

Image result for uncharted level design

You can see where you need to go, the challenge on the way and the short term objective. There, the goal of the level is way more than going to the other side of this area but you have a short-mid term objective.
Short, kill the bad dudes on the way
Mid, get to that waterfall.

Now, take this blue problem. I see a mix of jug, pinch and slopers holds. It’s also using two walls and the one where the most of the holds are seems to lean forward at the end (or maybe it’s just the angle of the pic) so it may be easier that if it was just straight.

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You basically have the same thing. You have the start, your way to the end and where the end is at. Looking at it, you have to overcome the challenge.
The objective is clear but, what you plan to do may not works perfectly.
Maybe you were planing of using your right hand to get to a specific spot but then realize it’s not possible anymore because the holds are too far away.
Then you have two choice. Jump down or adapt.

Like in games, when the challenge doesn’t go as planned you don’t reset the game and restart (normally). You adapt to the best of your knowledge and try to overcome it. It’s the same here.
You may fail and then you’ll try again because you’ve learned something and you’ll know what’s coming.

Exotic Gameplay?

You know, another thing that is cool when you make games is to surprise the player with something that we call “exotic” something special that is pretty unique.

When I worked on AC Brotherhood, we had to make the Leonardo war machines. It was really cool to make. Just unique things to create a boost of new gameplay for a short amount of time.

Heh, why not doing that with bouldering too? Why not going nuts and having a problem where you have to be two person to climb?

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Conclusion

So yeah, the more I climbed the more I understood proper gameplay progression and challenge creation. It’s really good to see how these people, the one creating the problems are literally doing level design. Using the walls, the holds and especially the gravity to create them. Problems are like any video game challenges, they create them with a “golden path” in mind but people may overcome them with different techniques or even pure strength.

When we create levels in games, we have a basic idea of where the player will potentially go and do to overcome the challenge. This is the same in bouldering.

In the end, like I say to my newbies friends. Whatever works works!


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A Normal Day as a Level Designer

A Normal Day as a Level Designer

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Premise

So, for whatever reason (working at DICE obviously) my twitter account got a lot of followers in the last month. With that, came a lot of awesome questions (most of them I could not answered sadly) and it also came to my attention that people really think that everybody working in the video game industry are owner of every single thing that exist in a game. I may write something about that later. I don’t know. A lot of people also asked me, “What are you doing exactly at work?” or “What does a Level Designer (LD) do?” or “What is a typical day of work for you?”.
The last question was pretty interesting for me so I told myself, “Hey, why not writing something about it?”

I’ll divide that into some sections because depending on first, the company, then the project you work on, the state/phase of the project you work on and so on, a typical day can be pretty different. There are way more stages than that but I’ll divide my blog with Conception/Pre-Production, Production and Debug.

Also, the example I’ll give bellow is not related to DICE specifically. I’ve been doing that for 13 years now and it’s just how I would represent my work with the experience I have. Like I said above, there are a lot of variables that can change the job I have to do during a day but, here it goes anyway.

Conception/Pre-Prod Day as a LD

Conception

During Conception, normally, teams are pretty small. Depending on the size of the project it can be 3 people or 40. This is usually when you have the core-team talking about what the game could be, the mechanics and stuff. You also usually have a lot of technical people who can prototype all kind of cool things.

Being a Level Designer during that period is pretty hectic. Everyday, you prototype something and you mostly throw 99% of what you do away. Everything that you do during this stage of production is thrown away in the end, nothing done here will see the light of day when you ship the game. This is prototyping after all. You’re not building the game you’re just trying stuff and see what feels right.

During that stage it’s important to note that obviously, everything look like shit and you can even just work with boxes as character.

So in conception, when a LD comes in the morning, after reading potential emails and whatever like this, then the goal is to prototype whatever the Game Director (or whoever else) want to see then, throw it away somewhere and work on a new prototype.

Pre-Production

During Pre-Prod, job is a bit different. You may start building part of the world or you may even plan the whole game in a big document like what will go where, what will be the challenges and the gameplay mechanics introduced in which part of the game.

The team will grow a lot more and people will start working on specific areas. It’s normally when Level Designers got assigned a piece of the game to work for the next year (or more). Depending on the company working process you will probably work closely with your assigned Level Artist to make the best level possible.

Once again everything will change, 99% of the stuff will go to the trash, you will then take the 1% and work from it and the game will probably move forward. Some days you trash 100% of what you’ve done. Some days you just have the blank page problem and nothing comes out. Brains can’t just work perfectly all the time.

Everyday you’ll change pretty much everything and it’s also because designing something is never, ever, ever good from the start. Never.

So, you’ll throw stuff away, you’ll take the best and you’ll work from it. Then you’ll throw another chunk away and you’ll work from it. Rinse and repeat until one of your idea will get approved by the directors and you’ll move forward into Production with it.

Production

This is my favorite part of making a game. I’m a production guy and this is where I’m really good. I’m not that much of a Conception/Pre-Prod guy because it’s all so blurry and chaotic.
Anyway

Production is the meat of the project. This is when the team is fully staffed and everything happen. A couple hundreds people on a AAA game normally. It can even go close to a thousand depending on the game.

During that part you move forward with what you’ve done during Pre-Prod and you push it until it’s perfect (no design is ever perfect but, yeah).
During that stage you go from making big chunk of maps and levels to moving a spawner 1m to the left because it feels better.
You can literally spend a whole day of work just working on the same small gameplay section of 5 enemies patrolling to make it just perfect.

At this stage you will probably stop throwing 99% of your job away but you will still redo the majority of your work during half (or more) of the Production phase. Like I love to say, the Level Designer job is to thrown away 95% of his job and make it better.
The artists will also start working with you in the editor. Making stuff beautiful. In a magic world they would make stuff beautiful when everything is set in stone on LD part but it’s never really like that since it’s pretty rare that something is set in stone more than 6 months before the game is shipped (and I’m generous).

In production, when I arrive in the morning I usually get all the latest data (it can take some times so I read my emails during that) and then I play my stuff. Every. Single. Day. This is the best way to see if something is broken because you’re not the only one working on the level now.

So, in Production you always go more and more micro in your day to day job. When you start, you spend your day moving mountains and cities around (some figure of thoughts) and in the end you spend your day moving spawners a bit to the left or a bit to the right. You delete one, you add one. You change the enemy type. You break something, you fix it. You mess around with your script. You break it. You refine your script. You make sure the game plays well. You add a new explosion there. You remove a tree there because it’s in the way. You add a secret path there because why not! You add move collectibles and rewards. You check if it’s ok. You decide to change a small section because it’s not really what you think was good enough. You then make compromise with your artist because he/she has some needs too. Then the cinematic comes by, you may have to integrate something new that may change your gameplay areas. You tweak everything related to the new constraints. A director may come by and ask you to change something. The story may change and then you have to change a whole section. Maybe a feature or an ingredient you were using will get cut because of time or budget so you won’t be able to use it anymore. You tweak your stuff again. You test, test, test, test, test, and re-test your level over and over. You do that until it’s perfect (it’s not, but you have to ship the game at some point).
You never thought about all those little things you added, removed and re-added when you planned your stuff during Pre-Prod. It’s how it is. Your design, when you start, is shit.

Always shit.

Debug

Debug is at the end of the project. It may last 2 months or six. It may even last one. During that time, the team will already be back to a way smaller pool of people. Lots of people were already sent to a new project during the last part of Production.

This stage of production is black or white. You love it or you hate it.
It’s cool, because the game is done and you just make it better by fixing the majority of the issues.
On the other side it’s bad because that’s what you do all day. You just fix stuff. You’re usually not creating anything anymore. You’re not supposed to. The game is “done”. You just have to make sure it’s not a bug fest.

So a typical day is pretty simple. You get in the morning, you check your bug database personal stack and you fix the most bugs you can. Some day you may fix 20 of them and some day you may barely fix one. Then you get some more. You fix more and get more but just a bit less than the day before, maybe. Then at some point there are just a few tidbits of small unimportant bugs. You fix as much as you can and you may even spend the whole day without getting anything new. So you check your fellow LDs bug stacks and check if you can help them.

Then, it’s over.

You realize you spent 2-4 years of your life making that game. You take some vacations, there’s a big party, you get shitface and you drink your life away and try to forget all the bad shit that happen during the project and just remember the cool stuff.

Then, you start this process all over again.

Conclusion

So, this sums-up my day to day job.

Sort of.

Nothing is ever the same and that’s probably why it’s cool. Some days are complete crap because you just feel you’ve done nothing. Some days are amazing because it looks like you had one crazy awesome idea and your level is 10000% time better.

In the end it’s a job. You make a small part of a big thing and you just hope that the part you made will be loved and that the spawner you moved back then really made a difference.


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Jeff in Sweden – Part 3

Jeff in Sweden – Part 3

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So I’ve been in Sweden for six and a half weeks now and I wanted to share what it’s like to live here, for now! For example, I still haven’t went to the full loop of looking for an apartment by myself . Which I know, it’s one crazy thing that gives headache.

But anyway, he are some “bullet points” in random order.

It’s Expensive

So if Sweden would be a sword in Dungeon & Dragon it would probably be called something like Sword of Expensiveness and Stockholm would be Sword of Expensiveness +1. I know it’s not as expensive as L.A. or like Norway but for me, coming from small Quebec City, it’s worlds apart. Having a burger and fries for $31 and a beer for $13, for me, it’s crazy!

Lagom is Great

Lagom is a swedish word basically meaning “just the right amount”. It’s a way of living mentality. Living the lagom way. Obviously, like everything, it comes from the Vikings. How it translates in the day to day is that Swedes are a really helping community. It’s all about teamwork. For example, let’s say you have a cake and there are 10 people, the lagom way would be to cut the cake in 10. Same thing if there was 100 people. It’s all about team and equality. It’s really hard to describe but I felt the team and equality after like two days.

Fika is Also Great

Fika is probably the most sacred thing in Sweden. It’s basically a “mandatory” coffee break but since Swedes really REALLY like to drink coffee it has to be a thing. This is also interesting because, Swedes don’t like to small talk. Nobody talks to nobody for random reasons, it’s probably a reason why non-Swedes find them so “cold” but they are not really. Anyway, going back to Fika, it’s interesting because THIS is when the Swedes small talk. Fika is all about drinking coffee and talking about whatever. A proper Fika coffee is usually also accompanied with a Kanelbullar (a cinnamon bun).

Swedes Crazy Driving

This is something I saw on my first day here and I still see that a lot every time I go for a walk around town. It looks like, for me, that they usually drive pretty well all around except for one thing.
They U-turn literally everywhere and especially on intersection. I don’t know if it’s legal or not but it doesn’t matter they just go for it.

Stockholm is Beautiful

From Gamla Stan (Old City) to all the island archipelagos here. There is a crazy amount of stuff to see. With all the museums and the old buildings, the statues everywhere, all the parks, the new eco-friendly neighborhoods, the marinas, etc. Seriously, it may be expensive but that’s one hell of a beautiful city.

It’s Over 9000 Restaurants

Well, not 9000 and it’s probably a normal thing in big cities but where I’m from, around the office where I used to work for like 12 years, in a month you could probably get a taste of all restaurants. Here, I don’t think I’ll even be able to test them all. There are just way too many. Also, compared to Quebec, there are foods from everywhere here at walking distance. Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, French, name it!

It’s Public Transport Heaven

There are literally all kind of transportation here, trains, subways, buses, trams and even boats. You can travel a really big distance really quickly here and it’s pretty cheap. Also, the cool thing is that the SL card works will all of the above. No need to think about what to use where. They all work with the same card. The distance I had to cover in a bus that took me one and a half hour in Quebec is taking me 10 minutes here. Except if you want to go far from the city, you don’t need a car at all.

The Personnummer

In Canada we have the SIN (social insurance number). It’s useless. Seriously, it’s a 9 digit number that you pretty much never use and nobody except the government uses it. In Sweden they have the Personnummer, it’s the same thing, a X digit number on a card BUT it’s used everywhere. If you go get a cellphone contract for example, you don’t give your personal data or whatever, you give them your Personnummer. Your address and whatever is related to it. Same thing for your bank account and whatever else. The “downside” (for me it’s not, really) is that all your info are available. Where you live, your phone number, where you work, etc.

Phone Contracts & Internet

This is the things that are cheap here. I was paying $85 a month for a 2GB data in Canada. Here, you can have a 40GB data in ALL of Europe for $35. Same thing with Internet and it goes freaking fast. They had to have something cheaper right?

They Bike a LOT

It’s less apparent than when I was in Malmö but still, Swedes bike a lot. There are bike lanes on pretty much every single street so it’s really easy to bike around the city, sure, again, compared to Malmö there are slopes (Malmö is so flat you don’t even have to change gear) but it’s still really bike friendly.

They Don’t Use Money

Don’t ask a Swede if he can lend you money, it won’t happen. I just saw an article talking about it on the web. Sweden is the fastest country heading for a digital currency only. There are a lot of shops/restaurants/bar that don’t even accept cash anymore. Everything is paid with cards. It goes so much quicker. Even when I was in Quebec I was never carrying cash and I was sometimes missing on street stuff but here, you really don’t have too anyway. Even for street stuff because of:

Swish

Swish is a mobile payment service and it’s the greatest invention ever concerning money. You link your bank account with a app on your cellphone then you can transfer money to however with a simple digits code. No need to use a card reading machine if you have a food truck, simply ask people to Swish you the money.

 

So, I think that’s it for now! I probably forgot stuff but on the other hand I’ve been in Sweden for only a month. More to come for sure.


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Jeff in Sweden – Part 2

Jeff in Sweden – Part 2

Two Weeks at DICE

Even though I worked only 3 days because of the long DICE Easter holiday I’ve done 2 weeks at DICE already. Days are passing so fast it’s crazy.

I’ve heard a few times, before leaving to Sweden, that I was going to work for the worst video game company. Like everything in the industry, the outside is pretty much always different than the inside. For now, I’m really trying to keep my feet on the ground while having part of my head in the cloud.
It’s been only two weeks but the last time I had that much joy going to work in the morning was a long time ago.
I got more support in my first 3 days than what I had in probably the last 5 years.
I already got 2 evening parties and got wasted on the 2nd.
Free breakfast on Friday morning and smoothies for map reviews on the afternoon.
Employee threatment is seriously amazing. And it took me 1 day to get used to this labyrinthic office.

There was a team meeting on Wednesday last week and I felt like I was thrown back in 2006 at Ubisoft when we were all pretty young and motivated about our work. Something that was lost through the years sadly. The meeting lasted an hour I think? Something like that and I felt the passion through people around me. It felt great to see all these managers/producers talking about the game without being really serious and making a lot of jokes about their full-of-memes presentations.

An interesting thing I’ve learn that day was something called Focus Mode. It’s some sort of crunch time without really crunching.
Obviously crunching is a big thing in the industry, sadly, we all know that. But, with some sort of studies and numbers, they discovered that working 2-3 intense weeks instead of crunching for 80 hours a week during 4 months, it was better for everyone.
It’s a pretty simple formula of, everyone start and end their day at the same time without overtime, there’s no meeting at all during those weeks except for playtests and breakfast and lunch are paid.
This sounds pretty great if you ask me.

Gamla Stan

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Gamla Stan is the Old Stockholm. Where it all started. It’s a tiny island in the middle of all this awesome archipelago. Building there are freaking old. This is also where the Royal Palace is located. I went there after my onsite interview in January with my friend Julien (Battlefield Brand Director) but it was during evening, which was pretty dark. So I decided to get back to it at sunlight during my first weekend.

Took a walk around the neighborhood and took a lot of pictures. There, I discovered a thing. On the same street at like, 100m apart from each other, there is Aifur, the awesome Viking restaurant where everything is historical, there is Handfaste, the Viking shop selling all these crazy awesome viking stuff from hunting knives to runic stones and then there’s the SF Bookstore with is a really big geek shop filled with books and boardgames and such.
I guess I’ll spend a lot of time on this specific street in the next few months.

I was seriously fun to walk around the old part of this old city. The narrow streets and the architecture makes it really special for the Quebecer in me. I felt like home in Le Petit Champlain in old Quebec.

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And I Walked More

Yeah, today I went to see the Vesamuseet, where they kept this old 1628 ship in prestine condition. It’s really one of a kind. The museum is at like 1 hour walk from my place so back & forth and the time spent in the museum was pretty much 3 hours of standing and walking. My left foot hurts a bit, sadly but it was worth it.

I really love the European plaza and especially the Swedish parks everywhere. There is so much green around it I can’t wait for the summer. It’ll be breath taking I’m sure about it.

I finished the day going to the cinema. It was pretty interesting to see that they don’t spend time translating movies. They just add subtitles. Which is pretty neat. I don’t have to search for english movies (which is sadly a challenge in Quebec City).

Good times so far!

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Jeff in Sweden – Part 1

Jeff in Sweden – Part 1
BingoLotto, Drinking Soup, First Day at DICE, Jetlag, etc

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Since they lost my suitcase (again), I went for a little walk including shopping to buy clothes on Sunday. Didn’t wanted to go to my first day of work with dirty clothes y’know.

I walked around Södermalm, the neighborhood I’m currently living in. Pretty sweet place I must say.

Residential roads are super duper quiet, I love that.
There are awesome looking restaurant all around the place. It’ll probably take me a year to go check all of them.
Also pretty interesting for me, compared to when I was living in Malmö, when I was working on The Division, there are way more slopes in Stockholm. This adds a lot of awesome view points around its countless islands.

When I came back from the sunny walk I decided to open the TV. Things I’ve probably done 5 times in my adult life.
I never watch TV.

First thing I see is a show called BingoLotto.

YO, Swedes are not messing around with Bingo! WOW.

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Super well dressed people.
A crowd in the back to see the show,
Lots of prizes (it made me think of The Price is Right),
Guest stars,
A band playing songs and ambient music for all the people there when they mark their Bingo sheets as the numbers flow using Swedes names. Bertil, Ivar, Niklas, Gustav, Olaf.

Amazing. Really. It was so relaxing I checked the whole freaking show without any shame!

Then I went to bed early.

Woke up at 230am again. Great.
Took me 4 hours to sleep again then, quickly my alarm rang. It was time for my first day at DICE.

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Morning routine then a sweet 8 minutes walks to the office under a cold sunny/windy day. Thanks to the Nordic Relocation Group, my appartment is super close to work.

Got a tour of the office from my line manager (the office is a real labyrinth), got the access keycard and got information about this awesome next Battlefield game.

When for lunch with my leads.
As an entré I got a soup with no spoon. Then, seeing the guys with me I remembered that Swedes drink their soup. I forgot about that. It’s a small detail yes, but hey, it’s unusual for me ok!

Read a lot of documentation about Level Design philosophie at DICE, and even touched Frostbite a bite before leaving because I would have fell asleep on my desk, thanks to my awesome jetlag.
From now on, I’ll never be able to work without 3 screens. Dawn you DICE and your awesome desks. Standup desks by the way.

On, and they have a few trophies at the reception. Not bad at all.

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I’m still not getting over the fact that I’m living in Sweden.

First day DONE.
GG


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Jeff in Sweden – Part 0

Jeff in Sweden – Part 0

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So I moved to Sweden.

Pretty crazy isn’t it?

Spent 32 years of my like living in cold Quebec then I decided to move to cold Sweden. Even though it’s not really cold here. At least not in Stockholm.

I worked at Massive, in Malmö 5 years ago and since I came back, there’s a part of me that always wanted to go back to Sweden. I fell in love with the country. I didn’t knew when or how I would be back but I knew I would, at some point, go back.

I was not really thinking about working there though. But here I am. Moved to Sweden and starting to work for EA DICE tomorrow.

But this is PART 0 of I don’t know many parts. I’ll write about this crazy adventure as I see fit.
Before moving, I had to say farewell to a lot of people and good bye to close ones.

So I threw a party. One hell of an evening at my favorite medieval restaurant in Quebec, La Chope Gobeline. Lots of people came. People always told me that others like me. But you never know. I threw a party without really knowing who would come. I even invited some people I haven’t seen for years.
The vast majority of them came.

People I love.

Here you can see a part of the people who came.
Long time friends, coworker and ex-coworker from the video game industry.

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It was really awesome to be surrounded by so many people I care about and care about me.

Lots of emotion, amplified by booze, was in the air. Saying farewell to so many people was not easy.

Then, a few days later I got my visa so everything was set.

I was in this process since October.
Phone interviews.
On site interviews.
Dozens and dozens of emails.

It took five months of intense stress for me to get here in Sweden but thanks to EA DICE. Many people helped me.
When you think about it, it costs thousands and thousands of dollars for a company to bring someone over.

They paid for my visa.
They paid for my on site interview.
They paid for my move.
They are paying for my 2 months temporary gorgeous appartment.
They are paying people to help me with every details.

Adding to that is the crazy good conditions DICE is giving me as an employee too!

So here I am, in the beautiful capital of Sweden surrounded by this old and new Swedish architecture and dozens of islands covered in a bit of snow as I write this.

What’s next?
My first day at DICE.
I’m looking forward to this.

After that, we’ll see!


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