Category: Video games

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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Flow

Flow

waterflow

– Premise –

Once again, every time I write a new blog it feels like there’s 3 life time that has past since the last one. I guess that you have to be in the mood to do that.

Anyway,

Look at the image above. Isn’t it great? Perfectly looping gif of a river flowing. Would be even better with sound. Right? So relaxing.

For some times now I wanted to write about something that is really important to me, probably the 2nd most important thing when I design stuff. The first one being consistency in video games. I’ll probably write about it at some point. Maybe.

You probably have guessed it with the title, I wanted to write about Flow.

Flow is SO important in video games and in life in general. We all have our moments when we are in the flow. You know, when time flies so fast because you’re having fun or when a day at work feels like it lasted 30 minutes. We all know what it is and damn it’s great.

It’s the same thing in video games.

So, let’s talk about it.

– Flow in Games-

– Guitar Hero –

guitarflow

I will assume that, we ALL have played guitar hero when it was like THE thing to do in every party. I wanted to kick that blog with this game because being in the flow in that game was so good and rewarding. When you were doing that expert white notes solo during Freebird looking at the notes combo going up, tilting that guitar to activate the star power and still going up and up.

You were in the flow.

Games can be created in order to help keeping the flow, and even more, rewarding players when they keep it. That’s how pretty much everything was designed in Guitar Hero.

– Mario Bros –

marioflow

Mario games in general are pretty good for this. I will boldly say that ­~99% of the time you can start a level running and if your timing in good enough you’ll be able to get to the end without stopping even once. The exception being auto-scrolling levels and such.

Sometimes (often) even, they place goombas, koopas and other enemies in such a way that you can jump on all of them in consequences to gain a 1up.

Rewarding the player when they are in the flow.

– Rayman Legends –

rayman

The new Rayman games are pretty good for that. The way they place the enemies and the collectibles. It’s a really well done Level Design job for that. I’ll write about Level Design and flow in a few minutes. Platformers in general are really good for flow.

They also even make the music flow to your play. Which is also a nice reward for players.

– Flow (the game) –

Flow_logo

Last example is Flow. I had to write about the game with the same name right? I could have also wrote about Flowers and other great “experiences” games like that but that’s not the goal of this blog post. I want to get to Level Design at some point.

In flow, you started as a small entity, eating smaller entities to get bigger to eat bigger entities and so on. It was the perfect example of flow because you had your reward straight in your face, getting bigger and bigger.

So I guess you get the point now. I’ll write about a few of my own experience with Flow in Level Design and how I was (we were) handling it.

– Flow in Level Design –

– Assassin’s Creed Navigation –

I’ll start with that, since, well, I worked on 6 or 7 of them, I don’t remember. Navigation in Assassin’s Creed is all about flow.

That’s a 1 button press game. Navigation in AC is not about challenging the player, it’s about letting the player go for A to B easily and to let him be in short burst of flow during that. Enjoying the smoothness of it.

There are a ton (and when I say a ton it’s a ton) of different metrics in AC games. Obviously, when you press the right trigger to run and the character starts running and jumping on pole and flags by itself, yes, the animations and all is handled by the engine, but each ingredients had to be placed by hand by a Level Designer (almost) to ensure a smooth navigation from A to B.

At least, for navigation, metrics and rules were pretty straight forward.
Every navigation sequences in AC begin with, what we called, a starter. Then after that, if we wanted to keep the flow it was a simple set of metrics.
To keep the character on his feet and running we could either put the next ingredient 5 meters ahead at the same height (5-0), 4 meters ahead and 1 meter higher (4-1) or 3 meters ahead and 2 meters higher (3-2). Nothing less, nothing more.
Like this:

ACnav.png

Ingredients could be whatever from a pole, to a tree branch to an awning and such. The only important thing was to place ingredients at the write spot.
We could also had an ingredient at (if I recall correctly) 4 meters higher and 3-4 meters farther to make the character grab the ingredient and keep going. It was good to change the pace. Instead of having a jump, jump, jump, jump sequence we could had jump, grad, jump grab, and so on.
Nobody likes seeing the same thing over and over.

The important thing was (and I talked about it at the beginning) to be consistent. It helps keep the flow on something like navigation in AC. Always respect your metrics.

– Divinity: Original Sin –

Divinity: Original Sin (or DoS), in a top down isometric CRPG.
It’s really slow paced.
There was still a strong importance of Flow in Level Design even in that game and what I’m about to write can be applied to every single Level Design.

Rule #1: We hate dead ends*.
Rule #2: We hate corridors.

Yeah, that’s it.
Seriously.

In DoS, you walk a lot, you can fast travel from location to location but most of the time you walk/run. How annoying is it in a game when you get at the end of a freaking long dead end and the only thing you can do is walk back?
That’s annoying, damn that’s annoying.

*(Small dead ends leading to collectibles/reward/secret is strongly suggested though)

DoS navigation was all about loops.
Bellow is the map of the first act (may contain spoilers and whatnot). You can easily see the loops there.

(There are few dead ends, long ones, I know. I hate them, you can’t oversee everything. At least they lead to combat zones and big rewards. You have to ship a game at some point right?)

FortJoyMap

Having loops helped for two things:
The flow,
The sense of open exploration.

Obviously, in a open map like this, you’ll have to get back at some point but with loops, it happened a lot that people where going one way and coming back by another so even though they were backtracking, they were still, in their mind, moving forward because it was still unexplored area.
Then, when the loops lead to some sort of dead ends, well, that’s where you put a fast travel ingredient/location to go back quickly. MAGIC!

So the important thing here is to always keep the player engaged. When there is always something new, it keeps him in the flow of exploration. They are both (flow/exploration) linked with each other.

– Ending Notes –

Flow is a really important thing, as said above. We all love that.

Can we keep the player in the flow 100% of the time? No.
They will either get stuck in a challenge, die, or anything like that.

Everything is good with moderation.

Remember that Prince of Persia made in 2008? The cell shading one? You were not able to die in this game. Elika (I think that was her name) was always getting you out of trouble. You know, it was really good for the flow. You were always engaged. It was also super exhausting and even boring to some extend.

BUT,

Players should never get stuck exploring/navigating. If a player is stuck, it’s out fault, seriously. And if they get stuck, it breaks the flow hard but not for the good reason.

Keep your players engaged during exploration in your levels.
Create as few dead ends as possible and if you do, make them small and put rewards. It’ll keep the player engaged during exploration (see above, heh).
If you have metrics for your game, respect them, always. Creating false calls for your players will create frustration and break the flow.

Alright, that’s enough text. I think I’ll talk about Shapes next.
EDIT: I could have wrote a whole book about this. Live everything in fact but the goal was to how a thing or two about Flow. Not to write a thesis or anything.


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Radial Level Design

Radial Level Design

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– Premise –

I wanted to write something like for a long time now. Talking about some of the process I’ve used in my career. This time, I’ll write about Radial Level Design. Most specifically the process I used to create London on Assassins Creed: Syndicate at the start of the project when we were only me as Lead Level Design and the Level Design Director Jo.

“What’s Radial Level Design?”, you’ll say. Or even, “What is this weird term?”

Well, this is what I’ll explain in the lines bellow. The goal is to share what I’ve learned on creating a city that exist in real life with all it’s landmarks and personalities in a video game.

Disclaimer: I’m not working at Ubisoft anymore so no image whatsoever will be taken from the actual game and I’ll even take a completely different city for the purpose of this explanation.

– The Process –

The first thing you have to keep in mind while doing a real city in a video game is that obviously, you won’t (well, most of the time I guess) be able to recreate that city as is. The goal though, is still to give a really good feeling of “I know this part!” to the player if they have already visited that city and to respect the city itself.

AC Syndicate was set in the Victorian London era during the Industrial Revolution. One thing that was really interesting and useful for us is that it’s during that time that a lot of stuff that we are still doing today came to be. Like, photography. That was so good for references purpose, even though most of the pictures were pretty much take 20-30 years later than our period in the game, points of interest in a city barely ever change though the years.

So, since I’m from Quebec, I’ll take the beautiful Quebec City as an example throughout this blog post and refer to the process we were doing.

Here is a google satellite view of a part of Quebec.

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– Step 1: The Landmarks –

The first step is to take a map and identify the landmarks and/or all the points of interest.

Landmarks are the spots where every tourists go visit when they are travelling.
Points of interests (PoI) are less important part of a city that still attracts a lot of people.
One last thing that is also a point of interest in itself is a park. Nature/vegetation in a city is always something that creates a wow.

These areas are the pillars of the city. This is where the majority of the production time will be spent. These areas can’t really be bent or altered.
This is also the areas that the player will remember in a game and help him/her navigate in the city remembering where he/she is.

In the map bellow I marked the Landmaks with blue dots, the PoI in orange and parks in yellow.

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– Step 2: The Main Roads and Water –

The 2nd step is to identify the main roads of a city and where the important water flows. I’m not talking about a tiny river here, I’m talking about a nice river or a lake.

Identifying where the main roads are will help you structure the city. The landmarks are where the attention will be gathered but the roads are the back bones, the spine of the city.

The rivers, on the other hands are good mainly to create guidelines to the players. How many times in your life as a gamer have you followed a river? That’s super easy to follow right? Also, sometimes, they are really useful as path blockers or end of map. How many game world end into the ocean at some point?

Another thing that can give a nice guideline to the players are railroads.
We don’t have a lot of important railroads in Quebec so I’ll skip that in the example.
On a side note, in London, on AC, it was on the contrary, really important.

In the image bellow, in blue are the rivers (not a lot!), in red, the main road.
There is also something pretty interesting in Quebec, the city is made on plateaus. The upper city and lower city are separated by a pretty big cliff. There is also another (even bigger) cliff going down the St-Lawrence river.
So, in this specific example, it’s pretty important to take that in consideration.
I represented that with the yellow lines.

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– Step 3: The Districts/Neighborhoods –

Normally this part should be easy. You basically have to split the city into districts. If you are recreating a real city, this should be pretty straight forward.
The goal here is to create zones, not too much, not too little.

Note: This is related to the game you’re doing. Maybe you need 50 different zones, maybe you need 5. So either way, don’t hesitate to merge some or split some if needs be. Back on AC, splitting London into districts, we ended up with 11 at first. (I’ll talk about that later because you always end up with less.).

You can see in the image bellow that I ended up with 9 districts in white.

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First interesting obvious point, just following the river/roads creates districts by itself.
Second interesting point I found that the game would probably be big enough cutting it after that big road to the left. There was just a park after that anyway!

Note: Even in conception, it’s important to think about the production of the game. What is useless now, will also be useless later. So don’t hesitate to cut stuff already.

We had the same thing happening on AC. There was one super cool landmark that was so off of the city that even if that was a really good one, we decided to cut it already at that state of conception.

– Step 4: The Cropping –

Alright, this is the most important part of the process and the hardest. This is also where the whole purpose of this process takes place.

Designing in Radial around the landmark areas after the cropping.

Right now, we have all that we need to create the city but obviously, it’s way too big for a game. Well at least, London was way too big as is, for an AC game. We had to cramp 50 square kilometers into 2×3 kilometers. That was a constraint we had for a lot of different reasons that I won’t explain here.

Note: Again, think about production here but it’s ok to think bigger. You’ll end up, I can assure you, cutting more and more during the production of the game.

So, what you do here is that you take the software that you want and you draw the global layout of the city taking every single landmark/PoI you’ve tagged above related to your main roads, rivers and other important thing you pointed out.
It’s time to go a little bit more micro and it’s time to bend reality.

Note: It’s important to remember that this is conception and that this step is strongly going to change for different reason in production. But this is just an example.

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This is what I came with.
I left the step 3 map under to show the difference in size.
Everything that was on step 3 is still in but is also way closer.
If you see, there’s now a green line (I forgot that on purpose for the sake of the example). Sometimes, you’ll find new interesting things to add as you discover the city more and more.
Around Old Quebec there’s a huge wall, remnant of the construction of the fort, around the city. It’s pretty important! This is the green line.
You can also see that I went from 9 districts to 7.
Cropping everything forced some districts to disappear since they were not needed anymore.
Another point here is that district 5 has no landmark or PoI at all. I like the shape of it since it completes the global layout of the map but if cuts are needed in production, I would kick that one out or bend it to merge with 4 and/or 6. Could also do the same thing with 7.

– Step 5: Radial and Micro –

Now, it’s time to go micro and crop again, on a micro scale, if possible.
For the sake of the example I’ll take the part of the map at the top-right with a bunch of blue points (landmarks).

At this step, the radial design finally comes to life.
There I take a closer look at the map, mark the exact landmark (blue in the image bellow) and make some kind of circular shapes around them.
I usually make a tiny shape around the landmark itself (orange) so the facade around the landmark looks exactly how it’s in real life. It’s important.
Then, I draw another shape around the last one, a bit bigger (yellow), this is the back of the facades and it should respect shapes, since it’s still pretty close to the landmarks.

Sometimes, really often in fact, landmarks are really close to each other so it’s pretty important to create shapes around them all in one. You can see that on the left of the image. There are 4 landmarks really close to each other.

After doing this for all the landmarks in an area, you can chop in the meat. Everything between landmarks are filler. Something that is not important to do as is. It’s shown in the second part of the image bellow.

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You can see here that, the right landmark is way closer. I chopped in the meat. Then, I draw the roads on a micro scale, leaving the mains roads that we had earlier in step 2 becasue they are still the back bones of the city and adding some more to make small areas, thinking about flow and other level design principles.

Then you rinse and repeat for all the landmarks, PoI and other marked areas of your city.

– Step 6: Finishing Up –

So at this stage, you’ll have a pretty detailed first draft of your city. For this step I won’t put an image because it’ll just look like a spider web with all the lines and circles but I’m sure you get the idea.

Now it’s time to put that in the game!

What I do normally is that I put the image I created in photoshop and export that so I can use it as a texture in a 3D software. I put that on a plane, scale it so it makes sense for the size of the main character and then I just create 3D shapes out of the image. Respecting everything that was made above.

Then you put that in the game editor, check the flow and the size, and tweak and check again and tweak again until it feels good enough.
At this point, it’s normal game development. Creating the vistas, the beauty shots, thinking about the flow again, going micro on the filler areas and so on. Then testing again and tweaking again.

– Ending notes –

So, like every single design process, this can be bent and changed, useful or useless. Everyone has his own way of designing things. I found that method was pretty good for planning ahead. It’s pretty straight forward and easy to do.

This is also a a method that can be used to create any kind of map in general. Obviously you will start from blank but building in radial around landmark is one pretty usual thing to do. With that, your layout, your world, will be structured.

Hope that gave you, readers, ideas for some future projects.

I would like to thank Jo Dumont, he’s the one that showed me this method back then.


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Speed “Level Design”

Speed “Level Design”

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Image from worldofleveldesign.com.

I discovered not so long ago, the existence of Speed “Level Design” on youtube.

It’s pretty much the same thing as speed drawing but it’s someone creating a scene in an editor.

It’s fun to watch and most of the time really relaxing thanks to their taste in music. Most of them ending up to be really good looking!

It’s like looking at someone doing a 3D painting.

Well, that’s my problem.

In my opinion, from the dozens of videos I’ve watched, this has almost nothing to do with level design. That’s why the title of this blog is quoted.

I could even dare to say that Speed Level Design is, yep, complete bullshit.

By definition, if we take the words Level and Design, I guess we could say that this trend is, yes, indeed, Level Design because there’s a level and there’s a design process behind it. More of an art/visual process though. That’s pretty much the only thing it has to do with Level Design.

All the videos are pretty much the same. They put a static camera in an angle and create a scene from that single point of view.
So how is it supposed to relate to any Level Design of a game? If someone, who has no clue about what Level Design is supposed to be, they will get a really wrong idea of what it’s indeed supposed to be.

Level Design is about gameplay, flow, difficulty curves, rhythm, emotions and yes composition. Calling something Level Design when the only process shown is composition is really more relevant to Level Art than anything else. Level Designers take the gameplay ingredients available to them and create fun out of it.
Creating a scene, yes beautiful, but filled with trees and rocks with a small pond and a boat has obviously nothing to do with what was written above.

Those video should be about taking an actual setup, a game, then creating a map for it. Creating paths, creating flows, then showing how do they approach their setup from different angle. Showing potential difficulty and especially explain why it’s supposed to be difficult and so on. Then in the end, making it beautiful.

But that defies the purpose of speed isn’t it? Obviously.

I know that watching a video about something that is not really good looking would be pretty pointless or really niche. People in general want to see beautiful things come to life. But yet, this is not the main goal of the Level Designer.

They should just call that Speed Scene Creation, Speed Environment Design maybe or even Speed 3D Art, something like this. At least it would not be giving a wrong idea of what Level Design is.


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PAX SOUTH

paxsouth

PAX SOUTH

– Premise –

Last year I went to PAX East. It was one hell of an experience and this time I was also able to go to PAX South in San Antonio.

It was probably as exhausting than last time but in some way, smoother. PAX South is pretty new so it’s really smaller than East and Prime/West.

Let’s write about this.

– Same but not the same –

I thought I would live the same thing again when I accepted to go to PAX South but luckily enough for me, it was pretty different.

Yes, the booth was the same but a bit better.

The computers were a hassle to plug and making sure everything was working was also pretty annoying every morning because, thanks to computer science, there’s always something that breaks. One day it was an HDMI cable, the other was a USB port, the other day the Ethernet, etc…

This time, since Early Access of the game came out in September, we were showing the campaign instead of the arena mode. I went really smoothly. People were enjoying the character creation and then the main campaign. They had 20 minutes and I’m pretty sure that the appreciation was like 99.9% positive.

Obviously, if you wait one hour to play a game, you’re there because you want to play that game.

I was still pretty surprised by the amount of player who never played the game nor the first one.

Anyway, everybody had a blast.

me
(Mathiew and me with my poker face)

– Shout out to the volunteers –

This time, there was no Lady Killer (even if Sarah and Kelsey were there <3). Instead, we had five volunteers with us.

Needless to say, they were all amazingly good.

James, Lori, Kyle, Mathew and Shawn. Five people from Texas. Five complete fan of the game. I think if I add all the time they played just the early access I probably bust 600 hours easily.

It was awesome to work with them. They helped us A LOT.

– I played the Switch –

YES.

Yes, I’ve played the Switch. When I saw that Nintendo was two booths away from our I was really excited. The first day, Thomas (the video guy) and me waited for 45 minutes before the convention started and we barely made it to play 10-15 minutes of Breath of the Wild.

It felt really good.

The controller, the graphics, the switch itself.

Yeah, day one buy for me!

– Still no time for anything –

Yeah, like last time, everybody start to work at the same time and end at the same time. So I didn’t had the chance to try anything except the Switch because they were open earlier for the press.

There was still a huge part dedicated to board games and table top games which I totally missed. I saw a lot of really interesting games and all but, obviously, had no time to play.

This is seriously some kind of torture. All the great stuff but you can just look when you take a 10 minutes break to walk around.

– Ending notes –

Like last time, it was an exhaustingly amazing experience. I wanted to go to another convention last time and I still want to go to another. Next one is PAX East in one month in Boston. Crossing my fingers so I can go there.

I also really want to go to PAX Prime/West.

There is still a lot of work to do with the game but we’re getting there.

us
Our amazing team: Kyle, Lori, James, Mathiew, Shawn, Sarah, me, Swen, Thomas, Michael, Kieron, Kiril

The Good old Days

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The Good old Days

Fuck new technology.

Yeah, that’s a harsh start isn’t it?

I decided to buy Final Fantasy XV on Xbone today (this article has no relation to FF whatsoever except to start the story). My Xbone is taking some dust here and there. I play a game and then my console goes to sleep for months. Last game I played was Darksouls III.

Whatever.

Seriously, every, single, time, I open my Xbone I have the same message, “It’s time to update!” and there we go. Four, five, six gigabytes of whatever to download. It takes forever, it’s not that my connection is bad or anything but I don’t download 1 GB per sec.

Then after the update is downloaded, the console installs it. At least, this part is pretty quick.

Then, hurray, you get in and also pop that CD in to… well, you know it, start another update. It obviously depends on the game, but it can takes a shit ton of time.

Tonight I had the chance, also, to fuck up my login so I was not able get into my account. You then have to change password, enter a few codes here and there, get some mails, reset other stuff and so on. It took me ages to understand that I had to go on the web and reset the account I was NOT logged in because for whatever reason, I was logged, on my laptop to another microsoft account that was not the one I was using for my xbone.

OK, that part, I think, is on me. But you know, when the only error message you get is “There is a problem on your account, go on the Internet to fix it”… well, fuck that.

Remember the good ol’ days? When you bought a game and it tooks you MORE time to get the cartridges from the Box that starting the game? You were putting the cartridge in, you were pressing power and BOOM you were able to play by pressing START. Yeah, sometimes you had to wait for a logo or 2, but that was it.

Even the freaking television now have fucking loading screens.

Maybe I’m being impatient or maybe it’s just fucking bullshit.

Back in the days, people had to do things without any big flaws because you were not able to update anything. Not the firmware of the console. Not the game. Nothing.

Fuck technology. Seriously.

PS: I opened my Xbone at 9pm. It’s 11:30pm now and FF update is at 49%. Fuck this.


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Pause Please

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Pause Please

I hate meetings.

I. HATE. Meetings. Seriously.

From every single bit of work I had to do in my career, I must say that meetings are probably the part I hated (and still hate) the most.

For me this is amazing how much time and money we lose in meetings. It’s rare, from what I experienced, that meetings were straight forward, to the point without any sliding whatsoever.

During the years, I’ve learned two things:

  • You don’t have to stay in a meeting where you strongly think you don’t belong
  • As an analytic person, I need time to give proper answer to problems

I’ve never checked if I had some kind of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or just that I’m a hyperactive guy (the second option may be more accurate) but I’m really hard for me to just stay at a table around a bunch of people arguing with each other for hours.

The people who know me all know that “I have to click”. Standing still for me is really hard. Weirdly enough, I lose focus after a short period. I start thinking about whatever else and I’m just gone mentally. So being in the meeting or not, at some point, doesn’t change anything because my mind is still gone.

Luckily for me, at Larian, I don’t have meetings. I think I had like 4 in one and a half year. Compared to the number of meetings I had at Ubisoft, especially when I was a lead (sic). I learned that I just had to leave the meetings at some point. It was just useless for me, most of the time, to be in some meetings and I was honestly thinking I was better used in front of my computer.

Going back to the second point I wrote above, I’m not an impulsive person in the sense that most of the time if I get in front of a situation or a problem, as an analytic person I must analyze every single possibility, every single outcome (to some extend) and then, I can say what I must say about a subject.

It is not because I’m a slow thinker, it’s mostly the opposite. I’m a really fast thinker but I need to think about everything.

When I’m in a situation where I have to give an answer quickly without analyzing outcomes I often struggle and I say things that I didn’t wanted to simply because I didn’t had time to think about them.

For me, going to a meeting is, most of the time, putting myself in a situation where I won’t have any control on the outcome because I won’t be able to give enough time to analyze all the possibilities. Obviously meaning that I would be better used anywhere else than there.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried different approaches like preparing myself to a meeting, learning about the subjects and all. It’s good. For real. I still have the same problem though. I come prepare, I explain my point, we argue and at some point, I’m back on square one. I need to analyze to give proper answers.

I know that I’m not alone having this issue but either we are not a lot or a lot of people are just not considering this as important as me to be able to properly think before answering.

So yeah, all in all, after 11 years, I still hate meetings!

 


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Being Healthy – A MUST

Mind-and-Body-Balancing

BEING HEALTHY – A MUST

– Premise –

Not so long ago, I wrote about teaching (or not) level design. In that post I said that I was going to give a workshop in Ireland. A really awesome trip for sure. But I had to cancel it.

I sadly canceled (read reported) it for the sake of my health.

I’m starting to get older it seems.

You know, there are stuff that I can’t do anymore like getting shitfaced one day and being perfectly fine the day after for example. I can’t eat a whole pound of poutine before going to sleep either. I’ll throw up for sure.

I almost passed out when I was at PAX in Boston. Probably a mix of not enough sleep, ending of a cold and the fact that adrenaline and redbull went out at the same time. Well at least, this is what I was thinking back then.

I canceled my trip to Ireland because I had A LOT of vertigo/dizziness for a couple of weeks. I didn’t felt great about it and I went to pass a lot of tests. Blood samples, electrocardiogram, ears, you name it. What I realized is that everything was A1. Heart is good, ears are good, blood is good, etc.

So? You guessed it. It was all due to stress and mostly anxiety. I had a hard time believing this, as a really down to earth guy myself but after thinking a lot about it I realized that it was probably true.

– Anxiety – The Cancer of the Century –

Funny enough (it isn’t really) I realized that a bunch of close friends of mine are all having anxiety to a certain degree. All of them consulted related to this. Lots of ex-colleagues also have the same problem.

I’m writing about this because this is probably the crap that affect most game developer. Anxiety is a nasty stress related problem and stress, you know it, leads to nothing good at all. Stress is the most evil thing these days and depression is more than often caused by it.

I know 5 people working in the industry who are not working right now because of this and know probably as much who had to stop working for a long period of time in the past for the same reason.

Luckily enough, I was able to figure that out before it was too late. Seeing how broken my friends are, I didn’t really wanted to end up like them.

The thing about a problem in the mind compared to a problem on your body is that it takes so much time to fix and that there’s no magical formula. When you break a leg, there is a specific solution to that and it works. When you are chemically unbalanced in your head only time and proper behavior will fix that. For some people it takes a month, for other it takes years.

– The Three Eights –

This is how I called them. The Three Eights. You have 24 hours in a day separated in three parts.

In a perfect world, your days should look like this:

  • 8 hours of sleep
  • 8 hours of work
  • 8 hours of something else (and it should be FUN)

Most humans, like myself, can’t really cut the working part. Some people work 7 hours a day but most people work 8.

Since you have to go to work and come back to work. Most of the time, you can easily add one more hour to that. You either cut on the sleep part or the fun part. I myself, for years, was cutting on the sleep part.

Getting back on the part that I’m getting older means that I need sleep to be able to work properly. We all know that not enough sleeps leads also to a lot of bad things and mostly to stress.

The thing that I realized when I was talking to my doc’ is that she really emphasized on the 8 hours of something else fun. I also discovered that my vertigo/dizziness was never happening when I was doing activities that I liked.

When I was coming back from work, I was thinking about work. I was reading stuff about work on the internet, going on forums and such. It was still strongly related to work. A big chunk of my something else was still work.

I had to cut that out and that’s what I made. I’m really trying hard to make sure that the 8 hours of fun I have each day is really 8 hours of fun and enjoyable activities.

You should do the same for sure.

– Don’t Wait Before it’s to Late –

So, to be short here. Listen to your body.

Your body is talking to you every day so is your brain.

As the saying,

“Being in a depression is not being weak, it’s because one was strong for too long”

People I know that are mind sick all told me that their body were sending them messages but they were not listening. We all know that in the industry, we’ll do, at some point, crunches. Seriously, don’t kill yourself for someone who doesn’t even know your name so he/she can make millions of bucks. Even if that person know your name.

Do overtime when it’s needed and that’s it. And even if it’s needed, you should not stick to it. I’ve had weeks of 70-80 hours of work in the past. I was young. I was fool and passionate. I’m still passionate but I don’t do this anymore. No one should do this. It’s plain bad.

Don’t push your body and especially your mind to a state you won’t be able to recover.

– Ending Notes –

The video game industry is one of a kind. It’s a competitive industry no doubt about it and what I mean by this is that you are always needed to push yourself to the limit. If also happen a lot of time that the limit needed is over your personal limits. Short deadlines, under-staffing, crazy mandate, etc, lead to bad planning and overtime, crazy overtime.

It saddens me to see so many cool people around me being mentally sick right now. All because some crazy producers pushed them way over their limits but they were too kind and said yes every single time without listening to their body.

Remember, work 8 hours, sleep well and enjoy the rest of your day with a happy mindset. Killing yourself at work gives you nothing.

“Oh it gives me bonuses” you may say.

Well, sorry to tell you that a few thousands buck won’t do any good if you can’t even go out without crying for no reason.

Peace.

 


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PAX EAST

PAX

PAX EAST

– Premise –

PAX East 2016 was the first time I was able to go to a game convention as a exhibitor and that was also the first time I was going to a game convention at all.

I must say that this was some really awesome and exhausting experience. Probably the most exhausting weekend I had in my life by far. It took me a few days to get back from that (mostly because I got sick but still).

So, why not write a blog about the experience I got and, once again, the pleasure I had to interact with Larian community.

– I’ve Never Talked that Much –

Seriously, I think that my throat is still not back at its full potential. This is just crazy the amount of talking I’ve done in these three days, saying the same thing over and over again.

We were presenting the brand new combat system we’ve made for Divinity Original Sin 2 or, well, the improvement we’ve made from the 1st game. That was still a lot of stuff to explain to people. Half (random statement) of the people hadn’t played the 1st one yet.

People had 15 minutes to try the game. That was pretty short but we had SO MANY people at our booth all day that it was the maximum that we could give. So I had to explain the whole combat system and the improvements we’ve made in like, 3-4 minutes to make sure the people who waited for like, one hour, had still 10ish minutes to play and that they knew what to do.

My speech was so tweaked by the end of the 2nd day, it was crazy. My mouth just became a machine expulsing words in a perfect way to make everyone understand in the least amount of time. On the 3rd day though, I was starting every one of my speech apologizing to people that my voice was complete crap. People laughed every single time, at least. Talking during 8-9 hours every day, three days in a row, is something.

Game conventions like this are a serious throat killing experience.

I talk a lot in general. I’m like that. My friends know about this. But I seriously never talked that much in a short period of time. When I was not explaining the game to people I was still talking to fans about DoS2 in general or with my colleagues.

I came home on Monday and took off on Tuesday. I haven’t said a single word during that day. It felt really great.

Seriously. Even for me.

– The People –

Wow, SO, MANY, people. And I’ve heard that PAX East is “small” compared to PAX Prime. I’m having a hard time thinking about how crazy Prime is about. I mean, at Larian, we are obviously not Blizzard or Wargamming or whatever other companies who attracts thousands of people. But still, the booth was full ALL the time.

Gates were opening at 10:00am and 5 minutes after, the booth was full and the line was already starting to be filled with people.

Amazing people.

Every single person who came to our booth really wanted to play the game and were amazed by what they saw. Even if that was just a small PvP demo to showcase the combat system.

On the 2nd day, I started to recognize people. I had at least a dozen of them coming back a 2nd time end even a 3rd time to play the game! They liked it so much that they were happy to wait like another hour during their day to replay that small demo for 15 minutes. For me it was just amazing. Amazing to see the support we have from our fans.

Even if we had a few hiccups, like game crashing for example, people were still having a lot of fun and they were all really comprehensive.

We had some pretty well known people coming also, Brittney Bombacher, AngryJoe, Jesse Cox, Bikeman, Tom Marks (from PC Gamer) and so on. I’ve also heard (and I was really sad because I missed him) that Total Biscuit came to our booth. He was really undercover though. It was really cool to see all these awesome people stopping by to play the game with Swen (Larian CEO).

I also had the best bro hug from Bikeman.

And I got a lot of other bro hugs from fans.

Good times.

– Lady Killer –

Lady Killer is a small transmedia/marketing/management/production group of awesome and beautiful geek women. They were working with us at the booth, helping us doing a lot of stuff, managing the cosplayers and ensuring that everything was going smoothly for us.

They are seriously killing it.

I had SO MUCH fun working with them and hanging out after each night.

Super professional and on point on everything.

I seriously wish two things now:

That I’ll be able to go to another game convention and that I’ll be able to work with Lady Killer crew again.

Seriously, go follow them @LadyKillerRocks

– Ain’t Nobody Got Time for This –

Yeah, the sad note for me at PAX was that, well, I was not there “to have fun”. I was there to work. Which is an awesome thing (if you don’t think about that fact that I haven’t had any weekend!). On the other hand, I would have really liked to be able to try some of the games there.

There was this one big Monster Hunter booth that I was just going crazy about. Was not able to play.

There was also that HUGE part of the convention only dedicated to board games. I was like, OMGOMGOMGOMG. But yeah, was barely able to speak to a guy from Cool Mini or Not on Saturday morning and that was it.

You basically just don’t have time to go around. If you have time, I would say that you are not doing your job OR because you’re over staffed for the event.

Our goal was to meet with the fan and talk to them about the game. Since the booth was always full, well, I was always having something to do!

But still, wouldn’t have been sad to have time to get around stuff, hehe.

– Ending Notes –

All in all, like I said above, it was THE most exhausting week end of my life but I had a serious blast there. I thanked Swen a few times for allowing me to be there. I know that I’ve made a good job there at least.

I will never get enough of Larian fans telling us how much they love what we’re doing.

So, like I said, I really hope that I’ll be able to go to other game conventions like this. Even if I’m sure that I’ll die younger because of that! haha.

But yeah, the expectations are starting to get pretty big. We’ll need to ship that big of a game at some point right?