Tag: Video Game Industry

#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?


 

Leave a comment if you have any opinions on this or have any questions!
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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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World of Simulator Simulators?

World of Simulator Simulators?

Or Who’s Doing the Dumbest Game

Premise

I can’t remember these days because I was not alive but back in the 80s, video game had a pretty big crash. There were a ton of shitty consoles on the market and game companies where making games like mad men. All gamers probably know what happened back then with the pinnacle of all, E.T. on Atari 2600. People where like “Fuck that industry and their shitty products!”.

I don’t want to say that we’re going into a crash because a lot of people already talked, wrote and screamed about it. I don’t really think that’ll happen. But, why, seriously why, are all these people doing shitty games?

I was about to go to sleep but I saw a popular new release on steam. It’s called… nah, I don’t even want to write the name. People could get interested! I’ll write a few lines instead.

AAA Money Sucker Simulator

Games

This is how I categorize games now a day.

Am I just an old fart who can’t enjoy anything anymore? I don’t think so. I look at game differently for sure since creating games is my job. Like a movie maker probably has a hard time “not complaining” when he watch a movie.

But  seriously. This is how it is right now.

On this post, I just want to talk about the green part.

STUPID INDIE GAMES

For me, it all started with Goat Simulator.

I thought it was funny and “new”. I mean, an open sand box where you do whatever you want with a set of mechanics. You character is a goat. Cool I guess, goat where trendy at that time.

I wonder why it was not a cat simulator that came first though…

Anyway.

I don’t understand people. All these shitty stupid games are doing so well. People enjoy them SO MUCH. But I’m wondering if people really like them or just buy those games because it’s even more stupid than the last one they bought.

I Am Bread for fuck sake! Yes there is gameplay and all but, seriously? You play a fukin’ bread slice. At least, gameplay is decent I guess.

But more recently you have crazy stupid games beyond comprehension.

Who’s Your Daddy… One guy play the dad and one other play the baby. If you are the baby you have to kill yourself. If you are the dad you need to do whatever possible so the baby don’t die. Why the?

Shower with your dad… Beyond shitty pixel art (Realm of the Mad God has its charm at last!) where you play a naked kid seeking for his naked dad taking a shower. Don’t hit the wrong dad though! If you see what they did there…

I could give more example but I don’t want too, people could go buy these games.

On a more serious note. Why are people buying these games seriously? I can understand people who wants to create them, people out there put their green thumbs up on all of these games on steam whenever there’s a new one. It’s even better for them it’s is dumber than the last one I think.

Conclusion

It may sound like a bland rank post. But that’s not exactly my purpose. Venting air was not the purpose either. I would seriously want to know why people are supporting devs who are doing these piles of dump.

I also seriously hope that it’s a trend and that it’ll die soon. Like clickers game for example. It lasted a few and that was perfect.

PS: I really like clickers. I love numbers. Numbers are cool.

 

 

Passion, that state of mind

Passion, that state of mind

– Passion –

It has been a long time since my last blog post. I must say that I didn’t had anything interesting enough to write about. For this one post, I’ll change the format I usually do with the premise and all and I’ll just write stuff. It may be a bit chaotic.

My friend Robin was telling me that he got hooked by my blog and started his own. I must say that it’s pretty nice and I’m glad someone started to write about stuff “because of me”. He also told me that he was waiting for my next post! But still, I had nothing worth a text. Then we talked a bit about random stuff and one thing came out of this, we were talking about the great time we had when we worked on Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands and how passionate we were.

So why not writing about this?

Passion.

But, Passion, related to, obviously, video games. Even more, related to working in the industry.

During the last ten years, I worked on a lot of different projects. I also worked on personal projects “on the side” (they never saw the light of days though). Some of them were awesome and some of them were boring as shit.

One thing that was obvious on all the projects I worked on was, when I was passionate about them, I was working 200%. On the opposite, when I was not, my work was not that good. I’m this kind of person. When I’m passionate about something I’ll work/spend time so much and so hard without even thinking about it. Sadly, when I’m not, I’ll need to kick myself just to do the bare minimum. That sucks, seriously. I know people who can motivate themselves even when they hate what they are doing. Sadly, I just can’t.

I remember back on PoP. Some of my colleagues and myself spent a lot of time, overtime in fact, working on bonus maps. Stuff that was not planed in the game. Maps that were not even part of the story. We were doing that because we were passionate so much about the game and we wanted that game to be the best PoP ever. I even worked, at some point, 14 days straights on that project and I was not forced too. I just wanted to do it. Just for the sake of doing bonus stuff. This is what passion can do to someone. Maybe it’s because I was younger. Who knows?

Obviously, companies, in my honest opinion, should try to focus on stuff related to what drive their employees. Is it easy to do? Hell no. I know it. Especially when you work on a AAA studio. Projects come from head management and you work on that. It’s also pretty rare that you can choose to work on something. More than often managers put you on a project and that’s it.

I had the chance to choose in the past and I must say that I had the opportunity to work on projects that were awesome. Like Might & Magic : Duel of Champions. Another project where we were able to see what a passionate team can do. The whole team was playing the game every day, people were tweaking their decks and all. Everyone on that project was playing every time. That was really awesome to see and the energy people had on the project was contagious.

Sadly, I worked on less projects I was passionate about than the opposite. As a gamer, it helps when you work on projects that you would play. For me, that was not really the case at Ubisoft. I’m proud of every single project I worked on but as a gamer, Ubisoft games are not the kind of games that I like.

So coming back on the point I was talking about earlier, it would be more of a dream to “ask” companies to create games related to the likings of their employees. I guess a few can do it, like Valve for example. I’ve heard that people work on what they like and want. But well, that’s probably why they release one game every 1000 years. But that’s another story.

So I guess the “solution” for me was to find the companies who make the games I liked and work for them. I’m now at Larian. They make RPGs. That’s a style of game that I like a lot. It’s not my perfect type of game as a gamer, I’m an RTS guy. But still, as a gamer, I play RPGs, so that’s pretty awesome!

Maybe the most obvious but also hardest solution for someone who seek passion work would be to start his own company. That’s a bold move though and also pretty risky.

On the other hand, even when you work in the “perfect” environment, sometimes, you have your days/weeks of “meh”. This damn thing when you need to kick yourself to go to work even if everything is awesome. I have this kind of “problem” every few months and I must say that it’s pretty hard for me to get back on track. I don’t know why because, this mood arrives and leaves as fast. One day it’s going “meh” and then the other day it’s going well.

Being passionate about your work is a weird state of mind isn’t it? But one thing for sure is, when you’re “in the flow”. Get the shit done!

Entry “Cost” of the Video Game Industry

– My tips to Video Game Industry –

– Premise –

The video game industry is one of the most lucrative industry in the world (55.05 Billions US dollars in 2015). It’s no wonder why people want to join this new industry. It seems there is a lot of money to make. Well, it’s partially true but still. The fact is, compared to ten or even fifteen years ago, there are so many more people who want to enter and there are a few places available.

You have two options. Either you apply to a job at any company in the world or you start your own. Here, I will cover the first option.

My goal here is to give my five personal tips to people who wants to join the industry so you can be a little bit more prepared. Some of them will probably sound obvious and/or stupid but what I’m writing here is still what I think will give you a better chance to step inside. I can assure you that I’ve done a lot of interviews with people applying to a job in my career and saw even more port-folios. It was not always great.

Here we go.

(Now with a TL;DR at the end!)

– TIP 1 – Be the Best –

Yeah, I start with that. Why the f**k you may ask? Well…

There are thousands of people, in all of the video game job departments, who come from school and want a job. There are not thousands of job opening. Simple formula, demand versus offer. There are some jobs that are probably easier to get into. Let’s say programmer. Not that it’s easy to be a programmer, far from that. It’s more that we need tons of them. It’s still goes back to that first point, there are a big amount of programmers every years who come from school too because people know that we need a lot of them.

So, you need to be the best or, close to it.

I’m not saying that you need to be the best in the world but, from all the people out there you need to make an impression for sure. Aim high, you’ll get great results.

Here in Quebec, you can get a diploma in Game Design. There are around 100 people every year who come from that particular discipline in Quebec City. How many inexperienced Game Designer do you think the companies here hire? My guess is probably one or two. Most probably one in fact.

You need to be the best.

– TIP 2 – Work your a** off –

When you are done from school you normally have a port-folio. Especially if you are an artist of any sort. Programming port-folio is a different story I guess so is game design.

Most of the time, what you have done is school is the bare minimum of what you want to show to anyone in the industry to try to get a job. Sometimes it’s even bellow that.

There are a few people who can get a job straight after the school with only what they have done there. What they show really need to kick a** though.

You need to keep working on your stuff when you are done with school. It’s so important to be able to show something else because like I’ve said with TIP 1, there are thousands of people who come out from school at the same time and probably a few hundred in the city that you live. This means that the people who were in the same class as you will show exactly the same thing as you and vice versa. The same gun, the same low poly character and the same scene with some lighting.

You really need to have more than that to show.

Also, most of the time now, the first job you will probably get will be a contract of a couple of months. There is, sadly, a big chance that the employee will lay you off after. A lot of companies hire people for the incoming crunch and then they lay them off after because they don’t have any job for them when the project is done. I know a lot of people who has experience that.

You need to keep your port-folio up to date at all time because of this.

At least, if that happens, you’ll probably have something to show from the game you worked on.

So, never stop working on your stuff.

– TIP 3 – Create Stuff that Matters –

This is really simple but it seems that it’s not always that obvious. If you want to work for a company you need to show stuff that matters to them.

If your dream job is to work on a 3rd person shooter for company X, create stuff that will be related to a 3rd person shooter that company X has done or is doing. Same thing if you want to work on that RTS franchise of company Y. Create RTS stuff!

It’s that simple. You need to change what you are doing in order to have more chances to step into company X or Y door.

I’ve seen a lot of port-folio with totally unrelated stuff that we were doing at the company I was working for.

Also, create and show stuff that is related to the job position that you dream of.

If you apply to be a Level Artist. Show scenes that you have done. If you want to be a modeler, show assets that you have created.

The person who will watch your port-folio has a small chance to be interested with stuff that is not related to what he/she is looking for.

That gun belongs to the modeler.

– TIP 4 – Be ready to move –

The cool thing is that there are a ton of game companies in the world.

The sad thing is that they seems to be all located in the same spots.

Obviously, where there is already a pool of people, companies what to go there to exploit that pool of talent. Sometimes, companies will also open a studio in a country where the cost of workers is pretty cheap but I’ve no idea if you want to work there. Maybe? Anyway.

Still, if you want to have better chances to get into the industry, be prepare to move. There is probably a small chance that the city you live in, if it’s not a pole like Los Angeles or Montréal, will have tons of video game companies.

If you are inexperience there is small chances that you will be brought by a company on the other side of the world. It can happen though! But it’s pretty rare. At least, you can probably move in the country that you live in. I’m pretty sure all the developed country in the world have a few video game companies.

Don’t be afraid to leave the cozy city you always lived.

Keep the faith and apply everywhere.

– TIP 5 – Be a Professional –

Even if in fact, you are not one still, you need to behave like one.

A professional will show polished stuff. He will show an awesome looking port-folio. He won’t do any mistakes when he write stuff. (I’m pretty sure there are some mistakes here, haha, anyway.) And so on…

If you send a motivation letter to a recruiter with mistakes for example, you’re done.

It’s over.

They haven’t even saw your port-folio! Maybe that was the best one but they will never know. They receive hundred of resume every day, they don’t have time to waste.

We see a lot of crazy stuff you know. At least you are sending an email, it’s not like you would spilled coffee on your motivation letter.

Even if all the point here are 100% important, I could concede that having an awesome port-folio is more important than this. But still, remember that if you show errors, mistakes, unfinished work, buggy levels, you’re done.

Everyone makes errors, yes but…

…A job application needs to be perfect.

– End notes –

I know, it all looks pretty dark right? It’s not that it’s all dark though. The important thing to remember is that there are so many people applying for jobs in the industry that you really need to make an impression.

If you have the will power and the talent, I’m sure that you can get a job somewhere!

TL;DR. There are thousands of people applying for jobs every years so you really need to be in the top to be able to get one. If the stuff that you show is just “meh” you won’t get a job 99.9% of the time. Work hard play hard. Be a professional and show awesome stuff. Everything will go well.