Welcome to three years later! You can now witness, first hand, my blog’s revival; like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it will ascend through the swirling maelstrom of time and retake its position as one of the blogosphere’s most obscure, unknown and least read weblogs.
A number of events have taken place since I wrote my last entry, so let me get you up to speed: Language-studies, romance, part-time (60%) work as a system developer, trip to Iceland, trips to Singapore, vacations in Norway, engagement ring, more trips to Singapore, more part-time work (80%) and less time (20%) for game project, wedding-feast, and more! Most recently, I moved to Singapore, where I am currently residing on an LTVP (Long-Term Visit Pass) and have just started looking around for potential work in the Singaporean game development industry. That about sums it up for now, I think?
Anyway, this first post of the new era will be rather short, but rest assured that I will (again) try to post more regularly in the coming days, weeks and/or months. Or years. If this plan holds water, expect to see posts concerning the fate of a certain game project, as well as tales of my new adventures in Singapore(!) and other random nonsense.
The website for the game I mentioned working on in my previous blog post, The Tavern, is now finally up and running. It has taken longer to get the page ready than I originally anticipated, but… meh, that’s life. Things happen, and not always in the optimal order. In any case, it’s up there now, at http://www.thetaverngame.com/. Check it out if you wish.
Just in case you don’t know what The Tavern is, and you’d rather not go through the trouble of clicking the link to find out, I’ll save you the trouble and post a descriptive blurb + some early screenshots right here:
The Tavern is a short-story oriented, event-driven “Socially Multiplayer Online Roguelike-like Roleplaying Game” (or a SMORRPG, for short), set in a pseudo-medieval sword and sorcery-like fantasy world. The game has a split focus between solo adventuring and socializing/interacting with other players in social hubs, aka taverns.
Taverns are gathering spots for adventurers and would-be heroes of all kinds, and serve as social hubs where the players can hang out, show off their characters, socialize and interact with other players in various ways. This is also where players can find Adventures.
An Adventure is a self-contained short-story where the player must choose a path through the world in order to finish the story and resolve the objective of the Adventure. Randomization, branching choices, unique events, rare monster encounters and special character class abilities all help making each adventure a unique experience for the player.
In other news, I still don’t know how to end blog posts, so I’ll just write out something random down here. It’s not very likely that anyone bothers to read all the way to the end, anyway. And in case you actually did read to the end, well… what do you want, a cookie? Sheesh.
Well, bureaucracy has been overcome, and Way North Studios AS is at last an officially registered company in Norway. Huzzah!
To celebrate, we registered a domain name (http://www.thetaverngame.com) for the game we’re making (codename, and actual name: The Tavern) and put up a small prototype test/teaser thing. Be warned! It requires the Unity Webplayer plugin and it’s not super impressive. It doesn’t actually do anything except just sit there and play some ambient effects at you as the artificial wind blows through the trees surrounding the placeholder tavern building (it’s just a model!).
It does, however, give an indication of what we want the game’s graphics to look and feel like.
Having been back in Norway for nearly three weeks already, I can hardly sit still in anticipation of finally being able to get up in the mornings and go to work at a location actually intended for getting work done, using a computer that’s not more than a decade old and doesn’t try to oppose me at every click of the mouse, at the supermegaawesome office of the top-secret (shh!) and not-yet-officially-launched indie game development studio I’m co-founding – Way North Studios!
*gets up and dances a jig*
What’s the hold-up? Partly, waiting for the new computers, paperclips and/or dance-dance-revolution mats? we ordered to arrive (any day now – woho!). Partly, bureaucracy (meh!) we need to trudge through in order to finalize the registration of our dev studio as a proper company in Norway, as well as to get all our Internets, insurances, hidden cameras, circus-operating permits, alarms and lethal guard hamsters sorted out, amongst other crucial and critical things.
Meanwhile, I pour over design documents, make plans for art and asset pipelines, try to choose what version control scheme to go with (currently leaning towards Mercurial), figure out how to deal with data-storage and the safekeeping of said data and – whenever my current computer is being agreeable – explore and uncover all the secrets and forbidden techniques hidden away in Unity.
In other news, I managed to find my Collector’s Edition coin (a Septim) from Oblivion in an unopened, sealed plastic bag – just lying at the back of a shelf all innocent like. Naturally, I promptly opened it and declared it forever my lucky game development coin. For the curious – it’s made of solid fake gold, is about 36 mm in diameter and 2 mm thick, and this is what it looks like:
We’ll get along just fine, my preciousssss Ssseptim. You’d better bring me luck, or I’ll melt you down! (Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that (I totally would, though))
In these my last days and weeks in Montreal, I spend most of my spare time poring over documentation, tutorials and example-projects for Unity – and to some extent, Blender – soaking up as much knowledge about and experience with these tools as I possibly can. The goal: to become self-sufficient and able to create games and/or prototypes of games in Unity, entirely on my own. Not necessarily to go at it all on my own, but I figure it will be a good foundation for whatever comes next.
UnityScript vs C#
Secondly, while converting tutorials from one language to the other I’m learning how it’s done in both languages at the same time, and though I’ll sometimes run into stumbling blocks where language-specific implementation of code is required, it forces me to apply my braincells, dig deeper and really figure out what’s going on and why.
Meanwhile, at work…
My final days at work mostly consist of tinkering with AI scripts for an (unreleased) dungeon that I have been working on, updating the documentation for said scripts in preparation to hand it off to whoever will work on it next, as well as diving into an issue that’s been a thorn in my side for quite some time, but which hasn’t had the highest of priorities: Shields.
More specifically, shields that clip through the heads of characters, stick through their hands/arms, are incorrectly positioned/rotated when equipped and/or are seen from the side in the inventory instead of the front (making it hard to actually see what they look like).
Having previously already gone through every single shield-asset in the game and documented what was wrong/needed fixing with each, I’ll now be trying to fix as many of those issues as I can before I pack my things and jump on a plane back to Norway.
I have an upcoming jubilee of sorts in a few months, at which point I can celebrate having endured life in the game development industry for five (measly) years. This cause for celebration is somewhat diminished by the fact that Funcom announced earlier this month that they are restructuring and consolidating offices – which means that I, along with the majority of the other developers at Funcom’s Montreal office, are being let go. For my part this means that I have at most two and a half month left before my official last day at FC, and having started working for FC in late March 2008, this means I might just about pass the five-year mark (yay!) before I’m officially out of a job (nay!).
Throughout these last soon-to-be five years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with a diverse bunch of awesome people (and I hope that I’ll be able to work with some of them again in the future!) on twodifferent MMORPG projects, and I would not change that for the world, but what exactly have I learned after this time spent working in the game development industry? Which of the preconceived assumptions and expectations I brought with me have held up, and which have been thoroughly shattered? What knowledge have I acquired that I can bring with me where-ever I go next?
I’ve played with the idea of writing a post along these lines in the past year or so, but what I’ve found out is that it’s not easy to summarize several years worth of experience in a simple blog post. Instead, I will try to focus on some of the more obvious lessons I have learned, the ones I can point at and say “that might have been useful to know/realize the value of when I first started”. Some – or maybe all – of them are perhaps obvious enough that they’re hardly worth mentioning, but then again – everything is obvious is hindsight. Continue reading “Lessons learned by working at Funcom for five years”
The next two days should be interesting! I am, along with a bunch of other people from work, attending the Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS) – which (surprisingly enough) is taking place right here in Montreal during the Montreal Digital Festival (MTL DGTL for short).
My schedule is filled to the brim with what will hopefully turn out to be great sessions on everything game-development related, hosted by a diverse bunch of folks including (but not limited to) such personalities as Tim Sweeney and Peter Molyneux. For those interested, the complete schedule (and information about the sessions) can be found on the Montreal Digital Festival homepage.
This will be my first time attending such an event, so I’m looking forward to it with great interest! I shall try my best not to ambush any Peter Molyneux’es I come across, but I make no definitive promises…
The wheels of the gaming industry churn, developers come and pass, leaving games that become legacies. Legacies fade to obscurity, and even obscurity is long forgotten when the development cycle that gave it birth comes again. In one development cycle, called the Facebook/Gamification-cycle by some, a development cycle yet to come, a development cycle long pass, a wind rose in the hills of Montreal. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the churning of the wheels of the gaming industry. But it was a beginning.
Ahem. Horribly mangled Wheel of Time-quotes aside… As March transitioned into April this year, it meant I had spent exactly four years in the game development industry, after I packed my bags and moved to Oslo (and later, to Montreal) at the end of March in 2008 to join up with Funcom – a few short months before the launch of Age of Conan. Since then I have worked primarily with refining, updating and maintaining AoC’s state-machine and animation-systems, while also temporarily taking on a few extra side-jobs where needed such as basic rigging/skinning and animating in Autodesk 3ds Max (very useful for fixing minor issues with character-animations and 3D assets), the creation of particle-effects for spells and environments, scripting triggers and conditions for said particle-effects to play, as well as creating and hooking up triggers for sound-effects for monsters. The common denominator (in my case) for all of these tasks is their link to the animation-systems and/or behavior control center (state machine).
When I crossed that four-year milestone two and a half months ago, though, I decided it was time for a change. Without change, without new challenges, the mind can grow stale and one’s motivation can falter. As luck would have it, an opportunity for change arose, and I took it. As a result, on Monday just hence, when I came back to the Conan-team after a five-month temporary hiatus spent working on particle-effects for monsters in The Secret World (which is just about to launch, btw!), I sat down at a new desk, next to new people (well, people I hadn’t sat next to before, anyway) to start training for a new position: AI Designer!
This is a new and untested field for me, but hopefully I can draw on the knowledge and experience I have acquired over the last four years to smooth out my transition into the world of AI Design for video-games. It will definitely be in my favor that I have extensive knowledge about the state-machine (which is prominent in AI scripting for AoC), and that I am at least somewhat familiar with the primary tools I’ll be using as an AI Designer. I do, however, have a lot to learn – though there will always be challenges to overcome and new things to learn. Anyway, interesting times are ahead, that much is certain. Who knows – perhaps this will be the start of another exciting four-year (or longer) journey into the future! :)
(For an insight into what being an AI Designer for Age of Conan involves, check this link. While “slightly” out of date (it’s from 2008!), the general principles (and tools in use) are roughly the same.)
It’s a oft repeated mantra that the days are gone when single-person development teams could succeed in the game development market. These days you’re not going to get anywhere unless you have a budget that numbers in the millions, and enough manpower to build a life-sized replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza, with some additional manpower to manage your workforce and prioritize which stones should be put where in the pyramid, and in which order they should be put in (and which stones should be cut altogether, for budget reasons). That is not always the case, though.
Markus Persson has since May 2009 worked on Minecraft all by himself, and the game has almost half a million registered users, with nearly 30 000 players playing at any given time. What is more impressive though, is that the game – which is still an Alpha-version – has actually sold almost a hundred thousand copies (99147 as I type this). Let me repeat that: The Alpha-version of his game has sold almost 100 000 copies.
I can understand why, since I’ve been playing it almost non-stop since I purchased a copy a couple of days ago. It’s dangerously addictive, there’s always another block of stone to mine (the game-world is basically of infinite size, since it generates more world-data on the fly as you move towards the edges of the map), always another tree to chop, always another fantastic structure to build, always another mine-shaft to light up with torches. Maybe there’s a rich vein of iron ore just behind the next block of stone. Must. Keep. Mining…
(Check out my Minecraft-progress in the screenshots below)