Well, this is not my update, not entirely. For this week’s status, Tom runs down the whereabouts of Kickstarter fulfillment swag and does a walk around of the studio. There is a disconcerting hum throughout the video but we could not hear it while recording. I think it’s the sort of audio signature that ghosts leave behind and only dogs and cats can normally hear. In this case, the video camera did a great job of picking up and amplifying whatever the noise was and as promised, we’re not going to worry about the production values on this updates too much, so you get to hear the hum too. At least it’s not a table saw.
The upshot: fulfillment of a large part of the Kickstarter and PayPal backer swag is looming close. We’re looking forward to getting those items in your hands soon. We’ve already got enough patches to tile the space shuttle but we’d rather send them out to you. Thanks for being patient.
We’ve been in our new studio space for over a month now but we’ve been so busy with the game that we haven’t taken the time to bring in a bunch of action figures or camouflage netting or whatever. When you’re running lean and in startup mode, that kind of stuff seems less important. However, I believe that over time the studio will be stuffed to the gills with all kinds of visually stimulating collectible nonsense. It’s a game studio, after all.
In the video you’ll meet two of the “new guys” who have been supporters of the project for some time. First is Kevin, the sort of quiet, introspective guy who falls on the “not going to go postal” but “busy thinking deep thoughts” side of the fence. In the last month he’s kicked major ass on the ballistics system, getting weapons in the hands of the characters, and generally integrating assets as they come in, among many other things. Today’s he’s working on a “hot updater” that will allow me to modify weapon parameters while the game is running and see changes instantly. Given the uncounted hours I spend tuning weapons, the tool he’s creating is worth its virtual weight in rare earth elements.
By the way, the sticker on his “fake gun” is just so visitors to the office don’t freak out about having weapon simulacra lying around. I’ve worked in places where Airsoft firearms were not allowed to circulate and had to be “checked out” from a weapons locker. Seriously. Everyone at SOFs likes guns and we don’t have any ridiculous “sensitivities” to having gun props in sight. We are making a game in which the primary form of player expression is shooting, for crying out loud. Having a few (dozen fake) guns on hand seems only natural.
“New guy” Number 2 is Patrick Gross, a veteran of game industry journalism. His background in graphic and audio design, built from years of “learning out of necessity,” made him an ideal candidate to help out with all those sorts of tasks for the demo, a process that I’d describe as a cross between “best production practices” and “guerilla warfare.” Right now he’s hooking up buttons for an early version of the UI based on some block-ins I did. Later he’ll supervise dialogue recording sessions and edit sfx, among many other things. “Among many other things” is definitely a theme around the office, and it’s great to see people busy wearing lots of different hats. It’s fun and certainly not boring.
During the Kickstarter campaign someone asked me if I was going to take time off after we wrapped the pledge drive. I said that I was going to head out to Seattle to pick up my comic books from storage then drive them back to North Carolina. I was planning this trip for later in September but when the opportunity to fly out a bit earlier and attend Pax came up, I went for it. I’m glad I did.
The first day’s focus was meeting with our Seattle team. This was a lot like a Zipper mini-reunion and it was great to see these guys in person again. Russ has already made an appearance in our updates, but I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to someone you may or may not already know. I’m talking about Doug Wilcox, animation lead from Zipper, and one of my all-around favorite people.
Doug is a Director level Animator with over 15 years of experience delivering AAA game titles. He has extensive experience with hand keyed animation, motion capture, rigging, and can write Maya pipeline tools. He was Lead Animator on the entire SOCOM game franchise - PS2, PS3 and PSP. Additionally Doug was Lead Animator on MAG.
We are very excited to be collaborating with Doug on H-Hour. His first assignment is to animate the persona of the “troubled” hostage for our Snatch and Grab game mode. I am sure that he will more than deliver on her personality. I know from personal experience that Doug likes to over deliver and will give the hostage the attention she deserves.
So, back to Pax. This seems to be far and away the largest fan oriented conference in the industry. I had not previously attended because no publisher I worked for offered to send me. The “big boys” were certainly there with smaller versions of their booths from E3 and these drew large crowds. But the real action was in the Indie Mega Booth and smaller independent booths scattered around the show. Fans were fully engaged with the developers of their “soon to be favorite” games and the fervor was palpable. While I like E3 for what it is (and what it is is loud and full of stage smoke that makes me wheeze) Pax struck me as a much more honest show without too much of a marketing layer between the makers and the players. I really liked that about it, and highly recommend it to anyone who has never attended. I hope to see you all there next time. If nothing else, Pax has really great Daleks. Not to be missed.
The drive home was uneventful, if very tiring. I did learn that Kansas is beautiful when seen in person and if you ever have a chance, everyone should drive across the country at least once. It’s diverse and wide enough that you have plenty of time to obsess over all the things you left in the office and really, really want to get back to.