Long overdue update

It was with some disgust I noted how long it had been since I’d updated this blog. As with all habits, unless you establish it firmly at the start it won’t stick. My last project was a beast time wise, and given the choice between a tenuous hold on my social life and spending time blogging, I chose the social life to wrap up my time in Montreal.

As that suggests, after two years I’ve left the fair city, and not without much regret. Montreal is a wonderful place, the people quite frankly kick ass, the game dev community is strong (though constantly on the edge of being insular), and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more active city culturally. Artificial Mind and Movement had its ups and downs, like any studio, but mostly they were up. Every place I’ve worked has had some incredible talent, and A2M was no exception. I sincerely hope they can capitalize on the people in the building and knock a few great projects out.

The last project I worked on there was Power Rangers: Super Legends. Quite an experience. My first shot at lead design and we decided to try something that had never been done at A2M, a crazy hand to hand action game. What we ended up with in the short (~10 months!) development window is pretty impressive. It’s a bit like My First Devil May Cry, a sidescrolling action beat ’em up with two player co-op and a combo counter that goes to 999. If we did it right the show’s audience is going to have a blast playing and their older brothers and sisters will find some serious depth in there. (FYI, when you successfully melee attack an enemy in the air it resets your double jump. As designed!)

As I saw the end of the project coming I had to think about moving on. I think most developers, particularly those at my age, start considering new opportunities at the end of every project. We spend 8 to 24 months (or 3 to 4 years if you’re at BioWare) putting almost everything we have into these games. When it’s done it’s like coming up for air after spending a few hours at the bottom of the pool. Everything looks different by degrees, coloured by the experience you’ve just had.

For me the next logical step was moving to AAA development, big shiny projects with names like Splinter Cell or Battlefield or Halo. I got in touch with friends and acquaintances at various studios, dowsing the industry for what might grab my attention. I wanted a challenge, a chance to learn new things, and why not do that in a AAA studio? This was all going well until a fellow I met at GDC 07 pinged me about design for his studio. They don’t do AAA, $10+ million games. They don’t even ship a lot of retail physical product. In fact they release almost all of their games as downloads.

To cut a long story short, Say Design convinced me to throw my hat in the ring with their “virtual” team. Everyone works remotely, pulling together resources on an as needed basis to build casual games. They’ve had a great deal of success in the Flash/web game market and now they’re stretching into XBLA/WiiWare/PSN games as well. So for now I’m back on the west coast, bouncing between Vancouver and Comox and completely wrapped up in the new gig.

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