Parking Lot Woes

Not Actual Parking Lot
Ubisoft Toronto is a growing company and it's going to continue to grow.  I believe we are currently at 300+ employees and we are expected to grow to near 800.  We take up two floors of a rather large building and are expanding.  I think many people live locally so they walk or bike to work but there are still a lot that drive.  Where the heck are they going to put everyone??

Because of this parking spots are at a premium around our studio.  Our parking lot is overflowing and street parking is nearly out of the question with surrounding businesses and local residents all clamoring for space.  I've been with UbiTor since they opened and because I drive from over an hour away I was lucky enough to be given a parking spot.  Ubisoft doesn't really announce it though, there are just signs in spots that say, "Reserved for Ubisoft." So what often happens is a Ubisoft employee thinks as long as they work here the spot is up for grabs.  If that happens I've got to attempt to find a spot somewhere else if I can, then I tell the person in charge of parking, and they put a note on their car.  So far nobody gets a ticket or is towed.  However there are other businesses around us and everyone is trying to grab spots so often spots are taken by people that don't even work at Ubi and don't give a crap what spot they are in.  Even local residents take spots in the business parking lot if they can get away with it.

Today I pulled in and there was a woman in an Audi sitting in my spot, just sitting there.  I looked around for another spot but there wasn't anything.  So I told her, "I'm sorry but these are assigned spots."  She said, "Well are you an employee of Ubisoft?"  I said, "Yes." She replied, "Oh okay, I'll move."  So she wasn't even a Ubisoft employee but she wanted to make sure I was.  What the hell?

I assume without a plan this problem is just going to get worse and worse and I've never heard of a plan in the works.  I feel they should put names on the spots to avoid confusion but I think Ubi feels that looks too privileged with names on the signs and don't want people fighting over who deserves a spot more than others.  So they are trying to gives them and keep quiet about it.  I'm sure it won't explode into parking fury one day.  ;)

I really appreciate my parking space.  I'd say its one of the nicest perks Ubi has ever given me.  I just hope I don't need to get too nasty towards others to enjoy it.

Residency Aquired

I finally got my Canadian residency.  It's been a long road and a considerable amount of money to get here but so glad it's over.

Much of the money was a waste with Canada requesting I acquire documents that they later never asked for.  They even asked me to get medical exams ($300 each) for my daughters that weren't even accompanying me to Canada.  Then  they asked for an US FBI background check on my oldest daughter.  I lied and told them it was in process (remember my daughter isn't moving to Canada) and then they of course never asked for it anyway.  The final thing was they asked me to get 2 photos taken of myself for the final interview.  So I went and paid to have them taken and they never asked for them.  So ridiculous.

Some of my US friends seem confused about what Canadian residency means.  They think I've denounced my US citizenship or something so let me explain.  I was allowed to work in Canada because Ubisoft paid for me to have a work visa.  The work visa allows me to work and live in Canada as long as I'm working at Ubisoft and my work visa hasn't expired.  If I leave Ubi, I have to leave the country.  My first visa was for 3 years and could be extended to 4 but that was it.  So if I was to stay in Canada I needed to apply for residency.

Residency just means I'm allowed to live in Canada kind of as a free person. I don't need to work at Ubisoft and I can get loans etc like a normal Canadian and I can live where ever I want.  I'm not a citizen of Canada.  If I want citizenship I need to apply for it which frankly after the government circus of getting residency I have zero interest in.

I'm still an American citizen, I just have been allowed to live in Canada by the Canadian government as long as I renew my residency every 5 years.

Let me give credit where credit is due.  If it was not for my girlfriend Julia I would have said fuck it and gone back to Cali in a heartbeat.  The first time I applied it was a nightmare and then Canada didn't even announce they had already filled their residency quota for that year so it was all a huge waste of time and money.  So my application was rejected and we had to do it all over again.  Rather than being welcoming the whole process felt like it was designed to keep people out.  I generally don't put up with a lot of crap so I was done.  But Julia was able to calm me down and get me through the even more insane Express Entry paperwork.  So thank you honey.

Valve Refuses to Refund Game From Dead Developer

UPDATE: It seems the devs are working again.  Cool I guess.

Nether was an online game that was in early access on Steam.  It was similar to Day Z except more of a post apocalyptic survival world with monstrous creatures instead of just zombies.  Many people got suckered into buying this title.  For me a co-worker said, "Hey Chad, buy Nether and we'll play together at lunch."  Sure! I said.  By the time lunch came I had bought it and he changed his mind.  ....bastard.  :(  Then months later it started becoming clear that the developer went "poof" and disappeared before the game was ever completed.  Then Steam pulled the game from their site and the devs have started shutting down the servers.  You can still install it and play but the horribly buggy and unfinished game will never get any better.  The game is not going to happen.  It's dead.

If you are interested in attempting to punish yourself with this title they still have a web site and it looks like you can go there still buy it.  On September 25th 2015 their Facebook page posted this.

Dear players,
As of September 26th, the back-end system for Nether, MBER, will no longer be available to support the game. This unfortunately means that the servers will shut down on that day, and play will no longer be possible. We hope to find a solution to this and other issues with the game ASAP. Please stay tuned for updates when available, and thank you for playing Nether.

Nether on Twitter

Logically I asked for a refund since the game was never finished.  It never got out of early access and therefore was never "released."  Steam however says no because it was more than two weeks since my purchase.  Well I purchased this in June 2014 before the developer disappeared so we all had the hope the game would become something.  I would wager that they gave no refunds to anyone that purchased this title.  

Seems if a game is pulled from Steam, especially if the devs disappear then everyone who purchased it should get the option for a refund.

Thing Are Now "Developing"

Finally my PC is complete!  Got rid of the old CRT monitor in exchange for two 24" ASUS PA248 LCD monitors.  Theses were in my size and price range.  Also recommended by my projects art lead to have create color quality.  So not I have a PC setup even better than the one at work.

Now with a full and familiar work space I can tinker around with some game engines at home.

The old CRT sad

The new HOTNESS!!

Brainstorming Blues

I admit I am a ravenously pragmatic person which can often get interpreted wrong by those with the “anything goes” ideas.

But sometimes in AAA game development there can be a lot of "wheel spinning", or "time burning", or "busy work", or whatever you want to call it.  Basically it boils down to meaningless tasks that have no chance of making it to release.  Worst of all you know this as you’re working on them.  I REALLY try to avoid this type of work.  So being my pragmatic self I question everything.  Why are we doing it?  What is the big picture?  Can the engine even do this without major changes?  Is the project willing and able to make these changes?  Do we even have the time?  On some projects I swear you can see the piles money being burned daily on these type of tasks, but when the right people are behind them they slip through the cracks and head into development anyway.

I find most standard brainstorming meetings to end with these kind of results.  People like to dump any random thought out of their heads, then another person writes down and all ideas are considered.  Now I’m all for brainstorming but let’s keep it in the realm of reality.  Reality meaning is it within the project’s theme?  Is it within game world’s reality?  Is it within the game engine’s capabilities?  Logically you think, “Well the crazy ideas will get filtered out immediately.”  Yes, you’d think that but not always.  Sometimes they sneak through.

I mean it’s great that you think pink bunnies with machine guns would make an awesome end boss but realistically, deep down inside yourself you have got to know we aren’t going to do that.  So why even bring it up?  And don’t then ask me to write up a design doc explaining how your pink bunnies could be implemented.  And don’t ask me to create a Power Point slide show on pink bunnies throughout the years and their rise to machine gun use.  And please, please don’t then ask me to prototype a level with your pink bunnies bouncing around using AI that was meant to be for assault snipers.  And then when it’s all been cut from the game after weeks of research, documentation, prototyping, and presentation don’t you fucking dare come to me and say, “Well we knew that would get cut.” 

Long Time, No Blog

Wow, it has been and incredibly long time since I have updated this blog or even my main web site.  I wish I could say this is because I've been so busy at work but that was not been the case.  Of course I cannot elaborate why but I'll just say the industry is very "dynamic."

On a personal level I finally got a new PC!!  Yes that's right, no more Pentium 4 machine.  Can you believe I got all the way to 2015 with a P4??  To get this new PC I did the ultimate sin. I did something frowned upon by countless gaming enthusiasts, I clicked "buy."  I didn't do months of researching components and prices in a quest to build the ultimate rig.  Nope I went to Alienware and clicked "buy" on a new Area 51 machine with a 4 year warranty against problems and even damage.  I know, I know I wussed out.  But I built my last 3 computers and I just didn't want to deal with it.  I've always wanted to try an Alienware system and had the means to do it so I did.

So far there are no complaints about the system itself.  I may have made the wrong choice of video
cards but that's my fault not the system's.  I got dual GeForce 770 in SLI mode.  Sounded cool but really not necessary I think.  My main complaint if I had one is just with Windows 8, man does it suck.  But I get a free Windows 10 when it comes out so hopefully those woes will be over soon.

The main hurrah is just the fact that I can finally play all those Steam games I bought in sale and couldn't run on the old P4.  So far I've installed almost everything and have hardly made a dent in my 2TB hard drive.  The bad part of this is now I'm a little overwhelmed as to where I should begin.  It's like when I used to have enough money to buy two Genesis games.  Ultimately I would play the hell out of one and the other would never get much play time because something newer would come out before I got to it.  So now I've got all these older titles I never tried and also new shiny titles asking for my attention.  So I mainly find myself sitting in from of the machine doing nothing.

One thing I did not get was a monitor.  My plan is to get two 24" flat screens like I have at work but after buying this machine I need to financially catch back up a bit.  So I'm playing everything on my old ViewSonic CRT monitor and it doesn't seem very happy about it. Gets a little "wavy" at times and I think it's about to pop.  So far things are all holding together.

The biggest reason I did all this is I wanted to play with the Unity engine.  I can't install it at work because of legal restrictions so I needed a machine at home that could handle it.  Once I get my two monitors I can start becoming productive.  I have a few projects in my head and I'm looking forward to future developments.  ;)