No posts for awhile because crunch mode is upon us! I'm helping make Farcry 5 for the world, but check me out on Twitch if you want glimpses of my rare free time.

HEY! I Can Still Draw!

We've been in crunch at work so I haven't had much time for anything however I did get some time to fix my Wacom tablet. The way Windows 10 handled the stylist was driving me nuts but I finally got it working really better than it ever has.  So I took some free hours to enjoy a functioning Wacom and see if I can produce anything.

Many that know me don't know that I graduated from art school with honors so I was on my way to be an artist.  Unfortunately I thought I would to into advertising which I quickly hated and got diverted into animation and then into game design.  So it's bee awhile since I did any drawing beyond some doodles.

I just started free handing a sketch and I feel I got it to a nice place.  Maybe I should switch back to art.  Felt really good drawing again.

Weird Webcam Experience

I had a strange experience with my SJCAM camera SJ5000.  I made a video explaining the situation but I can't figure it out.  Maybe you know?  Two independent cameras do the same thing together without being linked in any way.

Unfortunately there wasn't enough footage for a Daily Drive episode so I'll need to try again.  We'll see if the issue repeats.  I think we all know what caused it though....

Farcry 5 E3 Game Play Footage

Here's the game play footage from E3 of my current project Farcry 5.  I hope you're as excited as I am.

Arrrrrrggggghhh!! Internal Office Moves

I just wanted to say that I absolutely hate not having an office at work.  I understand all the studios are into the touchy feely team environment but I find it to be so unproductive.  Everyone chatting all the time, I have to live with my headset on just to focus.  The open office space environment is sold as, "We want you to be surrounded with your fellow teammates" but I feel it is really "We'd like to keep an eye on you." and I find it insulting that they would feel they need to.  I'm not a kid, I know I have work to do and why I'm at work.

Ubisoft Toronto is all open office environment.  There is just one "office" in the entire place and that is for the studio head.  So I try and manage but Ubisoft does something I've never seen any other studio do and that is move your desk about every 4 months.  I truly have no clue why they feel the need to do this.  So you get yourself into an area, and a workflow.  You get use to the people around you and figure out a way to be productive around them.  Then POOF! A few months later you're moved to a new location with new people and have to do it all over again.  I've got to be honest it enrages me.

I would assume Ubi's logic is that as the team size and structure changes they want people to sit near people relevant to what they are working on, but this is not necessary.  Especially in our current day and age it absolutely does not matter where you are sitting.  There is email, there are messenger services, there is video chat, and Ubi has them all available to keep people connected.  So why to they still feel the need to rearrange my environment every few months??  AAAaaaarrgggghhhh!

Ubisoft Swag Has Dropped

Since the announcement of Farcry 5 Ubisoft certainly has been cranking out the swag to us.  Not that I’m complaining but let’s face it, an average game dev’s wardrobe is nothing but free game t-shirts.


Farcry 5 Has Been Announced

Ubisoft has announced Farcry 5 and released a trailer along with numerous character introduction videos.  Link to the YouTube playlist can be found by clicking here.

Farcry 5 is in fact the title I am currently working as a Senior Level Designer on in the Ubisoft Toronto studio.  I hope to share future Farcry announcements as they are made available.

My Quest For AI Individuality

I am not a programmer, I am especially not an AI programmer.  I am a Designer so my job is to have visions and plant them in others….well sort of.  But a game did this to me and I’ve had a hard time shaking the curiosity of what if even after all these years.  I don’t even know if it was a real moment but it felt like one and that’s what’s important.

The game was Unreal.  The first Unreal.  The single player game.  I was running from a Skaarj which was a predator-type creature and common enemy in the game.  I ran into a room and dove under a stairway to at least give me time to collect myself.  The Skaarj ran into the room and stopped.  Crouched under the stairway I was watching him assuming he would spin around and shoot me using his “knows where the player is at all times” AI knowledge, but that’s not what happened.  Instead he stood there, looking around.  Apparently coming to the conclusion that he had lost me he slowly walked out of the room.  This may not seem like a big thing but this was 1998.  Back then AI ran at you and then shot at you, and not much else.  I never saw an example of this happening again in the game and even replaying it I never had it repeat.  What the heck happened at that moment?  Was it a bug? A happy glitch?  Whatever it was it left an imprint on me and my approach to AI scripting. 

When I was on the Quake 3 team I spend several weeks at id Software working as a preliminary production tester at both the beginning and end of the project often focused on game play rather than bugs.  One of the AI programmers there (Mr. Elusive) and I got into a discussion regarding Sarge’s level.  You were in a one on one match with Sarge and when he was being balanced I said it felt like he was cheating.  It felt like he was taking aim on me through the walls and shooting me the very moment I came around the corner.  Mr. Elusive assured me that it wasn’t happening, that’s not the way the AI works.  I said but it feels that way and he again said that’s not what happens.  So I explained, “Whether or not it is happening doesn’t matter.  What I’m saying is it feels like it is.  The players will feel like it’s cheating.”  That is what AI is all about, feeling correct.

In 2001 I worked on Return to Castle Wolfenstein and strove to make each AI feel unique, like they were an individual.  Through the script I was able to make some become more aggressive when their health dropped.  I made some cower and run for cover when their captain died.  I wanted them to feel real like had a sense of self-preservation mixed with a personality.  I’m not sure it was achieved but again things were pretty basic back then.

My next opportunity to put a stamp on AI was on Quake 4 but thing had changed.  Game play structures had become more systemic.  While Quake 4 AI was certainly not systemic there was no room for tinkering in the AI structure.  AI was setup to be predictable.  The guys with green armor always throw grenades, the guys with red armor have more health, etc, etc.  The archetypes were different but the individuals were not.  Once Quake 4 shipped I became a little obsessed with a Quake 4 mod I wanted to create called Grunt Hunt.  In Grunt Hunt it was you against 1 Grunt, but instead of a mindless charging creature he would run from you, pick up health and ammo drops, he would strive to live rather than be mindless fodder essentially following the same rules as the player.  Seek better weapons, ammo for weapons, and health.  However unlike multiplayer bots the pace would be slower, with faster death and higher stakes for sudden moves.  I wanted to AI to experience the world as the player did.  The player doesn’t know a heath pack is in a room until he walks in it, and I wanted the AI to not know either.  A health pack enters their field of vision, they assess their health and determine if they need it or not.  Their health drops dangerously low, they change tactics to a more hyper defensive mode, going cover to cover in search of health over attacking.  At least this was my vision.  I was quickly told by programmers this couldn’t be done.  They said the processing power needed to have an AI running around assessing their environment was too great.  So that sucked.  

On later titles I conceded to simply making the AI appear smart however since coming to Ubisoft they use a fully systemic system that designers have little control over.  I can't really talk too much about the systems Ubisoft uses but I think there is room for improvement that can rise the average AI about the rank of fodder.

AI has become more of a person pursuit at this point.  I have many titles rattling around in my head with unique AI problem to solve.  I would still love a chance to tinker around with AI ideas that go beyond the norm.

DOOM Documentary

Just came across this really good documentary about the creation of the latest DOOM.  It show the development struggles id Software had with making a new version of a legendary game.  Certainly similar struggles we had while making Wolfenstein and Quake 4 when I worked at Raven Software. Story was not id's strong suit and I'm glad they finally found a way around it that fits them.