ESCAPE FROM HOTH

It began to snow again in the late afternoon and it was the kind that began sticking. There were many people in the Lower Mainland who decided to leave work early, hoping either to get home sooner or to give themselves more time to commute home.

Since it’s milestone week for my team, we had some serious work to get done and even if it were blazing sunshine outside, we’d have to stay late tonight. A few of us ventured outside around 6pm on our dinner break. It was a bit of mess outside, wet snow was being blown sideways so it was constantly in your face. Snow had accumulated in earnest on the ground again.

At 9pm, I looked outside the windows from my vantage point on the 12th floor. I was looking east along Pender. I could tell there was a lot of snow on the ground. There were very few pedestrians walking about and even fewer vehicles. It seemed if you were smart, you had long gone inside or home. Then, I turned around and saw all the people still at work.

The whole situation seemed really familiar to me but it took me a few minutes to grasp it. You know the part in The Empire Strikes Back where Imperial troops have landed on Hoth? The part where the last few Rebels are still inside their base even as snowtroopers are breaching the walls? Yeah, well, we were the crazy ass Rebels tonight. Even as the temperature was falling, snow was piling up, and transit was being delayed or cancelled we continued to pound away at our keyboards for some reason.

At 9:30pm, I caught the last transport off of Hoth and returned to the Outer Rim territories. We’d didn’t have to run any Imperial blockades but I did have a kickass bus driver who was passing cars left and right. I think he may have done the Kessel run in record time.

Wow, that was a post heavily steeped in Star Wars terminology.

PLAYTESTING

Thanks to a very generous co-worker, I was able to borrow a PSP and take it home. This allowed me to play Sonic Rivals for the first time since the end of July. I will admit I looked at the credits as the first order of business. Man, what an ego I have!

Next was the actual game play. They did a ton of work on the game after I left. It’s been polished and improved in many places that needed it. One set of tracks got a fantastic makeover. I looked for several in game objects that I was responsible for programming the behaviour. Though the game is a race essentially, I stopped several times to examine those objects in detail. Oh there was spike horizontal log, which exhibited the damped harmonic motion I so happily wrote in. Then there was the catapult which caused me so much consternation but thanks to Rich, it finally worked. Who could forget frozen air geyser, which froze characters just like I remembered it.

I’m still working through the game but I can see they cut a few things. For example, I had this jack-in-the-box that sprung open when you jumped on it. It’s still there but nothing happens when you touch it. Why that is, I’m not sure. I’m still eagerly awaiting the appearance of the black holes which were a pain to get working. They were still kinda wonky when I left so maybe that got cut too. I’m most looking forward to the monkey boss. What a ton of work that was. Imagine a huge mechanical monkey that shoots missiles that embed into the ground that also has a detachable flying head that does a beam attack. I left it in a somewhat shaky state so I feel sorry for who had to clean it up after me. I wonder how it’ll look.

Rivals now has an overall score of 72 over on metacritic. That ain’t bad but it’s slightly under good.

SNOW DAY

It was chaos for some in the Lower Mainland today with all the snow that had been dumped on our fair city. UBC was without power all day and poor SJCers had to sit in the dark and read papers. Transit was behind schedule on a few routes and school was cancelled for most post-secondary students.

I, on the other hand, really enjoyed the day. First, my bus wasn’t even a minute late in the morning. When I boarded, I found it to be refreshingly empty and I got a seat all to myself. All the cranky old people that usually fill my bus were no where to be seen. There were either at home or on the sidewalk somewhere with broken hips.

We flew into downtown Vancouver at a very respectable clip, arriving early enough for me to grab a breakfast sandwich from the A&W in Sinclair Centre. Then when I got to the office, I found out the boil water advisory had been lifted, allowing me to have a cup of fresh hot water right from the magical machine.

Though I had to stay a bit later at work this evening, I found an excellent Japanese restaurant to grab my dinner from. It’s only a block away from work as well. As I was preparing to go home, my Mom phoned me and nearly demanded that I get a hotel room downtown for the night. When I asked her why, she said it was too cold be outside this evening and that I would not survive the walk from the office to the bus stop and from the bus stop to my home. Now that might have been true if I was dressed only in my underwear and shoes but I had a fairly warm coat on and also a beanie on my large, bulbous head.

Given that it was probably only around -1 degrees and it only takes me five minutes to walk on either end of my trip, I decided to ignore my mother’s advice and save myself $100. The bus ride was uneventful as expected, as was my walk home. Oh mommy, you care about me so much.

CHECK IT

In last night’s episode of The Simpsons, Homer gets fired from his job at the power plant. After he kills an elderly ice cream man, he decides to take over his job.

In the clip above, you can see Homer getting dressed as an ice cream man. The sequence might seem familiar to some of you. The first person with the right answer gets 1000 et.com points which can be redeemed at our online store!

MR. FUSION

Alas, without a time machine I find myself without time to make a proper post. This evening, I was out with my good friend Tyson and several others to celebrate his return to our fair city and more importantly, the official receipt of PhD.

More than half a decade of effort culminated in a short ceremony yesterday where Bone got to wear the floppy hat, sit up on stage, and get his degree before those undergrad anklebiters. Good job Tyson!

Dinner tonight was at Tomokazu, an all you can eat sushi joint on Broadway. These places can by hit or miss, usually miss but this particular restaurant was quite nice. The decor was pleasant and more importantly, the food was top notch! The salmon sashimi was melt-in-your-mouth good!

Tyson, it was good seeing ya and let’s hope we can meet up before next summer.

NO TIME

Sorry folks, an evening out will prevent me from making a long post. Instead, I invite you to read some information on Commander Cody, the Republic clone leader from the movie Revenge of the Sith.

Cody was part of a cloning program that did not remove free-thinking and invidualistic traits from their personality. As such, he and others were well suited for leading the other, more impressionable clones.

He loyally served under legendary Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi right until the execution of Order 66.

SATISFACTION

Up until this week, my name was in four video game manuals, two NHL games, a Triple Play, and a FIFA. Today, I made into another one and my first as a software developer.

After a false start last week, I noticed this afternoon that various stores were reporting availability of Sonic Rivals for the PSP. In the early evening I went to the local Best Buy store to grab my copy. There weren’t many people looking for PSP games tonight. Much attention is now on the big three: PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360.

I didn’t see the game on the shelf. I had to ask a salesperson to help me. They had me go over to the store terminal to check it out. There were eight copies in store, all still in the adjacent warehouse. I was told someone would be dispatched to get one for me. While I waited, I wandered over to the LCD and plasma TV section. The 42″ plasma TVs are a thing of beauty. I can’t even imagine how many hours I would spend just revisiting my entire DVD collection on such a grand display.

After a few minutes, the salesperson located me and handed over a small, thin plastic case. There it was. Countless hours of effort from dozens of people distilled into a small package. I paid a hefty price of $57 after tax for the honour and headed home.

When I arrived home, I slipped out of my clothes and into my PJs. You knowing that doesn’t add to the story but you know what, I just wanted to include that detail. I took the plastic case and took off the plastic wrap that was around it. I snapped it open and immediately removed the manual. I flipped to the last two pages. In the section for Backbone Entertainment and under the heading “Engineers” was my name. It was in a plain Arial font but sure enough, it announced to the world that I pounded a few ones and zeros into the tiny disc that was still in the case.

The reality is that very few people will even glance at the credits. Not me though. Every game I play, even the bad ones, I read the names of all the developers. I skip all the presidents, VPs and suits but the developers, yeah, I read their names. I wanna know who had to eat OT meals out of a styrofoam container to get me the game in my hands.

So I finally got one down in the developer category now. It was four years in the making. I hope I don’t have to wait as long for the next one.

WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART

In an earlier post I mentioned I had won an Xbox 360 in a Pepsi contest. The rules stated that winners should expect their prizes in 8 to 10 weeks. In reality though, winners of the 40″ LCD TV were getting their sweet prizes in less than two weeks. Also, a friend of mine who won an Xbox 360 in last year’s contest said he got his in four weeks, even though they said 8 to 10 weeks as well.

So if you read any kind of news over the weekend, you might know that two new game consoles were released to the public. Both the PS3 and the Wii made their North American debuts. No one I knew got a PS3 but several people at work mentioned how they managed to snag a Wii. I got to hear them describing the new Wii remote and games such as Wii sports and Zelda.

I really, really want my Xbox 360 now. Perhaps next week will be the week.

MORE SKATE

Pro skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and his friend/bodyguard “Big Black” have a reality TV show on MTV. It is simply entitled Rob and Big. The show follows the duo around in their daily lives.

One episode involves Rob and Big travelling to Vancouver to do some mo-cap for the game I’m working on. They were in the studio a day before I started work downtown. I was finishing up my last day at boot camp in Burnaby.

Anyways, that episode debuted on MTV last week and it’s probably being re-run at various times. You can actually watch the whole episode on the MTV site but only if you’re located in the US. MTV Canada will show the episode in about two weeks.

In the above clip from YouTube, you can see Rob playing the game with a few of our producers. If you read the comments people have left about the clip, the major debate is whether or not that’s actual in-game footage that’s being seen. Some people think that it’s just a pre-rendered video and in no way represents what the game will look like. Others swear that’s actually the game running in real time.

I’m not going to comment about the whole debate since it’s really not my place to answer such questions. All I will say is that the game is looking great from my perspective. When the game finally comes out, I’ll be able to tell you definitively.