I was going to post part two of my previous post but tonight was the series premiere of jPod, the TV show on CBC based on Douglas Coupland’s novel of the same name. A trailer for the show can be seen above. The series revolves around the lives of a game team developing a next-gen skateboarding game at a Burnaby, BC company called Neotronic Arts. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
When a TV show premise basically describes the last year or so of your life, you kinda have to watch, so that’s what I did. While I watched the premiere, I tried to keep in mind that it was entertainment and not a documentary about the industry. Here are my thoughts on the episode.
First, the jPod dev team works in this basement area that seems like a poor man’s CTU. I don’t know any dev team that works around so much depressing concrete without any windows. Developers are a pretty pampered bunch that’s more used to wood, brick, large windows, and breathtaking views. On the other hand, everyone at NA uses Dell equipment which is exactly how things are at EA.
The jPod team consists of six people which in real life would be undoubtedly the smallest dev team working on a next-gen game on the planet. You’d be lucky to make a quality Xbox Live Arcade game with six people let alone a triple A title. As far as I can deduce, the six people include a visionary / executive producer type, a motion capture operator, a character artist, an engine programmer, an environmental artist/modeler, and some guy (the main character) who is either a physics programmers specializing in fluids or a level designer. I guess if you squint really hard, you might be able to squeeze a game out of those six roles, though it be like trying to start a fire with a cup of water, a piece of plastic, and some tomatoes.
The characters themselves are quite interesting. The one actual self-proclaimed programmer, Cowboy, is a chain-smoking, often shirtless, sleazy sex enthusiast who likes to download porn at work. I wish this guy was on our team. I also like the fact that at least one of the characters is American because at EA, there are a whole bunch of Americans.
The one time the show made me laugh was when the visionary guy asked the team to add a new turtle character to the game. Ethan, the main character, protested and said they couldn’t do that because the game was already four months into production. Only four months in! I had dudes asking me for new features less than two months from the ship date for skate.
Overall, the most interesting part of the show didn’t have to do with games. I really liked the relationship the Ethan character had with his parents. It was interesting that Ethan left work in the middle of the day to help his pot-growing Mom with disposing with a dead body. Also, on the same day of work, he helped his Dad get rid of his stoned girlfriend from the house.
I think I’ll watch a couple more episodes because I want to see how these characters develop. Maybe they’ll do months and months of overtime as well.