The flight to San Diego is just under three hours which isn’t that long if you manage to catch some shuteye. There were two guys from United Front Games on my flight. I don’t think they recognized me, mainly because I worked at UFG for all of five minutes before I was laid off. They were almost assuredly going down to San Diego to visit Sony as UFG has developed a relationship with them since ModNation Racers.
As soon as I stepped outside the airport terminal it was clear I was not in Vancouver. It was warm, bright, and sunny. I took a cab to my hotel downtown and it was a ten minute drive at most. After checking in, I went out to grab some lunch to go. After eating, the lack of sleep caught to me. Since my flight was so early, I decided to forgo sleeping the night before since I stay up so late anyways. With lunch eaten, I crawled into bed for a nap.
By the time I woke up it was late afternoon so I decided to walk to the pier just west of my hotel. It was at this time I realized the weather turned cloudy and the warmth I felt just hours ago was gone. It was grey and a bit windy, which was sadly a bit reminiscent of the Vancouver weather I just left behind.
The ships of the pier were nice to see but I wished it was a bit warmer. I returned to my hotel and I felt like taking another nap before getting some dinner. That short nap led to me waking up at 10pm. Whoops.
I hope to wake up early tomorrow to get an early start on the day.
My loyal readers, I am headed off to San Diego this morning for a little holiday before I begin my search for new employment in earnest. Some of you may wonder how I chose San Diego. I originally was looking at tropical destinations closer to the equator but the thought of being stuck in an all-inclusive resort by myself for a week seemed boring. I am sure the sun, the water, and the beach would be fun for the first couple of days but then I’d want to do other things. With San Diego, I get the nice weather (the highs are in the 20s this week) and the prospect of an urban adventure.
I don’t have an itinerary set in stone but the things I have in mind to see are an aircraft carrier, pandas, whales, various other creatures, the Pacific Ocean, the sun, museums, galleries, large boats, Tijauana(!), and P.F. Changs. I may not get to all of these things but that’s ok. I’m taking this as a very leisurely holiday. If I spend half a day at the beach collecting bottles and cans that’ll be fine because it’s sunny and warm down there. The weather in Vancouver calls for clouds and rain all week.
Alright, I’ll be in touch with everyone again once I check into my Super 8.
I’m a big fan of tacos and similar items in Mexican cuisine. Lately, my favourite Mexican place has been Chronic Tacos. A few months ago, I noticed an empty storefront down the street had been leased. I wondered what was going in there. It took a few weeks but a small sign got put up indicating there would be a new Chronic Tacos location there. I was so excited! Just steps away from my home was some good eating.
Unfortunately, it took month and months for the store to be built up. I’m not sure what the delay was but it finally opened up this week. A friend of mine decided we should partake in the grand opening by having dinner there on Wednesday night. When we arrived, I had my heart set on a chimichanga, which I admit isn’t the healthiest option. It’s basically a burrito filled with goodness and then deep fried until it is golden. There was a bit of a lineup in front of us. When I got to the front of the line, the lady behind the counter told me they’d just sold the last burrito because they were out of burrito shells. This was at 7pm in the evening. She further volunteered that they were way busier than expected and sold a lot of burritos. Who runs out of simple round flour shells? I was really dejected and had to settle for two tacos with beer battered fish, done baja-style. It was delicious but it wasn’t really my number one choice.
Because I got nothing better to do, I decided I was gonna come back the next day to get my chimichanga. I even tempted fate by arriving at the place later than I had done the night before. Luckily, they still had burrito shells in stock. I finally got chimichanga. The thing was as massive as I remembered it from the first time I had. I basically ate the whole thing which I’m not too proud of. I wasn’t hungry for the entire rest of the night.
Some people set goals like loosing weight, learning a new language, or getting a promotion. I try to eat foods that elude my grasp.
In a previous post, I detailed my attempts to go another winter without turning the heat on in my apartment. It’s been going ok but during the recent cold spell I had to bundle up inside to keep the streak alive. It was extra challenging this year because for some reason, the hallway on my floor was not heated. There is a vent for air right outside my door. This vent circulates fresh air from the outside. In previous years, during the winter, the air coming from this vent would also be heated. The heated air would then blow under the door to my apartment and heat my whole place. Free heating!
While the heat was not on during the cold spell, I was happy to discover the heat was turned on in the hallway today. In fact, the air was so hot, a pair of shoes by my door felt noticeably warm when I touched them. It looks like I might be able to get through another year without turning on my heat.
I just noticed on the Xbox Live Marketplace tonight that the demo for EA’s Grand Slam Tennis 2 is now out. This is the third attempt for EA to get this game out. While I was working on skate 3, I had heard that my brothers and sisters over at Sports label was trying to get this game finished for the Xbox 360 and PS3. We then found out that the execs decided to shelve the game for reasons we weren’t privy to. It was disappointing to see it get shelved since the early builds that I played were quite fun and they seemed pretty far along in the development.
The second attempt to get this game out the door actually involved me. Back when I was hating my time on Fight Night Champion, I was pretty much set on leaving EA. The only thing that would make me stay was working on Grand Slam Tennis 2. Tennis was really the only sports game that EA Canada was making that I was interested in working on. I lobbied hard to get on the team but just not being on the team, I wanted a meaningful game play role instead of piecing together menus. My attempts worked as I was slotted into a preliminary game play engineer role. The team at the time was still being formulated as they were still dusting off the cobwebs from the first time the game was frozen in development. I still had about a month left on Fight Night before I could move onto Tennis full time. Then one day I received news that the execs had decided to once again shelve the game for whatever reason. Some people who were already on the Tennis team got holding the short end of the stick as they had nowhere else to go. Those people got laid off while others were able to go back to their former teams or find other placements. I got stuck back on Fight Night where I continued to feel despair. It was about that time that I pretty much asked my manager to get me on the next layoff list. I got my wish a few weeks later.
They say the third time is the charm and it looks like it will be. I have a former co-worker on the Tennis team and he’s been working on it for a while now. Every time we talked about the project we’d joke about a third shelving of the game. I wonder what it would have been like to work on that game. If I had not asked for a layoff, I would have finished my sentence on Fight Night and I would have probably been put back on Tennis. At the time though, I didn’t know they’d resurrect the game again. Anyways, I tried the demo out and it was as fun as I remembered it, way back in 2010 when the only character in the game was Roger Federer.
Well congrats on the team for shipping Grand Slam Tennis 2, which hits the stores this February. They did what two other teams couldn’t… avoid the executive axe.
Before the start of the new year, a good friend of mine told me informally that he and his fiancee had chosen a date for their wedding. My friend lives in New York and last summer, he brought his then-girlfriend to Vancouver for a visit. While he was here, he informed me he was going to propose in mere days. So, I’ve known about this wedding for a long time. The wedding is scheduled for late March and it is going to be in NYC. Even with me unemployed right now, I still thought it was going to be feasible for me to go as I wasn’t intending to stay very long and thus save on the hotel a bit. Then I received the wedding invitation last week.
The wedding calls for “black tie” attire. A few of my other friends wondered what that meant exactly and if it called for tuxedos. I wondered as well so I spoke with the groom this weekend. So apparently, “black tie” means a tux if you have one but you can also wear a black suit with a white shirt and a black tie (this was suggested by the bride). Unfortunately, the only suit I own is a charcoal gray suit and isn’t dark enough to pass off as “black tie”. I am faced with choices here, some of which aren’t so appealing to me. The first is that I can rent a tux or a suit here in Vancouver and bring it to the wedding. This is great and all but typically rentals of this nature are normally for a day or two and I’ll probably be gone for three days at a minimum so I’m wondering if the rental cost begins to be prohibitive. Another option is to rent a tux or suit from a place in NYC. This would eliminate the extra days of rental as I can just pick up the garment the day of or before the wedding and return it the next day. The big disadvantage is that I won’t be able to see what I look like in the outfit until I get there. I can send my measurements all I want but you can’t beat the experience of an in-person fitting. A third option is to buy another suit, a black one this time. I refuse to buy a tux because I would have little use for one. The new suit would fit great and I’d get another chance to wear it again. The big disadvantage is the cost. The last suit I bought looks great on me but it cost me about $600. If I really wanted a nice, quality suit it’d probably cost me that much again. That’s a lot of money for a wedding when you factor in the flight and hotel. I could go cheap on the new suit and try to buy the cheapest black suit I can buy that still looks somewhat respectable.
I’m really not sure what is the best choice right now. I’m going to have to do some research and find out how much rentals would be over multiple days. I’ll also have to go look at how much cheap suits go for at various places. Why couldn’t this wedding be “business casual”?
The weather has been unseasonably cold in Vancouver for the last week or so. Those used to frigid climates might chuckle at this post but we’re not used to this weather on the west coast. Temperatures have been below freezing continuously for periods over 24 hours. This is quite unusual for Vancouver winters where it might slightly dip below freezing at night but then claw back to positive temperatures in the day time. When it does dip below freezing, it gets really cold, the coldest for this week was minus 8 degrees Celsius, which is summer weather for other parts of Canada.
What also has been bad is that after some snow fall, the traditional rains that come to wash away the flakes did not arrive. Instead, it just iced up and tonight more snow fell. It’s going to be an interesting commute for some Vancouverites tomorrow.
This video is more than a decade old yet I only saw it for the first time today. That’s Bill Gates of Microsoft fame basically doing a standing leap over a desk chair. That was actually quite a feat of agility considering the height of the chair and that he also had to move horizontally to clear the seat as well. Gates is certainly a good guy in my books because of his philanthropic endeavours but he’s gained a new level of respect with me for that jump.
If you also look at that video on YouTube, there is also a comment that I’m kinda ashamed of for laughing at.
I awoke this morning to find out that another video game studio in Vancouver is shutting its doors. Ubisoft announced they will be closing their Vancouver location which was previously an independent studio named Action Pants. Ubisoft bought Action Pants several years ago in what, at the time, seemed like a good move. This closure is just another in a long list of negative developments in the Vancouver video game industry. A few years ago, one could easily argue that Vancouver was the hub of video game development in Canada but that title surely has been passed onto Montreal now.
I know a few people who worked at Ubisoft Vancouver. In fact, less than twelve hours before the news broke, I was speaking with a friend of mine who was a game designer at the studio. He was questioning some odd decisions that Ubisoft made but in light of what happened today, those decisions seem somewhat more understandable now. An ex-coworker of mine was actually laid off from Ubisoft Vancouver about two months ago. In hindsight, that actually might have been the better situation as he was able to find a new job with very little competition. As of today, there are now plenty more people all looking for new jobs. I know Ubisoft is trying to place all the affected people at other jobs. Another person I know who lost his job today is going to Ubisoft’s Toronto studio. He’ll be packing his life up and taking himself and his wife to Toronto at the end of February.
So why did Ubisoft close the Vancouver studio? Well, to be very frank, that studio cost them a lot of money and they didn’t get much out of it. Since the studio was sold to Ubisoft, they produced I believe three games that were far from great hits. Those titles did not have critical acclaim nor the sales that would have lessened the blow of the poor reviews. It was surprising how little buzz was generated by the games that Ubisoft Vancouver made. Even industry people here locally in Vancouver heard very little about those games. I don’t know if Ubisoft just refused to put marketing dollars behind their Vancouver studio or if the games just didn’t garner any attention with gamers. After several games, several years, and probably millions of dollars, Ubisoft decided to cut their losses.
To be clear, I don’t think all the blame should be put on the people who worked at the studio. I know some people who worked there and I even interviewed for a position there. They had some really talented and smart people. The main problem was that Ubisoft made them work on games that really seemed like they were doomed to failure from the start. Ubisoft wanted their Vancouver studio to make sports games, which in my opinion was stupid. They were competing with the sports games giant in the industry, EA Canada which happened to be a 20 minute drive away. People can complain all they want about EA but the truth is, they have a huge market share with sports games, in particular soccer (football for all you Europeans). Of course, Ubisoft wanted their Vancouver studio to make a successful soccer game. This was an incredibly ambitious undertaking but without the authentic FIFA license, they were starting from a difficult position. They had two kicks at the can at this but you can read about the results here and here. Their last game, another sports title, was released this fall and here‘s the review for it.
Ubisoft basically handcuffed everyone in Vancouver into making three games that didn’t really have a chance for success. They really should have just let them be creative and invent new intellectual property or given them a choice of some of the existing Ubisoft IP. The people whom I knew that worked there are incredibly creative and talented, they deserved better than working on sports games. I really wonder if this would have been the same outcome had they been given more freedom to make the games they wanted to and could make. Unfortunately there are now another large group of developers looking for work in Vancouver.