As I wrote in an earlier post, I was scheduled to (briefly) return to work so that I could pick up my personal items and possibly a new chair for my work from home setup. That excursion to the studio was completed and I can now describe the experience.

I originally thought it would feel surreal going back to the studio but that wasn’t what I felt at all. As soon as I parked and took the elevator up to the main lobby, everything seemed quite familiar and comfortable, even if there had been many changes since I was last there.

In the lobby, there were desks set up, manned by facilities staff, all behind plexiglass, ready to check people in and out. I had to check-in, so that they could keep track of who was at the studio and at what time. I was given the option to take as many empty boxes as I needed and a cart if necessary. I knew I didn’t have a ton of stuff to take home, so I only took a single box, without a cart.

With my box in hand, I began walking through the studio. I immediately noticed that were signs and arrows on the floor everywhere. The signs said to give everyone space and masks were required inside the studio. The arrows were like any of the arrows you’ve seen at stores, trying to get people to move in a certain direction.

There were lots of signs placed on chairs were people used to sit, basically informing people not to sit there anymore. The lobby arcade was shut down, with the machines unplugged. Our main coffee shop was also shut down, with no one there.

I then passed by the cafeteria. It was closed and it seemed like some of the equipment had been moved out or packed away. All the chairs, benches, and tables were re-arranged in a way to prevent people from using them.

Going past the cafeteria, I had to use a stairwell and it was there I realized that they had designated some stairwells as going up only and some as going down only. They didn’t do a good job of labeling the stairwells as such though. There was no signage on the doors of the stairwells letting you know what direction it was going in, so it was kinda confusing at first.

It was at this point I noticed that many of the walls had been re-done with new graphics during the five months that I was away. It’s a shame that everyone is at home now because the studio does look a bit sharper with the new looks.

I also became aware of how many people were actually working at the studio. While it was definitely very empty compared to pre-pandemic times, it was not the complete ghost town that I expected. Obviously there was staff to process the people coming in to pick up stuff. There was also security present. I was, however, surprised to see lots of janitorial staff. The washrooms were all still being cleaned and such.

I also saw some people who were at their desks, doing actual work related to game development. I don’t know what their job function is that EA would have extended them the option to come back into the studio to do their work. I’m guessing some of them might be QA who need to physically be around multiple dev/test kits to do certain types of testing in a reasonable manner. Though, I swear I saw a designer while I was there. Not sure why they were there.

Anyways, what was a bit of a shock was seeing my desk. About five months ago, I left work on a Tuesday I believe, and I had no idea that I wouldn’t be coming back for almost half a year. My desk was pretty much the same as I had left it. A few things under my desk had been moved around as IT had to install some equipment to allow us to power cycle our workstation and dev kits over the Internet. Otherwise, it was my desk, frozen in time from five months ago.

It took me only ten minutes or so to pack up all my stuff. I didn’t really have a lot to bring back. I had to dump some cookies I had left in a Tupperware container. I also threw out some stuff I didn’t need anymore and recycled some papers. Everything indeed fit into the one box I brought from the lobby. It wasn’t all that heavy either, so I didn’t need a cart to bring it to my car.

In the end, I decided not to pack up my desk chair at work to bring it home. It was just a bit too bulky and inconvenient for me to get it into my car. For all the trouble it would have been, it would not have given me that much benefit.

So, I brought my box of stuff back down to the lobby, checked out with the facilities people, and I drove home.

I didn’t have a lot of time but I managed to take a few really bad photos while I was there. As you can see, there is good reason for me to have pre-ordered a new smartphone, my current phone takes terrible photos.

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