It's been something like a year since I last used my blog. What a shit year. I really didn't have time to use it.
A hell lot of things happened.
I wanted to report all that. I needed to log all that, so I can digest everything. Especially that horrible thing: I got fired for the first time. Anyway, I'll talk about that in my next logs. This one is telling about the oldest things which happened to me during this year: game jams. I'll then be talking in other logs going forward in time.
I attended the Ludum Dare #31, giving birth to what I think is an interesting idea for a game but couldn't finish the project on time (again). It is complete shit as a finished game. You can find my entry here. I wanted to create a real game out of this project, which is funny because I could not even finish my LD entry. I had a 9-to-5 job and wanted to create a video game out of an unfinished LD entry! Hahaha! What a jerk.
I also attended Global Game Jam and it was a disaster.
First of all, I couldn't stay all day on site because my girlfriend was really, really annoying that week end. That was because she was passing those exams which would tell if she's gonna make it in her professional life. Failing the exams was meaning to repeat a year but we couldn't afford the fees if that was the case. So much stress. She wanted me to leave home so she can study in a quiet environment and at the same time, she wanted me not to stay away for too long because she was missing me (and I help her not to stress too much).
The dream team
So I went to the GGJ to let her alone and came back home during nights and breaks. This was a very, very complicated week end. The sort of week end which tests your love. The sort of week end where you should just put your foot down and say "Stop!" to the other one, yet I couldn't because bringing fights and angry clarifications at THAT moment when she was risking her entire career would not be helpful. I had to wait for the exams to finish to release the pressure and clear all the things out. It was hard. But in the end, it always worth it. And of course, my loved one did very well at those exams.
So, yeah, I couldn't stay on site and this is a huge handicap for the Global Game Jam because I had to come back to my house with my desktop computer every three hours or so... So much time wasted. I couldn't get a 100% into the jam entry, I was only "contributing". This is my biggest mistake in all of this and I highly regret it.
Everybody's doing the job. Stéphane is in the foreground
On top of that, we all know that Global Game Jam is about meeting people with the same passion as you. So I played the game. I could have joined a team with a few guys I know. They offered me to do so a few days before the jam but I refused. Again: GGJ is about meeting and learning to work with strangers. As the official rules say: "Do not come to the Jam with a team. Everyone will have some time to think and pitch an idea. Collaborate with new friends or peers you admire.".
So I arrived at the event and... surprise, surprise! We were only three people not having a team built up before the event. Okaaay... So I tagged along these two guys. And it was a disaster. I really did not like it. They know it, I know it. My partners in this jam were Stéphane "laei" Drouot and Thomas "Entallia" Lubrano Di Ziranaldi.
That autistic but talented game artist
Stéphane is a lonely person. You can see that at the first sight. And I think he is someone talented. He really is into art and has a lot of skills but maybe not as much as he thinks.
As an example, Stéphane bashed Thomas and I and said (in a not so private blog on FB which I discovered after the jam, btw, this is so nice to bash people when they're not here anymore) that he is "way more creative than he thinks".
Well, this is humble, isn't it? The typical game designer "god complex" comes from that everyone is a genius at this point of our industry/art. This is like we're in 1900's with the movie industry. Everything has to be done. The indie wave is getting more and more mature. Ideas are getting less and less ground-breaking. Between that GGJ and now, we had that "Indiepocalypse" thing but still, it just represents a market being totally new a couple of years ago and being now flooded by all those innovative game ideas. I remember we had the same thing in the modding world. I remember this flood of thousands mods for Half Life, Unreal, Battlefield and Half Life². It was exactly the same. In the end, there are still hundreds of talented and creative game developers down there and there are still hundreds of talented and creative games being released.
So, even more than before, we have the proof that everyone with a childish, imaginative way of seeing life is a video game development genius. Anyone which knows how to make his brain work -which is basically 99% of humanity, the other 1% being people working for Daesh- can come up with the game idea of the century. What distinguish the good and the best is always the execution of the project, not the idea of the project. Stéphane was not understanding that. Stéphane was just someone among those hundreds of creative guys out there.
So, he sort of forced us to work on his idea because he thought his idea was the best. Thomas and I thought it was not a groundbreaking one. The game would be that you had to follow the life and death of virtual living cells/beings in a poetic game-ish application. Just like you can in thousands of other game jams or in every game of life you build in your first electronic lessons. Hell, my first game jam was even about that!
Stéphane was not that creative with that game concept. We thought that, as a team, we could improve it. We told him about how we could enrich the mechanics with certains enemies and certain features. But during all the jam, it was all about his ideas. His first move when Thomas or I were proposing some new ideas was criticizing it and not listening about it. Right away after your first words, he was always staring at you, telling you "Yeah, but with your idea, ...", with that "WTF" gesture. Damn it, mates, I am not in game design school anymore! Just shut up for thirty seconds and hear what we have to say!
Stéphane in action
Besides all of that, Stéphane is talented. He knows how to do stuff. His only main problem is working with others, just like a lot of us. It is quite funny for someone like him to tell that some people like Thomas or me don't know how to work, don't get that we have 48 hours to complete something and not a couple of seconds more.
It is quite funny for someone who asked Thomas to use those complicated custom shaders and all those Photoshop layer masks, given that Thomas was not even comfortable yet with the concept of layers in Photoshop and with having inspiration for our assets.
It is even more funny for someone who deleted half my code in the saturday night because he couldn't understand it, even though it was working and he didn't have to touch it (we had our dedicated game classes to work on). Well, had we only 48 hours to do something? We just lost two hours of coding.
I didn't have the time to understand what he wrote in the class he had to design. Sometimes I had to see what he did, so I could do the job on my side. I didn't understand everything. But the point is: what he wrote was working. I didn't have to understand everything else. OOP means something: when you write a class, other people don't have to understand it. If you had to write a method "goPickUpGroceries" in the "Lackey" class and if that method is indeed making the lackey go pick up groceries, your partner doesn't have to understand how it works. He just needs to call that method in the "ArrogantBritishLord" class.
This is why I didn't delete his code because I didn't understand it. This is why he didn't have to do so for his part.
Stéphane and his messy code
On top of that, it is also funny for someone refusing to use a common Game class, which would store every single game variables in a static form. This is just the basics of the basics of game dev. Impartial fact: it takes thirty seconds to create such a class and saves hours finding "where that speed variable for that enemy is declared?". Plus, it is accessible in any classes you make in Unity, just by typing Game.badGuySpeed for example. Oh, and by the way, when you program as a team, you don't name your variables "tmp12" or "thatFunnyVariableLol". I think we didn't have to worry: the "standards" were well "lowered" during all those programming sessions.
Even though Stéphane doesn't know how to work in a team and doesn't how to program in a clean, understandable way for his partners, I am really, really thankful for him. He helped me learn a lot of stuff in Unity, especially with introducing me the new UI system brought by the 4.6 version of Unity. This system really makes creating UI in Unity an easy game. Canvas, I love you.
That rookie full of illusion
Regarding Thomas, it was quite different. I like the guy as well, he just needs a bit more mileage. He didn't know how to start working on a video game project. In fact, you could see straight away that he didn't have any experience in game dev, even as a hobby. He presented himself as a game designer for the team. He is attending some game design course at some local engineer school and wants to become a game designer.
The truth is that what they were teaching him was more graphic design than game design at that moment.
Which means he didn't really know how to design a game in a team and what to really do to become a professional game designer. The guy stood before me his eyes round when I told him that, in France, for a thousand students graduating in game design each year, you have only two or three real position as a game designer in a video game company. He simply made every errors a newbie could do, starting for instance by focusing on stories and the "universe" of a game before game mechanics. Every single game designer does that at first. But this can be annoying for someone wanting later to make his living out of game design in a professional team. When you want that, you at least try to do some stuff and learn by yourself how your future profession works.
Thomas doing the job
When we first brainstormed ourselves, Stéphane and I came each of us with three or four game concepts with decent mechanics in something like five minutes. Thomas had to think for fifteen minutes to give two game concepts which had no real game mechanics at all. They were all about settings or stories. My former game design teacher, Bruno Marion, always told us about the pirate syndrome, which is about starting a game design brief by something alike "It's a game about pirates.". Thomas was always about that.
When you are imagining a game, what comes in your mind is the final purpose. But when you are presenting your project to others, you have to choose carefully somewhere for other people minds to start building an image of the game. When you present your game to people unknowing what you have in your mind -which is basically anyone outside yourself-, if you focus on a setting, a story or a character, you're doing it quite wrong. Because speaking of an unfinished game you have in mind, the way you imagine the look, the settings or the story of a game will always be different to the people you are talking to. Mechanics, on the contrary, are universally understandable. That's why I've always been taught that the structure of a game concept is always about a one sentence pitch with the universe and the mechanics, a full description of the mechanics and THEN a full description of the story/universe/setting.
So, with other game devs, focus on things that are commonly understandable. Like gameplay and game mechanics. And forget the other things you had in mind: apart from the general outlines, people will come up with their own version. Unless you are the big boss in your company, when you're developping it in a team, your game will never exactly look, feel and be played as you imagined it. Let the others do their job. If you work alone, well, of course this is a totally different thing!
So after choosing our game idea, Thomas switched from game design to graphic design, which he had more skills to throw into. Though being less experienced than Stéphane in that, he did the job. I am thankful for that.
Yes, I fucked up. I did it and I did it a lot. I couldn't stay on site, we know that, and this is really what itches me about this experience. I learnt with this game jam that you shouldn't get into a project if your relatives are not a 100% into it. My now-fiancée has always been supportive about my career and my passion for game development. She even helps me in my projects. But it wasn't the right time to get into a jam. I was trying to take some fresh air from the toxic game dev environment at the office and get back to the roots of why I do this job. But it wasn't the right time. I know she told me to leave home for a few hours this saturday and sunday but I could have found another activity which would justify me going home. I don't know, maybe crash in some bar with friends or go shopping.
I wanted to help my loved one but I fucked up and trying to be be nice actually rebounded on me. A simple no or a more flexible activity could have saved a lot of trouble. Of course, having a shit team did not incited me to get much in the jam.
Yes, it was a shit team. Stéphane and Thomas would probably tell me I was the guy most full of shit for being arrogant and not staying long enough to help. But, hey, I did my best and we were all full of shit during that jam. Added with my personal problems, I had even more trouble staying long enough on site. Stéphane and Thomas hated me for that. This is something I know and I regret it. But I wasn't 100% responsible for it. What could I do? Breaking up with my now-fiancée because of a game jam?
Regarding my behaviour outside from "not being here enough", I was arrogant. I discovered it with this jam but I also learned it during my previous job (cf my next log). People think I am someone sooo confident about my skills. Hell, only if they know how much shit I think I am regarding some people like Philippe Ulrich, John Granier or other people I admire! I am only confident about one truth: people should behave according to their skills. Shit people should shut up and learn from skilled/experienced people. Talented people should shut up, stay humble and teach the others how they do their thing. That's it.
When people think they are more talented than they actually are, I find it funny. Yes, that's a weird sense of humor. I always had a weird sense of humor.
Sometimes in my previous job, I remember how my general directing creative supervisor© was praising to our boss how good his drawing were. So, on a couple of occasions, I did burst out laughing in front of such indecent hierarchy cocksucking. Because our creative director didn't draw much. The truth is he hired an intern specialized in drawing to do his own job.
My weird sense of humor and these uncomfortable situations I find cynically funny brought me a lot of troubles. That was the case of my previous job and that was the case during the jam. When Stéphane answered me "are you sure you know about game design ?" when I told him our game may be boring because he wasn't accepting our input, I just laugh my ass out. But by laughing, I became the most corky man of the situation. Poor move.
When Stéphane told me about the Canvas system in Unity which basically allows your UI to totally adapt with your application resolution, I didn't know shit about it. So I fucking shut up and watched him teach how it is working. The contrary didn't work. Stéphane never worked in a team of programmers where you have to be the cleanest possible, like in a complex video game project. Other programmers have to find really quickly how your code can work. They don't have to understand it fully at the first sight but they need to understand at the first sight which methods to call or what is representing a given variable. Stéphane didn't give a shit about my remarks about his code being blurry. I even think he made it even more blurry just to annoy me.
Thomas didn't behave like he hated me for being arrogant. I think he didn't know what to really think about me given his little experience. So he just followed what Stéphane was thinking because Stéphane was 100% present and I was the freeloader.
Okay, so I was arrogant because I manage my ideals with an iron first. I was arrogant because I have a weird sense of humor and seeing people showing how significant they are in life makes me laugh. Because we are all insignificant in the end. Your skills will be worthless in the future. The monuments you build will always crumble. So, just chill, mate.
I also understood after this game jam that the last reason I can be Captain Arrogant is my ideals regarding game design. My ideals is that game design can come from one mind. If one person has a video game idea, he can't share it unless it is a finished product. Working in a team only gives you the opportunity to delegate other game designers to settle details you did not have time to settle. The core game idea, the visionary game idea, the real game idea will only remain in your mind only, unless you finish the creation of your game exactly how you wanted it be.
Yes, I am a tyrant of game design. That's why people think I am sometimes arrogant. That's why I wanted Stéphane, the mind behind the primary idea, to shake himself up and tell us what made his idea, his vision ground-breaking. Only himself knew and only himself couldn't tell us.
To be continued
Ayway, to conclude, I would say that the saddest thing is that outside the rowdy "work/hobby" relationships we were having when sitting in front of our computers, we three were really getting along very well. It just turned out like lots of experience in your career or when you commit to an association for instance: things get done in a mediocre way and they can't get done good because of human relationships.
We were highly not work-compatible, though we were not that unskilled. Add my problems being present all week end long, you get a highly boring game done by a lame team. Stéphane wanted it to be "artistic", "poetic" or "meaning something". Well, to me, it does not. To me, it is a highly generic "poetic" game with no real technical innovation.
The most precious thing with this experience is that I learnt a lot regarding relationships in a work environment. Regarding the other more personal environments besides it, I learnt even more. That GGJ was a lot of time ago and we all went along but seeing it from afar is giving me a new insight. I am seeing every mistakes we all made and am learning about it.
And that's really cool.
You can test our entry on Stéphane's website.