Over the holidays I had myself a second visit to non-other-than New York City. I had been once before, amazed at how it was like transporting to real-life GTA’s Liberty City. However since those teenage years my favorite type of game had matured from GTA into detective games. This time I wanted to find the similarities of a lesser known game, the detective series Blackwell, which is based entirely on the city of NY.
The Minetta tavern famous from Blackwell Convergence was closed because it was Monday. If only I had a piece of paper I could have slid it under the door and pushed in the key (Sorry, “Adventure Game humour”)
When I visited New York in my teenage years I was amazed of all the similarities with my favorite game at the time: GTA 3. Since then however GTA 4 came out which actually made me bored of NYC. For some reason I feel like GTA 4 portrays the city as just gray and slummy, without the charm.
Luckily there’s a series of games from Wadget Eye Games that portrays NYC in a different light. In GTA 4, the buildings feels like they have no history beyond their shallow mission or backdrop purpose, making me simply wish they would hurry to remake the more uplifting Vice City instead. In games such as Blackwell & Unavowed however, the gameplay is all about discovering the depth of locations and peoples lives, and thus the mature age of New York becomes a positive characteristic. All though I would rather chose Miami for driving a sports car by the sunset, NYC is a great place for mysteries with deeper stories.
So having already done a “GTA tour” during my previous visit (as well as visiting the wonderful MET museum level from Rogue Spear), I felt this time was my chance to see some WEG locations! Check out all the Blackwell real life locations I discovered!
Surprised that I already spent a year working at RocketWerkz I thought I’d slow down for a second to reflect on my time here. Normally I’d consider it too formal to write about an employer on my crazy blog, but unlike a conventional studio, you’ll see why my experience working for RocketWerkz is well blog-worthy.
The RocketWerkz office celebrating my 1 year with fireworks! Or wait.. maybe those were for 4th of July.
Over the years I’ve come across my fair share of studios who think they are special. Rather than bragging (or even mentioning) salary-ranges they emphasize what an honor it is to work for their one-of-a-kind studio. Problem is, the company culture bragged about is usually neither special or advantageous.
My favorite example of pretentious meaningless company perks must surely be the infamous beanbag chair. All though I could think of a hundred potential perks that could improve my life, beanbag chairs is not one of them! It seems that every CEO thinks they can turn a stale corporate environment into a never-ending party with the right beanbags. Of course my issue isn’t the beanbags themselves, but the lack of good answers when I ask “what else you got that makes you special?”.
I love making fun of pretentious beanbag offices, so it’s ironic that a previous employer asked ME to pose for their obligatory beanbag-shot on their career-page.
So imagine my surprise when I arrived to RocketWerkz. Not only are we blessed with a beanbag-free office space, our perks goes way beyond mere buzzwords.
We are so incredibly lucky with our perks that I’ve stopped keeping an eye on other career opportunities. Because of my somewhat rare experience working in China my LinkedIn is bombarded with offers from Chinese studios looking for western experience. Sometimes these offers comes with salary ranges that makes coffee spray out of my mouth! But regardless how lucrative I just can’t take any offer seriously. After getting spoiled with the creative freedom working for RocketWerkz it’s hard to imagine ever going back to work for a conventional studio again! Allow me to show you why…
For a whole year working at Dean Hall’s new company RocketWerkz I’ve had to have my lips completely sealed about what I’m working on. While everyone’s been assuming I make VR games (because of our Out of Ammo releases) I’ve hardly even touched a Vive! Most of my time and energy has all gone into this one secretive game revealed today!
After my adventures making games in China, I had a difficult dilemma. On the one hand I wanted to move to New Zealand but on the other hand I really wanted to use Unreal Engine 4. With NZ’s games industry being tiny, it didn’t give me the luxury of being able to pick and choose jobs based on engine choice. Imagine my surprise when I finally received a job offer in my favorite place in the world using my favorite engine in the world!
At this stage I was so excited I gladly accepted the job knowing little about the secretive game I would be working on. Frankly I was so happy to move to NZ to use UE4 that I would gladly accept any project no matter how silly (I once even interviewed for ‘My Little Pony’ just because their studio was located in Auckland). But my luck was just about to begin…
At RocketWerkz they believe in letting developers work on what they want to work on. Al though I wasn’t officially introduced to Living Dark, I once saw their early prototype on someones monitor and immediately said “I wanna work on THAT!”
The game is being developed by a small indie team here in New Zealand. That’s me furthest to the right!
Having released over 20 children’s games, I’d gotten a little bit tired of their upbeat style. Especially when you consider that there’s nothing “casual” about the games I like to play as a gamer. Seeing the dark rainy neon-clad streets of Living Dark made me realize I wanted to join the project before even having any idea what the game was about!
What I really like about the game is its procedural aspects. When I played RPG’s in my younger years I truly felt like I was escaping into a another worlds, not so much these days! Perhaps because I’m a developer or perhaps I’m just too old, I tend to see through the smoke & mirrors of modern games which makes the worlds feel flat. Making the world procedural in a convincing (not ‘No Man’s Sky’ style) way is the best solution I can imagine to this problem.
I had finally found the game I wanted to spend my next year or years working on, only downside was that I couldn’t say a word about it! But finally the secrecy is slowly getting revealed! Click to check out all 5 trailers!
Although my adventures in China may have passed, the culture will never leave me entirely. One such aspect is my years studying Mandarin Chinese, a language I have zero use for in my new life in New Zealand. After seeing an advertisement for Chinese New Year in Dunedin Chinese Garden I figure this might be my chance to blow the dust off my rusty Mandarin, so I grab a couple of colleagues and head on down. Well turns out I didn’t get any use of the language there either, but I got something even better, opportunities for long exposure photography! Check these out!
When I saw how nice my friends hotel room was I saw an interesting photo oppertunity, finally I could have sophisticated pics of myself. Unfortunately my friend wasn’t convinced of my sophistication so she recorded a video with pressing questions in an attempt to reveal me. Luckily I narrowly dodged the investigation so smooth that no one will ever question me again, check it out!
Having just arrived to my new job in New Zealand, I was surprisingly quickly pulled back out of the country. It felt like I had barely even turned on my computer at work, but with a 2 weeks office shutdown around the holidays I had little choice but to take an early undeserved vacation. Thinking I would at least get to see some of New Zealand, a friend invited me to celebrate Christmas in New Caledonia, an offer I could not refuse. Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of the country, as neither had I. Now would be a good time to learn tho by checking out some of my photos!
When I asked for a white Christmas I wasn’t referring to the color of the sand, but this will do too! 😉
This fire escape is plain dangerous, as everytime we run by we have to stop for pictures! 😉
This fire escape is plain dangerous, as every time we run by we have to stop for pictures! 😉
In my previous post I announced my sad decision to leave my life in China, but it turned out it wasn’t so sad after all. Al thought it seemed there were no good jobs out there I somehow caught one that seems too good to be true.
4k 27″ monitor, 6 core @ 3.60 GHz CPU, 1070 GTX graphics… I think I’m in love with my new work machine!
During my job hunt I had two primary wishes; I wanted to use my favorite development tool Unreal Engine 4 and to live someplace nice. These requirements initially seemed reasonable until my job searching gave me a grim view of the market.
My favorite development tool has started gradually fading from the job portals, although Unreal is the vanguard of cutting edge of technology, many game companies are switching to Unity to save cost. Although the choice of tool doesn’t affect conventional rewards such as salary, using the best technology is what makes the every day process of making games interesting.
Similarly my living requirements wasn’t easily met. Although I’ve matured past my adventurous phase of living in places like China, I also didn’t love the idea of returning to Sweden or UK. A few years ago I’d decided New Zealand would be my ideal place to live, but after discovering how tiny its game industry is I realized it wasn’t likely to happen.
It seemed impossible to find a job that meets my needs, but then right out of the blue the perfect offer popped up! Click to find out where!
Leaving a workplace is always a tough decision, but when your visa is directly tied to your job, it’s even tougher! Apart from the frightening choices regarding a next career move, I would also have to say a rushed goodbye to my friends before my visa gets revoked. It was tough decision to make, but one that needed to be made.
Knowing my Chinese skills would turn useless the moment I leave China, I used my last day as an opportunity to tell one last story in Chinese.
Living in China has been an unforgettable experience beyond tourism. Even after two years I still find myself surrounded by unexplored adventures. Still I had to ask myself a difficult question. Am I an adventurer (perhaps even a “travel blogger”, god forbid!) or am I in fact a game developer?
Despite still enjoying the life, I came to realize Chengdu was not my place to mature as a developer. With the simplicity of children’s games not requiring complex tech art, and with an unavoidable language barrier keeping me from dwelling into team pipelines, there wasn’t enough room for my skills to grow. Luckily I’ve found just the right place for me, stay tuned to find out where!
With my vacation days stacking up it was time to go on another adventure, but the idea of lying on a beach reading a book sounded underwhelming. Much more to my taste, we found a MMA training camp in Thailand. But albeit my fascination for MMA, could this computer geek handle that kind of training? Read on to find out!
QiYue hitting the bags at AKA Thailands outdoor gym.
With two years of pollution stacked up in my lungs from living in China, I preferred a “healthcation” rather than a party trip.
At first I wanted to sign up for a yoga center in Thailand but luckily I discovered something horrible in their TripAdvisor reviews. What surprised me wasn’t the occasional one-star rating (every business has them) but rather their response to such. After a one star review insulted every aspect of the center, they responded with “Thanks for your feedback, Love you!” . The sheer pretentiousness of this response made me feel I rather punch this yoga center than join them! That’s when my idea was born, maybe I should just learn fighting instead!
I found an amazing camp that trains MMA, but suspected QiYue wouldn’t be interested. I was surprised to find she thought it sounded way better than the yoga. The decision was made and I would spend my next month getting physically prepared for the fighting. But would one month be enough to get this computer geek capable of training alongside real fighters? Click to check out my vacation at AKA Thailand!
Readers of my blog will know I’m no stranger to climbing Buddhist mountains but unlike climbing with my colleagues I was craving a more spiritual journey. I should’ve been careful what I wished for as I traveled to the highest sacred mountain of China. A journey that would have me climb slippery stairs for days through dangerous jungle, rain and pitch darkness.
Approaching the kung fu temple at base, I had no idea I was about to embark on the most physically and mentally tormenting journey of my life.
Surrounded by the worlds most sacred sites of Buddhism, I felt there had to be a more spiritual journey awaiting me. During my previous hike I’d been discussing video-games with my colleagues the entire way.
I already had in mind the location for my next adventure. As I was living within short travel distance to Mount Emei, ranked officially as the highest sacred mountain of China.
I was afraid this was too dangerous of a hike as warned by several TripAdvisors, but others misled me by claiming it was a piece of cake. Turns out there were varying levels of difficulty and I was about to embark on the most excruciating path. But this hardship would not come without it’s rewards, for at the top awaited me the spiritual guidance I sought. Check out my spiritual vision!
In previous post I wrote about my disastrous first painting class in China. Tho it involved a positive surprise ending, I saved the best for last. After a year of successful classes I was eventually asked for an interview by one of China’s largest newspapers. Prepare for the weirdest article you’ve ever read!
Learning from the mistakes of my disastrous first lesson, I enjoyed a year of successful classes afterwards. But why were one of China’s largest newspapers interested in writing about my little painting classes?
At the end of my first lesson I thought I finally had a chance to unwind, but turned out the most important part still remained.
Many students wanted to brag about their new painting on social media with a picture together with their teacher. Feeling guilty for having so little time to help with their paintings, I felt the least I could do was pose for as many pictures as they want.
This was no small feat however. As the class was nearly all girls, five or six re-takes were not unheard of, as they self-proclaimed that they had a “weird expression”. At the end of these photo sessions my smiling muscles were literally twitching, never before had I held a wide “photo-smile” for 30 minutes straight. Althought exhausting these pictures generated a lot of buzz on social media, eventually getting me noticed by one of China’s largest newspapers. Click for the pics and translation of the weirdest newspaper article you’ve ever read!
In previous post I warmed up the story of my painting classes in China, a role that would lead to my interview by one of China’s largest newspapers. Just as I had arrived to my first lesson, I had discovered that the small class I had joined as a student was nothing like that I was about to teach. What was meant to be an easy job turned into a disaster, but also had an unexpected reward.
Nervously arriving to my first class I was surprised it had moved out of the cafe into the mall’s hallways. Turns out they were preparing for the huge group-booking on the way!
For my first teaching job I was hoping for a small class but received the opposite. Apparently there had been a last-minute group booking by ‘Hot Moms’, an app that organizes group activities for housewives.
Nervous about the number of students I would be teaching, even the organizers started worrying when many housewives had brought along their children, further doubling the size of the class!
As a beginner in acrylic painting, I had already questioned my ability to teach the few students I were expecting. But with the recent explosion in attendance I had a feeling this would turn into a disaster. My gut was not wrong, but there was also a positive surprise. Check out my disastrous first class!
Sometimes I wished my desk-job exposed me to the outside world. Living in China comes with a host of opportunities for interesting encounters, but if you’re always stuck in an office you won’t experience any of them. A year ago my wish turned true as I was offered to teach painting on weekends. Tho starting small it would turn into my viral “15 minutes of fame”, including an interview by one of China’s largest newspapers!
During this fun painting party I was offered to teach my own classes. A role that would eventually land me an newspaper interview.
One evening as me and a friend was looking for an activity we signed up for a one-time art class at a cafe. As I couldn’t understand a word of the teachers Chinese instructions, the class seemed an ill fit at first. Luckily I stayed with it, thinking at least I get to paint without the hassle of cleaning. Little did I know this one-time class would turn into my greatest opportunity in China.
As the class was coming to its end the organizers came over to compliment my painting. I was unsure what all the praise was about until they asked me the question, if I was interested in teaching my own classes.
Having already lived a year in China I knew my painting had little to nothing to do with the offer, compared to simply being an exotic foreigner. Luckily my pride has flexible standards so regardless of reason I gladly accepted the offer. Finally I had my chance to interact with the people of Chengdu!
But this opportunity turned out to be more than I had bargained for. The decision to hire a exotic foreigner turned out to be a good one, as the student attendance exploded in numbers. So much that my first lesson turned into a disaster. Click to read the journey to my 15 minutes of fame!
It’s always amusing to find influences my tiny Swedish country has on this massive Chinese empire. The most obvious must be the huge Ikea buildings painted boldly in the colors of the Swedish flag. But to which degree does it actually “feel like home”? It was time to finally find out!
Will my visit to Chinese Ikea feel “just like home”? The answer might surprise you!
Wherever you travel as a Swede, someone will recommend you to visit their country’s Ikea, “for all your Swedish needs”. More than just a generic furniture store, they offer hints of their Swedish origins in everything from their food to their product-names.
Until now I’ve turned down such recommendations, I don’t find myself particularly addicted to Swedish meatballs. But as the culture shocks of China was beginning to feel like living on a different planet, my craving for familiarity peaked. It was time to finally make a visit.
Would it have that promised Swedish flare or be filled with have the usual Chinese flavor? Back home an urban legend is that some Chinese take actual naps in the showcase beds. Would these rumors turn out to be true? Click to find out!
In my previous post I spoke of my great journey to the largest building in the world, but like the bastard I am I ended with a cliffhanger just as I took my first steps inside. Today I finally reveal my adventure exploring, eating & shopping in the world’s largest building!
The world’s largest building meets the world’s nicest guy!
This enormous building, called ‘New Century Global Center’, has many entrances for many purposes. Containing offices, a mall, restaurants, an ice-rink, a water park and hotels. Dazzled where to start I took excited steps into its ridiculously huge mall.
Having been years since my last visit to a mall my initial excitement was justified, but quickly disbursed. Within minutes I remembered why malls are the most boring places on earth. When you’re already satisfied with your current laptop anything a store has to offer seems like unnecessary junk. I had two hours to kill until the restaurants open for lunch, yet each passing shopfront seemed more depressing than the former. Then, to my surprise, I walked upon the perfect place to spend my morning. What magical place did I discover? Click to see for yourself!
Having lived a year in Chengdu it was shameful I still hadn’t seen ‘Global Center’, also known as the largest building in the world. Despite my huge interest for architecture I was discouraged by the distance, but having just acquired a great deal on a bike it was finally time to make the journey!
The road to the world’s largest building was more adventurous than I’d thought!
Having never heard of Chengdu I assumed it must be a small town when I first received my job offer. I was surprised to learn that it’s a city of 14 million inhabitants, containing such landmarks as the the largest building in the world, and more famously, the largest panda center in the world.
Having seen too many episodes of the documentary Megastructures, my excitement for ambitious architecture far outweighs my rare chance to hold a baby panda. It was time to jump onto my new bike and make a visit, but the journey was perhaps more interesting than the building itself! Click to check it out!
Recently I was lucky enough to win a free buffet in a contest. Not just any buffet, but at one of Chengdu’s finest hotels. Obviously I took plenty of pictures so I could mercilessly tease those who didn’t win, check them out!
The quality of this buffet would have made it a healthy meal if only I could resist the dessert bar with its chocolate fountain!
The marketing department at my workplace has started a fun little guessing game. For every new title we release we all make guesses as to how well our product will sell. For the release of Toto’s Treehouse I just happened to guess exactly right!
The price was a buffet for two at Shangri La, one of China’s most luxurious hotels. Apparently it’s so fancy that it was the hotel of choice for the Obama family on their visit to Chengdu, but was it good enough even for someone of my status? Read on to find out!
Recently our company went to climb the great Mount QingCheng. A normal person would take this opportunity to bond with their fellow colleagues, but I saw it as yet another chance to brag about my new camera. But as our 3d lead showed up with a 16,000$ camera and the skills to match, I had to reevaluate my strategy. My only chance to brag was to go the pretentious route with some B&W photography.
It was a seemingly quiet night, but all the amazing Chinese decor made me worried a kung fu fight might break out at any moment!
It was a usual busy Friday afternoon, but instead of heading home, we were carrying boxes upon boxes of sodas and snacks to a bus. It was time to climb Mount QingCheng! Tho conveniently nearby, it’s apparently “amongst the most important centres of Taoism”, whatever that means! 😉
As we arrived I was expecting our hotel to be the usual “boring but good location”, I was surprised to arrive at what looked like a set for a Jet Li movie. In the west I would expect a really hefty price tag for such a thematic hotel, but here, I have no idea weather it was thematic or just the regular architecture. Click to see my pretentious B&W photos of our life-daring journey up QingCheng Mountain!
With the release of Toto’s Treehouse we decided to celebrate with something fancy for lunch. I was highly skeptical when someone suggested such western food as burgers, but when they told me it was located at the top of Chengdu’s luxury mall I grabbed my camera and said “let’s go!”.
Niels’ speech for our company’s future was so powerful that even the boy at the next table was convinced!
IFS is the go-to mall for overpriced luxury goods that you can’t afford, therefore it sounded like the perfect place to eat now that the company was paying. Only once before had I been to IFS and it taught me a lesson in pricing. When the customers of a juice bar looks like they are all mistresses of oil tycoons, the price of your orange juice isn’t going to match your local farmers market.
True to my previous experience, the prices at the restaurant had us gasping for air. But since the company was paying we explored the menus for the fanciest burgers we could find. Tho I may have gone vanilla with my ‘original burger’, Jack picked out something way more awesome. Check out Jack’s daredevil attempt at the notoriously spicy Devil’s Burger!
We just released the first children’s game I worked on for my new job in China. I was especially excited about this game because I took some risks pushing the boundaries. What risks, you ask? Read to find out!
The moment I heard that our new game will be played in a treehouse, I knew it will be a big success. What child doesn’t wish he had a treehouse?
All too often in the games industry we’ll receive an uninspired design document with the explanation that some other aspect (like graphics or marketing) will make it great. Most of the games industry has yet to learn the wonderful motto of Hollywood; “If a movie requires perfect execution to be interesting, then it’s just not a good screenplay”.
So I was excited to see a design document that could catch my interest with only few words.
“Take care of a baby turtle living in a giant treehouse”
Since I saw such potential in this game, there was one experimental aspect outside of my usual duties that I wanted to push for. Click to read about my experimental contribution!
After years of planning I finally bought my camera at the worst possible timing. Right amid the crunch time for Toto’s Treehouse there was simply no time to give it a try. But then one evening as we were out for our overtime dinner, fate intervened with heavy rain, stranding us from returning to our office. This was the perfect time to take my new camera for a spin. Check out the results!
My colleague Yi walking around the flooded mall, waiting for the rain to pass.
The arrival of electronics is the guilty pleasures that turns this wannabe minimalist into a gadget geek. In the date box for my vacation forms I’ve been known to write “when my new computer arrives”. But this time upon the arrival of my new camera I could barely give it a glance before having to return to my tasks at hand.
So when the rain stranded us from returning to the office, it was the worst thing that could happen to our project’s deadline, but perfect for my selfish desire to try out my camera! As the team could do nothing but stand around waiting for the rain to pass, it gave me a solid half hour with a group of reluctant colleagues as test subjects.
My luck increased even further as time went on. The Lan Kwai Fong Mall, apart from hosting the restaurant where we were eating, is known in Chengdu as the nightclub district. So as the rain started leaking into the interior mall, the floor lit up with beautiful reflections from the nightclub’s many bright LEDs. It was the perfect training ground for this photographer-in-training! But did I get any perfect beginners luck shots? Click to find out and judge for yourself!
Having lived so long in China I have earned stories to last me a lifetime, but without pictures to back them up my friends wouldn’t believe the half of it! It was time to start photo-blogging, but how could I find a camera with blog-worthy quality, yet small enough that I’ll have it on me when the situation calls for it? Read on to find out!
What mystery camera will be worthy of capturing all my crazy Chinese adventures? Read on to find out!
Too many times have I cried out “I wish I had a camera” upon leaving something awesome go un-captured. It was time to get a camera! Problem is, I’m notoriously picky. I come with the following demands:
- Price: It has to be expensive enough to produce professional quality, yet cheap enough that I don’t have to protect my camera bag like a mother bear protects her cubs.
- Form & Size: It must be large enough to produce top notch quality, yet small enough that I can carry it in my bag at all times.
- Quality: It would be hard to justify carrying a dedicated camera if the resulting pictures were only marginally better than a smartphone. The quality difference must be so vast that it’s like comparing the amazing Photoshop CC 14.2 with the godforsaken Photoshop CC 14.0!
At this point any reasonable man would smack me in the face while shaking me back and forth. “You have to be realistic, man! Such camera does not exist and never will!”. Don’t be so sure, for you see, the Messiah of cameras has arrive. Low and behold… …the ultimate blogging camera! But which one is it? Click to find out!