Moving on Up

Please allow me a bit of flag waving. First off, I was very pleased to see the following list by Forbes of the best employers in Canada, with Ubisoft Montreal (where I work) coming in at #6, and then #1 for the province of Quebec. I find it to be a pretty great work environment, and so it’s nice to see it recognized as such.

Also, this week marks my first official title change since I started working in the games industry in 2015 (following my move from Japan). After working as a production coordinator at both Eidos Montreal (on the Shinra Technologies project) and Ubisoft Montreal (first as part of the For Honor team, and then on the studio’s Game Operations Online team), I’ve now taken on the role of project manager. I actually did the transition back at the end of the summer, but it took a while for all of it to become official (it accompanied a level change, which I’m also very happy about).

Pictured above is the meeting room I book every week to watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at lunch time with a couple of colleagues — we started with episode 1 of season 1, and are now in the middle of season 2.

Prey

Well, I’m sad to say I’m just not into this game. I was excited to play it, knowing how well it was received (and hearing a lot of friends say good things about it), but I had a play session of about an hour and a half, and didn’t like my time with it at all. The setting is cool, but the one thing I didn’t realize is that this game is more on the horror side, which  I don’t particularly like to experience — I love watching horror movies, but horror games simply stress the hell out of me, and it’s not an extended experience I like to have. Even worse for me, this (at least what I experienced so far) is more about jump scares, which I find to be the worse. Add to that combat that I found to be extremely frustrating — and yes, I realize that it must get better as you find and develop more weaponry, but I don’t find myself wanting to explore this game anymore. I was planning on giving at another try, but I just never found myself in the mood to do so, and knowing how many other games I have waiting for me, I realized, why am I forcing myself to play this? It’s not for me, and that’s fine.

Ode

On top of the Fun House here at Montreal’s Ubisoft studio (where I work), the other Ubi studio making smaller games is Ubisoft Reflections, and they suddenly released a new game this week called Ode (only on PC). I’ve played through half of it (I don’t have a PC at home to play games, so do it at work at lunch time or sometimes after work) and this is by far my favorite game experience from them so far. I wasn’t hugely into Grow Home (and didn’t play its sequel), but this is just a joy to play through, rolling around the gorgeous levels, with explosions of lights and sounds accompanying your journey.

No Way Out

I used to really like watching political thrillers (like the Tom Clancy movies, and stuff produced by Mace Newfeld, like this movie) and I had good memories of this movie. It starts off on the cheesy side — imagine a romance similar to what you get in Top Gun — but by the time the meat of the story starts (when a certain someone dies) it starts getting pretty good, and for the second half of the movie I was pretty into it (I’d completely forgotten how it ended). Not the best thriller out there, but still an entertaining one.

Mannequin

I was quite looking forward to watching this — sure, I didn’t think it would be anything amazing, but I remembered it being fun, in the same way that Weird Science is. I’d completely forgotten that James Spader was in this too — so make that two movies they did together in 1987, the other one being Less Than Zero — and he plays such a weird character, sorta like some sort of business-y take on Urkel (of Family Matters fame). Pretty much all of the other roles he was doing at the time amounted to the same sort of creep, so it was a bit of a shock to see him like this. As expected, it’s not a great movie, but it has its put-a-smile-on-your-face moments, like the music montage in the middle, and of course that Starship song at the end (I kept waiting for it to pop up).

Napping Princess

As I mentioned a couple of times on my blog, I’ve been looking forward to watching this (the Japanese title is Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari). I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed, and found it to be a delight — definitely in the vein of Summer Wars and Your Name, if you’re looking to compare it to something (but not necessarily has good as those movies). It’s a tale told in parallel (mixing fairy tale and reality), and it all works beautifully. Very much recommended (my wife enjoyed it as well).

The Hidden

When I added this to my list of 1987 films to watch, I thought I’d never seen it, but as I was watching it I started getting a sense of having seen it (I started recognizing some sequences and character faces). I think this is a pretty entertaining movie, and Kyle MacLachlan is fun and weird in his role (as an FBI agent, sorta — three years before Twin Peaks). For me, it’s one of the better (and not talked about) sci-fi action movies of the era — and Claudia Christian definitely sexes things up nicely (I remember her more from Babylon 5, so this turn is, ahem, interesting).

Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise

The first Revenge of the Nerds movie was one of my favorite comedies when I was a kid (meaning countless viewings), and so based on that alone at the time I’m sure I watched the sequel a whole bunch of times too (which is probably why I remembered so many of the lines). Is Nerds in Paradise a good movie? No, but as a nostalgic trip back to those characters, I had fun watching it, and I fully embraced the mountain of cheese and silliness.

Wall Street

This is still a pretty entertaining movie, and after watching it it actually made me want to re-watch the sequel that came out a few years ago — I’ve seen that sequel, and don’t remember thinking it was particularly great, but having the original fresh in my mind I’m more interested now in seeing the continuation of Douglas’s character. But yeah, it’s still a very iconic film to watch, especially the “greed is good” speech.

Texture vs. Magzter

A few months ago I wrote in jest that magazines are dead. They were sorta getting like that for me at least — with my digital-first lifestyle and reading habit, I was getting more and more frustrated by what was being offered in terms of proper iPad-formatted magazine editions.

And then I gave in.

Many a time have I bemoaned the PDF-like formatted magazines being offered by publishers — meaning, just taking your print edition and releasing it as is for iPad, which means constantly having to zoom in and out of pages to read the text. But the thing is, I really like reading magazines, and while it still wasn’t enough to make me want to seek out print editions (I buy one print magazine monthly, and that’s Monocle), I did decide to bite the bullet and test out a couple of “all-you-can-eat” digital magazine services — luckily, both services offer a free 1 month trial, so there’s nothing to lose in trying them out.

I’d seen Texture mentioned a few times, and the app looked slick, so I started with that. What’s great with Texture, is that although most of the titles on offer are PDF-like, the ones that do have proper iPad-formatted editions are actually included this — which is the case for a lot (if not all) of Conde Nast titles, like Wired and The New Yorker. The selection on offer is comprised of the majority of big titles out there. At $15 a month (for a subscription that not only gives you access to all titles, but also to all archives of each title) it seemed like it would be the more expensive option.

Magzter is the better known service — I’d heard it mentioned by a few people — and includes quite a lot more titles. That expanded inventory is a bit moot though, as the majority is made up of pretty much anything under the sun, and mostly international offerings that I have no interest in. But the worst thing here is that after I signed up for the free month (for the service that is $10 a month I think), I quickly realized that it doesn’t include access to most of the titles I’d want to read (and individual title subscriptions are not cheap). The one magazine that was part of that price tier — and also isn’t present in Texture — is gaming magazine Edge, which I used to read religiously but stopped when they turned their digital edition into the PDF-like model. What I did end up doing during that month was voraciously read through most of the issues I had missed (in the past year) before my free trial was up. I ended up falling in love with that magazine again —  with the intense reading getting me to a point where I guess I just accepted that zooming in/out is part of the process of reading these days, que sera sera — and so eventually subscribed again using Edge‘s standalone app.

The main result of this intense month of trial of these two services (back in August/September) was that, well, I fell in love again with reading a great number of titles, and so at the end I decided to keep my subscription to Texture, and I’ve been gorging myself on titles ever since — and since this is buffet-serving, I don’t feel bad about going through some titles in mostly browse mode, just reading bits here and there.

I’d still like to include more indie offerings to my diet — which would be in print, and tends to bust the wallet more — but I’m at least happy to find myself in a magazine reading mode that I haven’t found myself in for years (not since I ran The Magaziner, a website I used to share my musings about magazines).