2 Years a Game Dev

Today marks two years since I became a game dev.

After leaving Tokyo on March 31, 2015 and then spending a month in my hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick, we moved to Montreal on May 5, with my first day as an employee at Eidos Montréal — part of the Shinra Technologies team, based in the Square Enix Montréal studio — on Monday, May 11.

A lot has happened in these two years. After the Shinra adventure ended in January 2016 (due to the unfortunate cancellation of the project), I started at Ubisoft Montréal the following month — on February 15, to be exact — happy to join the For Honor team to experience the final year of development of this new franchise for the studio (the game came out on February 14 of this year, almost exactly a year after I started). For the past six months I’ve had the great joy of working as part of the studio’s Game Operations Online team (or GO-2, as we call ourselves), a service team that supports the live aspects of the studio’s various productions via operational guidance and tools.

What an interesting journey it’s been so far.

I have a ton of people to thank for helping me along the way, whether it’s through guidance, support, or plain ol’ friendship, and instead of going through a long list of names, I’ll give you all a big collective hug.

I’ve had a lifelong passion for games, and it became my dream to work as a game dev. Here’s to many more wonderful years in this industry.

The Dream of Working in Games

Shortly after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there was a story that came out about a non-Japanese programmer appearing in the game’s credits, Corey Bunnell (pictured), who it was later discovered had a long time ago written in a forum about his dream of working for Nintendo — read this Kotaku piece. I find this to be such an inspiring story, and it reminded me of how lucky I find myself to have been able to also follow a dream of working in games, and making it happen.

Yesterday (March 31) marked exactly 2 years since we left Tokyo, heading to Canada to spend time with my parents in my hometown, with still no job in sight (or any idea of what city I would end up in). It was a scary move to make, but I had faith that I could make something happen eventually. Just over a month later we were moving to Montreal, and on May 11 I started work at Eidos Montreal as a Production Coordinator for the Shinra Technologies team there (under the Square Enix umbrella). Two years later, and I’ve continued my games journey by moving to Ubisoft and experiencing the launch of a new franchise for the company (For Honor), and now I get to work with yet another terrific team of people as part of the studio’s “Game Operations Online” team.

Without wanting to sound too cheesy, if you have a dream of doing something, sometimes you just gotta have faith that you can make it happen if you try hard enough (and being surrounded by awesome people who can support you in different ways doesn’t hurt either). I decided to do this at a point in my life (i.e. age) when most people are content to simply continue to coast on the path they’re already on. I still have other goals I’d like to achieve, but I can say that what I did was well worth all the effort — and yes, all the stress too.

For Honor

It’s with great pleasure that I can announce that from next week, I’ll be taking on the role of production coordinator at Ubisoft here in Montreal.

Following the defeat of Shinra, it’s been an interesting month of exploration, and I’m incredibly excited for this new challenge. Although it’s technically the same role that I had at Shinra, it will be within a much bigger team, which I look forward to joining.

I’m also quite excited that I’ll be working on a game this time (as opposed to a platform, which is what we were building at Shinra), and a new IP at that – I’ll be joining the For Honor team.

It’s also going to be quite interesting for me to have a new studio experience, to compare with my previous one (as an employee of Eidos Montréal, but working out of the Square Enix Montréal studio), and I’m already happy that I’ll be seeing a few familiar faces once I get there – and also working in what is quite possibly the biggest game studio in the world (current employee count here in Montreal is apparently 2750). 

Michel Ancel is one of my favorite game creators, and I’m incredibly excited to join the company that gave birth to games like Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil – and of course also the ridiculous number of other Ubisoft games that I’ve played over the years.

New year, new company, new game!

Shinra Defeated

So yeah, this happened to me on Tuesday (or take your pick).

In the past I’ve started the year with a post that looks optimistically at what the coming year may bring – last year I was already starting to set my sights on moving back to North America, which I of course did. 

This year, well, 2016 has definitely kicked off with some big changes for me.

I should start by saying that the past year of work I’ve done as part of the Shinra Technologies team here in Montreal (as Production Coordinator) has been one of the most rewarding of my life. I was incredibly lucky to work with a team here in Montreal that was not only filled with some insanely talented people, but more importantly for me, it was a group of people that I truly enjoyed working with, every single one of them – and the same can be said for the interactions I had with our New York team (with an incredibly huge tip of the hat to my good friend, James Mielke, who helped me get my foot in the door, and then continued to support me throughout my year there). 

We’ve been through a lot over the past year, and although it’s sad to see a project like this come to an end, one that was initiated back in 2010, I still feel proud and honoured to have been part of the history of this company, and to have been able to work under an industry luminary like Yoichi Wada.

I’m of course sad that we didn’t get to launch the service we were working hard on launching, to see how it would have fared in the marketplace, but that’s how it goes.

So what next? I’m of course currently looking for opportunities elsewhere, and so don’t be shy if anyone reading this might come across something they think could be interesting for me – or if you yourself like the cut of my jib and would like me to work with you – whether it’s in Montreal or elsewhere.

And yes, I’m on LinkedIn.

Let’s Nihongo

I’m studying Japanese.

Huh? Didn’t you just leave Japan?

Yup, but you know what, I’ve come to a lot of realizations since leaving just over 4 months ago, and one of them is that I want to (and in fact, need to) always stay connected with that country, whether I’m physically there or not.

Considering the amount of time I lived there, people always assume I speak the language fluently, and that’s unfortunately not the case. I can certainly get by in casual conversations, but I was never able to really use it on a professional level – even though I’ve attended many a meeting held entirely in Japanese (I’d get the gist, but could never properly contribute as much as I wanted).

One of my biggest regrets – and that I’ve told every newcomer to Japan, often at a PauseTalk event – is that I didn’t properly study that language and give myself a good base in the early years. After that, well, life got in the way, and I decided to focus all my energy outside of what was my job at various times on developing personal projects and the like. But never to properly study.

And then I left Japan.

But hey, my wife is Japanese, and we still use a good amount of Japanese at home. And as I said, I still want to be able to do things in my life – on a personal level and a professional one – that relate to Japan, and so I’ve decided to finally sit down and give it the ol’ college try. I’m lucky enough to be currently working within a company that has strong Japanese roots – both with Shinra Technologies and parent company Square Enix – and I can already see how a better control of Japanese could come in handy.

The other inspiration is that my wife has been working very hard at improving her English, and seeing that, it made me feel like I owe it to her as well to better my Japanese. In a way, it creates a sort of competition, which can be good when you want to achieve something.

So my first target – since targets are very useful when studying, especially at this point in my life – is to shoot for the lowly Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N3 level. My oral and hearing are much higher, but because of my lack of study, my kanji reading, vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension are all lacking. My next goal after that will be to pass the N2 test next year.

Funny enough, I ordered study books from Amazon Japan, and with regular shipping, they got here (to Montreal) in 3 days, which is faster than anything I’ve gotten delivered here from Amazon Canada (at the regular free shipping).

Japan, there are things you did that frustrated me, but the efficiency of your services – especially deliveries – was never one of them.

Alive and Well

It’s been a while, but yes, I’m still here.

My last post was to announce that I was going to move to Montreal and start working as part of the Shinra Technologies team here in Montreal, where we work from the Square Enix Montréal studio (and are part of the Eidos Montréal family). That move happened at the start of May, my first day of work was on May 11, and as June comes to a close, I’m still here.

It’s been a bit less than 2 months since I started my new job, and I’m still so happy to have had the opportunity I’ve received to work with these people. We’ve got a great team here in Montreal, and we’ve got a great team in New York as well, which is were the business side of the company is located (in Montreal, it’s the technical team, where all the magic that is Shinra Technologies is getting developed). 

And although I still didn’t get to go to E3, it did feel a bit different to be watching it as an insider, instead of just as a fan (or as part of media). I got to cheer for all for all of the exciting things coming out of our great Square Enix umbrella – and there definitely was lots that I really am excited to play, including Lara Croft Go, which is being made in the studio where I work.

In terms of life in Montreal, I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise if I say that it’s been taking time for us to get settled – after 15 years in Japan, re-adapting to North America, and more specifically Canada (and on top of that, to Montreal, with its own idiosyncrasies), is taking time. 

I am incredibly happy to be able to eat Lebanese food again – shish-taouks are definitely my jam. And poutine. And club sandwiches. And bagels.

And root beer.

I’ll try to start writing here again – I don’t want this blog to die. I also started updating my media consumption diary again.