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Personal

4 Years at Ubi

I mentioned it on the day of on Twitter/Facebook, but this past weekend — specifically February 15 — marked my 4th anniversary of working at Ubisoft here in Montreal. I’ve written in the past about how I ended up here, so what I’ll say now is that I’m just as happy working here as I was when I started. And what better way to mark this anniversary than at the Six Invitational, the culmination of all of Rainbow Six Siege‘s competitive programs — and even better the fact that it was an electrifying event.

The view from above at this past weekend’s Six Invitational event in Montreal.

I think the best part of my “life at Ubi” has been the opportunities I’ve been given to explore so many aspects of this industry I love so much, through the shifting roles I’ve had — from Production Coordination to Project Manager to Senior Manager, from the For Honor production team to company-wide online/live operations teams to esports. Everything I’ve experienced on all of these projects and teams has given me insights that has always translated into the next project/team I’ve embarked on, and that’s what career growth is all about.

The most important part of all this though is of course all of the amazing colleagues and teams I’ve been able to collaborate with over these four years — big hugs all around.

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Personal

Happy 2020

Back 10-15 years ago when I was the most active on this blog — and was mostly working as a freelancer — I used to kick off each year with a bit of a manifesto, laying out a bunch of new projects I wanted to attack that year. I haven’t done that in quite a long time — my days of organizing independent events, websites, and more are long behind me — but I’m feeling so optimistic about this year that I felt like I wanted to write something.

In terms of work, this past year was an exciting one for me, with my move mid-year to a new position (Senior Manager) and team (Esports) within the company (Ubisoft). Half a year later, I couldn’t be more excited about what I get to work on, and more importantly, everything that we want to accomplish this coming year (I of course can’t talk about it yet, but I can share my excitement).

This new role is not only in a world that I now find myself fascinated with, but it’s given me the opportunity to travel more for work, which so far as meant a few trips to San Francisco (where my boss is based), Las Vegas (for the Rainbow Six US Nationals Finals), and Japan (for the Rainbow Six Season 10 Pro League Finals in Tokoname). And this should continue in the coming year.

Outside of work, this blog continues to be a place to chronicle my silly movie marathons (the latest ones were for 1989 and this year’s October horrorfest), and who knows, I might suddenly have something else I want to chronicle or write about.

So goodbye 2019, thanks for the career level up, and here’s to an even more exciting 2020 and beyond!

Categories
Games Personal

Senior Manager, Esports

Back in May I was very happy to note that it had been four years since I started working in the games industry, and that month also marked the start of a process that has led to today, which is my first day in a brand new role: Senior Manager, Esports.

Yes, I’m still at Ubisoft, and still based in Montreal, but after about three and a half years with the company (going from Production Coordinator to Project Manager to this) and close to three years on the same team, this marks a big turning point for me, and it’s a role I’m incredibly excited to take on.

Another big change is that although I’ll continue to be based in Montreal, I’ll now be reporting directly to our NCSA (a designation that refers to the Americas) Director of Esports in San Francisco. I’m also excited that the person in question is Che Chou, who joined us in January, after years at Blizzard, 343 Industries, and Microsoft (here’s an interview he did with Polygon back in May). Also important for me is that I initially know him from his years in games media, and especially The 1UP Show, a web series about games I used to watch avidly and admiringly.

(Also, this is now the third 1UP Show alum I’ll have worked with, following Mark Macdonald and James Mielke.)

What does the role entail? I won’t be organizing or running events — we already have amazing people doing that — but instead will be working with Che on growing our esports activities at Ubisoft, and working with productions on making that happen. It may sound like it’s a big change from what I’ve been doing so far, but it actually builds nicely on the various roles I’ve had so far within Ubi, and my interactions with all of our teams. It also means I’ll get to travel a bit more, which I’m excited about.

So yeah, electronic sports, here we go!

Categories
Game Boy

Game Boy 012 – Newcastle

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

Following my first business trip with Ubisoft earlier this year in order to attend GDC, I was pretty excited this month for my second one, which gave me a chance to visit England for the first time (I almost visited over 20 years ago when I was backpacking across Europe, but it was the year the UK left the Eurail pass, and I was too cheap to pay the extra money to get there).

This trip was more of a traditional “business trip,” in that it wasn’t to attend a conference, but rather to join meetings with our worldwide customer services teams, as part of their annual summit — the European CS team is based in Newcastle. My team at the Montreal studio builds the main tool that our CS agents use to interact with customers — a tool that interacts with pretty much all of our games — and so every year we are invited to participate in this summit with them, to get a better understanding of their reality, and to discuss how to improve the tool.

But more than just having meetings, the real “gold” of these trips is to get to spend time with all of these people you work with — people you interact with on a daily/weekly basis, but always through emails and calls. There’s no denying just how much a “real” chat with people can incredibly strengthen these relationships, and that goes doubly when you get to share a meal with them, some drinks, and even a dance floor (we enjoyed an epic dance-a-thon on the night of the office’s annual summer party — and those sandals you see pictured in this post acted as the invitation “tickets”).

Those few days of interactions were probably more valuable than months of calls, and it gave us a chance to all get a better feel and realization of things we’re each dealing with.

But outside of work, it was also a fantastic trip. My wife came along with me, and she thoroughly enjoyed day-tripping in Newcastle — a beautiful city — and the surrounding areas. I had an extra day and a half to spend with her, and so we made it out to the also beautiful town of Durham, and visited Edinburgh for a day. We both loved what we saw of England, and can’t wait to get a chance to visit again — my wife was so infatuated that she mentioned wanting to live there, but then again, she said the same thing after our trip to San Francisco.

We arrived back home last night after an intensively long day of travel, that followed barely 3 hours of sleep, and included a 7-hour layover at the Amsterdam airport, and today I took the day off to recuperate a bit — and to try and get around the jet lag.

Travel can be taxing, but the experience in between makes it all worth it.

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Game Boy

Game Boy 010 – For Honor

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

This coming week will mark my 3rd anniversary of working in the games industry — I moved to Montreal during the first week of May 2015, to start work at Eidos Montréal a week later on the 11th. It’s also interesting to see that the first game I worked on, For Honor, is not only picking up steam more than a year after a release (and it was a strong launch), but it’s also celebrating with a Free Weekend event, in which you can play the game for free until Sunday on PC, PS4, and X1.

After exiting Eidos Montréal — or more specifically, the Shinra Technologies project — at the start of 2016, I was then hired by Ubisoft Montréal in February, and it was to work as part of the live team on what was to be the launch of an ambitious new IP for the company. Better known for its open world games, this was to be a multiplayer-focused “live” game, and it was exciting to be part of that of that final year of production before launch.

I still remember the first time I saw mention of For Honor, as part of its unveiling at E3 the previous year, and thinking that it looked like a cool game, of course not knowing at the time that I would eventually be joining its production team.

As the game was preparing for launch (on February 14, 2017), I moved over to a different team at the studio, and so no longer “lived and breathed” For Honor, but it’s still a project I feel a strong attachment to — even if it’s not a genre of game I generally spend a lot of time playing — and I’m happy that following the launch of dedicated servers a couple of months ago, the game is still getting a lot of love and attention. And as has been announced, there’s more to come, with some reveals coming at E3.

It’s also great to see that the documentary about the making of the game, Playing Hard, is currently showing at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto — it originally aired as 3 episodes on TV here in Quebec last December, and has now been edited into a film. I’m quite happy to have this document of a production I was a part of, and even though I’m biased, I think it’s a pretty great story to tell (check it out for yourself, to see all of the drama that can happen in this world of AAA game-making).

So yeah, with the Free Weekend happening, this week I just wanted to take a moment to think back on the experience I had working on For Honor, and hope a lot of people who haven’t had a chance to play it will take the opportunity to do so.

Categories
Games Personal

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.

Categories
Events Games

Ubiday 2017

Hey, I get to put on my employee hat, and write something that relates to Japan today. On October 9, at Shibuya Hikarie, is Ubisoft Japan’s annual “Ubiday 2017” fan event. Lots of details here. Why no sign of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle? The game’s Japan release is set for early next year.

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Games Personal

Interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot

The moment I saw Shigeru Miyamoto walk out on stage at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, I was ecstatic. It’s no secret that I have quite a bit of fondness for Nintendo, and so to not only see the company I work for collaborate with them, but then to also see Miyamoto himself help with the promotion, it was awesome. The game itself, Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom, looks super fun and I can’t wait to play it. Here’s a Eurogamer interview with both Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot talking about the collaboration.

Yesterday was Ubisoft Montréal’s annual assembly, and not only did Yves show up to talk at the assembly, but I also had a chance to take a photo with him (below), and at the same time tell him how happy I was that we were collaborating with Nintendo like that, and how excited I was when I saw Miyamoto on stage at our press conference.

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Games Personal

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.

Categories
Events Games Personal

For Honor Alpha in Japan

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It’s been incredibly exciting for me this week to see our game, For Honor, get a live debut in Japan through our Alpha event that kicked off yesterday — following a similar event in North America and Europe last month.

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To all my friends in Japan, if you’d like to play the game, it’s available now as a download on the Japanese PSN Store, and the event runs until Monday. You’ll need a credit card for the download, due to the game being rated “Z” (for age verification).

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It’s been pretty neat seeing the game featured on the front page of the Japanese PSN Store on the web, as well as on the console (see images in this post).