Auld Lang Syne

Well, it finally happened. I ran out of money and am moving away, back in with my parents. I guess that’s the risk I took when I pooled my money and moved to San Francisco. Nothing in life is certain, and game jobs are a famously risky industry.

I’ve never been one to attribute failure with bad luck, and indeed I can look at many, many things I could have done better in my two years in SF. While in college, I spent the lion’s share of my time on my schoolwork and almost no time trying to get hired. Once out of college, I routinely chickened out on aggressively seeking out employment with whatever contacts I managed to secure. I felt crippled by how staggeringly high the rent was, and how quickly my money was running out. I had to borrow from a close friend to make my last rent, and I’ll be retaking my old job at the Tutoring Club to rebuild my finances after paying him back.

I have some ideas for where I’ll go next, but none of them are very concrete. I was looking favorably at Irvine, but then Activision/Blizzard fired 800 people and flooded the market, so going there now would be a terrible idea. I’ve applied to several jobs in the local area, but I’d rather not live at my parent’s fulltime for the foreseeable future, since they have their own lives and I’d like to have one of my own. But for now, in all honesty, I need to count my blessings they were here to escape my SF situation, because I’d be homeless by March if they weren’t here to save me. I shouldn’t have cut it so close financially, but I was holding out hope that one of the dozens of companies I’d applied for would finally contact me.

There might be a brief lull in creative projects while I settle into my new place. Which is my old high school room, so honestly it shouldn’t take very long.

My Biggest Mistakes

(I’m not sure where I’m going with this post, but I’m trying to get back to writing for myself. darwinssoldiers.com has been bottom of my focus pile for a while)

I’ve pretty much lived my life taking opportunities whenever possible. I used to work in a nursing home, and I got to talk to a lot of people at the end of their lives. Almost all of them regretted things they didn’t do.

To try and avoid that, I’ve always pushed forward. I’ve lived in two countries and three different states, I’ve chased my dream job of game development for over seven years, and I’ve learned every piece of creative software I could get my hands on. As a high-schooler discovering the internet, I dreamed I would one day be able to Photoshop images or turn snippets of my gameplay into GIFs, and it’s great that I can now effortlessly do such things.

But that doesn’t make these 3 memories any easier:

  1. As an undergraduate, a film studio decided to use the college I was attending as the primary set for a horror film they were creating. For most of my sophomore year I’d be walking around and occasionally see them recording or prepping at random locations throughout the campus and surrounding city. I appeared in a very, very minor role as an extra but otherwise did absolutely nothing to make friends or connections with the studio staff. Even worse, the screenwriter and one of the producers were close family friends! I could have done anything I wanted if I’d just asked them. But unfortunately, I didn’t want anything at the time. I never even considered Hollywood a possible job direction, so the movie eventually wrapped up and, and was only ever a passing curiosity in my college years. I can only imagine where I might be right now if I’d taken advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity even a little bit.Kinda connected to that one, I didn’t make good use at all of my undergraduate professors. Everyone warned me before I went to college that it was extremely important to befriend them because they would be a huge resource in the future when looking for jobs and opportunities. I got to know the Film Studies teached well enough, and co-authored a compilation with one of the English professors, but other than that I pretty much graduated and left when my 4 years were up. I didn’t go to office hours nearly enough, and to no surprise wound up alone and struggling to find a job out of college. I feel less bad about this one because I did a much better job with forming collegiate connections in my Master’s program.
  2. On my first day in San Francisco after graduating college (six years ago), I had secured an apartment with my boyfriend and we’d been lucky enough to gain a video game connection with a man my mom knew from work. He offered, and we readily agreed, to meet up for coffee and he’d talk to us about the job market, our resumes, and what we needed to know to ingratiate ourselves in the city. After coffee, he drove us around San Franscisco and pointed out various game studios he knew and how likely we were to be hired by them.And then he parked in front of a drab-looking building and pointed saying “That’s Double Fine.” Double Fine was one of the world’s most famous game writing companies, and I loved their games. He encouraged me to walk right in there, without a plan, and ask them for a job right now. I remember my boyfriend sitting next to me, also encouraging me to do so. It felt like the sort of choice you’d encounter in one of Double Fine’s game, to be honest, but I ended up making the wrong choice.  I was too scared to walk in there; I hadn’t scheduled an appointment or anything, I hadn’t researched the company or learned their company values and all I had was an unspecialized resume I hadn’t hand-crafted to give to them. Also, I couldn’t fathom they’d be interested in a junior writer whose largest published game at the time was Legends of Equestria. A couple seconds passed, and when they realized I wasn’t getting out of the car, we drove away.Would that moment have led to a job at Double Fine? Probably not. But I’ll never know.
  3. And lastly, I regret the last six months. I graduated in September 2018 having not done nearly enough to secure a job out of college. I did great in the actual program but I only applied for a few positions while I was still enrolled. Upon leaving, I continued to apply for jobs but with something of a slow-burning longterm anxiety attack giving me sleepless nights. I am well aware that you can only call yourself a “recent graduate” for the first six months after you obtain your diploma, and now here we are and I’m no closer to being employed than when I started. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs, but I should have applied for hundreds. I should have bugged people and made more phone calls and networked and done everything in my power to secure a position before it was too late.

Update on Things

This might not be my most coherent blog post since I didn’t sleep last night, but at least I spent it being productive, right?

The first big thing that happened was that my article scored the second-to-top comment in a reddit thread dedicated to an insane play performed by the LA Gladiators during the Overwatch League playoffs. A blog called Daily eSports contacted me and asked if I wanted to start writing articles for them at a rate of $1 per 100 words. I agreed mostly because they said I’d get to work with an editor and use their SEO tools, two things I’ve been meaning to get more practice with, things that would teach me valuable skills to making my content marketable. It’s a little depressing because the SEO tools were like “please replace every single interesting word with the most generic synonym” and the readability tool was like “Every sentence over 20 words is too short”. I mean, I assume they’re right since they were literally designed to attract people, but I like my $10 vocab words ;~; But I’ve already written my first article for them, which is officially the first online article I’ve ever been paid to write.

I’ve been strongly considering making a Patreon for my YouTube channel, maybe start getting some pocket change for that pastime too. It’s still humming along, nothing but the Payday videos are getting hits but I expected that when I decided to invest into a single franchise. The only Fortnite video I’ve made is maintaining a steady climb of new viewers despite me phoning in marketing, so I’ll probably more of those. I decided to do my Fortnite vids with a Scottish accent just because I need some way to enjoy myself, the game itself certainly isn’t doing it.

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Right: Before aabicus learned Photoshop. Left: After aabicus started learning Photoshop

Look at how goddamn gorgeous those thumbnails on the left are. Sure, they’re not Rembrandt, but they actually qualify as YouTube-worthy thumbnail quality. I’ve finally finally started Photoshop, and I’ve recently passed the threshold where I know enough that it’s just fun and awesome and I look forward to making the thumbnail instead of dreading it. Photoshop is a goddamn miracle and it blows my mind what I’ve been able to accomplish with next to no effort. This makes me really happy because I’ve wanted to know Photoshop for years, but I’ve always put it off because the initial hurdle felt too daunting. That leaves Unity as the one looming beast I’ve never managed to tame. Have made no progress on that front.

Kinda related segue, my new school project is to make a Mixer game with 3 other students (Tyler from Zone Out, Akshay, and Wong). Mixer is Microsoft’s attempt to beat Twitch at their own game and, following their failure to do so, rebrand itself as the leading avenue for crowdplay games (the genre Twitch Plays Pokemon invented). To their credit, they have done a great job of that and there are a bunch of thriving crowdplay games on the channel. Our job is to make one more.

My job specifically is to write the design document and create a mockup in Clickteam Fusion for playtesting purposes. The design document is a work in progress and the school’s private Google Drive is a real twip about sharing stuff outside network, but you can see the mockup via this secret itch.io URL. That’s never going live anywhere else, so consider it a thanks for reading this blog. Hopefully it’s more user-friendly than Hurdles.

Individual self-assessment

I get melancholy at the end of every quarter.

1) What work did you you contribute to your game/team this quarter (similar to how you’d list it on a resume)?

I designed a website, recorded videos, wrote articles, created social media accounts, posted on said social media accounts, took minutes during sprint reviews, shoutcasted tournaments, and wrote spell descriptions.

2) How do you feel about how your game progressed during the quarter?

Major League Magic progressed extremely well. We’ve made big strides on every level, with the very successful implementation of terrain alteration being the biggest success. We’re getting some decent numbers on social media, but I didn’t do nearly enough marketing. I should have tweeted at least ten times as often, I barely touched the Facebook page, and in general anything I finish should have been done at least a week earlier. We also could have made more success on art, but what we managed to accomplish with the better-looking UI does wonders towards making the game look better.

3) Was there anything that you struggled with?

The sheer volume of content marketers need to release to get anything to happen. I just couldn’t find things to tweet about, and it took me far too long to actually make the social medias to tweet from. My excuse I kept using was “I’m waiting for us to get better art”, but considering we literally just our first few updated art assets yesterday, we’d have been SOL if I’d truly waited that long. Also I never actually started that weekly dev stream I’d been planning due to not being able to come up with stuff to dev stream about. The team never really kept me in the loop as to what they were working on, unlike Medical Necessity and personal projects where I always knew exactly the progress we’d made every week. If this game fails, it will largely be my fault due to shoddy marketing.

4) What you are working to improve next quarter?

I need to apply to more jobs. I need to finish my self-assigned jobs faster (I was more than able to finish things on Ahmet’s or the college’s pace, but the assignments were too slow and I should have finished things long before anyone asked for them.) I need to be more involved with the team and less of a free agent doing his own thing in the corner of the lab. This master’s ends in two months and I have nothing lined up. Again. After five years of not being able to break into the games industry, I’m about ready to give up if this college program ends and even that wasn’t able to turn me into somebody companies would want to hire.

 

RIP Gang of Five

Good thing I archived all the Darwin’s Soldiers RPs in Google Drive, because their home forum has bitten the dust as of 10pm tonight. The admins are working on resurrecting all the forum content on a new host, and best of luck to them, but when I have to trawl through the Darwin’s Soldiers Wiki and TV Tropes pages and fix all the hotlinks, I’m making these Google Docs the primary links. At least those (hopefully) aren’t going anywhere.

I took the opportunity to create one with the three posted chapters of f-22’s story “the Disease“. If he ever posts more chapters I’ll have to go paste them here, but it’s been months so I’m not holding my breath

Streaming and Streaking

Lot of cool things happened in various directions, so I thought I’d give a little compilation for the record.

First, I shoutcasted a Forzebreak tournament and it went really well!

The Forzebreak team was really appreciative, we got almost 50 people watching on Twitch because various students tweeted their friends, and I get to add another game to my shoutcasting portfolio. I didn’t do half bad considering they literally didn’t have an observer mode, forcing me to cast the game from the sole perspective of Player 4, but overall it was great practice for the upcoming tournament this Friday for Major League Magic.

Forzebreak is lucky they had their tournament when they did, because my YouTube channel recently experienced something of a boon. Two weeks ago, I released yet another video, this time a lightning-fast chronicle of The Only 5 Weapons Worth Using in Payday 2, and for some reason people really, really liked it. I gained 1800 views, 180 thumbs-up and 40 new subscribers overnight, and to capitalize on this new audience I accelerated my videography pace to twice a week. I also nailed down an exact schedule; I’m now releasing a new video every Tuesday and Friday, each one under two minutes and chronicling a top 5 list in Payday 2. I’ve also started promoting my videos on Twitter, Steam, and reddit, and so far its resulted in my videos gaining far more viewers than I’m used to. Overkill contacted me on Discord and added me to their private content-creators channel, where I’m currently talking to other Payday 2 videographers in the hopes of maybe convincing one of them to do a crossover with me. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, I ran Bay to Breakers naked yesterday, and holy god am I exhausted. I’d only started running about a week prior, and I hadn’t run nearly as far as the 7.5 miles in Bay to Breakers, but I actually completed the marathon without stopping. Sure, there were many times I downgraded from a jog to a basic walk, but I never fully stopped, and completed the marathon in about 2 hours. Afterwards, I followed a bunch of people to the Uber/Lyft pickup point, where my phone cheerfully informed me it would be $200 to drive home. Not even remotely interested in paying that much (and woefully underinformed as to how the Bart works; most people I’ve spoken to said I should have used it to leave the city), I chose to queue up the route home via walking, then just start hiking. I didn’t expect to finish the trip (it was a 14.5 hour walk according to Google Maps), but I knew every step I took would decrease the cost of my Uber, especially as the hours ticked by and everybody else went home and the surge ended. In the end, I walked another 8 miles over the course of two hours, which adds up to a full marathon-length in total. But my Uber home was only $30, so I’m not complaining. I’m not leaving my room today for anything, though, my legs are sore beyond belief.

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In order to keep this post at least somewhat programming-focused, I also finished another homework assignment for ProcGen class. This one used a new program called Substance Designer, which created textures with stuff like normals, materials, and roughs. The overall UI was like, connecting squares of data with little lines, which took some understanding but was overall really understandable. I feel motivated to get better with Substance Designer because textures are the sort of thing I don’t have much experience creating, and I don’t like using other people’s content, so it’s something I’ll need to learn if I ever hope to move into the 3D space.

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We had to create a rusty metal and a more creative texture. Mine was like golden liquid with a blue moss on top, I guess. Reminds me of UCSB’s colors.

Citizen Kane rap

Tried my hand at rapping again, my friend was making a YouTube parody and asked for a Citizen Kane rap because she liked what I’d done for Rap Who Was Mars. Dunno if she’s gonna end up using it, but it was fun to write.

 

I used someone else’s music for the background, mostly because my microphone picked up this really shrill trill in the background that was unpleasant to listen to without music covering it up. I’m not a huge fan of the song though, it doesn’t really fit my beat at all and I plan on making my own music going forward. I grabbed the free version of Fruity Loops so hopefully my future raps will have original background compositions